An open letter to the women we love

WontGiveUp

Registrant
Bumping this thread - its old, but its amazing. HealingHope - I hope you get a chance to read it, I think it will really give you some peace and help.

I think this is one of the most touching, and solidly "in the gut" things I have read on this forum. For me - it hits home in many ways. I also think it should be a sticky post!
 

HealingHope

Registrant
WalkingSouth said:
There is also a physiological reason behind our concentration on recovery as well. Without going into detail as to how or why it happens, men have only a few connecting nerves linking the two halves of their brain, while women have many.

One therapist I know put it this way:

�Women have several nerve freeways connecting the two halves of their brain while us men only have a couple of nerve dirt-bike paths.�

What that means in practical terms is that us men are very task oriented. We see something that needs to be done and we set about to accomplish it. We get it done and look around to see what comes next and move on to that. In short, we�re linear thinkers.

Women, on the other hand, have �the big picture� in mind most of the time. They�re taking care of the baby, talking to mom on the phone, remembering supper on the stove, thinking about the client they need to touch bases with first thing tomorrow, and letting the dog back in the house all at the same time, and all the while thinking about how much they love their husband, or how much they despise him because he�s not helping! :)

While you are seeing the big picture, we�re looking at the task at hand, which for us at the moment is recovery. We know it�s necessary in spite of how badly it hurts and we�re goal oriented. There�s no way it will leave our mind, even for a second. That is not because we�re obsessing over it, but because it�s like the elephant in the living room. It�s stepping constantly on our heart and it constantly hurts, which keeps it at the forefront of our mind 24/7.

We want to get this fixed and we understand that it will be a long time before we are able to feel �normal� again. We also understand your need to set some boundaries. We actually need you to do that, but nagging us isn�t going to work. It will only make us feel controlled. Being controlled by another person is something we unfortunately are very familiar with, which means you may have to get lovingly creative in your boundary setting in order for it to be effective.

This in particular has helped so much and ties into something else I've read about men needing to fix.
I hope in my case this is what's keeping him away...
 

mmfan

Registrant
Hi WalkingSouth, I wish my survivor spent more time here, so I seem to have the opposite problem! But I hear in your post a desire to be heard and understood and a desire to connect with your wife and help alleviate her frustration. It is definitely frustrating for us partners when something so huge is occupying their time and energy and attention. It is as if the relationship gets hijacked and we don't factor into the equation anymore. I am embarrassed to admit i have spent a lot of time yelling at my survivor about my needs mattering too. And him yelling back that he's not just a selfish asshole, that he doesn't want to have to go through any of this, and it's not his fault. Of course, he is right. Something horrendous happened to him, and therefore, to us, and to me. Wr are both allowed to have our feelings about that. I have a good therapist who listens and allows me to vent and my survivor has also supported me even when I'm venting at him....it is messy at times but we muddle through somehow.
 

HealingHope

Registrant
This in particular has helped so much and ties into something else I've read about men needing to fix.
I hope in my case this is what's keeping him away...
I just popped on and how interesting that this post is active again. Mmfan sending you so much respect, thank you for bumping it with your post.
I can’t believe how far my survivor and I have come. It’s a stark reminder, seeing my post from almost 6 years ago.
He’s coping with so much so has taken time away and this has reminded me how he focusses. It’s his formula. He won’t stop until he feels he can safely put it down again.
Ive reflected these few weeks that’s he’s been away on how my own process is evolving, compared to before? It’s so very different. The longing and missing him is healthier, no panick.
It’s testimony I feel to the inner work we can do while their away albeit physically or just distant, and not so invested in our relationship. Or so it may feel?
I’ve seen it so clearly while his taken his focus to his situation. It IS about us too.
When we as their partners clear through our own wounds. The potency of our own emotional wounds I’ve found has more ease and then I’m seeing I can see the missing and the longing for me fits the reality of missing him in real time. And not maybe the way my own attachment style used to panic because of my own unresolved child hood neglect .
I hope this isn’t too much of a ramble.
Trusting his process and using the space between us to work through what it brings up within my own healing journey seems to be OUR formula, I’m realising.
Thank you for listening and for everything you’ve done over the years to help us never let go.
 
