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#56848 - 12/18/03 03:55 PM My Wife
Sinking Offline

Registered: 09/26/03
Posts: 577
Loc: Took my ball and went home.
Hello - This request is made specifically to women who have come here in response to what their husbands/boyfriends are going through in their healing and recovery. Over the past few months I have begun to deal with my SA. I always knew it had happened, never forgot that. But I did, as so many of us do, supress the emotions and the detailed memories of what actually took place. Now they have begun to surface, oftentimes like a tidal wave. Some days are easier than others, some days it feels like the whole world is craching down around me. It has, at times, been overwhelming for me. And, as you probably know, it has been overwhelming for my wife as well. I have been reading and posting here for a few months now and have found great insight and support. I have also started counseling and hope that I will find some answers there as well. However, my wife has not yet been able to bring herself to the point where she can seek any type of support or help. And even though I want to share my pain with her, I can't because I know it will cause her pain. I now find myself in the position of trying to help her through this instead of the other way around and I don't know how to do that. For the first time in my life, I'm trying to take care of me but have been somehow left holding the bag for her as well, maybe because that's always how it's been and we're both conditioned to live that way. But I can't be everything to everyone anymore, not now anyway. Her lament is "I don't know what to do for you. I don't know what to say. I don't know how to help." I know these things. This is all very new to both of us but it's going to be here for a long time and I'm exhausted just trying to get from one day to the next. Does anyone have any advice. Coming to theis site is not practical for my wife for numerous reasons. I think that she might be approaching the point of talking to a therapist she used to see for unrelated reasons but so far she has not. I know I'm not giving you much to work with but I'll take all the help I can get. Thank you.

#56849 - 12/18/03 09:37 PM Re: My Wife
PAS Offline

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Originally posted by Sinking:
However, my wife has not yet been able to bring herself to the point where she can seek any type of support or help. And even though I want to share my pain with her, I can't because I know it will cause her pain. I now find myself in the position of trying to help her through this instead of the other way around and I don't know how to do that. For the first time in my life, I'm trying to take care of me but have been somehow left holding the bag for her as well, maybe because that's always how it's been and we're both conditioned to live that way.
Hi this is a very timely post as I just completed an 8 week "real life" session for partners of SA survivors. There was a wonderful group that specializes in SA of men and they offered this session for female partners (they have other sessions for gay partners, as well as a lot for the male survivors themselves) this group is SO great....

Anyhow what I have learned is that there are definitely issues that happen in relationships with male SA surviors that we as female partners have to deal with - we need to learn strategies for holding ourselves and our families together during the times when the partner is having a rough time and pushing us away/sabotaging things, how to handle the inconsistencies in behaviour, thought, emotion, needs, how to assert and maintain helathy boundaries, how to determine what is "our stuff" and what is "their stuff" and how to quash our overinvolved "caretaker" response which many of us exert (ALL of us in the real live group are survivors of if not sexual abuse ourselves, but some other kind of child abuse), as well as how to understand the "guy side" of S.A in order to understand our partners better, and espeically how to handle when "his stuff" triggers "our stuff" (as indicated many partners of survivors have abuse issues of our own).

Indeed your point about being left "holding the bag" for our partners is one of the key issues we discussed in the partners group. One of the things that we talked about was how to let our partners deal with the impacts of their behaviour rather than constantly picking up for them - that they will only change if the pain gets great enough and the cost gets great enough for them to actually seek therapy, to start admitting there is a problem, etc etc.

You indicated that both of you have that caretaker tendency - and while there is nothing wrong with that it is great that you both care so much for each other, but sometimes that can get in the way of someone dealing with their own stuff. Unfortunately just as in the inverse when we do too much for our SA partners they dont have any motivation to get therapy, you may have to just let her feel her pain and figure out what exactly is her problem with this - does she have anxiety issues? Is she sad about it? Is it affecting her quality of life? Is it triggering anxiety and abuse issues of her own?? Etc. etc.. and then once she identifies if/what these issues are then she may find the need to go and see someone for her issues.

Anyhow.. the hardest thing for me to get a grip on in all of this was indeed the "what is my stuff and what is his stuff" and what I actually needed help with. From the sounds of things it sounds like your wife is in that stage.

