Love & Relationships

How to Love & Respect Your Man Through His Trauma

Wife HER! founder and certified life coach, Zemi Stewart, recently presented on “Giving Him Room to Grow: Respecting Him While In the Valley”. As many of these valley moments have their roots in trauma, Zemi discussed seven ways wives can create a safe place for their husbands to heal and grow.

Below are her talking points, written in her own voice.

What Is Trauma?

Many of the characteristics of the valley moments our husbands experience such as low self-esteem, addictive behaviors, alcoholism, pornography, masturbation, habitual lying, low libido, hypersexual behavior, excessively rough sex, flashbacks, panic attacks, avoidance, and the list goes on, have their roots in trauma. I call these characteristics the “leaves and branches”.

Trauma is defined as an emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person. Examples include: childhood abuse or neglect, relationship or betrayal trauma, gang violence, a car accident, the sudden death of a loved one, an assault or attempted assault, and the list goes on.

Trauma & Marriage

It is important as wives that we realize that our husbands are human. Many men enter into marriage feeling fine and in control with no idea of what lay dormant under the surface, but the good – though sometimes painful – thing about marriage is that it is a mirror, a revealer, a truth exposer. It shines a light on many of the things we’ve carefully hidden from the world.

“The good, though sometimes painful, thing about marriage is that marriage is a mirror, revealer, truth exposer.

– Zemi Stewart

Some may be wondering, Shouldn’t I have known about his trauma before marriage so that I:

  • could have prepared myself or
  • avoided this man altogether?

Ideally, you should know beforehand, but many wives find out after marriage for a variety of reasons:

  • He blacked out the memories
  • He was afraid to lose you
  • He thought he could handle it / didn’t see it as a problem
  • He feels ashamed

It could also be that you failed to ask the right questions pre-marriage; however, in my experience, the right questions are often asked but the truth does not manifest until later.

Typically, the first response after learning of his trauma (or it’s “leaves and branches”), is to feel betrayed and angry, but it’s important to note that God may have allowed you to walk in “blindly” to teach you, heal you both and reveal His glory. You can take time to throw a pity party or you can move forward in purpose.

You can move beyond the valley and hopefully this conversation will be the nudge you need to get moving. Not everyone who enters a valley leaves with their marriage intact, but it is possible, and if you are reading this, that is my prayer for you.

7 Tips for Wives

Disclaimer: These tips are helpful for men who have undergone trauma. If you feel your husband may be suffering from a mental illness, please seek professional help for both you and him. If you are being physically or verbally abused, please seek the help of a professional.

1. Recognize the root

Look beyond what your eyes see and try to get to the heart of the matter. This comes through prayer, heart to heart conversations, divine revelation, reading and research.

Men who have suffered trauma quite often display self-limiting beliefs: they tell themselves they are flawed, broken, unworthy of love, not good enough, etc.  

You don’t have to search phones and devices in secret to get to the root, the truth is revealed over time.

You don’t have to search phones and devices in secret, the truth is revealed over time.

– Zemi Stewart

2. Respect his version of events

Let’s say you found out that your husband was neglected as a child and the way this manifested as an adult is him finding his identity in possessions and the opinions of others, so he would purchase things for this woman, that woman, etc. and it got out of control. A lot, yes a lot…buttt he wants to heal, he wants to stop his behavior and he wants to save his marriage.

It is important that you listen and believe his version of the events without trying to fill in gaps and breaks in the timeline. This is especially true of men who are victims of sexual abuse (and that number is incredibly high!) – it’s 1 in every 6 men in the US and likely 1 in every 3 in The Bahamas (if not more!).

Victims of trauma fear not being believed and being blamed for what they went through. Not only that but trauma can interfere with the memory causing certain situations to be blacked out. He may not remember the age he was when his abuse started or ended. He may not remember when he was first exposed to pornography, etc. It’s hard but you have to accept this and continue to allow the truth to be revealed over time.

Vocalize your belief in him, and not just his interpretation of the events but also in the effects. If he feels X led him to become Y, then accept that as his truth.

Remember we’re creating a safe place for his healing and, as he heals and becomes more and more naked with you, true intimacy develops.

Vocalize your belief in him, and not just in his interpretation of the events, but also in the effects.

– Zemi Stewart

3. Respect his healing process

Healing is not a linear process and it looks different for everyone. His healing process won’t always mimic the blogs you read or YouTube videos you watch, and that is okay.

  • Therapy is recommended but it should not be forced
  • Keep communication lines open both with him and with God
  • Understand / be aware of his triggers and also what triggers you in the process as you heal as well
  • Don’t take things personally

4. Respect his privacy while providing accountability

Resist the urge to search his phone and devices. This breeds mistrust and may cause him to withdraw or create new wounds.

If he requests accountability, and it is important that he agree to this even if it is your suggestion first, then have his password and look through his phone only with his permission. You can also allow technology to work for you and use sites like Covenant Eyes, if pornography is an issue.

Related: The Truth About Your Man’s Porn Habit

The key things to ask for are honesty, openness, no secured or private folders, and a commitment to faithfulness. You can ask for accountability, but you also need to agree to the measures put in place. You should not force change or force healing as that will backfire.

You should not force change or force healing as that will backfire.

