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How to rebuild marriage with person who caused emotional damage

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  • #126314
    Bird
    Participant

    My husband and I have been married for over 20 years; for over 10 years he’s gaslighted me (I now realise). It’s been a long journey, and for right or for wrong, I stayed with him. I’m unequivocally not excusing him; but having been so confused for so long I now see where his stress came from (work) and how he turned it around on to me. Not cool, not acceptable (and no longer accepted).

    Over the past couple of months he’s come to see what he’s been doing, and how much damage he’s caused. I can see from his new behaviours that he’s really trying to be a better man now. My problem is that I don’t feel very much different. I’ve built such a protective barrier around myself that I really can’t imagine ever letting it drop. I can see him doing kind, caring, loving things; but I don’t *feel* them. And I guess that in all those years, I always thought that if only he’d go back to being the kind, caring, loving man that I once knew, everything would be great. But reality (as is often the case!) is very different.

    There are lots of articles about moving on from an emotionally damaging relationship; but I’m finding it very difficult to find anything about recovering whilst staying in a previously emotionally damaging relationship. I know I’ll always be on my guard, and will quite likely have my sensitivity setting turned slightly higher than it used to be before – I know that there’s always a chance he’ll return to his old ways. I don’t want to feel that way; but I never believed he could have hurt me in the first place, and look what happened. So I’m not being naïve, and I know that things can’t go back to the way they were. What’s shocked me is that the reason why things won’t go back to how they were isn’t him: it’s me and my guard (which I’m not beating myself up about; I did what I could to stay emotionally as sane as possible).

    Anyway. Apologies for rattling on! If any of you have any advice, or can point me in the direction of any articles, I’d be very grateful. I’d like to know how I can recover myself enough to let my guard down sufficiently that we can hopefully move forward. I’d hate to have given over ten years in the hope that he’d become a better man, and then find that I’m unable to be someone who can relax enough to benefit when he did actually change.

    Many thanks,

    Bird

    #126319
    Regina
    Participant

    I´m not married, never have been and enduring a heartbreak from getting dump, in part because I couldnt relax. Because I was uptight.

    My situation is entirely different to yours. But here´s my personal perspective.

    If you love him and you really want to save your marriage you should maybe try therapy. I sort of know how you feel (maybe) that you can´t trust your feelings and emotions with him anymore because you´re afraid of getting hurt again and blaming yourself for trusting him and letting yourself be exposed.

    There´s two things that can happen from this:

    1- you keep your guard up and maybe ruin your marriage because you´re not open to trying it out again with him
    2- Letting your guard down maybe things work perfectly, maybe they don´t but at least you can rest in peace knowing you gave it your all. If your marriage does indeed fail you can at least know you gave it your all.

    Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. You´re not forgiving his previous behaviour. He´s trying to change and you´re not forgiving what he did in the past. Yes! your relationship was rocky and built a protective hard to care for yourself. But are you willing to give it another chance or do you simply wish to have nothing to do with it?

    This article about emotions is really good. it might help you unclutter everything you´ve been building up inside yourself. http://www.mkprojects.com/emotions

    Wishing you all the best and that you can love and be loved again.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by Regina.
    #126323
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bird:

    Looking at the title of your thread: how to rebuild marriage with person who caused emotional damage-

    you live with your guard up, alert to danger, for as long as you feel this way. Since you can’t change how you feel, don’t try. I don’t think there is an article that will change the natural dynamic of a person (or any living thing) withdrawing from pain, or running away (emotionally, in your case) from perceived danger.

    Sometimes one person causes so much damage in another, that anything but running away is impossible; so much damage that … the damage has been done and can’t be undone.

    Give it more time, pay attention to how he behaves and how you feel- gather information on these two fronts and re-evaluate later.

    Post anytime.

    anita

    #129117
    Meg
    Participant

    Thanks for posting. I’m in the exact same situation and wanted you to know you’re not alone. I hope things get better for you.

    #385902
    Makingtide
    Participant

    I wish there had been more answers in this thread.  I’m on the other side of this equation.  I’ve caused so much harm and pain to my wife over 25 years (some I was aware of, lots I wasn’t), but I want to change and want to make her happy.  She doesn’t see that there is a path forward for us and I have a lot of trouble accepting that.  I so desperately want to save our marriage, make her happy, respect her, cherish her and I’m doing everything in my power to change (including men’s behavioural change courses), but she just wants a divorce.   She’s really hurting.

    After reading all the stories like mine, it seems there is no chance, but I want to believe there is.  Is there anyone out there that actually recovered from this and ended up in a happy, respectful, healthy relationship without divorce?

    I know I’ve been the problem.  I don’t deny it, so please be sensitive in answers.  I’m hurting too.

    #385911
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Makingtide:

    Key for me to understand your situation and maybe being able to help you figure out if there is a reasonable chance for you to continue and heal your marriage is in your answers to these questions:

    1. “I’ve caused so much harm and pain to my wife over 25 years (some I was aware of, lots I wasn’t)“-  you hurt your wife in certain ways without your awareness. Did she not tell you over the 25 years in what ways you were hurting her… or did she tell you of these ways only recently?

