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TherapistMarryAnn
TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5770
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I know I should see someone in person about this, but do to

Customer Question

Hello, I know I should see someone in person about this, but do to a busy lifestyle I wouldn't be able to for some while.
My husband, who has had a very difficult childhood from the start revealed to me the other night that he had a very promiscuous childhood. I have been aware that his was abused by his mother, that he has been incredibly poor his entire life (not eating for days due to no family income), and that these factors as well as other things have caused to to be a very stand up man who always wants to do the right thing for himself, his God, and his family. He is very level headed, smart, nice, trustworthy, and genuine and he has never intentionally lied to me.
As I said, the other night I brought up some scenarios that I know our children might face when they are growing up, based on my remebering a movie I saw a long time ago. Then I told him how it related to me and wanted to know if he had any similar situations. I was honestly expecting him to say no because as I said I was confident I knee everything about his past, but I was wrong. My husband to me that he had an incestuous relationship with his older brother and then following his younger sister starting around age 6. Then it moved to all parts of his life. It transferred to his step sister, and male and female friends.
I have been non stop running through everything he said and I can't seem to think about anything else which is affecting all the aspects of my life. I'm not sure if what he went through is considered sexual abuse by him or others. I don't know if that means he has those tendencies innate in himself. I'm confused how it lasted so (5/6-12/13).
He says he is ashamed and he has never told anyone. He says he was a kid and he knew it was wrong but he couldn't stop. He later found out that his little sister had an innapropriate relationship with their step father while he and his brother were still enthralled in their own separate innapropriate relationships.
All this information has made me sick because I'm afraid it means their is something wrong with his family. Many times he has told me that his older brother is secretly the product of his mother and grandfather. So is it that there is something there that makes it normal. This makes me worry for my children.
I have no idea how to move on or if i should, im afraid, sick, heartbroken that his childhood was so difficult, confused, worried, and numb.
Eventhough I know this is a difficult situation, is there any advice for how to move forward?
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I should clarify that he was physically abused by his mother from almost right after birth to 3/4. She also kept him away from his father for the first few years of his life because she wanted control of the situation.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 3 months ago.

Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

I'm sorry to hear that you are going through this very difficult situation with your husband. It may be a shock to you and he may be experiencing deep shame and low self esteem from what you describe. But you both can get through this.

First, it is a testament to your marriage and how your husband feels about you that he was able to even share what he went through. He seems to trust you a great deal. That may not be a huge factor for you right now given what you are coping with, but his trust in you will help repair your relationship and also help him heal.

Second, it sounds like your husband was horribly sexually abused by his family. He not only suffered through poverty and going hungry as a result, but he was a target of his family members, especially his mother who should have been helping him through, not hurting him. When someone is abused as a child, their idea of right and wrong becomes skewed. He may not have realized until he became an adult that sexual abuse and incest were wrong. It is not unlike parents who abuse their children who then abuse others or become bullies. Children don't know much other than what they are taught by family. And if a good number of your husband's family members were incestuous, he may have thought it was normal behavior. Children also lack the power to say no. They depend very much on family to take care of them or even keep them alive. To say no when you have no power to do so is almost impossible. And because his mother made the abuse a secret (not uncommon at all) then he may have been too scared to tell another adult what he was going through until he told you.

Third, neither of you should be facing this alone. Seeing a therapist is imperative. Many therapists work nights and weekends and will try to accommodate your schedule. You can also try on line therapy which is available almost around the clock. Your husband needs to work through his abuse and heal and you need a chance to work on your emotions around what you learned and also how to help your husband. And you both need a lot of support right now.

If your husband was abused physically at such a young age and his mother controlled him, that is added physical and emotional trauma. If his father was not allowed to be involved, that means your husband's total exposure to what is normal was through his very abusive mother. It's amazing that he was able to cope with all he went through and became the person he is today with you and your children.

Here are some resources you and your husband can use at home until you can see a therapist:

Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners

by ***** ***** Ph.D. (Author), Patrick Carnes Ph.D.

Adult Children of Abusive Parents: A Healing Program for Those Who Have Been Physically, Sexually, or Emotionally Abused Steven Farmer

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

by Susan Forward and Craig Buck

Most of all, try to take everything a step at a time. You have just been through a shock and your husband has just shared something deeply painful. You both need time and help in healing. This changes your relationship and you both need to work on how you will recover and come back together with an even stronger marriage. It is very possible so there is reason to feel encouraged.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate

May I please request that if you find the service I provided helpful at all that you rate me with three or above? Your rating is the only way I am reimbursed for my answer. Thank you so much!

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I am aware that what he went through is a product of his environment. But the extent of what happened especially when he brought it elsewhere seems not normal, and for so long. He stated that it was hard for him to resist his attraction to his sister when he was going through puberty (the innapropriate relationship had stopped by then). I don't know how someone could feel like that? The type of sexual acts that were done also seem so wrong for children. It makes me scared for my children and I'm worried I won't be enough for him eventually.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 3 months ago.

If he was taught that sex with relatives was normal, then the attraction he felt for his sister would seem normal to him. What is normal in one culture may be seen as wrong in another. The "culture" your husband grew up in was very dysfunctional but he didn't know that until he found out for himself. It may seem upsetting to anyone who has not gone through sexual abuse but it is very common for sexually abused children to feel attraction or even to defend what happened (abuse can develop into Stockholm Syndrome as well). I am not saying your fears and concerns are not completely normal. They are very normal. But because your husband is telling you this now and the behavior has stopped, as well as your husband hiding the abuse until now all adds up to him realizing how wrong it was.

There is also the fact that so many family members participated in the abuse. Often there is only one family member who is abusive, usually the father or mother, and the children are abused by the parent. But in your husband's case, it seems there was family participation which is more rare, but it does happen. With so many family members involved, your husband literally had very few if no family members that were not abusive. The fact that he took this abuse elsewhere and participated himself for a long time would not be unusual in such a situation.

If you are scared about your husband's interaction with your children, talk to him about it. See his reaction. Also, if you can get to therapy, which is going to really help with this part, you need to express your fears to the therapist. The therapist can help you evaluate any potential issues with your children. You can also talk to your children depending on their ages. If they are older, try talking to them in general, leaving out details. For example, tell them their father was abused as a child and ask them how they feel about that. If you feel okay, your husband can be there as well. Let your children ask questions and be as open as possible without telling them the details of the abuse. You don't want to traumatize them.

Kate

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
He knew to some extent it was wrong. He started living with his father and when he remarried the activities occurred with his step sister. When they were caught his father talked to him about how it was inappropriate, so it stopped. His dad also discovered him with one of his male friends to with his father said the same thing. He admitted that he knew it was wrong and he thought he was messed up for the longest time because him and his brother still had inappropriate relationships with their sister (mom's family). He said he couldnt stop, so he was worried that he wasn't normal. He holds his father so high in terms of a parental figure and he credits him for saving him from the physical abuse. I just don't understand how he wouldn't stop after his father told him it was wrong. Every other part of his life he absolutely followed his father's advice/information.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 3 months ago.

What he went through may have been ingrained by then. If you spend your life doing something one way and were taught that it was okay, it takes time to change your behavior when you learn otherwise. Being abused your entire childhood will cause all kinds of issues including PTSD and other trauma related problems. It takes a long time to undo those behaviors and learn what is normal then act on it.

Kate

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