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#63158 - 08/25/02 01:17 PM So many questions...need answers
jab Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/25/02
Posts: 9
Loc: Texas
hi!
please excuse my ignorance as i have just a few days become exposed to this problem for the first time. my husband has been going through something for the past few months. he finally opened up to me revealing that he had been molested several times during his childhood. he is says he is very confused about his feelings and what he wants. he has flashbacks and sometimes has thoughts of other guys.

my questions for any of you who have gone through this,
1) are these thoughts and confusions normal for this type of situation?
2) is there a chance for our marriage to survive this?
3) will he ever want a normal sex life with me?
4) what can i do to help him get through this?

i am many, many more questions, but i will not bombard you with them. if anyone can offer advice to me, i would greatly appreciate it...thanks!


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#63159 - 08/25/02 09:11 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
jab Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/25/02
Posts: 9
Loc: Texas
Matt,
Thank you for answering some of the many questions going through my mind. Just as you suggested, I plan to be patient and give my husband time to heal. I am wondering how much time it take though...months, years, lifetimes??? We have been together 8 years, married almost 4. Throughout this time, he has never expressed any signs of being gay. How can he go from being a normal heterosexual husband to being gay? Is this common for SA victims?


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#63160 - 08/26/02 10:53 AM Re: So many questions...need answers
searching Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/16/00
Posts: 21
Hi, jab.

I really feel for you. Just a few years ago, I was exactly where you are now. Full of fears, doubts, totally cast adrift. It felt like the rug had been completely pulled out from under me.

My husband was also abused for several years as a young boy. He struggled with many issues, the primary ones being anger/rage and sexual identity. There were plenty of side issues too--figuring out his/our relationship with his family (he was abused by his brother), coping with parenting our kids during this crisis, dealing with the financial impact of therapy, etc.

For me, the toughest thing to deal with was wondering if he was gay. I don't think this is cut-and-dried. He kept telling me he was absolutely not gay, while admitting that he had continual fantasies about guys. Our worst crisis was when he actually had an encounter with a guy (this is commonly referred to as "acting out"--that is, acting on the recurrent sexual fantasies in an almost involuntary way). At that point, it became clear that the somewhat casual therapy he'd been having was not going deep enough. It was also obvious that I needed help too--I was so completely caught up in his stuff that I was ignoring my own issues and needs.

Things have gotten much better for us. My husband is involved in therapy with a wonderful woman therapist. She works with him on his past, but also deals very concretely in cognitive issues and coping with right now. His anger problems have become so much better. We are closer and kinder to each other than we had been in years.

I also saw a therapist for about a year, and got to the root of many of my own problems. It was necessary for me to understand what parts of this crisis were just his--things I couldn't change or help with--and what things belonged to both of us, as a couple. It's important to come to an understanding about your boundaries as well as his.

The whole problem of sexuality is very tough to deal with. It took both of us a long time to recognize that what he was really yearning to do was reenact the abuse, for two reasons: 1) because that specific form of pleasure had been imprinted on him from a very early age, and 2) he somehow felt that by reenacting the abuse he could control it and become the "powerful" one in the scenario (instead of the completely powerless child he had been).

This sounds pretty simple, but it's actually a very emotionally charged, painful, excrutiating process. I spent months--no, years--worried about him, what he was doing when I wasn't there, whether he was "escalating" the fantasies again, etc. Rebuilding trust took a very long time, and I don't know whether I'm completely there yet.

You asked whether your marriage could survive this. Well, I guess that's like asking the same question about any crisis--could your marriage survive one of you having cancer, or being in a terrible accident, or having a serious affair. Your marriage can survive anything if you're willing to work at it, and if he is too. If only one of you is working, it probably won't survive. If you blame him for everything that's wrong--or if he blames you--it probably won't survive. If you decide that you can only stay married within a very rigid definition of love (he can never think about anything except sex with me, etc.), your marriage may not survive. If you don't take care of your own needs and issues, your marriage may not survive.

If, however, you are willing to keep working, if you find therapy and help and support together and separately, if you can go through the inevitable crashes and fights and breakdowns but still pick yourselves up, recognize your love for each other, and work through another day, your marriage may not only survive--it may become stronger than ever.

I know that the crisis my husband and I went through did give us some gifts. I know that we can get through a crisis together, maybe not perfectly, but pretty darn well. We managed to stay true to our belief in being good parents, and our kids seem to have come through this pretty well also. We've learned to take life on its own terms, instead of demanding that it be exactly what we expect. We're more grateful for each day, and each moment.

I've also learned that my sense of self-worth doesn't just rest on what my husband thinks about me. I've enriched my life with doing things I always loved, things I hadn't done in years. My husband has done the same. So new roads opened up, when it seemed like only roadblocks would come our way.

