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coping with my childhood abuse - I can't tell if I'm asking too much of DH ,or if he is being selfish

(17 Posts)
forthisthread Mon 01-Sep-08 13:14:27

sorry it's long, but please help if you can.

I started a thread a couple of months ago about finally opening up to DH about being sexually abused as a child. He initially handled it really well and it was a relief to both of us as our marriage was at breaking point because of my secrecy, and issues about affection and sex.

Since then DH has expected a lot in the way of progress. He wanted me to open up more and talk, and although it's been hard I have. I have been reading some fantastic books and gaining some understanding of whats been happening to me over the last 20 or so years.

Now DH has told me he can't talk to me about my stuff without it bringing up resentment and bitterness for all the years of problems in our marriage.

I don't expect him to counsel me, but I thought I would be able to share with him some of my feelings, insights and progress that I've made because it would help us both understand why I've been distant and closed.

He basically wants 'me' back. To go away and get counselling and be fixed. He wants to deal with his own issues himself.

This morning he told me that he 'didn't sign up for this' as a husband (like I signed up for it as a child hmm). He said the subject matter is too hard, and he's not equipped to listen to me. He said he refuses to feel bad for not being up to the job, it's just something he can't do.

The thing is I don't expect him to counsel me. This is totally new to me. I am doing some self-help work and will get counselling when I've worked out my issues and needs in my own mind.

I just want to be able to share with this massive can of worms that we've opened up. Some of the the stuff I've read has been a revelation in explaining why I've been the way I have, and it goes a long way to addressing some of the issues in our marriage.

Of course I realise it's hard for him too but I don't expect him to listen to or read any detailed accounts of abuse. I just to talk about the issues. I feel like saying 'ffs, get your selfish bloody head out of the sand and deal with it'.

I'm pissed off and feel let down, but according to him that's not his problem. He feels I am judging him for being short of the mark. But surely the least I can expect from my husband is some support.

I just can't tell anymore what's normal to ask of him.

Any advice welcome, and thanks for reading

beanieb Mon 01-Sep-08 13:19:10

I thik the key thing about what he has said is " and he's not equipped to listen to me. it's just something he can't do. "

Maybe it is time you looked more seriously into counselling? It must be hard for him to.

NomDePlume Mon 01-Sep-08 13:22:37

Have you told him that you do not expect him to be your therapist ? It sounds to me like he is not being a selfish prat, but morethat he is afraid that he will say the wrong thing or hinder your recovery in some way.

I went through something similar as a child and never had any problems with sex or intimacy until I had a child (a girl which I think made it worse). I then found it hard to have sex with DH, I found it hard to equate parenthood and sex, stupid I know but these sorts of problems are rarely rational. Anyway, DH found it very hard to talk about too, not because he was disgusted by me or whatever but because he was terrified he'd do more harm than good. Perhaps your DH is feeling the same ?

LucyJones Mon 01-Sep-08 13:24:07

I think it sounds like you both need counselling tbh
probably separately as well as together

GylesBandwidth Mon 01-Sep-08 13:24:35

I agree that some professional counselling would help you both.
Your DH sounds like he is doing his best to help in a very difficult situation.

Anna8888 Mon 01-Sep-08 13:26:43

Please go for some counselling.

It is quite reasonable of your DH to feel a bit unnerved by your revelations, to resent the fact that you had kept a lot of things to yourself that were having a negative impact on your marriage and to feel ill-equipped to help you. Don't ask this much of him. Ask a professional.

laweaselmys Mon 01-Sep-08 13:31:25

I think you need to make it clear that you don't expect your DH to act as your therapist, you just need him to listen while your thinking aloud and trying to work things out. If he understands that he's not supposed to be responsible for 'fixing you' he might find it easier to cope with and feel less resentment.

Echo, though, try counselling separately and together. He may well also really need somebody to talk to about the things he's heard from you and feel like he can't speak to anybody about it, and this is where part of the anger is coming from.

