We all carry wounds within us; some more than others. Some of us work hard to overcome the challenges such experiences may have left behind. Others try to walk away and not look back. Most of my life, I was more or less the second type. Growing up I endured physiological and mental abuse; for me it was not just a once or twice experience but a recurrent event all through my childhood and into my young adulthood.
When I was 11; while staying with my grandparents in a small town; I was witness to the remnants of a massacre a terrorist group inflicted; an attack in which I lost friends. Seeing the blood on the walls and the dead bodies, after having spent a whole night in hiding, listening to things blow up around me, will forever be engraved in my mind. I remember the look of fear my mother and her family had, yet they tried to remain strong for all of us. By the time I turned 12, I had already survived multiple rapes, beatings and psychological abuse.
I tried to bury the memories so deep within me that I never dared to look back at them; whenever they threatened to resurface I would force myself not to think about it, and if I could not, I would pick a bottle and drink. I was drinking more than I should have by the time I was 15. I noticed by then something was wrong with me; I was like two different people; on one hand I was the good daughter, getting the best grades, quiet and docile, on the other I would react very defensively at any sign of abuse towards others, and become outspoken, opinionated, not caring who I confronted or how dangerous the situation was.
That was not the end however as my troubles followed me through my first two relationships. The first one was the most destructive. I was very young, a teenager and inexperienced. The abusive was constant day in and day out. The only good thing that I got from that relationship is my eldest daughter. She became my reason for leaving that toxicity behind. I was determined not to see her grow under the same circumstances I did or worst. Looking back, the saddest part was that even though I had decided to walk away; leaving hurt. Am sure many people after reading what I just wrote would ask why? why would it hurt?…because good or bad I had gotten so used to abuse, that that man had become my savior. He had defended me against all the others who had abused me before; as such I felt such loyalty towards him. I was so wounded and messed up that I thought his own abusive actions were love. I guess I saw him as the best of two evils. All the while I hid the pain behind smiles; telling myself over and over again that a man who was so romantic with me, must love me. I told myself that if I tried harder all would be okay, because then he would not loose his temper, leaving me emotionally and physically broken.
I got married a couple of years after leaving my first relationship.
I got married following the advice of friends and family (not ill advice, but people who truly thought they were doing what was best for me; or maybe deep inside they knew the mess my life had been and probably figured that he would be the answer to my troubles).
To all who looked from the outside, my marriage was a happy one. The type of marriage most people can only dream of. Nobody knew that by then my PTSD was already through the roof; nobody knew or care why I would cry so much or why I would lock myself in a room trying to forget; at other times trying to understand what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I find happiness in a life which many claimed I should have been grateful for?…but I couldn’t. I tried, and maybe God will be the only one who will ever know just how much I tried.
I tried opening up to who was then my husband, but it was as if there was always a wall. On the outside I was the strong, loving woman, who could be odd at times with her personality. People got used to it, and if they did not, they hid it well or simply ignored it. There were things in that marriage that made it less than perfect, but that is something that no one knew. I never told anyone because I thought it was none of their business, or maybe I just got used to no one wanting to hear about it or unwilling to help; maybe in fear of having to confront their own demons. Needles to say after so much trying and counseling, I ended the relationship. My decision to divorce cost me some of my extended family and friends; even though I left with nothing but my kids.
While going to school to become a counselor I decided to seek help for myself; hoping to understand more of who I was and why I was so different. As therapy progressed I grew. I wanted to emerge not as the person everyone wanted me to be but as the person I am; with all my facets, my virtues and my flaws. I wanted to be real, not fake. I wanted to fight for my life; that life that was stolen from me starting at the age of 5. I didn’t want to hide anymore or to keep secrets. I didn’t want to pretend that my life had been all rainbow and roses when that was not the truth. No amount of hiding or money was ever going to cover that up.
I won’t deny therapy brought up so much anger and confusion yet the more I faced my demons, the more determined I became not to give up. I chose me over the fear of disappointing others. I made choices no one could understand; it was not for them to understand and now am okay with that. The more I grew the more outspoken and certain of myself I became. The more I grew the more I wanted of me. There were days of total joy and feelings of hope, and there were days when I cried and wanted to disappear; feeling alone, lost and confused.
You may wonder how then any of this has anything to do with growing within your relationship; well here it is…
I am now in my third relationship; and so far it has been the most confusing, mind blowing adventure I have ever taken. My partner and I both have our wounds from the past, and we both had things to overcome during this journey. There were moments were we thought we would drive each other insane, and moments of happiness and joy such as neither one of us had experienced before. We both inflicted pain to each other indirectly by our actions or inactions, but we also brought healing to our wounds.