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Amandaadb

Registrant
Hi WalkingSouth, I wish my survivor spent more time here, so I seem to have the opposite problem! But I hear in your post a desire to be heard and understood and a desire to connect with your wife and help alleviate her frustration. It is definitely frustrating for us partners when something so huge is occupying their time and energy and attention. It is as if the relationship gets hijacked and we don't factor into the equation anymore. I am embarrassed to admit i have spent a lot of time yelling at my survivor about my needs mattering too. And him yelling back that he's not just a selfish asshole, that he doesn't want to have to go through any of this, and it's not his fault. Of course, he is right. Something horrendous happened to him, and therefore, to us, and to me. Wr are both allowed to have our feelings about that. I have a good therapist who listens and allows me to vent and my survivor has also supported me even when I'm venting at him....it is messy at times but we muddle through somehow.
This is also where I am at. I don't want to waste his time or mine fighting over whose needs need to be met when right now they are polar opposites. Right now, his take priority in our time together and it is I who need to find someone else to talk to and an outlet for my emotions and energy that he cannot focus on. If I take from him, he cannot spend all the energy we both need him to spend to help get thru this. Thank you for your advice on my post about getting a therapist for myself.
 

GS_BulaVrsay

Registrant
Wow, Just Wow! Yes to all the above positive responses to what you painstakingly wrote. Someone said standing ovation. Oui! Another said it is going on a sticky note for the spouse. Oui! not everyone uses the limitations as an excuse and that applies to this...we don't even know the depth of the damage. But, marriage is made of TWO people who forgive, overlook, understand, etc all with LOVE. Not to be, as is said, Sappy, but it is true. Yes? Great job, Mr. Open Letter.
 
John, thank you for that post. It was just recently revealed to me through therapy that my acting out was a result of my CSA. I had thought that abuse was buried and dead long ago and I never made the connection. But as you so eloquently described it, the reality was still living and breathing inside of me. I have not had the courage or the words to tell my wife yet, but your post is something I will print off and give to her when I do. I just joined this site and have found myself on here constantly. Looking for answers, asking for advice, grieving for myself and the men who have shared their stories, praying for understanding and support, afraid of the future. Thank you again for those words.
 

Celtaf

Registrant
People can respond very differently to expressions of negative sounding emotions or experiences. For me, talking out loud or writing down bad experiences and trying to wrap my head around them will probably take a few tries before I can make sense of them. It's a kind of relief, almost like removing a bandage and disinfecting a wound. It can bring up pain but it also brings release.

To some people, not just within a male/female dichotomy, it doesn't bring relief. It upsets them, and doesn't really help them to make sense of things. It can make them feel helpless, angry, upset, and leads to nowhere productive. i have a good friend like that. If I'm trying to make sense of things that trouble me, it is actually unhelpful to talk to him. What he appears to need is distraction and focus on the positive. As a result, I almost never share problems with him that are emotional, only practical concerns like how to deal with a software or medical issue or something. Part of this, as well, is that he looks up to me and it really worries him when he thinks I can't handle something. If I ever do mention mental health concerns to him, what he needs to hear at the end is how I'm dealing with it effectively.

I have noticed that there are enough women who seem to respond to men's issues that way that it is a reasonable concern. I know a number of men who feel that they should only share their concerns with women when they've got some kind of handle on it so that it does not make the women in their lives feel anxious about the relationship. Ironically, while it is a popular piece of advice that men are given that they should not try to fix women's problems while listening to them, it seems that some women, at least, have that same desire, to fix problems or at least make them go away!

