Past Child Abuse Affects My Marriage Today

by P
(Iowa, USA)

I am 53 years old and still suffer from childhood trauma from my parents. Although my and wife I are totally in love and care deeply for each other, I have a very stormy verbal relationship with her. When we fight I say horrible mean things to her, and she says things to me that are (to me) also hurtful and untrue. There has NEVER been any physical violence in our lives, but lots of mistrust; and you know how that hurts us.

I hear lots of stories of domestic abuse, verbal abuse; and it's usually a woman's topic. Can a man also be verbally abused? Of course this can be so, and I think I have experienced it many times. I often accuse my wife of henpecking me to the point of my anger getting out of control. She still continues to peck at me and won't stop until I leave the room or the house. She is relentless in her pursuit of winning the argument, and will never ever concede.

I am in counselling and am really working on my self control. I am voluntarily checking into rehab for substance abuse issues, issues I believed were caused from my abusive childhood. I am a common blue collar carpenter, and I'm very proud of what I do. My wife, on the other hand, has led a "perfect life." She doesn't feel she ever makes a mistake, although we both know that isn't true. She is a highly educated (Masters in math) alternative education high school teacher, and is very successful in her job. But she schools me constantly and treats me as a subordinate. She talks down to me and it is getting worse. She also feels that she is only minutely responsible for our marital problems. She believes since I'm the one with depression issues, that it's mostly my fault.

We are in counselling, and we are getting better at being married, one day at a time. I'm not sure what to expect when I check into rehab. It's an in/out patient facility at Mayo Clinic and seems the perfect place for what I want and have needed for years.

Thanks, Darlene, and God bless all of us who suffer under the hands of our parents and relatives.

Note from Darlene: P, you'll note that I've taken a few liberties in this post. I did so in order to ensure that the child abuse angle is preserved. I believe I've remained true to your story and what your intent was in posting.

Reply from Darlene: Before I address you two points in detail, P, I must congratulate you for making the effort at resolving the difficulties you are facing in your marriage, as well as those you have suffered as a result of pervasive and long-term child abuse. I also commend you for walking away rather than resorting to violence when things get heated between you and your wife. A "real" man never strikes a woman; he walks away, regardless of provocation. I have the utmost respect for ANY man who exhibits such self control. When that self control comes from a man who was battered as a child, I hold that man in even higher esteem.

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Comments for Past Child Abuse Affects My Marriage Today

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Jul 30, 2008
Being a grown up...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

P, in any relationship, marriage or otherwise, we can only be responsible and accountable for our own actions and inactions, despite what our past has dealt us. As children, we had no power or control over what was happening in our lives; as adults, we have choices. It is not only what we choose, but how we use the ability to choose, that is the measuring stick for whether or not we have really "grown up."

Part of being a grown up is accepting that we have accountability in the failure of any relationship. Tough pill to swallow for most, especially when it is so clear to us that our partner has so many problems of his/her own. It's so easy to get wrapped up in "their" troubles, and still believe we are dealing with ours. If only we could readily see in ourselves the shortcomings we so readily see in another.

No one person is ever solely to blame. Relationships are NOT 50/50; they are 100/100, because each of us has to take ownership in our own failings. We cannot point at the failings of the other person.

When we find ourselves in a floundering relationship, we must ask ourselves:
  1. What is my ownership in the problems we are facing?
  2. What role do I play in the drama that's being acted out?
  3. What can I do to address my part?
When you point your wife toward her role in the struggles that have become your marriage, you take away from yours. Your wife will be far more likely and willing (but no guarantees) to address her own problems if she sees that, rather than passing blame, you are working on your role and what you can do to remedy the situation. Yes, it's a two-way street, but you cannot force her to do or see anything. You can only work on yourself. I would hope that your marriage counsellor would be helping you both to deal with these issues, individually as well as jointly. I offer this advice as a supplement to your counselling, not as a replacement. I suggest you share with your counsellor what I've written here.

Part 2: Rehab... follows below.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jul 30, 2008
Part 2: Rehab...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

As for what to expect in rehab, that all depends on the program, as well as the nature of your addiction. Not all rehab is created equally. Not all addictions respond in kind. You will experience withdrawal, of that you can be certain. There will be structure. Expect "rules" that may not make sense. These rules are geared toward getting you—and keeping you—clean, as well as providing a "safe" environment for all participants/clients. They are also there to help you eventually get back on your own two feet and more able to cope with your life, sober and/or clean, AFTER rehab; although that may not seem to be the case at the time. Expect to be monitored beyond what is comfortable—ACCEPT this. Expect one-on-one counselling, as well as group counselling. Group sessions will be regularly scheduled, but it may also be organized on the fly, as situations and opportunities arise. But again, this also depends on the program and the size of the facility, group, availability of staff, etc. Expect to have to face demons that you would rather not face, as you get to the bottom of and nature of your addiction. Excuses and self-pity will not be tolerated.

But the program is only part of the equation.

Participants must truly be ready to rehabilitate, and then be open to the process—regardless of the difficulty of that process—if there is to be any hope of success. Based on what you've stated above, you certainly sound ready to make changes; and that is truly the first step in any recovery program. I applaud that you are so willing to take this necessary first step.

Perhaps visitors to this site who have been through rehab personally can offer a more first-hand nitty-gritty depiction of what to expect.

I sincerely wish you all the best, P, in your marriage, your rehab, and along your path toward healing and recovery. You've certainly earned it.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jul 30, 2008
my response
by: p

dear darlene, your time and honesty are greatly appreciated. my marriage is very important to me and i like your reference for us to take total responsibility, not just half. we are both committed to stay together so that in itself is a great relief. helps too. when its good its great and when its bad its awful. i hope to clear my mind of the demons you refer to, and certainly that will help me to be a better husband and a better man. thanks for your uplifting words, you have been (and will be)a great reference for me. god bless you, p

May 14, 2009
by: melissa

Yes I can very well could write a book of my whole life..Im a mother of three and loved every minute of it..and that part of my life I wouldnt take back.I sacrficed alot for my kids..but in the mean time I battered myself in process..but before I got married I was abused to got married to run away thinking it would go away.But for some reason it found me and the abuse started again with someone I trusted again..When I was a baby the abuse started I can remember eating my own vomit and being beat with the belt till I fainted..and tied up in the closet while my parents went out and had fun with my other father died a few years mom still lives..but for some odd reason I still love them..anyway my moms father molested me several times then my uncle same house ..the son of my grandfathers..the brother of my mother..My hips were broke now I suffer pain from that..since i am older..but from all that I too cant trust who loves me..I think they lie cheat and will eventually hurt me..except my kids If my daughter wants to write a book about my life It will be scarey to read..And yet im still here and love my husband(new)..and he is 20 years older..I have a low self esteem..I did try and run away and even kill myself and that is a whole nother story..I believe god and faith kept me sane..and still holding me together..I have nightmares of this sometimes..but i handle it better...

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