Loving someone who was abused as a child must be so hard

I have discovered something new to feel guilty about. Yay!

It is really starting to bother me now.

I have been getting super close to hubby in the past few months. Sharing everything. And he started sharing with me too. Turns out he has been holding back on me, pretty much forever, for fear of adding to my pain and burden I carry around from childhood abuse. Now this is understandable, but it makes me sad and guilty too, and now I want to be there for him like he is for me.

Last week I couldn’t be there for him. I was down in the deep dark place, that is one step above despair, where I question my worth and fight the urge to give up and disappear. While I was fighting that battle, I relied heavily on hubby to do what I could not. I expected him to be perfect, and take care of every task I dropped. I expected him to listen to me endlessly.

The thing is, he pretty much was perfect, and went on tirelessly, even went to work after 1 hour of sleep because we were up all night talking. He is so there for me and devoted to supporting us. I could not have made it to work like he did, but since I work from home my schedule is flexible.

I want to be there for him too. He said he had a rough day at work last week, and I cut him off, told him I could not listen. I remember this day. I actually put my hand up and asked him to stop talking, that I was already overwhelmed and unable to take any more. That was the day I snuck upstairs to cry in the shower. I was hurting and barely functional that day. I was unable to think of anyone but myself that day. Although I did still make meals and do a few easy tasks, I did not connect to anyone. I did not spend the day in bed or on the couch. My bad days are not as bad as they used to be. And I used to be really proud of that progress, until I reframed these thoughts and think how unfair it us to hubby.

If hubby ever cut ME off like that, I would be devastated. But for him, he knows he has to accept that. Even more, he is learning how to pull me back to him. The night we talked all night, I had been suffering for a few days, torturing myself with thoughts that I am not good enough and never will be. I did not realize he saw my pain this time, and was trying to be ‘normal’. Laying in bed, he reached for me, held me so desperately, and whispered, “Don’t pull away too far this time, ok?” It was like a million butterflies all over me. He cut through to the current me. I was not intentionally pulling away from him, and was not aware of it. I was going into my protective zone, which still isolates me. I did not know how much I needed his help. His words, and powerful touch, zapped me out, and allowed me to speak my mind. And wow, a lot of ugly stuff came out. The little girl in me was hurting. That’s the best way I can explain this. Once in a while, the little unloved girl in me needs to be heard – and loved. Once I acknowledge this, grieve for that unloved girl, and get needed love from hubby (and myself), I can move on.

I’m trying to accept how wonderful he is, this hubby of mine, and accept that I’m getting better, and accept that it is ok to expect less of me than him. He said it is like if he gets the flu, I know I can’t ask him to run to the store. So it is like sometimes I get an emotional flu, and can’t handle any more, so he knows not to expect it. I will try not to add this to my guilt, and instead use it as motivation to continue healing, so I have more to give back to my hubby and kids. I want to be stronger for them and be there most days, not just on really good days.

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21 thoughts on “Loving someone who was abused as a child must be so hard

  1. Reading this struck so many chords with me and my relationship with my boyfriend. I, too, went through abuse as a child and I suffer the same with this inner-girl who craves to be loved.
    It does get you down sometimes when you think how much they are there for you and you feel like you can’t do the same, but my bf pretty much summed it up the same way your hubby did: it’s like an emotional flu. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for it though!
    You will get there 🙂 Good luck hun xxxx

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your side too, though I am sorry to hear you were also abused. Sometimes my inner girl is pouty, bratty, needy, and whiny and hubby puts up with it all. I can feel that things aren’t right, but I can’t silence that hurting little girl any more. I think, maybe, once she is heard and held, she will finally heal and we will both grow.

  2. Please don’t expect yourself to be perfect. Allow yourself to be grateful for someone who accepts you exactly as you are. It’s what you wanted. Don’t cheapen it by focusing on the flaws. You are doing so much better, and now you’re aware of something new. That is so amazing. hugs

  3. Don’t despair…you will get there. You will be strong and present on most days. You don’t have to be perfect. No one is. No one is emotionally present 100% of the time. You are very blessed to have such an intuitive husband. Don’t feel guilty that you don’t recognize it at times. You are both learning together. You are practicing more effective communication. Good for both of you.

    I remember a time about 3 years ago after being diagnosed and my brain was on major overload. I am the one that listens in my family. I have a really hard time telling someone what’s on my mind. My dear hubby was trying to tell me something about work and just couldn’t listen any more I did the same thing as you, I held up my hand and actually told him I couldn’t take any more in. He couldn’t believe it…I always was there for him. He got mad and I knew he was hurt. I felt so guilty. Since that time, we both learned how to deal with the rough days. I’m getting better at letting him know when my brain is not working very well…”it’s a bad brain day” I’ll tell him. If I don’t tell him and my demeanor is distant or ornery, he’ll stay away when I really need him to hold me. We’ve talked so much about what I need during the tough days. I’m getting much better at telling him I need a hug or to hold me. He’s getting better at doing what I need without me asking. For so many years I pushed him away that his normal reaction is to go away before I push. We are getting better at communicating as well.