So why wouldn't men who are recovering from trauma spend time in a forum or chatroom where they feel they can talk to others who will try to be patient and understanding? I wonder, with the initial question asked by the wife in the OP, how reasonable that question is beyond presuming that it is entirely correct. Is someone literally neglecting their other relationships to spend time here? I'll be blunt: I doubt it, simply because the response times around here are so slow. Often you have to wait a day or two for a response, so how in the world would someone spend so much time here?

Ultimately, it is very hard for people in a relationship to ask for expressions of reassurance from those they want the love of before they start becoming bitter and resentful. I think that is the real issue for that original question from the woman in the OP. Unfortunately, it is the only way forward for a relationship to succeed.
 

Amandaadb

Registrant
Some of you, as well as my own wife (not an MS participant), have raised the question over the months and years to us as male survivors of sexual abuse why it is were so hung up on spending time on this site. In the words of my wife from a couple of years back:


Well, you raise legitimate concerns. Yes, you do need attention from your man. The roof does need fixing. All those things and issues need to be taken care of. I wont make excuses for my failure on any of it. Im wondering though if you realize the extent of the damage done to your husband or boyfriend and what this process of recovery looks like from his point of view.

We have coped all these years doing the best we can at so many things. Weve even been good at some of it, but the impact of the abuse has been festering away deep inside of us for decades in some cases. Weve been in denial for years telling ourselves that the abuse, if we thought of it as such, or even remember it, had no lasting impact on our lives, that were over it, its in the past.

In reality however its taken its toll on us and those we love. Weve been angry and taken that anger out perhaps on you or the kids. Maybe weve only taken it out on the clerk at the supermarket or the boy who pumps our gas (Oregon only cuz the rest of you have to pump your own!). Maybe weve never had a backbone and always allowed others to walk all over us. Maybe weve acted out over the years, engaging in clandestine sexual encounters with other men or women. Maybe weve had an affair or been addicted to pornography.

Maybe weve been all of the above. The point is that the sexual abuse messed us up in some very vital areas of our life and were now coming to understand that. At some point in the recent past we suddenly realized that our life was a mess and that if we didnt do something, our life as we have come to know it will be gone forever.

We looked for help and we found this place. Perhaps we stumbled onto it by accident. Perhaps it was recommended by our therapist following a session or two in his office. Whatever the case we are here, we are in therapy, and we are working on this, but to be quite honest it is nearly overwhelming us. The emotional pain from the flashbacks and flooding memories, the realization of ALL THE WASTED YEARS is nearly more than we are able to handle and it WONT GO AWAY! Were on the edge and barely hanging on. We buried it for years or decades and now its all rushing out in a massive, paralyzing flood.

Were now realizing that our way of responding to life is flawed in certain ways. Our lives, our masculinity, our courage, our sense of self, such as it is, are all called into question. Everything weve understood as the norm for so many years is now unfamiliar territory. We dont know which way to turn or what problems to address first.

But weve found hope, small though that hope may be. Were here on this site because for the first time in our lives we understand that we are not alone. There are other men who have traveled this path ahead of us and who understand what we are going through. They have become our friends, but more than that; right now they are our lifeline to sanity.

For many of us even something so decidedly masculine as making love to our sweetheart can be problematic. We may feel we need and even desire that intimacy with you but when we attempt it the memories of the abuse and the abuser push their way in against our will, making it next to impossible for us to function sexually.

We spend our day just making it through and even at that, perhaps our boss is on us because of our lapse in attention or our poor productivity. Many of us find ourselves in the restroom stall crying at different times throughout the day. We come home, and we know there is someone who understands just a click or two away. We need to go there. We need to discover the answers because we know they are there. We know that this member or that one will have some good advise or a new way of looking at a particular issue that weve never thought of before.

We understand you need us too. We truly do, but right now this may be all were capable of doing. Think of it this way. Lets say your husband was in a terrible auto accident. He was all broken up and has been in a coma for many months, then one day he opens his eyes and looks at you. Thats all, just opens them and looks. Would you celebrate or would you berate him for not walking and talking and earning a living?