GooseyLoosey Mon 01-Sep-08 13:39:02

Many years ago, something fairly traumatic happened to me. I talked to dh about it early in our relationship. It rapidly became clear to me that his own feelings about it were so intense that he could not deal with mine - he became angry on the odd occassion that the subject came up. As a result, while it is good that he knows as it explains some of my behaviour, I cannot look to him for support on this specific issue as he simply cannot see past his own feelings to give it.

This sounds to me something like your dh and I do not think that it is something he can overcome quickly or easily. You need to find help outside your marriage - arrange counselling and ask him if he wants to come to the odd session.

I really hope it works out for you both.

forthisthread Mon 01-Sep-08 13:41:50

Thank you all for your replies smile.

I have made it absolutely clear I don't expect him to take the role of counsellor/threrapist.

I know he is scared of saying the wrong thing, because a few times I've opened up he has become bitter and resentful (not intentionally) and started to bring up my past behaviour hand how it made his life a misery. That in turn has upset me and I've closed down again.

I agree we both need counselling, and thankfully he recognises this. What do we do now though, and in between sessions? He is impatient for progress, particular wrt to sex and affection. I feel resentful that he expects change from me, yet won't let me talk about how I feel.

DrGeorge Mon 01-Sep-08 14:14:20

I think it may be hard for your dh to understand what you want from him. You say you don't want him to take on a counsellor role, but need him to let you talk about how you feel. A lot of counselling is allowing someone to talk about how they feel and work through their own solutions - this really is what you seem to be hoping your dh will do. As Goosey identifies this probably has raised a lot of emotions in him and it may well be that he can't cope with his own emotions let alone try to help you handle yours. I think the best you can expect is for him to understand what is causing you problems but I wouldn't ask him to help you work through it, you need a trained counsellor to do that.

ActingNormal Mon 01-Sep-08 15:29:46

My DH is a bit like this too and from what I've heard lots of people say this might be a typical man thing (I know some people will think I'm incredibly sexist).

I think a man's instinct is to try to find solutions and fix things and when we talk about things that there isn't an obvious fix for they feel useless and like they have failed.

When I went into detail about some of the things that happened to me to my DH I was shocked by how angry he got. It seemed really difficult for him to handle, similar to what you said. I'm sure the last thing they want to think about is terrible things happening to their loved one.

Also my DH doesn't understand the need to go on and on about it. Being sexist again, this is a typical woman thing - needing to talk and talk to vent it out. Men often don't understand that all you want them to do is make listening noises and then you will feel a bit better. When they talk about problems they hope to get solutions out of the conversation so talking just for talking's sake is alien to them.

Also my DH feels that I spend too much time thinking about people who did bad things to me - people who don't deserve so much of my time because they are crap people to do the things they have done, and I don't spend enough time focussing on him and the kids who have not done anything bad to me and deserve my attention much more. I do feel I neglect them because I am so preoccupied in my thoughts, especially while I am in therapy at the moment and thinking about it all a lot.

I can also see how it could be true what other people have said that they just don't know what they should say to us. Sometimes I come out with such a jumbled mess of thoughts to my therapist, expecting him to be confused, but it seems like he has heard it lots of times before and he seems to know how to clarify it and simplify it and say things that make me feel better and make me have lightbulb moments of clarity. He has had years of training and experience though!

You think you aren't ready for therapy, but will you ever feel ready? It is hard to say the words of the worst things that happened to your therapist whenever you do it! But it is so worth it and I think you get to a point where therapy is the only thing that will help, once you've helped yourself all you can with books and people and mumsnet.

forthisthread Mon 01-Sep-08 17:43:44

Thank you again everyone. You have really helped to clarify things for me. I need to bite the bullet and get on with counselling for myself. Today I have found a counsellor who think can help me - now I just need the courage to contact her and book a session.

I've been frustrated with DH because I was hoping he would be support for me while I came to terms with having 'outed' my secret. I haven't been able to understand why, after encouraging me to open up, he has now closed the door. Now I realise he just can't do it.

