We're special, we who were abused as kids. We survived. Serious high-fives to every one of us. I know it wasn't easy, this surviving. Here's what I know:
It wasn't your partner's fault. They were a kid. It is never, ever a child's fault.
They aren't damaged, they were wounded -- and there's a difference.
They have infinite value.
They are lovable, and loving.
They have such tremendous courage.
I felt, as a child, a teenager, and then early adult that I had been plucked from a different planet and placed on earth. I walked around inside a body, but the core of me, all that was me, knew I carried the weight of the shame of our family. I was borderless, lost inside myself and knew with certainty, no one could possibly understand.
So I compensated. I became proficient at many things: pianist, guitarist, singer, equestrian, pilot, college student. Between my time in Africa and America I managed a medical station in the bush, held down two jobs in college, kept tabs on my far flung sisters, got hooked on the idea of love, married and had two children. Yet always -- always I looked over my shoulder wondering who would expose me to be a fraud... damaged, perhaps beyond repair.
It took a jolt of reality, seeing my own children at risk, for me to embark on the voyage to emotional health. Healing takes time and tremendous effort; to dismantle the voices of the past, to embrace the truth that who I am now, the loving and lovable person that is me, is me because of my past.
My husband says I'm exotic, inclusive of strikingly, excitingly, and mysteriously unusual. How loving is that? Our life together has not been just peaches and cream. He has unwittingly bumped up against a vulnerability of mine that required caring discussion. He has had to learn what can trigger PTS in me. And I have had to learn to talk about it. I'm fond of saying "I flunked Mind-Reading 101." So did he. He can't know these tender spots if I don't tell him.
So, here are a few ideas for a spouse or partner.
- Accept your partner for who she/he is. You fell in love with this person. Their depth is so much more than you understood when you met them. They survived, able to love.
Your acceptance of her/his unique mosaic will confirm their newfound belief about their worth. Every time your spouse smiles, each time she/he is tender with words, a touch, or a special expression they are showing their trust in you. Since trusting again is one of the biggest hurdles your survivor faces, celebrate that gift. You are loved by a courageous, fascinating, multi-faceted work of art. Know that your partner lives in gratitude for the safety that is you.
Laura would love to hear from you here, or at www.lauralandgraf.com.