    • Yes, we are both practicing, and I will try to be gentle with myself as we learn. Yes, I do the same thing, get distant or ornery when I what I really need most is a hug – and who wants to hug a bristly porcupine? He seems to be learning to give me a little space, and then get me back to him. I don’t know how he knows, but he is practicing this too. And yes, my guy also went away before being pushed. I see it so clearly now. I trust in my marriage now. Not that he won’t ever hurt me or make a mistake, or that I won’t, but that the marriage will last through whatever human blunders we make. The first thing I have ever trusted.

  4. This hit right at where I am struggling. I know that guilt. I feel bad when I feel so distant but I can’t seem to get myself pulled together some days. I came home to a note on the counter that my husband just said I love you and have a good day. I feel like we are hitting some parallel struggles. Thanks for sharing. I am not feeling so alone now.
    Hugs for you and the little one inside.
    Ruth

    • I’m at a point in my healing where I can clearly see where I want to be, but I’m just not there yet. I know what to do, and I try, oh do I try. And yet the guilt is still there. I would forgive, even praise anyone else that tried as hard as I do, but for me it is not good enough. And the more I realize how “out of it” I have been for so long, and he has asked for basicly nothing in return. I no longer blame him for turning away from me, and just waiting for me to come back to life. I’ve been getting those little love notes now, and some days those do make me feel guilty, if I have not done anything for him.

  5. You will get there, together, with your loving and awesome hubby. I am sure that he will help you a lot to move on and let go.
    Tell him that you want to be there for him, and support him.
    And you will be able to stand beside him as much as you want to 🙂

    I also have similar issues.
    We were talking about very serious topics with my boyfriend, and I had a meltdown because he told me very positive things and I wasn’t able to believe him. I still can’t look over my past abuse. After a while I could explain it to him why it was so painful for me, but I also felt extremely guilty. He is going through a very rough year, and he is doing it for me, for us. I want to be there for him so much, but I feel that I’m not enough, that I don’t give him all the support he deserves. And this night, he really opened up to me and needed positive feedback and instead of that, I spent the remaining few hours crying and receiving comfort from him. I regressed back into the little unloved child inside me.
    What really woke me up was that he was saying something like “you know, when you are… not well sometimes”. I believed that I could do it on my own, that I could somehow hide it. And still he sees through me.
    I want to be there for him.
    And I believe that I can do this.

    Lots of hugs for you.
    Scatha

    • Scatha, Yes I want to be there for him so much. That was never something I ever dreamed possible, so being there sometimes is pretty good for now.

      I don’t want to need him, I sometimes want to do it all alone to prove that I can, but the more I rely on him, trust him, the easier life is for all of us. Love isn’t about being fair. I guess I just worry that when he holds and helps me, he is being more fatherly than husbandly, but I don’t know. And even if he is, so what, I guess? I don’t know. Confused today.

      Thanks for the hugs, and for sharing your similar feelings.

    • Welcome, so glad you took the time to comment. Wow, you both have PTSD? Yes, Interesting I’m sure. Do you have children? I worry about them the most, and rely on hubby to fill in the blanks and take care of kids when I’m not up to it.

      • Yes, our children are grown now, with nearly-grown children of their own. In fact, one of my granddaughters is expecting, so I have my first great-grandchild on the way.

        My husband and I did not meet and marry until after all our children from our former marriages – 2 his, 3 mine – were all grown and living on their own.

        I’m sorry to say that every one of the 5 adult children we have between us have grown up to have serious life issues of their own, which seems to me to be a type of secondary PTSD, caused, at least in part, by growing up with a parent who was very often seriously dysfunctional. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but this has been our real-life experience.

        In looking back over our lives and that of our children, I believe that the single most important factor, when it comes to helping children cope with a parent having PTSD, is to love that child unconditionally, and accept and celebrate their own unique personallity. Allow them to be who they are, and don ‘t ever try to force them to conform to an image you have of what an ideal son or daughter “should” be.

        Also, be honest with your child about your limitations, and try to assure them that they are not at fault in any way for your PTSD issues. Be gentle with your children, and be gentle with yourself, just as you would surely try to do if the illness you had were a particularly gruesome terminal cancer.

        I know, looking back, that I was much too controlling and demanding of my children. I expected too much of them, too soon. I thought their behavior reflected on ME, so I tried to control and mold their behavior in an over-zealous way. They suffered for my insecurities, and they suffered for my neediness.

        There were times when I took my emotional pain out on them. I hate admitting that, most of all.

        The renowned poet and activist Maya Angelou said: “You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.”

        Yes, I truly did the best I could with what I had, but my best wasn’t good enough. My best wasn’t what my children needed. They suffered, because they had a broken mother. That is the harsh reality.

