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This is my first post. I am married to a wonderful woman who was sexually abused by her cousins when she was young. The abuse happened from when she was 7-12. We have been married for 15+ years and have some wonderful children. As most marriages, ours has been a little challenging. We have had a slew of financially debilitating health issues, but for the most part, I am very proud of our family.
We have hit a tremendously challenging period in our lives. I am in my 40's and lets just say I have had a mid life crisis. In 2018, I took stock of what makes me happy and decided to try and make some changes. Basically, I wanted to spin less, spend more time with my wife and family, and find more financial stability. For most of my life, I have tended to focus my energies on way too many hobbies and projects, and I felt I was going now where trying to fill an un-fillable hole.
My schedule changed from me being gone most of the time to being around most of the time.
I started to get back in shape.
I started to look at one of my own long time negative compulsions and I took steps to end it.
Specifically, I have had a porn distraction that I have used as a pacifier for most of my life.
I really started to try and connect deeper with my wife... in all the wrong ways...
I had never studied how to be a good husband. How to be a good lover. How to better understand the issues that have surrounded our marriage due to the trauma, and how to act accordingly. Quite frankly, our marriage was rolling along "just ok". I thought it was more than that.
Then, it all crashed in the blink of an eye.
My new attempts to connect with my wife were so poorly executed that I came off as needy, and desperate. I shared with her that I was struggling with trying to quit porn. During this time, we would take great leaps forward to emotional places that were new to both of us, some of this growth was great. Other times we would slide backwards into weird places because all of this behavior was new and strange to my wife. The porn thing became a bigger and bigger issue. I wish I would not have shared it with her. I quit porn for good last Oct.
Then one day, after a fantastic weekend of romance... she told me she had to ask me some questions. She asked me about a moment of infidelity that happed when we were engaged to be married. Specifically, I had slept with a hooker on a trip to Vegas, and the inner scum bag in me called her and told her about it the same night. I don't remember the call. I was stupid drunk. The next morning, some friends of mine vouched to a different story, she swept it under the rug and we got married. She asked me if it was true, and I told her the truth. It was true.
And now... our marriage is upside down because of my actions. Our marriage is bookended with the hooker on the left and the porn on the right and doubt and zero trust in the middle. The porn thing has brought up all these repressed memories of the trauma for my wife and she is falling apart. I have lost all her trust. The triggers are so raw for her that I can't touch her. I'm on the couch and would be out of the house if it were not for our kids. Every thing that we have not dealt with in our marriage, our communication blocks, our fears, our resentments, everything has surfaced for her. The whole marriage is in question for her.
This happened a month ago. Since then I have digested at least 20 books on marriage and relationships, I have continued to work on improving myself. I am seeing a therapist. She is seeing a therapist. We just agreed to see a couples counselor. I have been a faithful caveman of a husband all these years and a great father. But now that I am studying, I realize that we have made a lot of mistakes during our marriage. There is a lot of resentment underlying everything.
Ok. Thx for hanging on. And here is where I hope you guys can share some advice. There are no books that are titled "how to fix your marriage if you have been an asshole and your wife is survivor of childhood abuse." I can read about the marriage stuff, I can read about the sexual abuse stuff, but there is nothing talking about the combo.
The biggest thing that my wife is struggling with is trusting herself so she can trust me. She says she needs space. She says she needs her power back. I have become the abuser, the person who has stripped her power, she is so angry at me for that. She is so angry with me that she has to deal with this right now, because of me.
The books say to continually remind her how much I love her. I've written her letters, I'm trying not to push an agenda, I am trying to really hear her. I've apologized, reconciled, changed my behaviors, I am totally transparent, Ive quit drinking, I've tossed anything that might make her question, I've asked for her forgiveness, and I am trying to work from a place of love and openness and stay positive.
She has been malicious and says she wants to hurt me. I don't blame her. She planted some fake love letters to another guy and I found them. That was a fun spiral. We have worked through that and are now going to see a therapist together... I hope we can finally start working on this together, vs each on our own.
I have a hard time finding the balance of giving her my support, appreciation, gratitude, love while staying out of desperation. She says she wants space, but it seems that when I back off... she goes deeper into her depression. She says that she is waiting for the old me to return, that this new behavior is not real.
I believe it is real and I want to double down on my efforts. I believe that the masculine can be moved pretty easily by logic and reason, where as the feminine needs the feeling to be right. I want to prove to her with persistent open and conscious love that I can do this. I believe I can provide her space and not demand anything from her, while showing her with my words, actions, and heart that I want to make this right. I don't care if she burns my notes.
I suppose I am looking for the survivors perspective here. Double down? Back off? Dance the balance?
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For a minute here is the back story:
At first he refused to see what he was doing was wrong. He desperately grasped for control and spiraled out of it becoming severely manipulative and eventually abusive. We have a different story of trying couples therapy than some of my friends. Most of my friends said their spouses lied during couples therapy. Mine didn't he laid it all out there and admitted to his deplorable behavior but acted like it was no big deal and why was everyone upset. We did like two sessions and I said forget it.
After a particularly bad argument which once again turned physical on his end I told him he needed to leave or I would be contacting the police and dcfs. He left. And was still a prick for a while. So I liked for divorce and he was still just blaming it on me. Telling people when I " got better"he would get to go back home and taking both responsibility.