If its one thing that my partner has drilled home to me in all of this is PATIENCE. In all of his pain and anxiety and terror in dealing with his SA and his parental issues he has this wonderful thing going for him - patience and faith to put one foot in front of the other on this journey of healing and he has total faith that things wont always be this way. So - I will pass on some of my partner's wisdom - at this point you can just encourage her to sit with it, to think, to journal, to reflect, pray, do whatever it is that she does when she mulls things over.. to take her time, that she doesnt have to fix this today or tomorrow, she doesnt even have to come up with any tentative approaches today or tomorrow, or even next week.. but that the answers will come when they come, and reassure her that things wont always be the way they are today - that you are doing your work, you are healing you are workign at your recovery and that things wont always be this way!!!!!!!


#56850 - 12/18/03 10:46 PM Re: My Wife
Wifey1 Offline

Registered: 12/03/02
Posts: 380
this stuck out for me in your post:
But I can't be everything to everyone anymore, not now anyway. Her lament is "I don't know what to do for you. I don't know what to say. I don't know how to help." I know these things. This is all very new to both of us but it's going to be here for a long time and I'm exhausted just trying to get from one day to the next.
You are so very right --- you cannot be everything to everyone. You've been doing that far too long and it stopped working some time ago for you. I know in my experience when and if hubby is able to share some "things" I can actually physically "Do" that help him cope I dont feel so floundered. It may be things I do everyday anyway for him. Like sort & match his socks, do laundry -- feed the cats or clean his house. BUT they are tangible and important FOR him to be supported. Just "hearing" that he needs those things lets me know I am doing what I can and what he needs.
You ARE exhausted and it doesnt mean you should have to exert ANY energy into directing her other than communicating WHAT you do KNOW. It will be just as much up to her to deal with all of this in "her own time & way" as much as it is in your individual own time and space.
And even though I want to share my pain with her, I can't because I know it will cause her pain.
Ya know what and I in no way am minimizing her pain in this or yours... but it is painful. It is going to be painful... jeeze the whole experience for you has been painful! It is a "fact" of the healing and surviving process. Yes naturally one wants to minimize or reduce or even rid the pain -- but it is there, it is going to be there and is part of the process. But, Sinking you have been carrying so much for so long in the pain department -- she is going to "feel it" in some level no matter what. Pain is part of the risk of emotional connection & Love. It is a "known" in the relationship... how we deal with the pain is the part we want to control I think?
This may be something that you will have to just let go a of some and let her come to find her own way in finding support thru.
I am in no way suggesting that you NOT talk with her about this... only that emotionally letting go of the responsible feelings of. You are NOT the cause of the pain --- your abuser/s are. You've shown honor, love and trust by being courageous enough to share awful truths with her. You're willing to keep working on yourself to improve you and her and the relationship.
It it painful to know the person who we hold the most highest love and care about the most is in pain. BUT as partners we can be strong and take good care of ourselves letting our "wounded" partner have the time neccessary to heal with out making our partner "more" responsible for our emotional health.
I hope you are encouraging her to seek therapy for herself in this time also. Both of you have very valid reasons for needing others support outside of each other. It in no way makes you "less of" a partner or love her any less. In fact I think it is more loving to share that you need her to be sure to surround herself with "other support". It shows you care about her needs as much as your own. No ONE person could be or probably should be any One persons sole means of support.
You're a brave person Sinking... and you DESERVE to keep working on healing. She is a brave person and deserves to keep on working to heal with you and for herself also.
Peace, Sammy

#56851 - 12/19/03 10:49 PM Re: My Wife
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA

"I don't know how to" isn't always the same thing as "I don't want to" although many times it's easy to interpret them the wrong way. Sometimes, "I don't know how" is a way of asking "How can I?" Can you give your wife choices about things that would help you? Things she can do? Ways she can listen to you, or ways she can just help you make it from one day to the next, taking out the trash, paying the bills, etc? Not things you expect her to do at the moment you tell her, but things for her to keep in mind.

