Into Me See

Holding Hands

I write about parenting often. I write about it because I have experience with parenting. It is important to note that my definition of “experience” is several small victories and a series of situations filed under “what was I thinking?” But I am still a parent, and I have put in my time, so it counts as experience.

Experience is the same reason I don’t usually write about intimate relationships. I don’t know anything about them. I’ve never had one. It doesn’t mean I haven’t dated or been married. I have done that. I am very efficient at marriage. I can get through an entire marriage in just four years. I have done that twice. In case you don’t sense the sarcasm, I am NOT proud of that.

The universal law of attraction makes it impossible for one traumatized person to attract a partner without trauma. Therefore, for an unrecovered trauma survivor, marriage is not an intimate relationship. Marriage is more like an arrangement between two adults who are not willing to open their hearts to another person. “Let’s live in the same house. We might even have kids. But don’t ask me to love you. I am not capable of that. My heart has been ground up and spit out.” I know that’s not a lovely image, but it’s accurate.

The closest I came to a relationship with moments of true intimacy was my last relationship with my children’s father. There were moments which were almost vulnerable. There were moments which seemed like an authentic connection might have been made. If children had not appeared on the scene, we might have convinced others (and ourselves) that our relationship was the real deal. But the twins stopped that train in its tracks.

Children provide all the necessary triggers to make a survivor want to throw themselves off a bridge. The pain starts as soon as the child reaches the age of the survivor when the abuse began. And that pain is intense. My ex-husband and I had both suffered severe abuse, so our triggers started very early. I chose a path of recovery. My ex chose a path of self-destruction. He walked out, eventually moving back in with his childhood abusers, and taking his own life.

When I think about our marriage, I realize that we never had a chance. Our relationship was the epitome of enmeshment, co-dependence, addiction and enablement. And the house of cards came crashing down as soon as the two new heartbeats came through the front door. I sometimes wonder how it could have been different. Why didn’t I walk away when he first started showing signs of addiction? Why didn’t I know that kids would be a bad idea? Why didn’t I know he would run away when I told him to take responsibility? Why didn’t I realize that he would walk back in to the lion’s den when he left us?

I could have stopped the madness so many times. But we had an arrangement. We had an agreement. No matter how dysfunctional it became, we were supposed to stand by our promise. Of course, in the end, he didn’t. The pain was too much. Sometimes, I look at the empty chair and ask, “Why didn’t you make another choice?” “Why didn’t you make my choice?” I don’t regret the end of our relationship, but I do regret that my children will never remember their father.

My experience in relationship is not intimacy. It is experience in what not to do. It is experience in what happens when the heart is not available to love another person. My experience shows that there is no substitute for vulnerability and openness in relationships. There is no shortcut. The only true path is healing. I don’t know if I will heal enough for an intimate relationship, but I like to think I will. I may not know what to do, but I know what not to do.


10 thoughts on “Into Me See

  1. My spouse was never abused. I was. He helped me get out of my hell hole. It wouldn’t have worked though if he was trying to recover from the same. And just when I thought I was healed, I had my daughter. Yes, having a child brought back all my worst thoughts. It is inevitable. While I do not agree with suicide, I can certainly understand your ex’s predicament.


  2. I’ve been married 10 years and I love my Hubby, but I can’t feel like someone who hasn’t been abused. He has intimacy issues too, so it’s a struggle but we are both getting help. I can so relate to what you wrote. xo


  3. Elizabeth, Thank you for your openness and willingness to share such important thoughts and experiences. My own marriage, while it has lasted, is far from intimate in many ways. He still does not know much about my trauma. I keep myself very separate from him emotionally which has worked for us since he has asperger’s. I think a reason I chose him is that he is quite oblivious to my mood swings and issues, he simply does not notice. The more therapy I do, the more I see how it really is between us, and I begin to yearn for more. Now I am starting to want to be noticed…


    • Thank you so much for sharing this story Jane. I can completely understand choosing someone with asperger’s. The emotional distance might feel safe. I can also understand wanting something more as you heal. As I have changed, I have felt the same desire for something more – a deeper relationship.


  4. Even if we can manage to maintain relationships, there is always some sort of “weirdness” to the ones we do have. For some reason, when my son turned 4 I didn’t have as many triggers as I did when my daughter was born. Perhaps it’s because she’s a girl. I think I really reacted out of a sense of responsibility to protect her but just her presence has completely changed me and my views on my abusive parents. I’m so sorry for the failed relationships that you’ve endured. It’s like adding insult to injury. You deserve love whether it be given or received.


    • Thank you so much. I feel like I will get there someday. My daughter definitely brings up different triggers than my son. I definitely feel more protective of my daughter and I sometimes look at her as a potential victim (scary stuff). With my son, I have to fight my urge to see him as aggressive (also scary).


  5. Wow, I can relate so much, thank you for sharing this. I have also experienced the law of attraction, the only relationships I’ve had have also been with other survivors, and none of them led to healing or true intimacy–some ended when the other person found an abuser they’d rather date or yes, decided to move back in with their abusive parents. Or sometimes I retreated because I was sure I wasn’t good enough, in the long period of my eating disorder. It’s terrible to lose someone like that, I’m so sorry you experienced that with your husband. I’ve felt kind of embarrassed that because of the abuse, I’ve really had very few romantic connections at all. But it’s an understandable outcome I’m sure.


    • Sometimes I think that intimate relationships is a final frontier. I feel like I have worked out so many other aspects of my life, but that is just so intimidating. I think with sexual abuse, it truly is the big hurdle. It can be so re-traumatizing. Some days, I feel ready and confident. Other days, I am so comfortable and happy to be alone. Its a tough one.


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