I have a very positive relationship with my husband. We both had very controlling partners in our first marriages, and that is probably why we give each other a lot of space to be our authentic selves. We don’t fuss at each other. We let the little things go. We look for opportunities to be nice to each other. I’m incredibly lucky to have stumbled into this relationship, because when we first met, I certainly wasn’t in any kind of emotional space to make wise, intentional decisions about a partner. Finding him was a random kindness of the universe.
Keeping him has also been good luck. While I’m not mean to him, I never really learned how to do intimate relationships. I didn’t know what it felt like to trust. Small example: for a long time I never used to tell him what I spent on clothes or shoes, especially if I splurged a little. My ex-husband used to yell at me and shame me for buying things for myself (while also complaining that I didn’t dress nicely enough), so I’m sure that was the reason, even though I didn’t even think about it consciously. I’d been in my second marriage for years before I really believed him when my husband said, “You should buy what you need and like. I know you are very sensible about money. Don’t worry about it.”
I never talked to him about my depression. A lot of the times I was seeing a therapist, either I didn’t even tell him I was going, or I didn’t talk about it. Or maybe I talked about it in a vague way, “Just trying to get some ideas about how to deal with [whatever].” Again, leftovers from my first marriage. I started in therapy when that marriage was falling apart and I was really depressed. M (evil husband) used that to say I was crazy, that he would take the kids away from me and have me locked up forever.
My husband has complained to me upon occasion, “You never tell me what you like or don’t like sexually.” “Oh, I like everything,” I’d say. Let’s not even talk about where in my past that comes from.
I could go on, but the point is, I love this man but I keep a lot of my thoughts and feelings tucked away, unspoken. I haven’t trusted that he could see all parts of me and not be repulsed.
Over the past year, I have taken baby steps to change this. I started last spring to tell him just how depressed I was. This was scary. It scared him, too, when I admitted to suicidal thoughts. And it saddened him to think that he hadn’t been able to see it on me, “I feel so blind,” he told me. “How could you feel so terrible and I didn’t even know it?”
Easy, I think. I have so much practice hiding things.
It’s made him pay closer attention to my moods. I think he didn’t really see mood as a problem before, because he’s very even-keeled and doesn’t get depressed himself. He started reading about depression online a bit. Now he sometimes asks me how I’m doing, but in a gentle way. It feels caring, not like he’s checking up on me.
With great difficulty, I told him about having experienced abuse and my difficulties “believing the girl” (i.e. trusting in my own fragmented memories of abuse). Again, he went online and did some research on the long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse. He was tender. He encouraged me to believe the girl. He told me none of it was my fault. He said he was willing to hear more, but only if I felt like talking about it. Really, the ideal response.
But I haven’t been able to tell him much more. A little about a friend of my dad who molested me when I was twelve, maybe thirteen, that’s all. That felt like a safer thing to tell. But not the worst stuff. I’m afraid to say more.
Ugh, why am I making this so long-winded?
Long story short, I feel my trust in him continue to deepen. And I long for a kind of closeness and honesty I’ve never had with a partner. E. tells me that this is the relationship which will hold me and sustain me in my life. She has only met my husband once or twice, but she’s known me for years and knows how I’ve talked about him. He is worthy of my trust.
I tell him, “I want to tell you more.”
“Whatever you want to tell is fine,” he assures me. “It’s also okay if you don’t want to talk about it.”
“I do, but it’s hard,” I say.
“I can see that. If it were easy, you would have talked about it a long time ago.” He puts his arm around me. “I promise, no matter what it is, I won’t go screaming out the door and leave you.”
I know that. I don’t think that’s my fear. It’s more… he knows my dad. We see him sometimes. What if he then hates my dad? What if he doesn’t want me to see him anymore? Plus it’s shameful. What if he looks at me and imagines me with my dad and, despite his best intentions, feels disgusted?
Last night I sit close to him on the couch and lean on him. I can hear his heartbeat, and I remember when he had open-heart surgery in 2014 and nearly died the night after the surgery. I think that life is short and our opportunities for deep connection are few.
“I think you know it has to do with my father,” I tell him.
“I’ve thought that, maybe,” he says.
That’s it. That’s all I can say. Soon I move across the room from him, pull out my laptop, create a little distance. My breath is short and shallow. My body is on high alert.
But my husband is calm and loving. In bed he kisses me and tells me to take my time and tell him only what feels right. I will tell him. I want to tell him. It’s probably going to take a while though.
Oh my God! I can exactly relate with you. It happened to me also. The first person to know about my issues on incest was my husband. And I also feel “I haven’t trusted that he could see all parts of me and not be repulsed.” That used to be a constant thought.
