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#408572 - 08/31/12 10:11 PM Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together?
aksnowyowl Offline

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 47
My husband and I have been stuck in a circular debate about "duty" in a relationship. He said that it was likely that in the future we would stay together "out of a sense of duty." i was first offended. then calmed down and tried asking "why" questions...why do you think that? what does duty mean, would you not stay without it? etc.

I learned two things: questions like that set him off and he is totally glued to this idea of duty.

we talked about it in therapy and it turns out that he believes the world, himself, everything will fall apart if he does not stick to his duty which is his routine and responsibility. This devotion to duty is what "keeps him in line."

does this sound familiar? a coping mechanism? a common aspect of relationships with CSA survivors? Does anyone else have spouses with rigid routines or preferences? My H gets up and goes to bed at the same, eats the same thing for lunch, has worn the same "uniform" since he was 15 or so, can't handle crowds, bright lights, etc. We thought it might be asperger's but it wasn't.

ithink of myself as offering gifts: doing dishes is a gift, making the bed, etc. but it makes him uncomfortable. He said that gifts always have strings. So i thought honoring each other would be a good compromise.

what i got was a full blown defensive meltdown about trying to change him. it lasted for days. even now, i don't say the word "chores" because it's too closely linked. so i backed off.

i don't want to take something away from him if it is literally keeping him together but i also don't want to be in a relationship that is governed by duty...which sounds like obligation.

#408575 - 08/31/12 11:25 PM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: aksnowyowl]
shortieg Offline

Registered: 07/24/12
Posts: 58
That is a fine line... Marriage is a "duty" in some sense, you each have to put forth your duties to make the marriage work.

The love however, is not duty, it is not his "duty" to love you, nor is it yours to love him.
Now let's bring it down a notch and add abuse in.... My husband who is the survivor, often feels in our relationship there are things we need to do, not because he wants but because there is some unwritten law that that's how "normal" marriages are.
He saw and sometimes still sees everything as a "duty" because it means he can have control of the situation, it means because he can't let bad things happen if it's on the schedule to prevent it.

Please tell me if I am way off base, I am sure I am, these are just observations I have made from my own experience and learning from my husband .

My husband and I used to be so "robotic" in our marriage, I hated it!! No spontaneous moments, no just fun silly whatever's.. It was always planned.
He told me it's because he felt in control, the world could truly crumble if he didn't bear the weight of it...
I think your husband is hiding a lot of shame and guilt (normal for csa). Dealing with it might means he needs this "duty" structure.
He seems in no way comfortable with the marriage being a marriage? Again if I am wrong, terribly sorry.
My husband is now to the point where we can enjoy each other, we do spontaneous things, he doesn't feel like he has to do something or it's his duty to do something... He does it because he wants to, it's still a work in progress but I believe he will get there one day.

Patience, and boy a lot of it... This is a rocky road you are going down... But it is worth it.
You husband sounds like mine, the more I pushed, tried to change etc the more he pushed back, threw up a defensive wall.. Didn't want to change etc.

I backed off, supported him (not enable though) just support. Be there for him...
Also, take care of you, do not fall into the pit, or if you have get out as fast as you can!!! Being a supporter is draining, you can get wrapped up in it sooo quick, their problems start to become yours. As much as you want to help, or push him into the right direction, do not get sucked in.
I learned this the hard way, and am now slowly working my way back to my old self. It is a hard road, but I work at it day by day.

One decision you have to make, is do you really want to go through this? Are you ok taking this chance with absolutely no guarantees that he will be able to heal/move on. If you are afraid of being in a marriage that will forever be a duty, those are some serious questions to ask, because there are no guarantees with how long or what it will take for your marriage and your husband to be better.

Good luck.

Edited by shortieg (08/31/12 11:34 PM)

#408746 - 09/03/12 04:22 AM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: aksnowyowl]
Brugmansia Offline

Registered: 08/29/12
Posts: 3
Loc: Montana
The rigid structure can be a compelling coping mechanism. It becomes obsessive and self reinforcing the longer it goes on. Any deviation from the routine/duty can seem unbearably threatening. Something 'terrible' will happen if the rules are violated, very anxiety producing. If one pictures a small child acting this way, like the fit if the peas touch the carrots, it makes more sense. This behavior is also a great way to avoid self revelation and true intimacy. You only get to know the 'uniform'. This can go on for most of a wounded person's life, a gray existance with little joy, punctuated by flashes of terror if the routine is upset.

About the gifts have strings- as a result of my own abuse, my first reaction is still to be embarassed and suspicious if someone tries to give to me. I have to conciously look at the present time situation so I can evaluate with clarity. Often my abuse was packged as giving to me and I was supposed to be grateful! At least the two of you are talking about these issues, congratulations.

#408764 - 09/03/12 01:14 PM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: aksnowyowl]
whome Offline

Registered: 05/07/11
Posts: 1743
Loc: Johannesburg South Africa
Hi aksnowyowl.

I kinda see a bit of me in him.
We need to start by saying that as a survivor, often the concept of love is a strange one, I was told by so many abusers that they love me and that love was painful and hurt me. So it could be that your husband has a "Better" concept of love and that is duty. Duty cant be perverted, but to us love can be perverted. So it might be In his world that he is doing you a great service. Sounds crazy, but this is our life.
rigid structure to our lives because it means that we have control. Of course the need to be in control is a great survivor trait, it is something that we never had as children, so it is something that we seek as adults.
All the other traits are survivor trait fear of crowds etc.

