Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Progress Report

For my regular reader's info:

There are still posts that I keep hidden, meaning that there are still times when my husband reverts back to his former ways of thinking about me and about life.  This blog, including the posts that stay hidden, is really valuable to me in helping me evaluate the real pace of progress in healing our sucky home school marriage.  Things are improving, but a lot more slowly than I had initially hoped.  Still, there are real world reasons for this.

One: The first ministry that got us headed in the right direction, Joel and Kathy Davisson's Marriage Intensive, was both a blessing and a hindrance.  They opened up our minds (both mine and my husband's) to the truth that  the problems in our marriage were my husband's problems,  and that they were rightly called abuse.  They also tear down Biblically the false doctrine that a woman's submission is the key to solving all marriage problems, which I greatly appreciate. They team taught and were openly loving to each other, showing how a healthy marriage plays out in real life.  They hindered our path to healing by teaching that my husband could just change through will power and being accountable to their ministry financially and by on-going participation in their forums and group telephone counseling.  While that may indeed be all some people need to reform, my husband needs to both heal and reform.  Will power alone can not accomplish this.  I would say that while they are great diagnosticians, and are plainly right about some things that don't work, their solution is simplistic and ineffective in most abusive marriages, ours included.  The Davisson's add three pluses in the "improving" column for their diagnostics and example, but two minuses there as well for setting unrealistic expectations and offering an  ultimately unsatisfactory remediation plan.

Two:  Thankfully, the Davission's rightly credited Paul Hegstrom's Life Skills program for helping abusive spouses (and their co-dependent victims) understand the wrong thinking that leads to abuse and helps provide clear tools for breaking out of the stronghold of ingrained bad thinking.  We were lucky enough to have a 20 week Life Skills program offered within an hour of our home, and my husband completed the course.  When he  is actively in what I will now refer to as a "reptile brain state", returning to his Life Skills material is a marriage-saver.  It was at Life Skills that the concept of a cool down separation (or 'time out' to use a sports analogy) agreement called a Domestic Abuse Prevention Plan was proposed to us.  This DAPP has proven its worth repeatedly,  and is only useless when my husband doesn't stick to it.  Alas, that happens.  But score one plus in the "improving" column for Life Skills.

Three:  Cindy Kunsman and all of her very,  very important blog posts about PTSD add  at least two pluses in the "improving" column.  Thank you, Cindy!  You opened my eyes to the reality that my husband's issues had way more  to do with the abuse he himself had suffered as a child than I would have guessed.  Even your latest post about freezing was precious to me.  Do you know how many times I have seen my husband freeze up in  times of crisis?  Kudos to you.  You are a blessing.  Thanks to your research and the courage to post the results publicly, I was/am able to reset my expectations for my husband's recovery to a more reasonable level.  I now expect progress to be slow and take years.  I now accept  that he may be on anti-depressants the rest of his life and struggle emotionally for years to come.  As long as he continues in therapy and does not go back to blaming me for his unhappiness, I will stand by him.  Unfortunately, he still slips back into misogyny when his depression worsens.  Forays into "blame the wife" are of shorter duration than they were two years ago, but they still happen. For our marriage to last, he will have to abandon that course of thinking entirely.  Due to your input (and others as well) dear Ms. Kunsman, I rightly expect that to take years to totally retrain his brain, and like an alcoholic may continue to be tempted to drink in times of stress, my husband may continue to be tempted to turn his unhappiness on me.  As long as he admits and resists the temptation, I  am good to stay married.  I have a lot of compassion for him, but I am no one's scapegoat anymore.

Four: Fanda Eagles and both helped me to understand what my husband went through as a child, and what he still continues to wrestle with.  I honestly thought missionary kid was the pedigree for spiritual prowess!  I did not understand what really happens to a child's heart when he is summarily dumped at boarding school in the name of God, or the horrible pedagogy behind the way these boarding schools are run.  Like Cindy's work, these forums have helped me come to grips with the great depth  of my husband's problems (pain) and  more accurately assess  a timeline for healing that is in line with real possibility.  I also found much support from people on these forums, and for that I am very, very grateful.  Two pluses, one for education and the other for moral support.

Five:  Antidepressants and EMDR therapy each put two pluses in the "improving" column.  Without either of these my husband would not be healing.  Add another  plus for my being in therapy,  and another couple of pluses for those who comment on my blog.  Your support and encouragement to me are tremendously helpful.

Six: Unfortunately, my husband's family of origin's addiction to fundamentalist religion and all the bad decisions and poor parenting that resulted add an unknown but prolific number of minuses to the "improving" column.  Will the pluses adding up ultimately be enough to overcome the damage done?  I am thinking that the answer to that question is a qualified "yes".  "Yes" because I have the support and strength to put the length of time into recovery that such a deep wounding in my husband's heart will require.  "Yes" because he is willing to face the truth about himself and his family and his need for medication and therapy.  However, if he were to stop taking medications too early (may be he'll need them the rest of his life) or quit therapy too early, then the "yes" could revert to "no".  But for now, it looks like a "yes".

I thought a progress report was in order.  Much thanks to all who put a plus in the "improving" column.

Peace and good will, SS


  1. It's always good to read your progress reports! And I would agree that Cindy's work is extremely helpful. Hope everyone has a great day today :-)


  2. so glad to see that you "lowered your expectations" (as depressing as that phrase sounds) without lowering your standards. The quantity of the spiritual (and non-spiritual) abuse in my family of origin is much less than your husband's but the quality of it--the religious addiction, the co-dependency on god (small g), the being taught that punishment and deprivation is love, that denial/annihilation of self is the highest good--is the same. I have come to realize that I will never be healed, never be who I might have been without the abuse, never reach the bottom of the cesspit and crawl all the way out, that I will always be "in recovery". And that a life in recovery is a damn good life. The abuse in my past will forever throw up huge obstacles in my journey but, hey! what's a journey without obstacles? Everyone is on a journey and every journey has obstacles/opportunities and that I know something of what mine look like now so I don't have to keep ramming my head against them blindly... well, that is a fine thing.

    I hope that your hubby continues to have more ups than downs and that his rocks in the path become more obvious to him and easier to negotiate around. And may you both live long and abundant lives together.

  3. "A life in recovery is a damn good life." I like that sentence. :)

    Also, Viktor Frankl wrote that suffering is like a gas; it expands to fill all available space. So no one source of suffering (he was a survivor of the Holocaust and a psychologist) is greater or less that what another suffers. It is all pain, no matter what the cause.

    I am sorry for your pain. I think it is a very similar pain to the kind my husband knows. Further, I feel bad because for years I financially and personally contributed to the strength of that system: fundamentalist Christianity. I have Karen Campbell and Virginia Knowles to "thank" for the final push out of the fundie world (they don't take kindly to people like me- honest, sincere, SMART people who question the way things are *because* of years of study of the scripture, not from any position of ignorance of the Bible).

    My last church official, the former-Lutheran-turning-fundamentalist pastor has made it plain to me that all Christian ministries are corrupted and/or corruptible. For the time being, I choose to be "unchurched". It will be easier to nurture my relationship with God that way.

    Churches are not safe places for people seeking mercy from God. They are businesses, straight up businesses, and the same greed that propelled Bain Industries to ruin the lives of thousands for the profit of the few, that SAME GREED stands at the heart of American Christianity. Fundamentalism is uniquely American in origin and in conduct.

    I am sorry it hurt you as well. I really am.