I just recently found out about my boyfriend's SA, and unfortunately at the same time, about some of his other behaviors. I didn't know how to help him. I didn't know what I could say that wouldn't hurt him more. I didn't know how much he wanted to be left alone with it and how much he wanted to talk about it but was afraid to say. I didn't want him to feel responsible for any pain that talking to me might cause me, but I didn't know how to get him to stop feeling guilty about my pain and anger over what had happened to him. I didn't know anyone I could ask about this stuff, or have anyone I could talk to about it, since we mostly know the same people and he's only told me. I still don't know the answers to any of this but I want to know, and he knows I want to know, and I believe that he'll tell me what he can when he can.

This part may not apply to you... I didn't, and still don't, know how to express my hurt over what he did to our relationship without making it sound like I think he's sick (I don't think he's sick, just hurt). He knows he's done things to hurt me, and he knows they're related to his SA, but it's hard for either of us to explain how. I don't want to make him hurt anymore, and I've truly forgiven him for much of what he's done, but I have a lot of anxiety about our future together (will he do it again? will he go into therapy and decide he wants to leave me? etc etc etc). This is my anxiety, not his, and I'm keeping it out of our discussions because I feel like he is sorry and that he can't offer me much more than "sorry" on the topic right now. But it is a big part of why everything's been hard for me and maybe he's picking up on that, and maybe he's not. Like I said, I don't want to bring it up with him until he can really talk about it with me.

#56852 - 12/19/03 11:30 PM Re: My Wife
Sinking Offline

Registered: 09/26/03
Posts: 577
Loc: Took my ball and went home.
Thank you. Thank you. And Thank you. I appreciate all of your answers and the thought and time that went into them. I especailly appreciate your words of encouragement...we survivors can never hear those words enough. Everyone tells me how brave I am, how courageous, etc. But it hasn't really sunk in, not sure when or if it will, but keep in mind, when you have a chance, keep giving encouragement to your partners. Maybe, eventually, it will sink in.

Anyway, your suggestions are good but on some level I feel like the burden is put back in my lap, again. Maybe we can learn from eachother here.

Each of you has suggested that I find a way for her to help me...kind of backwards from my point of view. I'm pretty busy finding ways for me to help me. I found my counselor. I found this website. I went out and bought a book about recovering from abuse. These are all things that my intelligent, capable wife could be doing (and the fact is, I've suggested them all to taking care of her, again) but she hasn't. I realize she is scared. Scared about what this means in my life, in our life together, so am I. I know that "I don't know how" means "please tell me how". But I don't know the answer to that. I'm hoping the book will give us both some answers. But she needs support that I can't give her. As much as I don't expect her to understand what it is like for me, I know that her experience is something else altogether. She needs to find answers for herself so she's not sitting on the sidelines, feeling sorry for me, feeling helpless and scared and lost. All that does is make me feel like I need to take care of her, again. The time is here and now. I'm determined to learn, feel, understand as best I can and, eventually, heal and recover. I want her along for the ride. But I'm handling a lot right now, and I don't mean taking out the garbage, things like that provide good distractions for me. I mean the floods of emotions, the nightmares, the irrational fears of being watched, all the lovely things we are left with. On top of that I have to stay together enough to run my business and then, get this, I've been battling a harassment suit and restraining order filed against me by the man who abused me for two years, simply because I called him to give him a chance to explain why he did what he did and to let him take the accountability. There's a lot on my plate and I can't take the responsibility of making it okay for my wife on top of everything else. In fact, one of the things I've begun to learn is that by constantly taking care of everyone else, I neglect my own needs, always have. So she is hindering my healing process by expecting me to take care of her in this situation. I hope this makes sense, I can feel frustration and maybe a little anger and resentment as I write this. So please don't take that to heart. I also realize I might be asking you to help me with an impossible situation but I'll take what I can get. As I said before, maybe we can learn from eachother here. Any possibility you see some of yourselves in my de>

#56853 - 12/20/03 02:41 AM Re: My Wife
Pollyanna Offline

Registered: 10/10/03
Posts: 211
Loc: Missouri
I wish I had the answer. All I know is how to deal with a child as to this stuff.

Any time either my husband or myself has a problem, we try to kind of get together as "one person" and try to figure it out together. That way, both of us feel supported by each other, as well as knowing what's going on in each other's minds. That probably sounds overly simplistic. Even if the issue can't be "fixed" over night, there's the feeling of walking in the same direction with the same goal.

