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12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

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Interactive: He's Changing

Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here He's Changing... I'm Not...

April 22, 2007

I am 40, a woman, and have been married for 20 years. I have 3 children (18 ,16, and 12). To be honest, they are the biggest reason I am trying so hard to make this work.

 
I don't believe my husband was abusive in the beginning. it was a slow thing; I remember clearly the first time he verbally assaulted me because I was so hurt and shocked. We were already married, so I just tried to overlook it. But things just slowly got worse, I guess. Yes, that'd usually how it goes...
 
I am a Christian, so I believed my walk required me to be loving and composed no matter what. An excellent goal for all of us! I thought my quiet, faithful demeanor would take care of things. I wanted very much to please my husband, and the Lord. So I learned how to cope. I created what I have called a 'safe place' in my mind where I could be and the rest of my body would function on auto-pilot. I could laugh, teach, work, everything with my real, most deep self safely locked away from the hurt. I am thankful for that, because often during an explosion from my husband I could stay composed and cool in front of the kids, which I know helped them a lot. It did.
 
I realize that was hiding from reality. But I didn't consciously realize what I was doing until my 'wake up call.' At that time I finally realized I was verbally/emotionally abused, and sought help (my counselor is a God-send). Excellent! At first my husband was furious I was going to talk to someone, but I didn't let him stop me. Excellent! Now he is a meek lamb and is trying to change, he says. I hope so, but do not trust him as of yet. Of course not! That would be foolish. It will take a very long time for him to change enough to be trustworthy.
 
The worst part:  he made it clear early on that sex was a, if not THE, major thing that pleased him. I just figured that was how men were (to me it is icing on the cake, but not the main item). I believed it was something both parties should enjoy, but tried to never have to say no, no matter what. Things went crazy. By the time of my wake up, I was robotic about sex. it was the 'hope' I had that if I just finally did it so as to please him, he would go back to the nice man I married. Yes... Also, sometimes it bought me kindness for a day or so. Yes... Often I did it in hopes to avoid his cutting anger and the pain he inflicted on my soul. He did use it as control, I see now. though he made it such a priority, he would not initiate. And because I was so fearful of the consequences of him not having it, I would try to initiate almost nightly. He had control down to an art... And I made a great show of it, to my own shame. Or, to your credit! You did what you believed you needed to do, and good for you for doing it well! I believed that was part of being a good, Godly wife. Exactly! But he would often refuse me, and then the next day say he didn't realize that's what I was trying to do. I have since said I would like to do to another man what I did to him and see if that guy got the hint. And I'm sure he would. Your husband enjoyed hurting you. He made you understand that you "had to have him," whether or not you wanted him, so he could have the pleasure of denying you. Ouch! How cruel and callous! 
 
His typical posture was the mummy stance. He'd lie there with the covers up to his chin, glaring and waiting. Ugh. I would have to beg and work very hard to get my 'hope.' Once when I came home from traveling and had no sleep for 20 hours, he lay in bed glaring as I undressed. I knew what was expected and did it. Then he said the next day he'd been waiting to see what I'd do, and that I had 'done the right thing.' Your feelings never mattered. Only your obedience and commitment to pleasing him did. I was always being tested. I was not being loved. No, you certainly were not. But I kept hoping, as dumb as that sounds. yes, I am very shamed and humiliated. I feel so foolish and low. Please don't judge yourself so harshly. You did what you had to do, for as long as you could, to make your husband happy - because you believed this was your obligation under God, to your husband, and to your children. I truly admire your conviction and fortitude; your amazing ability to do what you did! What tremendous strength you have! Be proud of this gift, and know in the future you will use it to healthier ends.

Understand that you look back and see that you were misguided. Your mind followed an ideal, rather than your body's interpretation of that ideal. But we can only do our best - which you certainly did - given the understanding we have at the time we made the choices we made. Your motives were sound and true. You never understood the importance of listening to your body.  Oh, what most of us would give to be able to go back and, with our present knowledge, do some things differently! But, of course we can't. So, treat this as a lesson. You are now understanding that the body cannot be deceived, but the mind can.

 
My safe place enabled me to do this. Yes. A safe place you created because you were engaged in an an extremely difficult task for the sake of your children and your marriage. You obeyed. I could practically feel nothing mentally or physically, but could put my body through the motions and pretend away. I had to have that safety. Yes, you certainly did. Now it is gone. I lost it last month when after a particularly bad 2 weeks of anger, I made up my mind to give him the night of his dreams. I looked as beautiful as possible, and though I was afraid and filled with dread, I tried to bring peace to our home. he refused me. Then he began verbally accusing me. I snapped. Of course! I pulled out wads of my long hair (which he never let me cut without his approval), and then stabbed myself over and over in the chest and thigh with a mechanical pencil. Thankfully, the wounds were just painful and bloody; I did not critical damage anything. But if there'd been a knife handy... Thankfully no knife was handy... And that's what it took for your body, the body that God gave you, to tell you that your mind, however well-meaning, was misguided. Sometimes it takes a little "nervous breakdown" or mini "mid-life crisis" to see that. This is a good thing. But it will hurt. Growth hurts. Growing pains...
 
I woke up. Reality is here. It is ugly. Yes. Now he is trying to change. My pastor says to have faith and let God work. Yes, have faith and let God work. But I feel I am being asked to love my rapist. Did your pastor tell you to sleep with your husband? If he did, I am very sorry for he does not understand Human nature. If he simply told you to have faith and let God work, that is good advice. Trust your body, that body that God gave you. Let your body be your guide, and stop trying to rush His work!

