Dear Husband of a Sexual Abuse Survivor,

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Marriage, Sexual Abuse
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When you discover that your wife or loved one is a survivor of past sexual abuse, your world will change. There is no turning back. Standing still is not an option. The unseen minefields ahead can harm rather than heal. How does one navigate those that await? How does one become a source of encouragement, and an agent of growth and healing? What can I do?’ is a valid question.

What follows are some thoughts I’ve shared with those who have found themselves in this very situation. One confession. I did not do everything right. I had no idea of how I would be affected. Nor did I know what to say or do at times. Neither will you. Often when I most wanted to ‘fix’ she simply needed my presence and support. Yet somehow, despite my often fumbling efforts, God brought healing that placed us on a path toward helping others caught in the same trap. That is what God does.

Accept that you are the most important person in her life.

Your loved one needs you to draw near and not pull away. She does not need you to “fix” her or even view her as needing fixing. Instead she needs to be affirmed, held, and loved.

Understand that it will be very difficult to share the details of her abuse with you.

Apart from, or including her counselor, you are the most important one she will ever share with.  Secrets cause distance and isolation. Sharing with you and finding acceptance will result in a deep and intimate bonding. Despite this fact, talking about what happened may bring shame, embarrassment and fear of what you may think or of how you might react. Numbness, fear of having the experience minimized or disbelieved will be huge for her as she reveals her past. Other times when memories surface she may want to know how any of it could be of help to you as her lover, or to the two of you as a couple. The answer is that to be loved and accepted in the face of the unspeakable breaks down the false belief that have held her captive. Beliefs that she was/is dirty, defiled, worthless, and unlovable.

Encourage her to share the specifics of what happened but do not pressure her.

Listen slowly and do not be afraid to cry with her. At times she may be unable to cry even though you will. Do not be surprised if at this. When abused, people often detach or dissociate from the event in order to survive

Be careful of your questions and do not make judgments about her.

If you focus on how the abuse made her feel or has affected her even in your own relationship, she will be able to express even more. As you enter into her sufferings, they will become part of your own.

Pray with her and for her.

Ask God to speak to her as you pray together. Let her hear your voice interceding on her behalf. If you’re not comfortable praying aloud together, then hold hands and pray silently.

Put ego aside and talk about your own sexual life together.

Some abused women may wish sex would disappear but fear telling their husbands. As your loved one remembers and recovers realize that her physical body has memories that get triggered from touch, weight, smells, and certain sexual activities. Remember that none of these reactions are about you. God has an intimacy He desires for your marriage that is beyond words. It exists at the other end of healing…hers and your own. Do not take her inability to respond or the sudden panic she may experience during a moment of intimacy as a rejection of you. It is not.

Deal correctly with your own resentments, anger, and judgments.

If you don’t experience hate, judgment or rage at her abuser(s) you have probably not heard or felt the injustice and the pain of what’s happened to your loved one. Even if you experience an initial time of forgiveness, at some point it will need to become more specific and more personal even for you. As your wife recovers from her PTSD you may be acquiring your own. Don’t handle this alone. Seek help.

Deal with your own conscience.

If you were ever guilty of coercing, intimidating, or forcing someone to comply sexually in any way, then admit it to God and if appropriate, to someone who can help you deal with it. In time you may, with the help of a counselor, share it with your loved one. If you encouraged or coerced pre-marital sex with your wife, then seek her forgiveness.

Educate yourself by reading informative materials or books.

Read what your loved one is reading or what a counselor recommends. Reading will help you understand more of what she has endured and survived, that her healing is not an event but a long process, one of which you are a major part of. Diane Langberg’s, On The Threshold Of Hope and Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart are excellent resources

Don’t handle this stuff alone.

Talk with those who understand what you are going through and who can help you face your own struggles in a biblical and meaningful way. Seek out those who have walked through sexual abuse and are willing to handle pain in order to help others.

The Pay-Off

Although the journey is demanding, emotionally painful, and at times exhausting, it is worth every minute. Your loved one is worth it, and so are you.

photo credit: ikarl67 via photopin cc

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