I hope your wife decides to see the T. Dealing with Scotty, that has pointed me in the right direction and helped me to feel strong enough to do my part. I know someone is there to make sense out of what I'm seeing, whether I know what I'm looking at or not.



"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

– Anne Lamott

#56854 - 12/20/03 09:21 AM Re: My Wife
helpmystephen Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/07/02
Posts: 19
Loc: nyc
Dear Sinking,

Does your wife have any experience in dealing with SA issues? When my brother first told my family and his friends about his SA some of my family didn't know how to respond, they didn't know what an impact this can have on your life. My husband remembered his sa two years ago. My husband while he is in therapy, tries to put this back in the box it came out of. He really doesn't share much with me, and that is a killer. All of this has had a hugh impact on our lives.

If it is to diffuclt for you and your wife to talk about what you are feeling, maybe you could start by writing to her. I found a great book that has really helped my understanding of how all of this effects not only us but him The book is called Survivors & Partners Healing the Relationships of Sexual Abuse Survivors by Paul Hansen. This book might really help both you and your wife.

As a partner it is hard to know how to help, when and in what way. I would love it if my husband would say I am having a bad day or say something besides you just don't know what it's like. If you need something let her know. Good luck to the both of you.

#56855 - 12/20/03 11:40 PM Re: My Wife
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
Hi Sinking.

I do see a lot of myself and my boyfriend in what you're saying. Many times I end up feeling resentment, frustration, etc. because I want him to do more to help me, or understand more of what I'm saying, or because I wish he'd stop feeling sorry, guilty, worried. I can only speak for myself but I'm sure he'd say something very similar about me.

There are two things I have to say about that--the first one is that, when we get angry at each other because we've upset each other, and feel unfairly expected to keep quiet or take care of someone else's emotions, many times those expectations that we think are coming from our partner are actually coming from ourselves--our own pain and guilt about expressing ourselves and possibly hurting someone else, our own expectations of ourselves to keep quiet and not be selfish about our needs, our own expectations of ourselves as caring partners (which in my case, are unrealistic and made up because I don't even know what caring partners look like). I feel sorry about almost everything I do. I feel sorry when I'm the only one getting off at the bus stop because I made everyone stop just for me!! That's because I'm uncomfortable to need things and take things, not because the bus driver didn't say goodnight to me when I got off.

The second thing is that our grief and fear about hurting our partners, and our frustration and need to "take care of" the emotional situation once we have hurt them, these things come from love. If we didn't love each other we wouldn't be so involved and sad when the other one got hurt. If we didn't care about our relationship we wouldn't share our difficult thoughts in the first place--or, we'd have a very different fight when we did. It makes it easier for me to deal with my anger and frustration over his pain when I talk to him if I can just keep in mind the fact that I feel this way out of love.

You say you feel burdened by having to find a solution for your wife. In a way, you do have a burden, but it's the same one that everyone has, and that not many of us are good at handling--we have to tell other people about our needs before we can expect them to respond to our needs. Other people aren't going to "just know" what to do for us, and even if they knew what we needed yesterday it doesn't mean that they will today. Telling people what you need is a difficult thing to do especially when you're used to ignoring what you need to take care of others, or if you've said what you needed and not gotten it in the past. The fact that you even know what you need and can say it is awesome, Sinking, and I mean that very seriously. It's not something everyone can do. But once you've taken care of THAT responsibility--the responsibility to tell her what you need, not to find a way for her to give it to you-- then she needs to hold up her end of the bargain too, which is that generally when you care about someone and they need something, you do what you can for them. If she is loving and intelligent and capable as you've said that she is, then I'm sure she'll do what she can. But you can't manage her feelings or her reactions to what you tell her, and if she does feel pain or sorrow or fear, then that's about her and about the situation, not about you failing to protect her from the reality of what you need. It's okay for her to feel pain for you. It surely is going to happen, if you're speaking to her honestly. Personally I would rather take whatever hurt and sorrow I can off of my boyfriend's shoulders than have him keep it from me even if he's keeping it from me for loving reasons. He can't control how I feel about what he tells me and neither can I. He does control whether or not I feel useless and left out of his life because there are things that he's not telling me. If what you need is space for yourself and your own healing, and for her to back off and get her own support, then tell her so in no uncertain terms, and stick to it. I'm sure she'll read that book you bought in her own time, maybe once you've actually stopped taking care of her emotions for her and she needs to start looking for her own answers. But for you to tell her that you need space and support and then to not really call her to task when it comes time for her to give it, isn't going to make her better at listening to what you need and isn't going to make you less frustrated.

