My wife and I have been married for 22-1/2 years and have four children. During most of this time, I had no idea that my wife had experienced serious traumas as an infant. I knew there had been abuse in the family, by my wife’s father of some of her sisters, but my wife had somehow blocked from her memory that this also happened to her. In retrospect, it is probably a blessing that I didn’t know the details of her history, which only emerged much later, long after our relationship had weathered other minor growing pains, probably typical of many marriages.
My wife sought counseling at various points in our marriage. This always made me a bit uncomfortable because I didn’t understand the reasons for, or her need of, counseling. When she began spiritual direction with a Franciscan priest about 16 years into our marriage, it seemed, from my perspective, that our relationship was being threatened. I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I must have sensed it was something serious. Her memories of past abuses hadn’t surfaced yet, but relationship problems developed between my wife and some of her sisters, which added further stresses.
Eventually, as a result of continued prayer and spiritual counseling, which my wife had initiated with a Catholic psychologist and a team of others working with under t the direction and approval of the Diocesan Bishop, the details of my wife’s early childhood abuse surfaced. She has shared much of this process, and her emerging memories, with me.
Remarkably, despite my wife’s traumatic history, our children do not seem to have suffered any serious effects, and our marriage and family are grown closer. We are clearly blessed. I attribute this to our strong Catholic faith, daily Mass, and frequent confession. We go on retreats several times per year, and are both very involved in our parish, our children’s Catholic school, and other spiritual things. Two of our children are in Catholic colleges, and none have had problems with drugs, sexual impurity, improper relationships, etc. We are all very happy.
As I reflect back on our life together, with the added knowledge of the unbelievable things that happened to my wife as a young child, I can more easily understand the reasons for some of the struggles we had, especially early in our marriage. As a young, single adult, I was used to doing things impulsively. I liked fast cars and motorcycles, and I had a group of fairly wild male friends. This caused my wife to be extremely worried and nervous and felt more than a little controlling to me in the first year of our marriage. Once our first child was born, though, I lost interest in these distractions and my wife felt a little better.
Although, my wife appears and acts cheerful, I admit that my knowledge of what she went through and has to struggled with adds some heaviness to my life. And, while she is determined to be completely healed from the effects of her abuse, this doesn’t seem to be happening quickly. It is difficult to find caregivers and professionals who understand these matters and also have Christian faith. This sometimes adds tension to life.
If I were to sum up the possible reasons why our marriage has been a good one, and why my wife is in much better condition all around than one might have expected, it would come down first to God’s grace received by the Lord through His sacraments, our Catholic faith, the beautiful parish we belong to, the strong Catholic friendships we have, and the counselors my wife has found. I have prayed for my wife, and children, almost every night for years, long before we knew of the terrible things she endured. This is not something I thought of, but I learned about this at a conference years ago, and it seemed to make sense for the father as spiritual head of the household to pray over his wife and children for the blessing and protection of the Lord.
Although this has been a cross for my wife, I wonder if it has also increased her sensitivity about the many things in the world that can be a threat to faith and morals. She always seemed to be able to discern whether people, situations, schools, movies, certain parishes, posed a danger to our children and ourselves, and we have not hesitated to take actions, when necessary, to minimize these risks, while always looking for the best possible parish, friends, schools, movies, books, etc. for our children. It has really paid off. I wonder if she or I would have been as serious about all of these matters if this cross, even though hidden for years, hadn’t been there.