In a way, that is what has happened to us as survivors of CSA. We've been wounded and our eyes are finally open but were still terribly hurt. We realize it. We want better for our life and for our life together with you. Right now we dont even know how to get there. Were in the care of our therapist and were in the loving care of the men here who know how it is with us, and were slowly getting better. We are unable to undo years of abuse and the resulting denial, anger, and acting out in a few short weeks or months.

There is also a physiological reason behind our concentration on recovery as well. Without going into detail as to how or why it happens, men have only a few connecting nerves linking the two halves of their brain, while women have many.

One therapist I know put it this way:

Women have several nerve freeways connecting the two halves of their brain while us men only have a couple of nerve dirt-bike paths.

What that means in practical terms is that us men are very task oriented. We see something that needs to be done and we set about to accomplish it. We get it done and look around to see what comes next and move on to that. In short, were linear thinkers.

Women, on the other hand, have the big picture in mind most of the time. Theyre taking care of the baby, talking to mom on the phone, remembering supper on the stove, thinking about the client they need to touch bases with first thing tomorrow, and letting the dog back in the house all at the same time, and all the while thinking about how much they love their husband, or how much they despise him because hes not helping! :)

While you are seeing the big picture, were looking at the task at hand, which for us at the moment is recovery. We know its necessary in spite of how badly it hurts and were goal oriented. Theres no way it will leave our mind, even for a second. That is not because were obsessing over it, but because its like the elephant in the living room. Its stepping constantly on our heart and it constantly hurts, which keeps it at the forefront of our mind 24/7.

We want to get this fixed and we understand that it will be a long time before we are able to feel normal again. We also understand your need to set some boundaries. We actually need you to do that, but nagging us isnt going to work. It will only make us feel controlled. Being controlled by another person is something we unfortunately are very familiar with, which means you may have to get lovingly creative in your boundary setting in order for it to be effective.

It has been said many times on these pages that our women are also victims of the abusers as well. That is another reason this is so painful to us because we see what it is doing to our family. Were working on it. We really are. Its just that it doesnt look like you think it should and you are feeling abandoned and neglected. We get that.

Though we can try, we cannot discontinue our recovery. Many of us were out of control when we decided to embark on this journey and to stop now would condemn you and us to more and worse out of control behavior than what has gone before. Pandoras Box has been opened and can never be shut. The only way past this thing is straight through the middle of it, which means were going to be pretty much focused inward for quite some time to come.

The good news is that the further along this path we travel the better it becomes for us and you. I began my recovery journey close to five years ago. I began therapy just over four years ago, and found this website coming up on three years ago. I am only just recently getting to the place where I dont feel this compulsive urge to be here every waking minute of the day.

Yes, I still spend lots of time here, but I am increasingly aware that there is another world out there; that I have a wife who needs more attention from me than Ive been able to give for a very long time. Thankfully I am increasingly able to give her that attention without the demons raising their ugly heads to interfere with the love I have to offer.

Finally, Id like to ask each of you to remember that our recovery does not necessarily mean that we will become your model of what you want us to be. Recovery gives us many good things to enhance the life of the great men we already were, but we are still distinctly us. We are individuals and our recovery may take us in directions neither you nor we ever dreamed of. We hope you will not be disappointed in or resent the changes in our lives brought about by our recovery. That is why it is advisable for each of you to pursue your own journey of discovery, recovery, and even therapy along with us. Lets face it, when your husband or boyfriend goes through therapy and recovery, changes will take place in his life. You may end up feeling threatened in some way by those changes unless you, too, are ready to grow along with him.

There is evil afoot in the world, yes, but there is a lot of goodness as well. This site and the men who come here are living proof of that fact. It is terribly unfortunate that any of us ever had to suffer the kind of things we did but, as our brother and former moderator Brian says in his sig line, Recovery is possible.


