I asked Debbie to invite her girlfriends over for a night when the kids were gone. Her assignment? To ask them what they remembered about the abusive events that had actually gone on behind closed doors. She returned with a four-page list, and tears of recognition and relief, “I’d forgotten so much of this. I needed to forget at the time- but now, I also need to remember.”
She needed to grieve. First – that her marriage had ended and it would take time for her children to adjust. Second – that her ex might not be capable of, or ever want to get, emotional closure with her, so they could parent well together. And then, she needed to choose how to better care for herself.
Related: 20 Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse
Todd’s work was to learn to respond (and not react) to the deep insecurity and emotional instability his wife apparently was suffering, which can surface as a rigid need for control. He needed to assert himself more and draw boundaries about what was acceptable. Both had become demoralized, trying to keep their now-adult children away from drugs. The kids were finally getting their act together, but it had been extremely rough going.
So we worked on building more of a life for the two of them, while at the same time, he needed to look more closely at the option of leaving if indeed, she was unable or unwilling to change along with him.
Her first assignment was to decide what color pillow she liked and take the rest back.
The grieving she faced was immense. She worked on letting go of many demeaning messages that she’d absorbed, while also rediscovering her own sense of self and value. Moreover, we spent a lot of time working through sexual abuse that occurred within her marriage. This can be tough because often it is shrouded in confusion and secrecy. Abby was at times unsure whether she should even call it “abuse.”
Let’s be clear. Having sex as a gift? Maybe you’re not quite in the mood, but you do it anyway because you love your partner and bringing them pleasure is something you want to do? That’s fine.
But being forced?
That’s sexual abuse.
Some of you who are reading this are in relationships just like the above. I have a recent podcast on what’s termed trauma bonds and how they are very difficult to leave. And a post on my own experience of how difficult it is to leave, which I invite you to read as well. You can get help, and sometimes the relationship can get better.
Sometimes it cannot.
Please talk to someone who will not judge, but can offer support and and objective perspective.
Written By Dr. Margaret Rutherford Originally Appeared In Dr. Margaret Rutherford
Abuse is not just about slapping someone around and being physically violent; the inner damage caused by abuse can sometimes be much worse and painful. The inner mental, emotional trauma left behind by abuse is sometimes harder to move on from.