As I said in my first sentence--I really feel for you. Going through this is so difficult. But if your husband is everything that I'm sure you believe he is--everything that you married him for--then you can find your way through this dark night of the soul.

If you read some of the posts on this site, you'll realize that survivors can be very amazing men. They have gained, very painfully, an incredible sensitivity to the hurt of others. Because they are often struggling to discover what makes a "real man," they can turn out to be better men than most.

One of my husband's therapists spoke to me when things were really awful with us, and she said something very simple but, I think, very profound. She said, "This may sound trite, but I really believe that love can conquer anything, and I think you two have an amazing amount of love for each other."

Best of luck to you both.

Lynda


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#63161 - 08/26/02 06:43 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
jab Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/25/02
Posts: 9
Loc: Texas
it is comforting knowing that others have gone through this and survived the turmoil. as you said, i feel that my world has been turned upside down. i know that i will soon need to get help for myself. my husband has yet to get help, but he is planning to in the very near future. i am hoping this will take away some of the horrible pain he is feeling.

my husband was the most loving, giving, and affectionate guy i have ever known. over the past few months he has turned into an angry, cold and irritable person. it is hard for me to understand the change in his attitude. i feel our marriage can survive because we love each other so much. of course this all depends on what he decides he wants, whether he determines he is gay or straight. he is so confused and says he has demons that he has not yet revealed. time and therapy will tell whether our marriage is meant to be. i plan to stick by him and be a friend for the time being.

a couple more questions for you >>>
was your partner ever at the point where he did not want to go on, he didn't feel like he wanted to live any longer?
if so, how did you cope with this and convince him otherwise?
will there be a time when life returns to normal, a time when i am not constantly worrying about his life?

thank you so much for all of your advice and words of encouragement. i think this site has been a life saver for me. if you have any other words of advice to lend, please post them for me.

thanks again!


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#63162 - 08/26/02 07:37 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
jab
I think I recognise your husband, he's my long lost twin ;\)

It's what we do, what we've been driven to do.
The confusion in our sexual history doesn't go away until we make the decision to confront it and get help in confronting it.
He's a long way into that scenario, he's got your support and is starting therapy.
The important thing is he's making a concious decision to get help soting it out, I bet he's spent many years thinking he could "cure" himself.

For 31 years I believed that all I had to do was tell myself to stop thinking these fantasies and they would go away - fat chance !! all I did was think in circles. Therapy and my wifes support taught me new ways to think, gave me new angles on my problems, and for the most part the problems have subsided to being manageable in about 5 years.
But I must stress this isn't always the case, my wife is simply astonishing in her support, even when confronted with my acting out and suicidal thoughts.
But Like Matt and Lynda so rightly say, just let it happen, if he feels like telling you things let him, encourage him to talk yes, but find your own level of asking questions - be careful, he might not be ready to disclose certain details at just that time.
And my therapist is the best ( for me anyway )
So time scales and the level of recovery are impossible to predict, but a good life is a reality.

Ok, our sex life is sparce, but we're close and intimate and the level of trust and understanding between us is so much more than before.
The first 25 years of our marriage went downhill slowly, she thought I wasn't interested in her and was having affairs etc, I've never been unfaithful with other women, so telling her about my past a few days before our 25th anniversary turned out to be a better present than a new diamond ring.
We both think so now, and she treasure the ring I promise you, but we both treasure our new rapidly improving life together even more.

So I guess the answer to your questions are
1. YES
2. YES
3. YES
4. Love him, trust him and work WITH him.

Keep bombarding us with questions, we love helping helping victims become survivors.

Lloydy \:\)

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#63163 - 08/27/02 03:50 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
searching Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/16/00
Posts: 21
Hi again, jab.

To answer your two questions:

1. Yes, my husband did go through a brief period when he felt that he'd rather be dead than go on. He had always told me, before, that he would never consider suicide, especially because we have two young children. But at a certain point I think he felt so lost and depressed that he became suicidal. I did my best to tell him all the reasons why his life was worth living, that "this too would pass"--but, having been a depression sufferer myself, I knew that I couldn't solve this for him. I did what I knew had to be done--since I'd been through it, too. I made sure he was never alone during that time. I asked him whether he had a "plan" to end his life (he didn't). I insisted that he see a therapist immediately, and threatened to leave if he would not. This sounds harsh, but it was life or death and I knew he would respond to this threat. I would have taken him to the emergency room or called an ambulance if I had to. I called his therapist myself to tell her what was going on and ask her advice. He was put on antidepressant medication. While I don't think this solves all or even most problems, I do believe it is helpful during the worst part of the depression and pain that can accompany the early stages of recovery.