ActingNormal - you are very perceptive. I agree with everything you have said smile How long have you been in therapy? Does your DH ever go to sessions, and do you get support from anywhere else (friends, family)?

I feel I might need to talk to someone for support during counselling, but DH is the only person I've told after all these years and I am still not comfortable about telling anyone else, even close friends.

coolbeans Mon 01-Sep-08 18:14:09

I think it's quite hard to envisage what therapy will be like before you've had it.

You might find that as your relationship with your counsellor develops and you begin to trust them and your sessions, you don't actually want to speak to anyone else about it, because it doesn't seem necessary.
And if and when you do want to, you'll have the right tools to do it on your terms.

You've been very brave to bring it up with your dh, now's the time to really go for it and make that phonecall. It'll be OK, really.

ActingNormal Mon 01-Sep-08 19:03:33

ForThisThread, I've been seeing my therapist about 5 months. It has been really intense at times and made me feel extreme. DH does not come with me and doesn't even like me going that much. I try not to talk to him about it much. If he knew how intense it makes me feel he would see it as making me worse and try to stop me going. But I really believe it has to get worse and quite hard before it gets better. It brings all the suppressed emotions to the surface and makes you really feel them so that you can release them.

I think you probably will feel the need to talk to people about it. I talk to my 2 closest friends, but again I'm careful to try not to overload them too much with things they just can't really understand having not gone through it themselves.

I find MN incredibly useful and post a lot on the "Stately Homes" thread, have you seen it? I post on there after every therapy session and in between. It takes some of the burden off friends and DH and they are people who understand better because they have had similar experiences. It is also good that it is anonymous because you can say anything you want and not feel so self conscious.

pagwatch Mon 01-Sep-08 19:30:48

Have to echo some of the previous posters.
My Dh really tried but has always found it incredibly difficult to listen to me and to be honest I actually think that, for the sake of our relationship it is actually a good thing that I never opened up to him in any great detail.
Its just he hates feeling useless. I understand that just listening is support and he is a smart man but cannot get over this need to do something - to fix things.

I think the perfect soloution for me was to have my therapy sessiuons where I could talk openly and have my DH just to let me be myself aside from the person that was abused. That worked for me but also I think was the easiest way for him to help me.

I also have to stress that the value of counselling is the lack of any emotional responsibility for your counsellor. The freedom to be able to say what was in my head without having to filter if for fear of upsetting anyone was just wonderful.

I think we each have to find our own way but TBH I could not see any way that I could have truly shared everything with Dh without creating a terrible hurt in him. It is not that he is selfish. It is just the knowledge of all the details of what I went through would have been so hard for him and my abusers had damaged enougfh parts of my life.
I got the help I needed and now I am feeling so much better I can be comfortable at home without knowing that my DH is troubled by what happened to me.
does that make sense

forthisthread Tue 02-Sep-08 14:24:22

Thanks to all of you I plucked up the courage to contact the counsellor today. It was fear holding me back. I just want to be free of my stupid unfounded fears and anxieties. She is abroad until early october, but I've waited so long I'm sure a few more weeks won't hurt.

I'll keep reading my books in the meantime, as I'm finding they really help me understand myself and my behaviour.

I won't try to talk to DH about it. You've made me see that he is acting completely normally on this. I told him last night that I finally understood that saying he couldn't talk about it wasn't a rejection of me, and he is really happy about that.

Thanks, you are all so supportive and wise.

DrGeorge Thu 04-Sep-08 11:37:37

Well done - just contacting the counsellor was a really big step for you!

Maybe you could think about what sort of things your DH could do to help you, even just giving you a cuddle at times - or giving you the time and space to vent on here! You may actually need to explain to him what he can do for you. At least then he will actually feel he can do something (I agree wholeheartedly that men try to resolve problems by DOING, not talking) and this may help both of you.

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