I have read this letter probably 20 times. And I'll likely read it 100+ more. Thank you for writing it. When it gets hard to cope and I need to reset my mind to focus on HIM and his needs rather than my own selfish desires, this post puts it back into perspective for me time and time again -- no matter what negativity I'm feeling, this post helps me reframe it and reignites my strength to keep taking the little steps I must take for myself in order to give my man the space and time he needs to recover.
Some of you, as well as my own wife (not an MS participant), have raised the question over the months and years to us as male survivors of sexual abuse why it is were so hung up on spending time on this site. In the words of my wife from a couple of years back:


Well, you raise legitimate concerns. Yes, you do need attention from your man. The roof does need fixing. All those things and issues need to be taken care of. I wont make excuses for my failure on any of it. Im wondering though if you realize the extent of the damage done to your husband or boyfriend and what this process of recovery looks like from his point of view.

We have coped all these years doing the best we can at so many things. Weve even been good at some of it, but the impact of the abuse has been festering away deep inside of us for decades in some cases. Weve been in denial for years telling ourselves that the abuse, if we thought of it as such, or even remember it, had no lasting impact on our lives, that were over it, its in the past.

In reality however its taken its toll on us and those we love. Weve been angry and taken that anger out perhaps on you or the kids. Maybe weve only taken it out on the clerk at the supermarket or the boy who pumps our gas (Oregon only cuz the rest of you have to pump your own!). Maybe weve never had a backbone and always allowed others to walk all over us. Maybe weve acted out over the years, engaging in clandestine sexual encounters with other men or women. Maybe weve had an affair or been addicted to pornography.

Maybe weve been all of the above. The point is that the sexual abuse messed us up in some very vital areas of our life and were now coming to understand that. At some point in the recent past we suddenly realized that our life was a mess and that if we didnt do something, our life as we have come to know it will be gone forever.

We looked for help and we found this place. Perhaps we stumbled onto it by accident. Perhaps it was recommended by our therapist following a session or two in his office. Whatever the case we are here, we are in therapy, and we are working on this, but to be quite honest it is nearly overwhelming us. The emotional pain from the flashbacks and flooding memories, the realization of ALL THE WASTED YEARS is nearly more than we are able to handle and it WONT GO AWAY! Were on the edge and barely hanging on. We buried it for years or decades and now its all rushing out in a massive, paralyzing flood.

Were now realizing that our way of responding to life is flawed in certain ways. Our lives, our masculinity, our courage, our sense of self, such as it is, are all called into question. Everything weve understood as the norm for so many years is now unfamiliar territory. We dont know which way to turn or what problems to address first.

But weve found hope, small though that hope may be. Were here on this site because for the first time in our lives we understand that we are not alone. There are other men who have traveled this path ahead of us and who understand what we are going through. They have become our friends, but more than that; right now they are our lifeline to sanity.

For many of us even something so decidedly masculine as making love to our sweetheart can be problematic. We may feel we need and even desire that intimacy with you but when we attempt it the memories of the abuse and the abuser push their way in against our will, making it next to impossible for us to function sexually.

We spend our day just making it through and even at that, perhaps our boss is on us because of our lapse in attention or our poor productivity. Many of us find ourselves in the restroom stall crying at different times throughout the day. We come home, and we know there is someone who understands just a click or two away. We need to go there. We need to discover the answers because we know they are there. We know that this member or that one will have some good advise or a new way of looking at a particular issue that weve never thought of before.

We understand you need us too. We truly do, but right now this may be all were capable of doing. Think of it this way. Lets say your husband was in a terrible auto accident. He was all broken up and has been in a coma for many months, then one day he opens his eyes and looks at you. Thats all, just opens them and looks. Would you celebrate or would you berate him for not walking and talking and earning a living?

In a way, that is what has happened to us as survivors of CSA. We've been wounded and our eyes are finally open but were still terribly hurt. We realize it. We want better for our life and for our life together with you. Right now we dont even know how to get there. Were in the care of our therapist and were in the loving care of the men here who know how it is with us, and were slowly getting better. We are unable to undo years of abuse and the resulting denial, anger, and acting out in a few short weeks or months.

