whose wives are survivors of past sexual abuse
struggling with feeling responsible for her negative reactions
at your attempts to show affection,
understand the truth of her triggers and your dual role
crucial to supporting her as you move towards
greater communication and intimacy
Hi, Tom Dau here. This is your free resource, 3 important things every husband needs to know if his wife has been sexually abused.
Number one, it’s not your fault. That’s something you have to understand. It’s not your fault or their mood swings that you’re noticing with your wife. Are there behaviors that you do? Are there little things that go on that trigger her that you just don’t understand? It just don’t make sense to you. I lived with that for so many years, years into our marriage. When we didn’t even know Vicki had been sexually abused yet, and things I would do, things that would trigger her; a touch on the arm. It can be really obscure sometimes because of what has happened to your wife. There are times when I would whistle and that would trigger her and send her into a funk that was hard for her to get out of.
And it would just be like a light switch going off. She would be in a good mood and then I would start whistling or maybe it’s an odor that comes around or you walk by your wife and you just brush her shoulder and it’s not at the right time. And that sends a trigger to her that sends her back into the memories of her abuse. And for years, I didn’t understand what was going on. And I thought, what am I doing? What have I done wrong? What’s causing this to happen? Or trying to have a conversation and just certain word you might use or phrase you might use, or the way you’re sitting may cause something unheard of to be triggered and send her in a place that’s uncomfortable.
And I used to think over and over again, what did I do wrong? And it would be frustrating. And then she wouldn’t be wanting to talk about it. And I would feel isolated. I understand what’s going on, but it’s not your fault. And that’s, what’s important for you to understand the dynamic of what has happened to your wife has created a new reality that you’re going to have to learn to live with. And that’s what I want to share with you. And so first and foremost, in these three important things is the idea of what’s going on at the core. Isn’t your fault. So to build from there is going to be what’s important to you and what we can talk about at a later point, but just knowing that what has happened, isn’t your fault. And it’s something now that you can work on and work from.
It’s important for you to know number two, and this is super, super important. She needs you, your wife needs you. A woman, at least in our experience, for my wife, when she was sexually abused, she was alone. She was not supported. There was a breakdown in her family. When she came out with the news, there was no support. When she tried to say, “Hey, I’ve been hurt.” No one came to her rescue. Your wife needs you and needs you so badly. Probably more than she even knows. So support is so important. And what that means is you’re going to have to be patient. You’re going to have to be understanding, knowing that she has been through something so horrible, and yes, it affects you. And I get that and it hurts me. And it hurts you to see our wives going through pain. And when they’re triggered by something, it’s so difficult at times to know that we can’t just reach out and make it better.
And we’ll talk more in more detail about how to make growth happen from that and how to make healing happen from that. But for now, you need to understand that she needs an Oak tree. She needs you to trust her, to believe her because probably people haven’t, that is so important for you to understand. You need to show and verbalize by your every presence that you can, that you support her, that you believe her so that she can trust you, because she can very possibly not be able to trust anyone else and you’re that final person. You’re the one, the stabilizer for her that she needs so badly right now. Trust in you, trust and belief from her to you, that she believes that you believe what happened to her and trust that she’s telling you the truth and that you support her in it, and that you will defend her in it.
She needs your trust. She needs your help. She needs your support. You’ve got to be that Oak tree for her. Be her strength because no one else has. And as you move forward, you may find that more and more people may question it or may pull back from you. And that’s even more when you need to continue to be that strong tree for her, the cement, the whatever you want to call it, her rock. You need to be the strength that she has to fall back on because there may not be that anywhere else.
Number three, don’t try to fix it all the time. I always tried to fix what was going on whenever she was triggered by something, whenever it Vicki had a hard time or a situation was going on, I would immediately because I’m a guy and I’m wired that way. And I do that for a living. I tried to fix it. I found, and it took years. And that’s why I want to share this with you so that maybe it doesn’t take you years. Like it did me. It took me years to understand that I just need to shut up sometimes. So many times, our wives who have been sexually abused need to just be able to talk to us and have that conversation from them to us, be one where we’re going to sit and we’re going to listen. And they know they can share everything with us because we’re not going to judge them. We’re going to simply listen. We’re going to let them speak. They know they can trust us. They know they can believe us. They know we’re going to be strong for them and in doing so, they can get those things out of their system and allow themselves to start healing because they know they can share what’s going on with us.
Our wives need to know that when they want to talk, when they need to talk, that we’re not going to be there to judge, we’re not going to be there to try to fix. We’re going to be there to listen, just listen to them and let them air their feelings, let them cry. And don’t just be the strong tree, their rock , their someone. The main person, the main person is you. You’re going to be, and you are her, everything. You are her everything through this. So don’t try to fix it all the time. There’ll be plenty of time to be able to work and grow and fix and heal. But more often than not, our wives just need us to be quiet and to listen, knowing that we trust them, we believe them or not going to judge them. And we support them fully in everything they’re telling us.
I hope you found these three important things helpful for you.
Our Next Masterclass for Couples is Monday, December 6 at 7pm CT.
It was December 1985 when I walked into Denny’s and saw this spunky, sexy waitress for the second time. I was instantly attracted to her Blond hair and beautiful smile, clad in that brown polyester skirt. Vicki spent lots of time at my table and I realized that it wasn’t a fluke because she did that the last time I came in so, I asked her for her phone number. It was love at first sight for me and I didn’t want her to get away from me, so I called her the next day, but not until the afternoon, as I didn’t want to come across desperate or anything. On our first two dates, we laid on her living room floor until 4 in the morning and talked about everything in our lives. I have never shared my heart like that before. 4 months later, we were engaged and a year later, we were married. And then the babies came. All 10 of them.
As our family began and continue to grow, I noticed behaviors that seemed over the top. Vicki was frequently edgy when I would touch her. I sat down next to her on the couch and put my arm on her shoulder and she shrank away and moved across the room. When I came up behind her for a hug, she was be startled, whirl around in anger and then not talk to me for days. I felt like I was walking on egg shells because I never knew from day to day what I might say or do that would cause her to have what I felt were over-the-top reactions. I loved her dearly and I thought that was the way things would always be.
Months passed, then years. And in October 2005, 18 years after I married my best friend, she told me bits and pieces that she had just remembered about a family member that did things to her at Christmas when she was only 5 ½ years old.
First, I felt shock, then hate for those that Vicki, but I quickly moved into support mode. And I realized that the mine field I walked almost daily made sense. Those explosives, unknowingly triggered by my touch, had been buried in my wife 35 years prior.
15 years in her healing journey, we were walking in the Morton Arboretum. I was drawn to a huge Oak Tree providing shade, shelter and stability.
And it hit me! That’s what I was for Vicki! A shelter. A haven. A person she could trust, believe in, and talk to. As I held her under those massive branches, I told her that I was her oak tree, her foundation that she can lean on and I wasn’t going anywhere.
What will you be for your wife?