I told my husband I had been like a hostage selling her body to prevent her death. I can not put into words how painful the knowledge of what I allowed myself to become feels like. And I just do not know if I can ever move past it and be a true wife to my husband again. Good for you for being honest with your husband! In so doing, you become God's tool in saving your husband: perhaps your husband will choose to heed the call - which will take very, very much time and effort on his part. Or not. God gave us free will and we can take the high road or the easy way out. The stakes are high. However, what he does is up to him.

Be patient and have faith. Be patient because it took you 20 years to reach this place. Expect it to take another 20 before you can rightfully become your husband's wife again. That is, of course, if he can progress enough emotionally in that time for you to trust him and love him again. Do not rush. About the only promise I can make you is that if you will ever be able to become your husband's "true" wife again, it will take much, much time. He will have to deserve your trust. Now he does not.

 
My mind wants to do right; but my body is screaming in terror of him ever touching me intimately again. Hear your body. It is talking to you! Trust it. The mind can easily become misguided. The body much less so. He did everything just perfect. He did not force me physically; he did it mentally. Exactly. The wounds are invisible. This is why verbal and emotional abuse is often so much worse than battery. At least with battery you have societal approval. With emotional/verbal abuse, you have nothing. No one can see my scars and blood. I can. And I'm sure your counselor can, whether or not that is expressed to you. And I'm sure the many women who share similar experiences who frequent this site can. No one can know how I had to do what I did in hopes of avoiding the vicious soul lashings. Yes we can. You did what you did out of love and out of faith. You did not know yet that you also had to listen to your body...
 
Has anyone overcome this part? Have they been there? My pastor's determination almost makes me want to kill myself. I just can not proceed so quickly as he thinks I should. Don't! Let God heal you. Let God take the time He needs. Don't forget, the time you need to heal is the time your husband needs to heal. He cannot cannot heal his ways overnight. This will take years. What your husband did to you was wrong. Dead wrong. Coercion is not Godly. Control is not Godly. Taking pleasure in another person's pain is not Godly. Participating in the emotionally sadistic charade he led is not Godly.

I feel desperate. You have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or something along those line. It is normal to be so affected after having been through what you've been through!!!  For you to engage in sexual activity now with your husband is wrong. Your body knows that. Sexual activity between married people is about love. It is freely given. It is not coerced. It is not an emotional manipulation. It is not about giving your body before you are ready just because your misguided mind (or pastor, if that is the case) thinks enough time has passed.

Your husband is a sick man. He used your best features, your empathy and sense of duty, against you. Your job is to become whole now, not split off into a little space in your psyche. That is not what God asks of us, at least not the God I know.

Love is about trust. Where there is no trust, there is no love.

You will know when and if you are ready to be with your husband intimately again. Your body will be sure. There will be no hesitation. It will not be about your mind telling you that you "should" be ready. It will not be about wanting your body to be ready. It will not be about momentary inklings that your body may be ready. Your body will feel consistently ready. And it will not feel that way before your husband has had the time he needs to emotionally and spiritually become whole. When you are ready, you will want to be with your husband body and soul - which is the heart and soul of marriage. You will feel that way because you will know and trust that your husband is a different person.

Keep in mind, he may never truly change. Many men make a show of change early on and drop it as time passes. True change takes time. Also, keep in mind that some men simply can't or won't change. Minimally, your husband should be in individual therapy if you two will try to work things out. The bottom line is that you may never be ready. And that is OK.

 
I love my children. My oldest daughter (18) knows all that has happened. She is a rock for me. You are fortunate. The other 2 are having a difficult time with the situation. Of course. I am still here at home. and I am honest with them, but it is impossible to not show the stress. Kara

Dear Kara, It is OK for your children to know. You cannot protect them from life; what is happening in your marriage is about life. It is stressful and painful. The best anyone can do is model for our children how to cope with life. Own that you - with the best of intentions - were misguided. You can own that you are coming out of that now, and that there are consequences that are a natural part of life. Pain is a part of life. It is suffering that is optional. You stopped your suffering the day you tried to stab yourself. Don't let your mind create more suffering for you by insisting your body follow suit before it is ready. Your body may never be ready. And if that is the case, so be it.

Never forget it took 20 years for this situation to come about. Give it 20 years to resolve. Whether or not you two can live in the same house while you are each healing (assuming that your husband truly chooses to heal) is up to you and depends on many factors (such as is he still aggressing against you emotionally or otherwise, are you able to be in his presence, etc.) which you don't bring up.

Learn to listen to your body because it speaks the truth. Do not compromise the body that God gave you. After all, it's not even your body to misuse. It's yours on loan. What is yours is your will. Let your free will follow your body's message.

Please read Cloud & Townsend's  Boundaries in Marriage and/or Boundaries: When to say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life - These authors write from a Christian perspective and these books will help you to understand where your responsibility to make your husband happy ends. Your husband should also read these books for his own sake, whether or not you two stay together.

By the way, your husband doesn't have to agree; your pastor doesn't have to agree; your children don't have to agree. You are the only one who can know when you are ready. Just be honest with yourself and try not to cave into your tendency to make things work at your expense again.

Please bring this to your therapist so you can talk about it.

Dear Readers,  click here to read the posts. Dr. Irene.