It has now been a few years and I am happy to say we have grown stronger. I can only say that no matter how hard life has gotten at times, one thing we did not do is give up on each other. I have to admit that at times my fears got such tight grip on me that I felt as if my life was threatened and it was my partner’s determination to not let go of us which helped us made it through. Reminding me of how much love and joy we have when neither one of us focuses on our wounds, and how real we are with one another. There were times in which certain of his actions would leave me feeling so wounded, and incapable of seeing him; I would only see what others wanted me to see in him.
There came a point when I thought “this is it”, “I can’t do this anymore”; it was his faith in us that pulled us through. There were times that life gave him such a beating as well; at those times it was my turn to pick him up from the ground, my turn to show him love. It has been such a learning experience and one that has not ended, but one that has been worth it; we are now more than ever in unison.
You may ask why we could not do this before with others?. Well as the metaphysical and monist person that I am, I am a firm believer that not everyone is meant for us. Some people come to our lives to stay and some to teach us a lesson. Through our struggles and previous relationships we both learnt things.
Those people were our lessons!…Besides as a result we got our kids; and although it is hard to guide children who undergo a divorce; it is nevertheless a blessing.
So remember that only God knows why your life unfolded the way it did, and only he knows what lessons your children have to learn out of the whole experience.
This has worked because something inside of us is a reflection of each other. Is like we have known each other all our lives, and we have no problem showing each other our shortcomings and being real with one another.
There is a saying when the right person for your soul enters your life, only then you will understand why it did not work with others. I believe it did not work with others because we were not meant to be with those people. We were both young and immature; those relationships were preparing the path for what was to become “us”. There is a reason why when you are with the person that is meant for you, no matter how scare you are to dig deep, you do! why? because you love them, and want what is best for yourself and for them.
People always say “trust God”, why then do they not apply the same reasoning when it comes to endings and beginnings?…if God or the Universe or whatever you call it didn’t want you to meet someone or be part of something it would not have unfolded as it did. It gives us choice…Life makes not mistakes. Some things will work out and some won’t and that is just part of this rollercoaster called life.
Here are some hints to help you in your relationship or if you are in a relationship with a survivor:
-This is perhaps the most important; BE PATIENT. Sometimes it may feel what is happening is personal… remember is not!. Your partner is learning to trust and might be seeing you with caution and through wounded eyes. They may not be seeing you but those before you!.
-Don’t enable. Yes you can be patient and stand your ground. What you are looking for is healing; do not enable your partner to believe that a pattern of behavior that has been damaging is the norm.
-Identify where the stresses are coming from. Sometimes we get lost in it all and we loose sight of where it all originates. This happened to us!. Sit down and identify the problems. Are they your problems? or are other people or situations the cause of it?. Make a commitment to eliminate all external stresses, and if you can’t help that, at least commit yourselves to simply walk away and ignore anything that does not contribute to your healing.
-Set up boundaries. You can make healthy boundaries part of your lifestyle. In our case, we chose to not let others influence our relationship. Avoid extra stresses by removing anything that does not contribute to your growth as a couple. Listen to advice from your close ones but remember that you and your partner are the priority, and if the advise does not apply to you, then let it go.
Remember those who do care for you want to see you happy, and they will not be offended if you choose not to follow their advise because they understand you are your own persons.
Something else we incorporated in our lives is the rule that no matter what, we will do something fun every week just for us. If you choose to go on holidays, make it a rule not to speak of your troubles, or children. Concentrate on you, better yet turn your phone off ( you can leave the hotel number where you will be staying in case of emergency with your children).
Get the help of an experienced professional. Believe it or not it helps. Sometimes someone else can help you explore other possibilities that may have alluded you. Your therapist will have your best interest at heart. Remember you are not there to work on just one of you; you are a team. You are there to acknowledge your shortcomings more so than that of your partners, and to celebrate one another. A good therapist who understands both of you and can see the love in your relationship will always brighten your day. For us going to counseling to heal our wounds has been challenging but also a beautiful experience; one that usually leaves us with a smile and more connected. Other times we may not be laughing but we are thicker than ever because we got to see our wounded sides and can then understand each other. Do not underestimate the power of an experienced, well matched therapist.
–Lastly remember that no matter what life brings, if your partner is choosing to see your wounds and to open theirs; that is something you should honour. Love is not just a word but an action!
When real love is there you become a better version of the previous you. Embrace the healing process. Remember that if you have chosen to show this person all of your shortcomings and have chosen to be real and your partner remains there; not to just stand and watch, not just to expect you to do the work alone, not just to work on yourself; then you have someone who is a reflection of you!.
Everything that happened before were just lessons, you are both “virgin”; for virginity is not a matter of physicality but that of spirit. You are choosing to give your partner the parts of your soul you never allowed others to see… that is true virginity.. that is real.. that is the connection that can not be broken.
You are not broken, you are not damaged, you are a soul in the process of healing; and how wonderful it is to do that with another soul who is a reflection of you!.
I am so thankful for my partner and so hounoured to be part of his healing as he is part of mine!. I wish for more and more people to learn to open up about who they really are and their struggles, only then we can be real with one another.