Although many people who were abused as children want to leave the past in the past, it is important for your marriage that you address childhood abuse. Whether you were physically, sexually, emotionally abused or neglected, it can impact you in lots of ways if it is not dealt with. It can interfere with intimacy, forming a healthy attachment, trust, and keeping healthy boundaries.
It can be scary to deal with past trauma that you’ve tried to bury. However, counseling can help you feel safe while you address past hurts and work toward dealing with it. Counseling can help you find safe ways to deal with past abuse and assist you in improving your marriage while you address it.
Adults abused as children may struggle with emotional and physical intimacy in the marriage. When children are abused by parents especially, it can leave them with confusion about love. If the only attention children receive is abusive, it can cause them to think that all people show love by hitting or through sexual contact.
Sometimes when children are abused repeatedly, they may start to detach from their bodies. Physically abused children may learn not to cry or show pain if that led to harsher punishments. Sexually abused children may have learned to count ceiling tiles or stare at one object in the room while waiting for the abuse to be over. This can make it hard to be present with a romantic partner as an adult without “zoning out.”
Physical intimacy can be especially problematic for children who were neglected. Children who were neglected by parents may struggle with physical touch and positive attention. Nurturing and physical affections may cause them to pull away or even flinch.
Anything that brings back bad childhood memories can be traumatic. For adults who were sexually abused, this can make having a healthy sex life very difficult. Sexuality can trigger unpleasant memories and physical reactions.
Forming Healthy Attachments
Children who are abused sometimes aren’t taught how to establish healthy attachments to others. This can make it difficult as an adult to form a healthy attachment to a spouse. Attachments can be insecure, causing people to either distance themselves or it can cause anxiety. Fear of abandonment, anger, and control issues are common.
When people are abused by people they love, it can be hard to trust anyone again. Learning how to trust a partner can be very difficult as an adult. Trusting someone else with secrets, trusting that the person won’t betray you, and trusting what the other person says may all be complicated by childhood abuse.
Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Abuse often requires that children keep secrets. Children sometimes learn that families must endure pain for another and that you must sacrifice everything for love. This can make establishing healthy boundaries as an adult difficult.
Childhood abuse can make someone think that they must be a martyr as an adult. They may try to please their spouse at all costs. They may also feel like they must meet everyone else’s needs all the time without meeting their own needs.
Adults abused as children may have a history of unhealthy relationships as adults. Sometimes they are attracted to people who are abusive. Healthy relationships seem foreign and uncomfortable, which can cause people to sometimes create chaos in a marriage if things seem to be going too smoothly.
What to do about Childhood Abuse?
If you were abused as a child, don’t just push those memories into the furthest back in your brain. Don’t ignore problems or try to minimize it. When children are abused, it impacts their brain development. They often learn coping skills to deal with the abuse that are unhealthy in other areas of life. Abuse also prevents people from learning important problem-solving, conflict resolution and communication skills.
If you have not addressed your childhood abuse, consider getting some help. Counseling can assist you in learning how the abuse impacted you and it can teach you new skills to help ensure you have a happy and healthy marriage.
A history of abuse does not mean you are doomed or damaged beyond repair. Instead, it means that you may have some work to do to address the past and to assist you in reaching your full potential. Personal growth is important for everyone and counseling is one option to help ensure that you are dealing with past abuse in a way that is healthy.
Marriage counseling can be helpful to assist you in identifying areas of your marriage that may need some work. It can also help your spouse to understand you better. Working together on marital issues can help build a stronger, healthier marriage.