I think we’ve all been in that position where our problems get so big we think the most helpful, the simplest, and most beneficial thing we can do, is to simply run away. Get as far away from the problem as possible. Clearly my location is the real issue. If the problem is here with me, then obviously if I leave the problem will stay behind! Bam. Problem solved.
If you’ve attempted to put this sort of logic into practice then you’re probably smiling, even laughing, right now. If you haven’t tried this, don’t bother. Let me save you the agony of the effort it takes to avoid the problem and tell you why the rest of us are laughing: It doesn’t work. The problem isn’t here, in a specific location, with you. The problem is with you. Or, more clearly, you are the problem. If you can accept that you're about six months, or sixty years, ahead of the majority.
Now that I’ve irritated your pride and wounded that very sensitive ego of yours, let’s put it in a time-out to heal while you and I do this adulting thing and attempt to reason together.
If you’ve been following my blogs you are well-informed about my husband’s arrival last week (I’m still smiling about it). It took all of three days for some of the problems we had in the Middle East to surface in America. Your problems, especially the ones that somehow keep popping up, do not disappear when you move. You just have different carpet, or hardwood, under your knees when you pray for God to help you through it. The problem remains until it’s worked through.
What was the big problem that came up so quickly? Couldn’t we have managed to keep it under wraps for at least a week? I mean, really, he just got here. I would have loved to do so, however, sexual trauma is terrible at playing “hide-until-I-go-seek.” She is constantly leaping out of her hiding place before you can even count to three. You can imagine how incredibly "excited" I was to see that hot mess show up in my marriage. It’s worse than an in-law outstaying her welcome or Aunt Flow keeping company for six consecutive weeks. This unwelcome guest, whom I’ll not-so-lovingly refer to as Ms. T (for Trauma in case you missed that part), is a guest that takes up residence and refuses to leave. She cannot be forced out, persuaded, bribed or even manipulated. Ms. T is like a parasite. Her existence is fed by my existence, so getting her to leave is all but impossible. Every time I consider this I shake my head and think, “my poor husband.”
I write this lightly because we can’t scroll fast enough past words like “rape” and “sexual abuse.” The very word makes us uncomfortable. It has to be talked about, however, because the consequences of these things echo throughout the lives of the victims and survivors of these horrendous acts. A sexual abuser doesn’t have to use his fist for it to be considered abuse, and time, by itself, does not heal. We’re a victim first. We then choose to be a survivor, but being a survivor doesn’t mean we’re free from the wounds of the past. It simply means we choose not to let it control how we live our present or will live out our future. I can attest that it's a whole lot easier said than done, especially when I’ve been away from my husband for an extended period of time and our reunion is slapped sideways by Ms. T. She has this impulse control problem and tends to backhand anything resembling a man. We’re working on that.
This next part is especially for the men out there in a relationship with a woman with any kind of history with sexual abuse, and I do mean any kind. No matter who did it or how often or when.
Husbands, love your wives. That love will unite you. She can heal without you, you're not that important, but you will never be able to connect with her they way God intended if you're not along for the journey. I told my husband my history and all about Ms. T before he proposed. I wanted to make sure he knew exactly who he was asking to marry him before he popped the question. Might as well give the guy as clear a picture as possible before he gets in too deep. Ladies, I wouldn’t recommend frightening the guy you’ve been dating for six weeks with a load like that, but get advice and pray about it before you share that information. Men, you need to prove yourself trustworthy to carry and protect that information.
My husband and I saved our first kiss and everything that typically follows for our wedding day and night. It’s a biblical standard that we decided to adhere to in faith that God would bless our marriage from the get-go. We're not special, nor do we have superpowers. We simply decided doing it God's way was more important than the alternative. This choice also meant Ms. T didn’t show her true colors until after we got married. We, especially my husband, had to trust God with that. It takes a strong man, and a faithful one, to do what my husband did. No matter how ugly Ms. T would get, he was willing to love me, and be faithful, no matter what Ms. T threw at him.
Men, you need to be the safest place for your wife. When Ms. T comes out like a blood-thirsty, flame-throwing, dragon, we need you to be our knight in shining armor. That doesn’t mean you attack the dragon, it means you prove it wrong. Be patient as your wife learns you are not like men, or that man, from her past. As she learns, it will get better. Slowly. Ms. T is very convincing. Please be patient. Have I mentioned that yet? What your wife gives takes tremendous effort and faith, and gratitude goes a long way. Love her, don’t resent her.
Ms. T has reared her ugly head a few times, subtly and not-so subtly. It's has shown me that the effects of my trauma aren't to be feared or controlled, but rather respected and reassured. I’ve learned she’s simply part of who I am, and the sooner I accept her (all of her), the sooner I’ll be able to trust God and my husband to help me co-exist with her. She's not going anywhere. I've tried ignoring her, shoving her away, etc. and it doesn't work. If I can't accept her, neither can my husband. This overcoming isn’t a matter of being rid of her, but rather of allowing myself to be loved with her. Ms. T has a way of making victims and survivors feel less-than in every way. When I accept her, not her messages, and trust God and my husband to love me with her, then I overcome her.
Ladies, accept her. Trust God and your husband. Accepting love that includes your trauma, not dismisses it or ignores it, and learning to love with it, is overcoming.