I was supposed to seek a therapist on our early years of marriage but it is not a thing of priority with our situation before so he became like a therapist to me having a background in counseling (12 steps) aside from he know how difficult it was for me. It had not really been easy for him, especially that he is a recovering alcoholic. I thank the Lord for his program and also for our involvement in our church community for couples somehow we both manage to be together despite of everything.
But like what you said “I have so much practice hiding things” and it almost torn down our marriage. I hide about almost everything and the worst is my financial chaos that eventually he found out. It broke my hurt every time I saw how I was hurting him unconsciously and how I bring the monsters with me within our marriage.
I hang on to what he always told me that “love conquers all” and gradually I am learning to love myself. That is the only requirement I need for me to be able to love another human being including him. I cannot give something I do not have in myself.It was not an easy journey but I trust in God’s promises that He will provide everything that I need according to His riches in heaven. And he provided me a loving husband from whom I learned how to love myself and love others in return.
Thank you for sharing your life here!
When you are ready you will know. It will feel right.
Don’t rush it. Do it when it feels right. It sounds like he will be very open and supportive and encouraging.
There’s so much in my head after reading this– I’m just too jumbled to write it all out. I’m amazed you are feeling that trust and feeling comfortable talking to your husband. It gives me hope. He sounds so supportive; caring and helpful and understanding. I’m so glad you have that and are able to begin to accept it. 🙂xx
Well, on the one hand I feel great trust. On the other hand, I can’t bring the words to my mouth. I have trouble breathing when I try to work up to the topic. I think that’s not him though. That’s the secret.
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What a heart warming, honest and raw post. Your husband sounds like a good man. I’m sure you’ll eventually open up to him and it will bring you even closer together. Peace and love to you both. ♥♡
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Sounds to me like you’re on the threshold of a huge break through. Can’t tell you how happy I am that you have your current husband. What a gem; what a unique and loving individual! Be safe, and take it at your own pace. ❤
I think the way you’re going about this is very wise. (Not unusual for you – I seem to write that in every comment! Could you make some bad decisions so I can shake it up a bit?).
Aisha used to tell me that the way to work is to go up to the edge, to stop there, feel the tension in your body, and then let it relax. Let it realise nothing bad is happening. You are finding your edge, and you’re stopping. And over time, as your husband continues to show you that he can and will respond appropriately, the edge is moving, and you’re sharing more pieces. I think in some ways this shows deeper trust than leaping off the cliff all at once.
I love this analogy. It feels so right–I even told my husband last night that I feel like I keep tiptoeing up to the ledge and then backing away. I thought that meant I was not brave enough. But maybe you (and Aisha) are right. It could be a way of becoming more confident on the ledge, maybe even pushing it out a little further without falling. Thank you for the very helpful reframe!
taking your time is key. you are being so brave opening up to him. that takes courage! XXX
Sounds like you have such a beautiful relationship, but I don’t think it is by chance. You both opened yourselves to each others’ love.
It’s interesting how the relationship has evolved over time. We both thought we loved each other when we married. And we did, I don’t mean that we didn’t. But the opening has really come over the years. Through experience and especially through challenges, we learn that we can trust even more than we ever imagined. This allows us to feel safe and relax into the relationship.
It also shows you how deep my self-doubt and self-loathing are, that it takes me to many years to tell such a trustworthy partner.
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I think that is such a wise approach – to build the trust and intimacy over time. I think so often we (as humans, especially those of us with boundary violations) jump into “knowing” and “sharing” with people far before we can emotionally handle the intimacy. Your strong relationship is likely that way because you two wisely have taken the time to open to each other. Inspiring to me.
When I told my wife, she said that in many ways she already knew and had perhaps been subconsciously preparing for me to speak the actual words. I had similar concerns to yours. She never let it interfere with her interactions with my family because she knew it was important to me. There was a period of time where this sense of “other” felt very present in the bedroom (likely because I had also disclosed a very recent incident) but honestly, telling her the truth and facing her reaction was incredibly healing for me and allowed us to grow that much closer. Your husband sounds wonderful and capable of hearing you and bearing witness to your truth. In due time. xo
When I told my partner about my brother, I didn’t want her to think of him differently. I didn’t want her to hate him, because we still are struggling to maintain a relationship. But she already didn’t like him based on how he was treating me, and now if she doesn’t hate him, she intensely dislikes him.
My husband has been really good about this. He said he understands that people aren’t simply good or evil, but that they are complicated. He doesn’t mean that to excuse what happened at all. I think he means that it’s possible to find some compassion for an older, failing, forgetful father who behaved selfishly and irresponsibly when he was younger.
At the same time, he said, “I think people underestimate the long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse. They say ‘children are resilient’ but don’t realize that there can be severe impact decades later. I didn’t realize this either; I only learned it through your experience.”
I feel like he gets it in a balanced, nuanced way.
[…] quiet, and having weeks of my husband providing patient and cheerful care gave me the courage to tell him more about my childhood experiences. What?!? you say. You told […]