        Today I tell my adult children and grandchildren that I was wrong about a lot of things, and that because of my PTSD, my children did not have the safe, secure, sane, loving childhood that all children need and deserve. I do not use my PTSD to make excuses for my grave mistakes as a mother, nor do I use it to minimize what my children suffered, by saying things like “But my childhood was So Much Worse!” Yes, unfortunately, I have said that kind of thing to them in the past, but now I realize that what I went through in my childhood is really beside the point, when it comes to what my kids had to go through in their childhood. The point is that they suffered real pain, and I need to try to make real amends to them for that, if I possibly can.

        That being said, genuine selfless heartfelt LOVE covers a multitude of errors. Love that celebrates who your child IS, not who you want him or her to be.

        Charity

      • Wow, congrats on the great-grandkid on the way!

        Your statement ” is to love that child unconditionally, and accept and celebrate their own unique personallity. Allow them to be who they are, and don ‘t ever try to force them to conform to an image you have of what an ideal son or daughter “should” be.” is so powerful to me. And my greatest fear right now, that I am somehow not enough for my own kids to grow up healthy and secure. I try so hard, but most days feel like I come up short of loving them completely and making sure they know it. I do think they suffer some from my neediness. I have also lashed out at them, though much less these days. It makes me ashamed to think how harshly I have treating them at times. I stopped myself before I really hurt them, but I know they felt the cold anger or detachment and had no idea what they did that was so terrible.

        I also feel broken, and yes, that my family suffers from this. I try to accept it, but some days I don’t. I want to be better.

        My kids are still quite young, and know nothing of my history or troubles. I do tell them I don’t feel well, or just need to rest, or have some time alone. I don’t want them to worry or be frightened, but I do want them to know they did not cause my troubles.

        I also know what you mean, some days I justify my bad behavior with the “my childhood was so much worse”. At least they’re not being abused, tormented, and molested. But, are they being loved unconditionally and lifted up? No, not always. I see this now, and I am working on it. I try to make sure they get attention from hubby, friends, grandma (mother in law, not my abusive mom) when I am unable to reach out to them.

        Things are better. I’m pretty sure they will have some lasting scars from my detachment, and when I did not understand the concept of unconditional love, so did not know how to give it. I’m starting to understand this wonderful gift from my husband.

        Thank you so much for sharing this, it is so comforting for me to have some guidance on this journey from someone who has been there.

      • I just want to clarify what I meant when I said in my last comment that: “I was much too controlling and demanding of my children. I expected too much of them, too soon. I thought their behavior reflected on ME, so I tried to control and mold their behavior in an over-zealous way. They suffered for my insecurities, and they suffered for my neediness.”

        My PTSD symptoms began in 1967, when I was 14 years old. This was 13 years before PTSD was a bona fide diagnosis, and even then it was many years before PTSD was considered for anyone other than a combat war veteran.

        In 1967, when my PTSD symptoms first became apparent, the catch-all “trash can” diagnosis for people with otherwise nonspecific psychiatric illnesses was schizophrenia. This is the diagnosis that I was given at age 14. I have lived with that great big “crazy label” stigma ever since, particularly in the eyes of my family of origin. Despite being told by numerous medical professionals over the years that I was badly misdiagnosed, I always felt that I needed to PROVE my sanity. One way I thought I had to prove it, was by having super-bright, super-polite, extremely well-behaved, high-acheiving children.

        Today I know that I am not crazy. My Complex PTSD is a normal reaction to the extreme traumas and overwhelming abuses I endured during my formative years, no less than it is normal to bleed if you are stabbed. To carry the stabbed-and-bleeding analogy even further, a mother, or a father, who has been brutally stabbed multiple times and left semi-conscious and near death, is in no condition to meet the legitimate needs of small, utterly dependent children. Through no fault of the incapacitated parent.

        If you are able to accept your PTSD as normal in view of your life history, and don’t feel that you have to prove anything by having magnificent children, your children won’t most certainly won’t suffer as severely as mine did. Also, if you are wise enough to remind yourself that when your children “backtalk” or go through a normal adolescent rebellious phase, they are not “rejecting” you the way your abusers did, you will be able to handle it much better than I was able to do.

        Parenting is the most important and the hardest job in the world, I believe, even when the parents are healthy and normal. Add PTSD to the mix, and it really becomes a hard uphill climb. I hope you can be gentle with yourself, as I said, and with your children as well.

        Good luck to you and your family.

      • PS: I have just gone through more of your blog, and discovered that you do not consider yourself to still have PTSD. Awesome! I’m sure your children will grow up to be much healthier and more secure than mine did, since you found your healing while they were still young. In my case, I was so put off by psychiatry as a result of what I went through in my teens, for many years I shied away from getting the help I needed. As a result, my PTSD, which I’ve had the symptoms of for over 45 years, wasn’t diagnosed until the year I turned 50. So, while my trauma story goes very far back in time, my healing journey is still fairly new.

      • Thank you so much for these comments. I have so much to share and ask you. I have no idea if you can actually be cured completely of PTSD, but my symptoms have reduced so much that I feel like it is gone. I used to be non-functional, not sleeping from the nightmares, never leaving home from panic attacks, it was purely awful. So in comparison, it feels like I don’t have it anymore. Great topic for a future blog post, sure has me thinking.

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