There is also a physiological reason behind our concentration on recovery as well. Without going into detail as to how or why it happens, men have only a few connecting nerves linking the two halves of their brain, while women have many.

One therapist I know put it this way:

Women have several nerve freeways connecting the two halves of their brain while us men only have a couple of nerve dirt-bike paths.

What that means in practical terms is that us men are very task oriented. We see something that needs to be done and we set about to accomplish it. We get it done and look around to see what comes next and move on to that. In short, were linear thinkers.

Women, on the other hand, have the big picture in mind most of the time. Theyre taking care of the baby, talking to mom on the phone, remembering supper on the stove, thinking about the client they need to touch bases with first thing tomorrow, and letting the dog back in the house all at the same time, and all the while thinking about how much they love their husband, or how much they despise him because hes not helping! :)

While you are seeing the big picture, were looking at the task at hand, which for us at the moment is recovery. We know its necessary in spite of how badly it hurts and were goal oriented. Theres no way it will leave our mind, even for a second. That is not because were obsessing over it, but because its like the elephant in the living room. Its stepping constantly on our heart and it constantly hurts, which keeps it at the forefront of our mind 24/7.

We want to get this fixed and we understand that it will be a long time before we are able to feel normal again. We also understand your need to set some boundaries. We actually need you to do that, but nagging us isnt going to work. It will only make us feel controlled. Being controlled by another person is something we unfortunately are very familiar with, which means you may have to get lovingly creative in your boundary setting in order for it to be effective.

It has been said many times on these pages that our women are also victims of the abusers as well. That is another reason this is so painful to us because we see what it is doing to our family. Were working on it. We really are. Its just that it doesnt look like you think it should and you are feeling abandoned and neglected. We get that.

Though we can try, we cannot discontinue our recovery. Many of us were out of control when we decided to embark on this journey and to stop now would condemn you and us to more and worse out of control behavior than what has gone before. Pandoras Box has been opened and can never be shut. The only way past this thing is straight through the middle of it, which means were going to be pretty much focused inward for quite some time to come.

The good news is that the further along this path we travel the better it becomes for us and you. I began my recovery journey close to five years ago. I began therapy just over four years ago, and found this website coming up on three years ago. I am only just recently getting to the place where I dont feel this compulsive urge to be here every waking minute of the day.

Yes, I still spend lots of time here, but I am increasingly aware that there is another world out there; that I have a wife who needs more attention from me than Ive been able to give for a very long time. Thankfully I am increasingly able to give her that attention without the demons raising their ugly heads to interfere with the love I have to offer.

Finally, Id like to ask each of you to remember that our recovery does not necessarily mean that we will become your model of what you want us to be. Recovery gives us many good things to enhance the life of the great men we already were, but we are still distinctly us. We are individuals and our recovery may take us in directions neither you nor we ever dreamed of. We hope you will not be disappointed in or resent the changes in our lives brought about by our recovery. That is why it is advisable for each of you to pursue your own journey of discovery, recovery, and even therapy along with us. Lets face it, when your husband or boyfriend goes through therapy and recovery, changes will take place in his life. You may end up feeling threatened in some way by those changes unless you, too, are ready to grow along with him.

There is evil afoot in the world, yes, but there is a lot of goodness as well. This site and the men who come here are living proof of that fact. It is terribly unfortunate that any of us ever had to suffer the kind of things we did but, as our brother and former moderator Brian says in his sig line, Recovery is possible.
I have read this letter probably 20 times. And I'll likely read it 100+ more. Thank you for writing it so many years ago... When it gets hard to cope and I need to reset my mind to focus on HIM and his needs rather than my own selfish desires, this post puts it back into perspective for me time and time again -- no matter what negativity I'm feeling, this post helps me reframe it and reignites my strength to keep taking the little steps I must take for myself in order to give my man the space and time he needs to recover.
 
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