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#67782 - 09/29/03 03:42 PM Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
wifenneed Offline

Registered: 12/20/02
Posts: 96
Loc: Michigan
Hello all-

Just wanted to pose this question, to which there are probably all kinds of answers depending on the person. My husband does talk to me, about his past and some of the things that happened to him. Sometimes I feel he gets very close to talking about the things that are the worst, and by that of course I mean the sexual abuse. He can talk to me about the physical abuse from his stepfather, emotional too, and about how he was treated by his mother, he can talk to me about all kinds hurts inflicted upon him, except the SA. He has spoken of it to me though, but rarely, and I'm afraid my listening skills go haywire when we talk about this. Mind you I am understanding, loving and non-judgemental always, but, I get so angry at the persons who did things to him, and I vocalize it. Of those people who wronged him in his youth, I am VERY judgemental. I do it calmly, but still I'm wondering what is the best way to listen? I can't just sit forever and make no comments, but I have found that the more quiet I become (by not offering thoughts, interjecting my feelings of injustices, etc.), the more he talks. So, I guess I'm looking for your feelings as to what works well for you, when you finally can talk? Sometimes I'm filled with so much hatred and indignation for the ghosts of the past that I know I don't do him any good when I vocalize this. Thank you for your time, everyone.


#67783 - 09/29/03 04:15 PM Re: Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
PAS Offline

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Hi - I think you may have already answered your question \:\)

You seem to have found out what i have found out .. that "less is more" works the best. To be honest I find that with most issues, my fiance likes to talk, uninterrupted, and as soon as I say something he no longer wants to talk.

I think *part* of it is a male-female communication thing - as women we talk to our girlfriends in an interactive way - one of us says something, the other finishes the sentence, we smile, nod together, bond through talk, and it gives us a feeling of warm fuzzy.. but for guys I think they find that kind of communication offensive.

I think respecting that, and respecting that this is a very tough issue to talk about... that saying as little as possible might just be the best thing to do. I know where your'e coming from re: difficult to bite back your feelings on it - My head pounds, I literally have dizzy spells and diarrhea attacks when I think about what happened to him. Because this is issue raises so many emotions within me its a hard thing to do to try and "keep calm" when he tells me of his SA.

Anyhow saying as little as possible is what I'm trying to work towards - for what its worth I am not always so good at it but I"m trying.

#67784 - 09/30/03 01:36 AM Re: Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
Bill_1965 Offline
Chat Mod Emeritus

Registered: 06/29/03
Posts: 1984
Loc: Flint, Michigan
You have provided your own answer.
the more quiet I become (by not offering thoughts, interjecting my feelings of injustices, etc.), the more he talks
He is sharing his stories and his thoughts, this is not a time for your thoughts. He feels the injustice of it, he does not need to have these reinforced, placing him more in the place of the victim rather than that of a survivor. It hurts us when we hurt those that we love, when you express your anger it appears that we are hurting you. Thus the talk stops and remains bottled in.

Contently listen to his stories and the feelings he is expressing. Let him do all the talking. Be there if he wants to be held and release him when he doesn't.

Thanks for wanting to be there for him,

Pain is Temporary; Quitting lasts Forever. - Lance Armstrong

#67785 - 09/30/03 11:52 AM Re: Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
Wifey1 Offline