When I started dating another guy he flipped he suddenly realized o could move on without him. And it was what instituted change. He started going to T, hired a life coach, and really worked on himself. Through my relationship with the other guy my now ex was trying to fix himself. He started being kinder and we were on friendly term. When I broke up with the other guy I started letting my ex come over more to be with the kids and help with things. Our friendship grew again but was still very superficial. Eventually we agreed that we would keep working on it and we were willing to try again. We remarried with the understanding that we still had lots of work to do.
I won't lie. For the first YEAR yes whole year my guard was up so high I was cold and not nice. He suffered through it with Grace and silence. I knew how horrible I was but I also knew he had broken every trust I had with him.
The next year slowly faded. I started conciously letting my guard down. I was testing the waters. I knew change was hard for people. I didn't really trust that he wouldn't slip back.
Towards the end of that year we had a rough patch where he seemed done with trying to hard and just backed off entirely. I took it as a betrayal, like see he doesn't really love me. And we settled into this pattern and unspoken awareness of just rocking through the motions of life and the kids. Finally things shifted a bit and we started to both show more gratitude for each other.
We are just over two years out of the remarriage. Total of 19 years since we first got married ( including the one we were divorced, we just consider that a really bad year).
Point I am trying to make is if this is something you really really want. There is a likelihood you may need to prove yourself over the long haul. She will need to see that the change is long term and lasting. I imagine it is worth it. But it will likely be long and difficult. If you really love your wife you will have to prove it to her over time.
As a note:
My experience is likely different than your wife's but if my husband had been into porn I would be devastated. But my story involves that. And I would consider it infidelity of a sort. That is just me though. Your honesty with her is admirable but she is likely deeply hurt. If she is trying to process her story she likely will need a while.
I was so angry at my dh for distracting me from my healing and work on my story because of his selfish stupidity. I was angry that he brought so much more pain to the table. It took time for that anger to fade. To realize that part of me still loved him.
One suggestion. Find her love language and show her love that way. But not just that way. Show it all the ways with more emphasis on the one. And be patient. It's hard and long and you may not get a lot in return for a long time.
Try to be her friend with no pressure. Embark on lighthearted adventures have fun together. Get her to laugh and prepare to do it over a while.
It is hard to come back from being an asshole to an abuse survivor. Unfortunately you get lumped right in with all the other people who have offended and hurt... It connects you to that group so her healing involves not just forgiving you but letting go of some of the hurt from her past. So it takes a long long time.
Okay I feel like this was really rambly but I wanted to respond. Because I feel like I can understand what your wife is going through and it's hard. Really hard.
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Oh man, yea. I have set my expectations to slow motion and in years.
I was prodding my wife to do the 5 love languages worksheet along with other "need to work on us" type stuff and that just pissed her off.... and so I don't do that anymore. So I am taking a blanket approach ... I do show my love in all of the languages. I am doing a ton of self work... even that is a trigger... I have more time than she does... so I have to remember to not mention the strides I am making... i can show her in my actions, but I can't talk about it... its not about me.
There is something with the porn and her past that is about to spill over and terrifying to watch unfold. She does align it with an affair. She is so pissed that I have taken her off the healing path that she was on.
Your words carry a lot of wisdom and I really appreciate them. Thank you.
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I had a really hard time with that. Because I didn't understand myself what my love language was. I didn't know myself well enough to figure it out. I had always lived for everyone else's needs and trying to please everyone else I wasn't even sure who I was.
I finally discovered my love language better through evaluating what hurt the most. I realized what hurt me the most or made me the most uncomfortable was words. People could say mean things and it would stick with me forever. People could say nice things and I was super unsure how to handle it and uncomfortable but noticed how much it affected me as well.
For a while I thought it was gifts but that was just because it is how my dad tried to buy my love. But I realized it didn't hold power over time. Not like words did for me.
So your wife may not know. And that's okay. Just watch and observe an let it be.
If or when the porn thing spills over it is a super super hard thing. There is something even more violating to know that not only when you were hurt and used they videotaped it to watch again and again. Like they could rape you with their mind over and over...ugh. knowing you viewed porn will make her that much more uncomfortable with it.
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Reason: edited from MT to NT due to no potentially triggering content or language
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I'm sorry I'm so late to the discussion.
I am also the husband of a survivor, and I have been in your shoes.
You have not described your level of intimacy with your wife before your midlife crisis, but I suspect it was fairly minimal. I wonder if the impetus for your wife's strong reaction is that you wanted more from her than she was willing to give? What if she was just fine with the distance you had created? What if your attempts to improve your relationship were not necessarily needy, but simply unwelcome because they upset the balance?
I think you are right on with the prostitute thing. That would certainly be an issue in our house- though I think my wife half expected it, given that we had no intimacy for 4 years at one point. Being untruthful would have been the bigger problem. I certainly viewed porn during those 4 years and I do not feel that I was addicted or wrong. I definitely wasn't neglecting my wife in any way. Yes, there are legitimate concerns about enabling the victimization of the people in the videos, but I don't think that's what's in play in your relationship.
All this to say that I think you might not be quite as bad as you think. You get to be a human with wants and needs, just not at someone else's expense.
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