For all my longtime readers, I wanted to give a personal update on the state of my marriage.
EMDR/trauma therapy is continuing to be, well, therapeutic. =)
My husband and I are both in therapy, but we are NOT in marriage therapy. I can hardly stress that enough. We are each in individual therapy working on our own issues. We happen to be seeing the same therapist, but that is ONLY because this therapist is competent enough to keep her clients work confidential and separate in her mind, even though we are married to each other.
For newcomers, we are in therapy because of domestic violence issues, even though we are not in marriage therapy. Long story short, for many years we were happily married. I am not saying we were perfectly healthy- looking back there was emotional abuse going on and warning signs that things were not all right- but there was still a lot of love between us, forgiveness, affection, fun. I guess an apt comparison is to diet: we were not always choosing the healthiest foods (thoughts, behaviors) but we were young, active, and making enough good choices to stay healthy.
We had first one child, a daughter, and then another, a precious son. We were actually pretty happy (though my husband had some stress from work relationships now and then). We both had active spiritual lives. I was loving being a SAHM, and my husband was still my hero. Life was good most of the time.
Then (and the timing did not seem significant at the time) my husband took a job that required full-time travel. He was drawn to this occupation at about the time my son grew to be the size/age that my husband had been when he was sent away to boarding school by his missionary parents. Looking back, it is clear that the emotional wounds my husband suffered at that age resurfaced, yet the denial surrounding the life of missionaries is SO STRONG that neither of us ever considered that a contributing factor.
All I knew was that in spite of my being super-supportive of his new career venture he began to be a real jerk whenever he was home. He became very harsh with my son, openly favoring my daughter and treating me like I was stupid. All my concerns were emotional hysterics, rather than valid observations. Looking back, I am amazed that we lasted through this scenario as long as we did.
Every time I was close to leaving him, he would pull it together. I am both a forgiving and an idealistic person. Second chances are my specialty. And when confronted, he did make the big changes once he saw I meant business. The first time we almost divorced, he managed to get placed locally and get off the road. He renewed his spiritual life. We went to an Assembly of God Marriage Encounter and he diligently applied the program. Disaster was averted.
Time went on, and our marriage managed to do okay. With a lot of effort on both our parts, we got by. We even had moments of happiness that could even be called seasons. But always he would revert back to his misogynistic, patronizing behaviors eventually. He would stop communicating with me, and start trying to manage me. All of this time, he had some deep personal issues that went completely unacknowledged. Everything was my fault. I was overreacting. I was too emotional. Women, huh? >:[
I have two close friends with whom I would share all the frustrations and triumphs of life. One started telling me that my husband's behavior was abusive. I blew her off at first. We were good Christians, dontcha know? His behavior was certainly carnal. He was living a somewhat fleshly lifestyle. I could even admit he was "in sin". But abusive? That was a word for the drunk who came home and beat his wife up physically- not for my professional, white collar, middle class, suburban, evangelical Christian husband!
Finally it got to where life was impossible. I could not get my husband to hear me, no matter how I tried. He no longer considered me a fully functioning human nor a friend. He responded to me as if I were insane and unreliable no matter what the subject. He sparred with me verbally as if he considered me an enemy. He was unkind, obstructive, and rude when he spoke with me at all. Most of the time he used passivity, silence and inactivity to hurt me.
I remember once when we took a walk to go talk, and I sobbed deeply asking him why he hated me, what had I done? In a moment of honesty, he admitted he hated me and also that he had no real reason for hating me. He was genuinely distressed to admit this and promised to stop. Ah, if only it had been that easy.
I was talking with my other friend, a retired career woman, and asking her for help in formulating a plan to support myself so I could leave the marriage. Her precious husband advised me to at least give it one more try, as he did not want to see me plunged into poverty after all these years of faithfulness on my part. They suggested the ministry my other friend recommended. And so I agreed.
Shortly after that I began this blog. At that Marriage Intensive Seminar by Joel and Kathy Davission, I realized that I was in an abusive marriage. I came to see how by internalizing wrong teaching from the church (woman submit crap) I had intensified the problem and enabled it in reaching the dangerous proportions the abuse in our marriage had reached. I learned how my husband, by resisting my stated needs and obsfucating the conversations I had with him, my husband was (subconsciously but still purposely) manipulating me to become so frustrated I would be the first to raise my voice, allowing him to dismiss me as "too emotional" "hysterical"- even calling my response to his stone-walling tactics "abusive". And my Christian training enabled that to happen. Whoa.
My husband woke up to the fact that he was in fact an abusive man. At this point it manifested only as long-term emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. It was soon to escalate to physical abuse. Ironically, the wall of denial had already begun to fall down before it reached that point. If you would like all the details of how change and healing began to come to us, take the time to read all the past posts labeled "home school marriage" and/or "PAPD". (There is a lot of overlap on posts under these two labels.)
So now we're caught up, right? Okay, FINALLY the update!
My in-laws were here this past weekend. My husband remained affectionate and attentive to me while they were here, and I know that was purposeful and I appreciate it. My father-in-law spoke very disrespectfully to me once, and I calmly and immediately replied, "do NOT speak to me that way, I deserve to be treated with respect" and my father-in-law offhandedly said "sorry" and continued to make his point with respect. Wow. That was pretty cool.
I did not helplessly let him talk to me that way. I did not "wait" for my husband to confront him, and then feel hurt and dismissed when my husband didn't take up for me. I don't need my husband to take up for me. I can take up for myself. BUT knowing my husband was emotionally on my side was a satisfying reward.
He still isn't strong enough to personally confront his dad, and I am okay with that. He's working on it, which is more than most Christian men will ever do. I am so proud of my husband that he has stopped blaming me for all his deadness inside and is healing and growing as a person. He thanked me for taking up for myself and not trying to push him into something he agreed needed to be done, but that he was not ready to do. Isn't that awesome? It's like our marriage is an egalitarian partnership! (Ooooh, I said a naughty word. heh heh)
He recently met with his doctor to go over his meds and evaluate how they are working, and he came home so happy. When his doctor asked him when was the last time he had depressed thoughts of wanting to no longer be alive, he couldn't even remember that time. The anti-depressants and therapy are really paying off for him. I am so happy for him. He is so happy.
So, there you have it. The state of our marriage is: healing. No major problems since these posts here and here. We have come to a place where I can confront him calmly, and if he remains in his reptile brain, I can calmly walk away. He then gets it together (amazingly sooner rather than later!) and we get back in synch. So far, so good.
For my part, I am continuing in EMDR therapy for myself. I want very much to be able to go back to school and finish some kind of training and start a real career commensurate with my abilities. :) I would appreciate all prayers that I be accepted into the training course to which I have applied, and that I will be able to finish the course and succeed in a career that would pay enough that I could be totally self-supporting. Not because I am planning on leaving my marriage, but because that's what grown-ups do.
I want to take my place in society as a useful contributor now that my home school career is coming to an end. I am more scared than I thought I would be, and for the first time I am actually worried about being accepted for something I am applying to for admission. Yikes! Wish me well.
Peace and good will, SS