We got through that period with both medical and therapeutic help. I can't stress enough how important it is for you to gather your support systems together now:
1. a good therapist for each of you, and perhaps one who can see you both;
2. medical (psychiatric or family doc) help if he (and perhaps you also) needs it;
3. trusted family and/or friends in whom you can confide (but be careful how you discuss this--there is, unfortunately, a huge stigma to be overcome, and you need to be sure you can truly trust those in whom you confide);
4. good books on dealing with his AND your issues (Mike Lew's books, especially Victims No Longer, are my personal favorites, and Patrick Carnes' book Don't Call It Love, about sexual addiction, is also very helpful);
5. sometimes, just something to help you escape from these overwhelming issues--a good and uplifting video or two, good books, visits to church if you're so inclined.

You need to start thinking about these things now, because when things are awful you'll have less energy and clarity to do so.

You also asked whether life would ever get back to normal. That's a tough one to answer. Here's how I feel, about four years after we started recovery and two years after our biggest crisis (his betrayal of our marriage vows by acting out): Normal has changed. I had to let go of some unrealistic beliefs about what was "normal." I had to work through enormous amounts of anger, loss, and betrayal. Lots of "why me???" stuff. I also had to work VERY hard to stop--and stop wanting to--checking up on his every move, what sites he was going to on the Internet, etc. I had to realize that I can't control him (Patrick Carnes' book, especially the part about codependents, was a huge help on this). I had to work hard of letting go of the constant concern about "what was he thinking." And, hardest of all, I had to realize that there was a very real possibility that our marriage might end. Of course, at first this seemed very likely--and then recovery begins and you start saying "Great, it's all going to be okay!!" And then some backsliding happens, and pain and loss all over again. Through this process you start to realize that the only person you can really control in life is yourself. You learn to refocus. You learn to actually start loving and stop clinging. Sounds easy, but I'm only partway there. Some days I do a great job. Some days I suck at it. But I'm working.

I will say this--there have been times in the past couple of years where I truly felt grateful for the process. We gave up drinking during this too--it was important to let go of ALL addictions so that we could move forward. And there were some nights and days when reality felt just fine. When it was okay to know that he was flawed, I was flawed, but what we had was real. No longer both of us pretending to be something else but hiding certain painful truths.

Gosh, I do ramble on, don't I? I've gotta say, too, that I never really thought I'd be sitting at this end of the room, giving help to others. It scares me a bit--seems to be tempting fate!! But there were folks who were so wonderful when I needed help (not that I still don't, often!). And I want to give some of that back. It also makes me feel good to write this down and realize how far we've come . . . even though we've still got far to go.

Keep posting. Keep visiting. Ask questions. I'll try to help whenever I can.

And, Lloydy, just wanted to say that your posts are some of the most inspiring things for me. Thanks for being so honest and, really, just downright decent. By the way, my husband and I have a somewhat "sparse" sex life too--but it seems, now, that when we DO get around to it, it's nicer, closer, maybe more honest. Hope I'm not kidding myself . . .

Best to you both.

Lynda


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#63164 - 08/27/02 06:26 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Lynda
thank you so much for that, I might not know what I'm doing, but I know what I've done.
And what I have done is moved on from the awful life I led, thankfully Sugar ( my wife ) has pushed me, led me and kicked my arse all along the way. Alone I'd be a bum...

What you say about your husband "betraying your marriage vows" is interesting.
I have never looked upon my acting out as infidelity, to me infidelity is a concious effort of looking for something better - or at least different, it at least needs some attraction to the other person. I never even got their names !!

I think that even at the time I subconciously realised I was out of control.
I have often said that my abusers took me by the hand and led me into the stinking toilets looking for sex, I now firmly believe that to be the case. I didn't go voluntarily.

Does that sound like a cop out ? I'm sure it would to someone outside the SA community, just as it would to a partner who discovered her husband acted out either very early on in the disclosure / recovery process or, even worse, accidental discovery of the acting out without knowing about the partners SA.

My wife discovered accidentaly, but a couple of years into my recovery, it hurt at the time. But not nearly as much as I thought it would.
I had everything written down in graphic detail and she read it, so she knows EXACTLY what I've done. ( she actually felt so guilty about betraying me for having read my story, believe me that was one confusing night )

But I also think I was about to tell her soon anyway, which reinforces the point of not pestering the survivor for answers and details.
The whole deal with SA is based on secrets, we keep them an awful long time and they become so hard to give up all at once. I still have some, and the stupid thing is they're not as "bad" as what she already knows, so why keep them ?
When I'm ready...........

