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 ex-husband and 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 relationship with my ex-husband was not about intimacy. It was about what not to do. I learned 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.
In the meantime, I have been working at establishing trust in relationships through a crash course in unconditional love. The teachers are my children. I have learned that refusing to open my heart to my children is the greatest karmic crime I can commit. I realize that my ex-husband made a choice that I was never meant to make. I am not here to pass my trauma to my children. I am here to break the cycle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s messy. Every day, I learn what not to do (usually by doing it first). The good news is my kids are wired to forgive. So, we keep moving forward. We are teaching each other how to be a real family … the kind of family I have always wanted.
About Elisabeth: Elisabeth is a survivor of family-controlled child sex trafficking and ritual sex abuse. Her education in social work and her personal experiences as a survivor inform her intimate discussion about the biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of trauma recovery, which she discusses on her blog and facebook page. She writes about breaking the cycle of abuse through conscious parenting, navigating intimate relationships as a survivor, balancing the memory recovery process with daily life, coping with self-doubt, and overcoming the physical symptoms of a traumatic childhood.
*I have created TDP – Your Stories as a safe space for readers to share about life as double parent. I’m calling this space “Your Stories” because I hope many of you will be share your stories, questions, inspiration, struggles, tears, triumphs etc so that we all may glean from and contribute to the collective wisdom. Please feel free to comment and if you would like to share your story then please contact me by clicking here.