The Wives’ Common Complaint: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
Because of my blog for male survivors of sexual assault, I get a number of personal emails. The most common email I receive comes from women. They’re married to men who were molested—sometimes the husbands never told them until after a crisis threatened their marriage. Others say, “Before we married, he said he had been abused by an uncle, but it didn’t seem like a big deal.”
The rest of the email—and they’re usually quite lengthy—tells of the current status of pain and chaos. The wives discover their husbands’ secrets by accident. One woman saw the homosexual websites he visited; another discovered her husband was having phone sex with a woman. At an office party, a third woman walked into a room and saw her husband kissing his secretary. Whether the affairs are heterosexual or homosexual, they write because they don’t know how to cope.
By the time they write, the husband has often left or threatened to leave. One email today came from a woman who said, “He told me he wanted to go away for a week so he could be alone to think. But I know he’s been in contact with another man, so I’m sure he won’t be by himself.”
“What can I do?” That’s the gist of her question. And that’s essentially what most of the emails say. They ask me for answers. They’re crying out for help and for solutions.
When I respond, I start by telling them that I’m not a therapist. And I also have to tell them that I can’t give them answers even if I knew them. They seem to be asking for the magic formula or the three-step approach that will cure their tormented spouses.
Deep down, most of those women probably know I can’t give them an all-powerful elixir. They’re pouring out their pain and anguish. Sure, they’d like to know how to fix him, but even more painful is the cry, “Please hear me. Please let me know you sense my anguish.”
Even though I can’t give them what their questions ask for, I can give them a caring heart. I can give them my time and above all, my interest. When I respond to them and express concern, even though I feel awkward in how I say it, they usually understand. I’m hearing them. I’m recognizing their need.
I can’t solve their problems but they don’t really need a problem solver, do they? They may need a nudge in one direction or have to learn to anticipate a caution sign if they go on a dangerous road.
In pondering those common complaints from wives, I wrote an aphorism. I do that to put something I’ve learned about myself or my dealings with others into a few words. Here are the two statements I wrote: My role is not to solve others’ problems. My role is to love them while they solve their problems.
When I remember my own aphorism, I do fairly well, but when I forget and try to solve their problem, I nearly always fail.
By Cecil Murphey
Cecil Murphey wrote When a Man You Love Was Abused and Not Quite Healed with survivor Gary Roe. Murphey is the author or coauthor of more than 130 books including international best-sellers, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story.