For those of you who don't know the time line of our marriage issues, I will do my best to lay it out here. It is an imperfect time line, and a better understanding in the future may change it.
Married late 1980s. Things were great between us in every way except one. My husband has always held back on physical intimacy. But, over all, things went mostly well between us and we lived in peace and love. (If I had known the implications of my husband's lack of desire and holding back in that area, I would have been pushing for therapy out of the gate. But I just accepted that he was atypical without really needing a reason why.)
We had ups and downs in life, but our friendship was strong. We were always there for each other. Then, when we had been married seven years, we moved to the same state as his parents. We wanted our children to grow up near their Christian grand-parents. (The relationship we hoped for our children never happened, because the spiritual lives of the grandparents were not what I thought they were. But that was our motivation.)
When my son was four or five, my husband took a job that required continual travel. At the same time, his behavior towards me changed radically. What I meant by that, is that he had never been sexist or hard-hearted before. He had always made time to listen to my heart and care about my feelings, but now things were different. He acted put out by my emotional needs for closeness, conversation or compassion. He started all kinds of new disrespectful behaviors- sighs, eye-rolling, sarcasm, mockery. I was shocked, but the onset was gradual and we blamed it on the travel.
Turns out the traveling job was a symptom, not the cause. That was fifteen years ago. Some of my husband's symptoms of depression started at that time. Some started the year we moved to be near his parents. He has been in denial a long, long time.
For most of those fifteen years my husband traveled, and that limited the time we had for conflict. I was loathe to bring things up and let way too much slide, because he was only home a few days at a time. When my daughter hit adolescence, she quickly discerned that it actually pleased her father when she treated me rudely and disrespectfully. So began the worst years of my life since leaving my own mother's household.
Eventually my daughter got involved in an abusive relationship with a passive-agressive teen. He was my husband on steroids and without the religious veneer.
During this time, Jesus was always my strength and help. He began to show me that I blamed myself for way too much of what was going. He showed me that I was beautiful to him, just the way I was. My own family were my enemies, manipulating my emotions with passive-agressive covert abuse and then berating me for being honest about my pain and frustration. For a long time I had accepted their blame, but Jesus patiently untangled the lies from my mind and set me free. He loves me, oh, He loves me He does! =)
As I came out of denial, I could see how much danger our daughter was in. At the same time, I was finally ready to leave my abusive husband. I just could not take any more rejection and hypocrisy. I could see how it was hurting my daughter, and I could feel how it was hurting me. It was just too much.
I had close friends, who together pushed me to try a Marriage Intensive by Joel and Kathy Davission. Now we had tried other marriage ministries, and they were helpful at the time. But they did not solve our core problem, a problem we couldn't even put a name on. Marriage Encounter was helpful back when my husband first started traveling, but in itself it only made things better. It was no cure for what ailed us.
We went to the Marriage Intensive, where I felt heard and understood for the first time. Scriptural "support" for misogyny was shown for the lie it is, and my husband was confronted with what scripture really teaches about men, women, marriage and love. And to my amazement, my husband heard the truth, accepted the truth and started on the road to repentance. I will forever be grateful to Joel and Kathy Davisson for that great gift!
That was a year and a half ago. My husband admitted that he was in fact an abusive husband. He admitted that his rejections, blaming, sarcasm, accusation and mockery were domestic violence. He admitted that the bullying, door slamming, walking away, backing me into corners, puffing up at me, yelling and threatening were domestic violence. He admitted that most of my emotional turmoil was a normal human response to being victimized, not a character flaw of mine. He admitted to manipulating our daughter through tacit approval to hate her mother, think it normal for men to have little real respect for their partners, and by extension to hate herself for being female.
It was a huge step. He was able to take this step because he got real with God, something he hadn't done in years.
He came home and took responsibility for everything. Not at all at once and not as quickly as I would have liked, but he did own up to his sin and started making amends for it. Our daughter began to unravel herself from her abusive relationship. My relationship with my daughter began to improve. My husband's relationship with our son began to improve. Our son showed signs of emotional healing as well. It all sounds great, doesn't it?
Yet at the same time, my husband would still continue to abuse me in episodes in which he would completely revert to his old opinions and actions. These episodes would last from a few hours to a few days. In fact, the level of threats and violence actually was escalating.
At the Marriage Intensive, we learned some important things. One, of course, was that the way my husband was treating me came under the heading of domestic violence. Also, we learned that most of the hostility a man has toward his wife is buried hostility for his mother. Sexual intimacy is important to keep a man from putting his wife in what I call "the mommy box". Lack of desire for his wife is a good indication he is relating to her as a mommy figure rather than as a wife. Sexual intimacy tears down the mommy box and keeps a man from working out his childhood traumas on his new surrogate mommy.
If only I had known this at the beginning of our marriage! Yikes.
After the Marriage Intensive, when the episodes worsened, I insisted my husband see a domestic violence counselor. He went for ten weeks and was no better. We both felt like this was a waste of time and money we could ill afford. But we did find out one important thing- my husband was diagnosed with depression.
We saw our medical doctor about a year ago and my husband started on anti-depressants. That was initially very helpful. It seems that it may be time for a dosage increase, however. One thing that the intake from our EMDR has plainly established: my husband is still depressed. (Pray he will be willing to tell our medical doctor about this. In his family, illness equals weakness equals moral failure and good people don't experience such things. It is painful for him to admit he is sick. He only does so when absolutely forced to do so by his body. Talking to his doctor in the first place was extremely difficult for him!)
Concurrently, my husband began a 26 week course through Life Skills, the ministry that turned around Joel and Kathy Davisson's marriage. (Joel and Kathy's follow-up program was not helpful for us, though the weekend Intensive was critically beneficial!). It served as a support group and also taught him a lot of useful information about himself and how to handle his negative emotions. But it does not stop the strong feelings from popping up, mind you. It gives him some tools for better processing those feelings without hurting his wife, if he will put them into practice.
That ended about a month ago. I found the EMDR counselor about the same time Life Skills ended. And that brings us up to date. =)
This post will stay up for today only. Peace to all that find our experience in any way helpful to understanding domestic violence, religious dysfunction, or their own families in any way. Live loved.