Sex ??? well it's sparse as I say, but maybe it is for most 50 yo couples if you believe the crummy newspaper surveys. But we deal with that, my priority was to stop acting out and to rid myself of the fantasies that dominated my life.
I've nearly done that, I certainly haven't acted out for over 4 years, or been close to it for about 2 yrs.
So a regular sex life is the price we've paid, but in return I have my sanity, a fairly normal life, I have my life. My best friend who went through the same as me at school doesn't, they took it away from him, and nearly took mine too.

We're working on getting our sex life back, and when it happens it's getting better.
The main reason for me not enjoying sex with the woman I love was the intrusion of the fantasies, for me it's the last great hurdle.

I'm rambling on as well, but I hope it gives Lynda and Jab some idea of how it affects us men.

"We do crazy things when we're wounded." ( Tom Waits )

Lloydy \:\)

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#63165 - 08/27/02 09:06 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
searching Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/16/00
Posts: 21
Lloydy, as always it's great to get your point of view, because I can listen to many of the same things that my husband has already said (the things that you're saying now)--but without all the specific pain of having it come from my husband!

It's interesting that you say that you never thought of your acting out as infidelity. My husband said that also--he said "It had nothing to do with you." I guess if it had been with a woman, it would have been standard infidelity in his eyes. But to me, it was a betrayal of our marriage vows either way. We both promised to only have sex with each other--that's part of the contract. So it hurt like hell. And sometimes it almost seems scarier than it might if it had been a woman--because this is so much more compulsive and, let's face it, I can't ever compete with it. I can do a lot of fun things in bed, but I can't grow new hardware . . . \:\)

I will give me husband credit for one thing (well, for lots of things, but this one in particular)--he didn't wait for me to find out about it on my own. He told me what he had done, and it was horrible but I knew that he wanted us to stay together, that he knew it was time to get more help. So I felt a bit less betrayed because of that.

Like I said to jab, for me (and, I'll bet, for many partners of survivors) the two toughest issues are the acting out/fantasies, and the anger/rage/withdrawal. When things with my husband were the worst, I felt like he hated me and might do any crazy thing at any moment. He would lash out at me because, as he said, he hated himself so much, and I was just unlucky enough to be there at the time . . . he never hit me (he's really not that type, for which I'm grateful), but he certainly said some of the most wounding things I could ever imagine.

And yet, somehow, I knew that he wasn't really angry at me. Some might call that denial, but after years of dealing with this, I think I know what I'm talking about.

I'm glad to hear that you feel more able to control some of the compulsive stuff that's held you prisoner for so long. I work hard to understand that my husband is not CHOOSING to have these thoughts, it's more like they are having him . . . although I won't deny that there are times that I just want it to stop!!!! I don't say that, I just quietly think it, and try to move on . . .

Well, enough of my stuff. Like I said, Lloydy, reading your posts helps me a ton. Please keep posting. And, jab--keep hanging in there!

Lynda


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#63166 - 08/28/02 03:09 AM Re: So many questions...need answers
Roy Offline
Member

Registered: 08/02/02
Posts: 184
Loc: Los Angeles
To Lynda and Lloydy:

Thank you both so very much for being there, for yourselves, your partners, and for all of us. These last few posts in response to jab are the most inspirational and loving I've read here, and I've read some pretty good stuff! Both of you give me a great deal of hope for the future. This is what its all about.

And to jab:

I have a feeling you are ultimately going to emerge from this crisis an even stronger person with a bountiful life. As you know, it will be a bumpy road at times with plenty of twists and turns, and will probably take longer than you want it to. It sounds like you are approaching this situation with a loving spirit, an open mind, and a certain amount of humility. That will serve you well in the long run. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Roy


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#63167 - 08/28/02 12:46 PM Re: So many questions...need answers
jab Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/25/02
Posts: 9
Loc: Texas
i am finally starting to realize that my life will no longer be as it once was. this whole process is going to take years, if not a lifetime. it is just so hard to deal with this angry person everyday. i feel so alone and emotionally empty. i no longer get love or affection or comfort from my husband. i start wondering why i should deal with all of this mess for the rest of my life. my husband is so confused right now that he doesn't even know whether he will want a wife once he gets a clear head...he said it might be three years before he decides that. should i stick around for 3 years wondering each day when he is going to decide whether he wants me as a wife???
also, we had so many dreams, such as having children (before all of this came to light, we had planned on trying this month). is that now out of the question? should i not even think about starting a family?

i try to remain positive and strong and supportive, but it is nearly impossible to do that 24/7. although i have no reason to be, i sometimes get angry at him for the way things have changed. again, i just can't understand how he went from the most loving man to the most angry, cold man. did it just all come to an end where he could no longer cover up his pain or hide his flashbacks? all of this just hit me out of the blue....

many thanks to all of you who have responded to my post. your words of encouragement and advide have gotten me through all this so far, so keep it coming!


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