    2. “I want to change and want to make her happy… I’m doing everything in my power to change“- did you try to change at any time during the past 25 years of the marriage, or is the current time (because she is considering divorce) the first time that you are trying to change?

    anita

    #385913
    Vikram
    Participant

    Dear Makingtide,

    I understand how you feel. Although you accept that you have caused harm and pain to your wife over 25 years, the pain and hurt that you experience now is real too. With the little experience that I have, I can only advise what could change the situation quickly. You have to start living in gratitude. You have to practice chanting thank-you’s thousands of times a day. The chanting should not be mindless uttering of the words thank-you but you have to see the beauty of every situation, and every thing. You have to see the good in everything that is happening in your life now. Root out hatred from your being and let your heart open.  If practiced correctly this will quickly change you and the change would be palpable to your wife. Gratitude is magic. But you cannot cheat(lie to yourself) while practicing gratitude, doing so will nullify everything. You need patience too. Within sometime compassion will start flowing and you would be in a better place to make her happy and cherish her. God bless.

    #385941
    Vikram
    Participant

    Dear Makingtide,

    I will also like to share some other tools that I used to lessen the pain and heal. Please note that I am on the other side..the hurt spouse. I employed healing tools like EFT, EMDR and Hoe’ponopono. Whenever I saw a panic attack coming in I would resort to self administered EFT or EMDR. I also watched a lot of Youtube videos of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and teacher. The clarity of thoughts and insights that you get from his videos is invaluable. If you really want to mend this marriage, you will have to be magician, to find out more and more of the inside world of your spouse. You will have to be in a non-judgemental place and accept all her weaknesses. Getting to know her better and accepting her as she is would start a new chapter in your life. You will be surprised to know how little you know her. While you do this, you also need to keep healing yourself of whatever baggage you carry. Together both of you can heal and thrive. It really happens. Believe! Every moment is a miracle. You have to just accept the miracle and be grateful for it. You are the captain of you ship and you will have to do all the work, the good and the bad. Tread carefully and you will get lucky. EFT and EMDR are invaluable. The beauty of the journey is that you will understand more about yourself than you did before you started. Both of you can heal together, I have faith in this. A prayer a day for your spouse also allows your mind to dwell on the good in the relationship and forgive the deficiencies. Give it all you have. Good luck and God Bless

    #385942
    Makingtide
    Participant

    Hi Anita
    I response to your questions:

    1. Did she not tell you over the 25 years in what ways you were hurting her… or did she tell you of these ways only recently?

    No, she rarely told me how she was feeling.  She came into the marriage with existing trauma and did not confide deep stuff to me, partly because she was already programmed not to, but also because she was afraid of how I’d react.

    2. Did you try to change at any time during the past 25 years of the marriage, or is the current time (because she is considering divorce) the first time that you are trying to change?

    I tried a few times to change some of the stuff I became aware of, but now a lot.  It was only when she finally opened up about how much pain I’d caused that I started putting in a serious effort and sought counselling and help from behavioural change specialists. It was not long after that that she told me she wanted a divorce – that initially gave me even more drive to change and demonstrate how I wanted to be for her, but the energy to keep up the changes is lagging and her  attitude toward me is still in divorce mode.  That makes it even harder to find the energy and motivation to change – old habits come back too easily, but I still want to be a better person (with or without her) and I still love her and want to save the marriage.

    #385943
    Makingtide
    Participant

    Hi Vikram

    I don’t need her to change – I accept her as she is.  I love her exactly as she is.  There are things that she could change that would make things better, but my love for her is not conditional on that.

    I will keep trying until my last breath or until she cuts the knot, but it’s so difficult to communicate with her any more.  We are now living apart and she has made it harder and harder for me to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

    She doesn’t want to try for this and that’s hard to accept after nearly three decades.

    #385952
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Makingtide:

    I read your two recent posts, including your answers to my questions, and to me, based on posts, and having very little information on your situation, you read like an honest, logical and reasonable man who loves his wife and wants her back.

    she rarely told me how she was feeling.  She came into the marriage with existing trauma and did not confide deep stuff to me, partly because she was already programmed not to, but also because she was afraid of how I’d react…  she finally opened up about how much pain I’d caused…I started putting in a serious effort and sought counselling.. It was not long after that that she told me she wanted a divorce.. her  attitude toward me is still in divorce mode… We are now living apart“-

    – If the behaviors on your part that upset her so much during the marriage were closely related to her pre-existing trauma, that is, trauma that preceded the relationship with you (ex.: she was sexually abused and your offensive behavior was a habit of watching pornography), and you were aware of her trauma and yet proceeded to engage in the activity for many years, then I can understand her reluctance to resume a marriage with you.

    If the offensive behaviors are not related to her trauma, and/or are minor, or.. are not offenses at all (ex, of the latter: you have a sister who has been nice and respectful to your wife, but your wife doesn’t like your sister’s political views, and felt offended when you visited your sister at your sister’s home), then your wife doesn’t read like a reasonable person.

    Maybe the anger she has suppressed for all the years before “she finally opened up” has been too intense and too massive for her to contain and push down again, regardless of the nature of your offensive behaviors. I imagine that her anger at you is not separated from her anger regarding her trauma which preceded her relationship with you.

    The variables in the story that have a lot to do with whether you can save and heal the marriage- or not are (1) the nature of her pre-existing trauma, (2) your awareness of her trauma through the years, (3) the nature of your offensive behaviors, (4) whether one of your offensive behaviors has been aggression toward her when angry, verbal or otherwise (“she was afraid of how I’d react”).

    You are welcome to elaborate on any of these variables.

    anita

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