Uncovering Abuses Past and Present, Finding Strength

Mother and child at beachI am on an amazing journey. I have reached a critical juncture in my life, and I am writing this so that you can learn from my story as I have learned from your stories. I have recently discovered the unique power of shared experiences to uplift and guide. The people around us are in our lives for a reason, there are no accidents. We don’t have to look very far to find people who have lived through the same pain, hurt, and confusion we are experiencing or have experienced.

The Trigger

A recent series of events occurred that made me question my 13-year marriage. I always believed that the state of my marriage was somehow ‘the way all marriages are,’ until recent events shattered that illusion.

My husband and I had made the joint decision to move abroad, during which time he would focus on his studies while I worked. It was agreed that the move would be beneficial for religious and financial reasons, but it was hard on my husband as it was the first time he hadn’t worked and I became the family breadwinner.

There is no other way to say this, dear reader, but he became physically abusive with me. In fact on three different occasions he hurt me physically. There is no need to go into the details, because physical abuse is what it was, regardless. Communication almost completely broke down between us, and I just stopped trying to make things better. I realized that nothing I did made any difference. Our few conversations were littered with sarcasm and spite.

During this time, I began graduate school at a university with two of my colleagues. It was a stressful time, between studying, working, and looking after my 4-year-old son who had started school by then. My husband and I fought constantly; he was unhappy most of the time, he complained about everything and became resentful of my newfound independence and connections with people outside of our marriage.

Getting Help for My Indecision

Because my husband was so fed up with not working, he decided to leave my son and me, and go back to his old job in a different country. This was a blessing for me because it gave me the space I needed.  The week after he left, I started going for counseling. I knew I had to end the relationship and get a divorce, but I also felt helpless to change.

I had the chance to explore all these feelings in the very nonjudgmental space that therapy allowed. As difficult as it was, I started opening up more and more about my past. I discovered that the physical abuse that I had recently suffered in the marriage was only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it lay the deep scars from more than a decade of emotional and verbal abuse.

Naming the Un-nameable

The revelations were staggering as I had been unaware of how manipulative and controlling my husband had been throughout the relationship. I looked at the cycles and patterns that make up an abusive relationship and I saw my own life. My experience is not unique. The more I read about it, the more I realized how destructive and dysfunctional our codependency was. I took on the role of the victim and continually blamed myself for everything that went wrong. Why would anyone stay in such an unhealthy relationship?

Finally, I was able to give voice to the thing that I knew all along but was too frightened to face: The sexual abuse I had endured as a child from my father. I had never before spoken about it. In therapy sessions, the shame that is so typical of adult survivors was uncovered, along with layer upon layer of pain, hurt, confusion, anger, and self-destructive coping mechanisms that I had developed to keep this heavy secret down.

The Power of the Past

I am learning so many painful truths about how profoundly the past has affected every cell of my being: The way I interact with people; the things I think, feel, and do; the reason I chose an abusive partner; and the beliefs about myself that I have carried around with me. The abuse I suffered has colored everything, but it hasn’t tainted me permanently. As much as it stunted and delayed my growth and eroded my confidence, it has also given me a unique perspective and deep compassion for others who are hurting. It took away so much … yet it gave too.

It is a long, hard journey and there are days when the pain is so raw and intense that it makes me ill, but I keep standing up, embracing my child, and facing the world. I know that I can rise above this and use everything that has happened as a gift that I can give to others. I have always been passionate about social issues related to women and children, and now more than ever, I would like to use my unique insight to volunteer for organizations that counsel adult survivors of sexual abuse and domestic abuse.

Learning to Love Myself

Through my continued counseling sessions, I am learning slowly to love myself and have compassion for myself. I meditate, pray, read, write, and try to surround myself with very strong warrior women who inspire me and encourage me.

I am very far from confronting my father and mother about the abuse. My husband continues to try and manipulate me into getting back together and although I have spoken to a lawyer about a divorce, there are jurisdiction issues that mean I have to wait to file a petition against him.

Regardless, I am a survivor and have a precious son who I treasure and an indomitable spirit that keeps me strong.

If there is anything I can leave you with it would be: Please, please follow your instincts and always believe deep down that you are enough and deserve better. And remember, life is like baking. It’s a messy process and things don’t always taste as good as they look or turn out they way you’d hoped, but the joy is that you can always adapt the recipes and try again for a better result!

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  • Cara D.

    Cara D.