My big question is, IS he in therapy for the CSA, and more so is he a survivor or are you looking for answers.

Each person is different, but we all have huge similarities, so ask as many questions as you need too, and, Well, Welcome to the forum, I hope that we gave you some ideas here, and i hope that it helped.

Heal well
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Matrix Men South Africa
Survivors Supporting Each other
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#408777 - 09/03/12 03:04 PM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: aksnowyowl]
CdnDW Offline

Registered: 08/24/12
Posts: 105
Snowy Owl, my son has aspergers so I see the similarities, but these traits even in aspergers are symptoms. Rigid structure, Obsessive Compulsive behaviours, anxiety and emotional regulation difficulties are all behaviours resulting from a need to control exposure to painful or uncomfortable experiences. I have learned through parenting him and the therapy he has received that all behaviour is just another kind of communication. I don't suggest you try to be a therapist to your H, but understanding his behaviour can make living with it so much easier. For kids with aspergers, the rigid structure all comes down to control. Kids with aspergers have nervous systems that being bombarded constantly so their biological emergency response is constantly in ON position. It is mentally exhausting, so they attempt to control their exposure to "what comes next" in life to make this bearable. I can see a trauma survivor experiencing something similar and, as a result, having similar behaviour. Your husband may have limited his experiences and daily routine in a unconscious attempt to reduce triggers for his csa trauma. This may also make him feel safe from being abused again. In terms of the word "duty", sometimes the language someone uses means something different to us. If he self-limited the spectrum of emotional experiences he could have to cope with his trauma, he may not know the exact word to describe what he feels. Also, "duty" may have been the only thing that kept him living all these years. Maybe a duty to his parents or to god or to you has kept him together and moving forward instead of completely falling apart. I agree with Whome's view of duty versus love too. It is a much safe connection to someone if he was hurt by someone he loved.

I know when I ask my son "why", he acts like I am challenging how he feels to discount it, but when I ask "what" and "how" he feels like I am trying to understand how he experiences life better.

I know there is a world of difference between a child with aspergers and an adult with csa trauma, but if behaviour looks similar, then maybe what it is communicating and attempting to achieve is the same...

I hope this helps.

#408832 - 09/04/12 02:19 AM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: shortieg]
aksnowyowl Offline

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 47
thank you shortieg. i've read and reread your post a few times over the last couple of days. i appreciate the insight and the honest questions. i don't think you are off base. what i am looking for is the so-called "typical" spectrum for survivors and their spouses. thank you again. it's so good to have conversations about this, especially since it's so sensitive in person.

#408833 - 09/04/12 02:21 AM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: Brugmansia]
aksnowyowl Offline

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 47
to brugmansia,
thank you for replying and helping me sort this out. specifically, thank you for describing your reaction to gifts...this reaction sounds a lot like my husband...but he isn't yet able to talk about why he feels what he feels or what his feelings are connected to, so who knows for sure. i really appreciate the feedback. it helps.

#408835 - 09/04/12 02:41 AM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: whome]
aksnowyowl Offline

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 47
well, i'm sorry i haven't mastered technology guys:) i guess i could've done this in one post, but i'm not particularly tech savvy. you know, with all the thank yous and feedback.

i want to convey to each person who has written that they are helping me be a better wife, a better friend, and really, i can't think of a better gift than to help someone else learn to love...which may sound sentimental, but is what's happening for me on this forum.

our situation is that my husband suspects that he might have experienced CSA...but he suspects this mostly because i've put two and two together over the years and so has our marriage counselor...and so did his previous wife...and the other women he'd had long term relationships. he said he's heard it all his life. i'm also a rape survivor. EMDR saved me and an excellent therapist saved me. i began to notice similarities between my husband and i.

he just started EMDR, but is in a place where all at once he thinks:
i want to do this to improve my relationship with my family
i may not find any trauma
i might just be eccentric
nothing i experienced was worse than anything anyone else in my neighborhood experienced
i've gone this long, why do it now?
i'm broken and i don't think i can be fixed
even if there is something there, it's not that bad
other people had it worse

and these thoughts become sentences which i hear whenever we talk about therapy or intimacy. as odd as it is, i'm grateful that there are so just one might seem more logical...that there is "scramble" to keep that band aid on (to use scottyg's analogy)...that at times he can see how many words he throws up...and ultimately, how it hasn't changed our relationships or the compassion of the marriage counselor.

unfortunately, there are no CSA specific counselors in our town...small what can you do? just hope.

but thank you for the insight on duty. i needed to hear that. your definition and context put a whole new spin on it, one that i think probably fits him. and which makes me both feel like an asshole for not figuring out sooner:) and makes me glow because he is wholeheartedly devoted to this concept of duty to me and our kids.

thank you again

#408837 - 09/04/12 02:47 AM Re: Duty vs. Honor: What Holds Your Partner Together? [Re: CdnDW]
aksnowyowl Offline

Registered: 08/18/12
Posts: 47
it does help...a good reminder...i've adapted to a lot of his routine and he's adjusted it for me. i think i forget that he has these sensitivities as reactions and not just as eccentricities. i get used to them and i begin to think that he's doing it on purpose, since our relationship has created a lot of stability for both of us and we've been able to become healthier people.

i forget that there is a reason for them and that a stable relationship isn't enough security to give them up...all at once or even with time.

it's good to be reminded that they are reasonable to him. thanks for adjusting my perspective.


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