Healing From Abuse and Staying Married

posted in: Child Abuse | 3

I spotted this post by Faith Allen on her blog recently, and have been enjoying the various comments that came pouring in.

In it she talks about how healing has become a challenge within her marriage because she is not the wife her husband expects her to be any more. She has been spending her time healing from her child abuse, and becoming  a stronger and more independent woman, and that’s not who he married. I can identify with what she is going through, because I went through a similar experience.

As I began healing, being married actually became quite a problem for me. Not necessarily because my marriage was horrible, but because trying to be the husband my wife expected me to be, and allowing myself the freedom to heal and change created a huge internal conflict.

As it turned out, in my case, that conflict became the source of even more depression and mental health issues, causing my wife to decide she couldn’t stay and watch me make myself worse. In essence, she solved the conflict for me, by filing for divorce. Not every marriage that experiences this sort of issue fails in the way mine did, but it is a challenge.

Healing requires us throwing off some of our old coping mechanisms and learn to become full-fledged adults. That adult is going to be a different person than the one you were when you first got married. It’s not that this new, healthy, person is worse, or a bad spouse or anything along those lines. They’re just different. In my case, it means wanting different things from life than my wife did. I suddenly felt pulled away from the lifestyle and views she held very dear. I was no longer what the kind pf man she wanted to spend her life with. I think I sensed that as I healed. I was moving away from the religious views that had been a very important part of our marriage, (Not religion or spirituality in general, but away from the specific church that we were heavily involved in) and away from the sort of family life that was important to her. Attempting to somehow reach a compromise within myself and heal while remaining that guy was a horrible, horrible idea!

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Some marriages survive this sort of thing. Sometimes a spouse can change along with the one who is healing, and they both can become better for each other than they were before. Sometimes you just can’t. It doesn’t always mean that you’re a failure or that the marriage is a failure. It’s ok to simply want something out of life that your spouse doesn’t want anymore, and it’s ok for them to be free to find what they were looking for. I don’t resent my first wife for leaving me when I was at the lowest point in my life. I’m grateful that she set me free to heal and have the wonderful life I have now. Hopefully she has been able to pursue the life she wanted as well, the one I could no longer give her.

On the other hand, if you can heal and stay married, more power to you. I can only imagine that having gone through all of that with a supportive spouse is an amazing experience, but I also know it was probably very hard, and not for everyone!

As I’ve said many times, we’re all different as survivors, and for those who are healing, and married, your marriages are all different too. There’s no telling where it’ll end up, but know that as long as you pursue healing, you’ll be better off, regardless of what happens!

3 Responses

  1. Sandy

    I agree it is different for everyone. The situation for each marriage is different. As I started my healing journey it took great strength from my husband to endure the difficulties I was facing. It was his dedication that pulls me through sometimes and if that isn’t the way a marriage is working and parties can’t work it out then such is life I guess.

  2. Eddie

    For 51 years, I have lived with this inner conflict of not being able to be close to anyone because my past childhood abuse from my father had caused me to fear intimacy. Evidentally, I kept this conflict and depression hidden for years until I realized that nothing made me happy. I had no idea that such a traumatic event would have such an impact on my life. My wife became very depressed because I was not the man that she had married. She soon filed for divorce. My friend had given me a book on how to save my marriage. It was not until then that I realized that it was not my marriage but my inner conflict that was causing my unhappiness.

    My wife soon realized that I am an adult survivor and needed to heal. She stopped the divorce proceedings and gave every effort to help me through the difficult time. I agree that if you are healing and can stay married, than that is the best of both worlds. If your spouse is supportive and will stay with you
    during the lowest point in your life, it will make the healing process that much faster and you a much stronger person. My wife does not know how I feel as she is not a child abuse survivor, but she understood that I was going through a very difficult time. Sometimes it is a crisis like this that brings us closer. I lived a lonely life for 51 years and now for the first time in my life, I have someone to share my inner self with and it feels awesome! I am happy with my wife, job, three sons and live a normal wonderful life. It has been 8 years now since my healing process started and I am a new man.

    Each marriage is different but if you have a spouse who will not walk out on you, that is a big plus. Your healing process will be that much faster as you have someone to support you. I was tired of being alone, scared and empty. To finally trust someone to come into my life and help me heal was a monumental task but worth every effort….

  3. Etown Brown

    I don’t think I would ever put down someone who gave up. Sometimes this represents a lifetime of healing, and some don’t heal. Some will remain in emotional turmoil and use drugs or anger or distancing or any number of things to deal with this massive and life shattering trauma. I’ve been with my partner over 10 years and she is only starting NOW to seek help. The last ten years have been a merry-go-round of all kinds of forms which the trauma took because she was not yet able to deal with it. Now that she is thinking about facing it, the depression and tension in our home is practically suffocating. I have my own issues to deal with and I am not sure how long I can support a person going through this. I really regret, sometimes, starting a family with a child abuse survivor. They’re often beautiful people I know, but some are badly damaged and some are completely broken. If you are thinking of marrying an abuse survivor and starting a family, think extra hard. Even somewhat normal people will have a hard time raising a family in this day and age. With an abuse survivor, it ultimately might be unfair to the children. I am not even sure it’s fair to me. I feel like I am ultimately paying for the selfish and sick crimes of another person. I truly wish for great harm to come to her abusers. That fantasy is the only thing that seems to give my any comfort.

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