Registered: 12/03/02
Posts: 380
WifenNeed ~
Listening & not interjecting... oooh yep I can soo Identify with that one. However tho' hubby2 is better about not shutting down like he used to. From our experience once he unloaded the graphic details while he was flooding, the flow of his being able to discuss has become better.
there are times I still very frequently even while on the phone with him that I have to visualize sitting on my hands with tape over my mouth to keep me from blasting off.
I've found that if we have more of a "scheduled time" but not written in for us I do a better job of listening. For example after his Sunday night mtgs I keep my phone line clear, or if he has requested I agree to meet with him where Ever he chooses so that he can tell me what he wants to tell. I think his mtgs & opening up in them to others has definetly helped his speaking "publicly" about his thoughts, ideas etc. & that means trusting to share enuff with ME too.
Making sure I am in the right space to be able to hear him when he wants to share helps too. That means I have had to learn if I am overly tired, hungry, or over stimulated I have to take care of MY needs first to be of any help to him by listening.
I began to ASK him in the beginning if he wanted feed back or just for me to Listen. When he was flooding the worst with his memories & he cried much thru this, I didn't offer much to him as feedback (my thots only) but more of lots of simple agreeance as to what he was feeling. No matter HOW insane it seemed @ the time for me. Excluding Hurting himself - that boundary WAS and IS ALWAYS discussed in detail & we each know that if need be the rule is to call the therapist FOR each other.
I have @ times even had to physically sit on my hands & think of other stuff so as not to give a facial reaction. I've smoked a ton of cigs to distract (no not recommending it just what I did) or sipped my coffee way too fast to keep from responding.
If hubby2 has started to repeat his thots to me for the 2nd or 3rd time in a row I ask him if I can respond. He has asked me WHY I want to respond before & a couple of times I know he had a hurt expression on his face when I said he was repeating himself is it possible XXX & so have tried to find new wording to use when he does this... most of the time tho he just says that he needs to tell it again -- and YES he needs to TELL it as often as HE NEEDS for himself.
I found my patience begins to wear thin during this time, for him & more so for the assholes who hurt him so badly. I've offered to do some pretty damn extreme things FOR him.. I. E. writing a ltr to his Mom when she has pushed his buttons --- I have Never Acted on any of those things, as just the offer seems to be validating enough for what he is feeling @ the time.
What do I do if he wont let me give feedback? I call someone, come here & post or just settle in to my own distancing habits. Mostly tho I WRITE on this box on my desk in my journal or in my notebook , the notebook I handwrite in. Physically handwriting seems to help especially when I am really pissed off ... I can be very physical in swirling , drawing faces, writing BIG, underlining etc. I think part of the physical doing of the writing actually helps me to get rid of my own built up fight feelings & adrenaline.
Taking a walk for me seems to help also & that can be with a GF or by myself & talking along the way. The physical stimulas as I am expressing my feelings about his issues seems to allow a good release for me. ( and its good for my heart).
I am a "talker" and always have been. I use my hands a lot to speak. I raise my voice a lot whether in happy excitement or complete rage. Being calm cool & collected HEARING of Anyone's Pain has always been a "surge" of power & anger for me. So I have had to learn to channel out the crap so I dont harm the person sharing by intimidating them into silence with "overtalking them". (i got involved in local politics to have a place to be effective in releasing my crap too). While that is not working directly on the frustration level of the sexual abuse -- I choose to speak @ council on subjects that irk me to no end giving the equal feeling (or close) that I get when I am hearing his pain too. So council gets my venting & work for an "under dog" that I perceive & mostly I gain by having an outlet to release the feelings of having to sit on my hands. I have volunteered much in various willy nilly projects that actually turned out to be great projects.
I guess the best thing that worked tho' so far to date is making a regular schedule Knowing ahead of time I have to keep my mouth shut. (i screw up tho & talk sometimes ) -- Forgive yourself along the way -- he is new at his healing path, & that makes YOU new at this path also as his partner. In saying that I mean that there are no hard & fast rules to healing.
Perhaps talking to your hubby about WHAT he needs you to do so you do or dont give feed back during his sharing time is an option. He knows to some degree what he would like -- be prepared this may change frequently (sometimes even while he is talking ) ...
I hope that I shared a bit of what works so far for hubby2 & I. Listening is a great way to show support AND taking care of YOURSELF along the way is Supporting him too!
Peace, Sammy

#67786 - 09/30/03 01:54 PM Re: Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
wifenneed Offline

Registered: 12/20/02
Posts: 96
Loc: Michigan
Thank you for your replies, all. Good tools to remember. At times it is hard to hide the outrage and crushing feelings I have for him when he talks. It does no good to wish this and wish that, but I do just the same. I find I like to blame the people who were supposed to be protecting him, or any child, for that matter, and I don't want to interject those thoughts while he is talking, but it is hard as I don't feel like I'm supporting him if I don't say things like: it was not fair, that was wrong what happened to you, they should not have hurt you, you were only a kid and in no way deserving of this, etc. I will take advice and keep it to myself, and then maybe I'll just let it go here. I didn't know I could have hatred for anyone, and now that I know a bit of what happened to my darling husband when he was a boy, I have hatred. I just want to do the right thing for him, and without his feedback it's hard to tell, and sometimes I'm too scared to ask for feedback, because I don't want him to dissappear. (turn into "the stanger" as I have come to think of who he turns into when things are too much). It is hard to wait, to be patient, but good things are worth waiting for as the saying goes. And, he is so worth it. I wish he would come here, but hasn't shown any interest...yet. Thanks all for letting me vent.

#67787 - 10/01/03 12:57 AM Re: Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
Justice's Angel Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/05/03
Posts: 20
Loc: Va, USA
Wifey1, thanks for the post. I had noticed that my boyfriend would start to talk and then stop after a while when I talked to him. I guess I just need to shut my mouth and listen. lol. Hard for such an opinionated person like me but I will try for his sake.

#67788 - 10/02/03 07:56 AM Re: Question for Survivors-How can I listen better?
ndsunshyn Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/01/03
Posts: 1
Wow. This forum is absolutely incredible. I am brand new here, but all of the threads I have read tonight have been so enlightening and so helpful. Finally feel like I have found a place to connect with others who understand me and what I am going through. What a relief. I have been struggling in my relationship so much this year, and I cannot run to my therapist all of the time to talk or vent.

The man I am involved with is prone to clamming up from time to time. Have noticed he will stop talking with me sometimes if I interject during a conversation. Consequently, there have been many conversations between us where I haven't said half of what I wanted to say. Some days I don't say much of anything. Our communication is really good sometimes, but just okay or very sparse most of the time. We are definitely going through a very rough patch right now.
He is coping with a lot of very difficult issues in his life, and has just gone public about the abuse. I am trying my best to patient, loving and supportive. Also know I have to take care of my own needs right now too.

I love him very much, but its very hard for a talker like myself to have a "smooth" conversation with him sometimes. On bad days I feel like I am walking on eggshells. I have known him for more than 10 years, but the abuse was kept secret during most of that time. 4.5 months ago he told me about the molestation. I have experienced a lot of emotions since then, but the overall feeling I have these days is one of helplessness. Sometimes I am afraid to say or do things to or with him. I am always concerned that I may do something that will be too much for him to handle. Sometimes I feel like I am taking on too much stayin in this relationship, but I love and care so much I can't imagine quitting...


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