– Zemi Stewart

5. Respect his boundaries

If he’s not ready for therapy, accept it. If he does not want to share all of the details of his trauma, accept it and don’t push him to reveal what he’s not ready to relive. Some men distance themselves for a time to collect their thoughts; give him the freedom to do this. Note: This period of separation should be short term. If extended, e.g. longer than a day or weekend, prioritize him coming home safely.

Don’t push him to reveal what he’s not ready to relive.

– Zemi Stewart

6. Resist the urge to become Mrs. Fix It

Jada Smith ended up in a whole entanglement because of her desire to be Mrs. Fix It. Sis, your husband is not your project!

Your husband is not your project. He first and foremost belongs to GOD. It’s natural to want to fix him, help him and make everything alright, but you cannot love away trauma.

You can’t love away someone’s trauma, but you can create a loving environment that is conducive for his or her healing.

You cannot love away someone’s trauma. Instead, listen to him, validate his feelings, be present, be an active listener, confirm your support and take the conditions off of your love.

6. Remember to take care of you

Uncovering his traumas and the chain of events that led to the uncovering, can lead to your own betrayal or relationship trauma. You may feel a range of emotions: sadness, anger, hopelessness, love, etc. It’s important that you find support whether that is therapy, a support group and/or a trusted friend.

Be sure to funnel your thoughts and refocus your mind. You can’t erase what you replay so try not to replay the events: the cheating, the pornographic images, his remarks, his lies, etc. Instead, focus on your well-being and creating a safe place for mutual healing.

You can’t erase what you replay so try not to replay the events.

– Zemi Stewart

Missed the session? Be sure to catch the replay below.

The Focus of The Month for August is Relationships: Respecting Your Husband. You can check out this month’s focus Bible text and video here.

Make sure you’re tuned in this week for another insightful discussion on Respect. Join the Wife HER Facebook group so that you can stay updated.

For more inspiration from Zemi, follow her on Instagram @zemiregine.

More from The Respect Series:

Love & Relationships

Coach Keish Shares Practical Tips on Respecting Your Husband

Inspirational life and relationship coach, dynamic speaker, loving wife and mother, ShaKeisha Johnson also known as Coach Keish, dropped a whole gold mine on Friday, August 7th when she shared with Wife HER! members on the basics of respect and practical ways to respect your husband. 

ShaKeisha’s focal verse was 1 Peter 3:1-9, chosen because Peter was married and his wife frequently travelled with him as he preached and ministered to people in far places. Peter’s wife exemplified the respect that a wife should have toward her husband, and no doubt was part of the motivation for the verses he penned.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior.

1 Peter 3: 1-2

In discussing 1 Peter 3:1-9, ShaKeisha stated that God receives glory when both husbands and wives have mutual kindness and humility toward each other.

Coach Keish shared 8 power-packed tips for wives that can be applied across all relationship types: mother to son, colleague to colleague, etc.

1. View your husband as a person

Understand that he has feelings too. Try to figure out what motivates your husband and what he enjoys doing. Once you’ve figured it out, do more of the things that he enjoys.

Your respect needs to be personalised.

– ShaKeisha Johnson

2. Celebrate your husband

Highlight the things you love about your husband as often as you can. Celebrate your husband in ways that will make him feel honoured, not necessarily in a way that will make you feel better about yourself. Remember, everyone’s love language is different. Try to love him in his love language, not in yours.

We thrive in conditions of love, acceptance and honour.

– ShaKeisha Johnson

3. Honour the man that he is while you intercede for the man he was born to be

If you have concerns about your husband, take those concerns to God through intercession. God will assist your husband to become the person he was called to be. Continue to encourage him and remind him of who he is through affirmation and honor.

4. Be as gracious with your wisdom as you are with your encouragement

God gave you wisdom not just for work and interacting with different people, but also for you to apply it to your marriage. Use your wisdom to assess what’s working and what’s not working in your marriage and make the necessary adjustments. Take time to know your husband and take an interest in what’s important to him.

Wisdom was meant to be used in our relationships.

– ShaKeisha Johnson

5. Constructive criticism is okay once the goal is to build a better marriage

Be conscious of how your husband responds to criticism. Consider using the sandwich method when you want to critique him on something. The sandwich method is a type of feedback that combines negative feedback with praise.

Be patient as your husband learns that you still love him even when he is not doing things the way you would like.

– ShaKeisha Johnson

6. Respect boundaries

Give your husband the space he needs to do the things that he enjoys.

7. Respect your differences in disciplining methods

As a mother, understand that you and your husband won’t discipline the same way. If there are disagreements between you and your husband, respectfully discuss it away from the children.

Do not expect your husband to father in the same way that you mother.

–ShaKeisha Johnson

8. Respect his right to a different opinion in the same way you expect him to respect yours

It is important to understand that you won’t agree on everything. You should be able to respect him even when you have differing opinions.

Honour the person that your husband is and you will reap the reward because that honour will be extended to you.

– ShaKeisha Johnson

Coach Keish truly came with a message! Missed the session? Be sure to catch the replay below.

The Focus of The Month for August is Relationships: Respecting Your Husband. You can check out this month’s focus Bible text and video here.

Make sure you’re tuned in this week for another insightful discussion on Respect. Join the Wife HER Facebook group so that you can stay updated.

For more inspiration from ShaKeisha, like her Facebook page and follow her on Instagram @shakeishajohnson.

Which one of Shakeisha’s tips stood out to you?

Which one will you try to work on this week?

Let us know in the comments!

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