    October 6th, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Sometimes the things that we have never faced before are going to be the things that actually teach us more about who we are and the things that we want out of life. It is obvious that your husband felt internally a lot of things that he was not sharing with you prior to moving and unfortunately for you this came out in other ways that have been very hurtful. The only thing that I can say is that I am so sorry that things had to be like for you but they showed you exactly what he was thinking as well as showed you exactly how strong you can actually be in the face of such danger and adversity.

  • Victoria

    Victoria

    October 6th, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    what a great chance this has become to learn so much about yourself- good for you!

  • survivor

    survivor

    October 7th, 2014 at 1:58 AM

    Thank you for reading and commenting on my story. You are so right when you say that the things that we find the hardest to face are the things that teach us the most. It is very sad because my husband also suffers with unresolved childhood abuse, in his case it was physical abuse at the hands of his father. I think this is one of the reasons that we found each other. Unfortunately we were not good for each other as I continued to be a victim while he acted out the role of abuser. I pray that we can both rise above the abuse we suffered as children.Thank you again for your kind and supportive comments.

  • Gretchen

    Gretchen

    October 7th, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    I know that writing this must have been so difficult but you are absolutley correct that there are so many times when we shre with others what our experiences have been that make everything feel so much better than they did before.
    Your past brings us to our futures, and no matter where we have been in our lives it all leads to this one incredible and remarkable journey that is our own. Yours has been filled with so much pain, but I sense that you are getting stronger and more resilient every daya nd that to me isquite awesome.
    best of luck on your continued recovery, may you find even more peace and joy in your life than what you have been allowed to live in the past.

  • me too

    me too

    October 7th, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    this is so similar to my story you wouldnt believe it. I was with great guy who lost his job and his whole personality changed and eventually got abusive to me. hit me one time in my face and I never saw him again was crazy hard to leave him but I don’t regrets it at all. thanks for telling the truth and good luck to you and your son you deserve beter

  • Survivor

    Survivor

    October 7th, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Thank you Gretchen for your kind comments! You are right,it’s not easy to talk about or write about but to keep it a secret would mean that I only give the darkness greater power over me.
    Thanks for your good wishes!God Bless you

  • jacqui

    jacqui

    October 8th, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    It could take something really big like a move or a job loss to bring out this side in people but I have heard a lot of stories like this with very similar themes, and it seems that men almost become very broken when they lose that provider side of themselves and they can morph into someone that is almost unrecognizable to the family who loves them. It can be a very scary situajtion to go from earning all of the money to being dependent on someone else and even though they may say that they support the move, it can also beocome very tricky because they could begin to feel like they have lost a part of themselves and they don’t know who they are anymore. I applaud you for sharing and talking about this so that others know that they are not the only ones that this has happened to and that this is not their fault if it does.

  • chris60

    chris60

    October 9th, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    Congratulations on having the courage to leave a bad relationship. I hope you learn ways to cope with the pain and process your past so your future is more satisfying. If it is any consolation, sexual abuse and physical violence against women is common and you are not alone. I wish more people would speak out about the pain and damage such abuse causes to your sense of self and the way it blocks many people from reaching their full potential. As a survivor of domestic violence and incest, it would be wonderful if more perpetrators were given consequences instead of the victims needing to do the hard work of reclaiming their stability and sense of safety. The cost of therapy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way that survivors continue to suffer due to someone else’s abusive choices. Women tend to be re-victimised while abused men tend to repeat the pattern of abuse, and both are perversely attracted to each other due to their shared backgrounds of abuse. Learning who to trust and re-learing what feels normal takes a lot of work. Good luck.

  • survivor

    survivor

    October 12th, 2014 at 3:45 AM

    Thank you chris60 for your comments. It is true that the survivors of abuse have to do difficult work to heal and that it is both time consuming and expensive in terms of therapy. But every cent I spend on therapy is money well spent because I get to see the results in my sense of self-worth and self-esteem. There is no price I would’t pay for this! The abusers, I think, pay a heavy price too, because they are just wounded souls who are very often incapable of self-awareness.

  • Maureen

    Maureen

    December 21st, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Thank you for sharing part of your journey with us. Your courage is remarkable AND it is inspirational. God bless you and your son. Hope for your husband’s healing as well.

  • Survivor

    Survivor

    January 21st, 2015 at 11:22 PM

    Thank you Maureen for your kind words! The more I share my story, the more I am healed.

  • Hurting

    Hurting

    March 15th, 2015 at 12:03 PM

    Why does talking about abuse have to happen? I have told my psychologist lots of stuff. She knew from first session that I was abused. But I couldn’t talk about it with emotion. 9 mnths later she asked me questions and I broke but not completely. Since last session I came home with tears welling up for a week. I was told I have to talk about them but there’s so many and it hurts. I’m nervous for next session

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