Making it better for YOU is a responsible thing that you're doing for both of you. Having a better You around will make it better for her because she loves you. You have all of my good luck wishes and then some for everything that's going on in your life.


#56856 - 12/21/03 11:43 PM Re: My Wife
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
one thing I found when dealing with my wife was that I couldn't do her work for her.
All I could do was be as open and honest as I possibly could at that time and support her by explaining carefully what I was going through.

We somehow got into a routine of doing it which we both found so good,
After therapy my head was full of thoughts and things I wanted to share with her ( not everything - every time ) but I hated talking about my 'shit' in our home. I still don't if I can help it, I like to our home a sanctuary ( my involvement here though feels perfectly ok )

So on a Wednesday night about 8-15 after my session we'd go to a local pub for our dinner - and talk.
It was neutral ground so to speak, and although very public the pub had quiet corners to hide away a bit.
It also made it safe, neither of us was likely to throw our toys out of the pram and get angry. We didn't anyway, but it was a safety net.

We still do this, although now we go for a curry at a Bangladeshi Restraunt on a Friday, and we both look forward to it - the curry and the talking.

But whatever you do I think that setting a time - not rigidly, or expecting to talk about 'your' problems - is useful. And somewhere without interruptions is essential, we turned our mobile's off - still do.

My wife has read nothing more than the Survivors Partners chapter in Mike Lews book Victims No Longer, and has barely looked at any web site.
But she's an 'expert' now - an expert on Dave and his problems, aren't I the lucky guy eh ?
She's learned all she needs to know, as and when she's needed it, by talking to me. ( Ok, I know that's not strictly true, she's smart enough to get a lot of knowledge from other sources, but she hasn't become a 'scholar' on the subject because she doesn't need to )

I also didn't know what to expect from her, and looking back I think I expected very little other than disgust in the first place - classic victim thinking.
During the early recovery I just upped my expectations bit by bit, and sat back in amazement as they were met.
There was a great quote from the Soprano's TV series where Tony Soprano's mother tells him "don't expect happiness in your life, then if you don't get it, you won't be dissapointed"
I'm certainly not saying try to do that, but that's the way I worked unconciously in my early recovery.
I didn't know what to expect, so I expected very little.

But now we both expect a lot, because I, and my wife, have talked to each other and made clear what we want from each other, what we can give to each other and what we want for both of us.


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#56857 - 12/22/03 08:07 PM Re: My Wife
outis Offline

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 2261
Loc: Maryland USA
As a partner it is hard to know how to help, when and in what way. I would love it if my husband would say I am having a bad day or say something besides you just don't know what it's like.
I can't count how many times I said, "You don't understand." Or how about, "You can't know what it's like, and I'm glad that you can't."

It wasn't helping my wife understand what I needed. All I really needed was for her to listen. Don't judge. Don't offer solutions. Don't distract me. Just accept what I am saying because I need to say it.

She did exactly that last night and I will never be able to thank her enough.

She can't just live with the knowledge of what happened, what people did to me when I was a child. I can't expect her to take everything I need to unload and store it somehow. Some of the effects of my past have influenced our life together and some will continue to do so. Dealing with this took some trust on my part. Some time ago I told her that I knew she would have feelings about this that she would not want to share with me. I told her that I trusted her to find someone trustworthy when she felt she had to tell someone what she was going through and why, including telling them about the abuse I endured.

I'm not sure now who knows how much, but no one stops me at church to ask how my recovery is going, so my trust in my wife was well placed.

We have had rough times but I'm convinced these are two successes we've had and the successes will outnumber the rough times in the end.



"Telemachos, your guest is no discredit to you. I wasted no time in stringing the bow, and I did not miss the mark. My strength is yet unbroken…"—The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. Rouse

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