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Can Past Trauma Mess up My Marriage? Mary DeMuth

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2024 5:15 am

Can Past Trauma Mess up My Marriage? Mary DeMuth

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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May 17, 2024 5:15 am

Could your past trauma be affecting your marriage? Maybe you glimpse it in your struggles to be open, lack of emotions, or low self-image. But what if instead of burying it, you could confront it to heal? Mary DeMuth shares survivor stories, offering hope for marriages to overcome past wounds.

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Connect with Mary Demuth and catch more of their thoughts at, and on Instagram, Facebook and X @marydemuth

And grab Mary Demuth's book, Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse on her site.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about Overcoming Abuse by listening to How God Turned my Mess into His Message.

Want to hear more episodes by Mary DeMuth, listen here!

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Hey, Shelby Abbott here. Just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today's conversation on family life today covers some sensitive but important subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears. So please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast.

All right, now let's jump into it. He had to get to the place and work through his own anger about it, not only against what those boys did to me and those other men, but against me, because I wasn't what people promised him I would be. Like, he also got that promise that it's all going to be great once you say I do. And here he gets this damaged girl, but he for a while and what made it hard was just that anger that made everything difficult.

But once he dealt with that and realized, this is what I have. This is who I have in front of me. How do I love her? How do I serve her? Welcome to family life today where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is family life today. If you had an hour with a pre-married couple, why would you tell them something they don't know that's going to hit them when they get married? I mean, there's so many things I could say, but one of the things I would probably say is your past, the baggage that you carry will have a great effect on your future and on your present marriage.

Well, because we're talking about this today, we've already had one episode. I mean, we were so naive and I think most are, but we were. All our junk from the past, it's in the past, it's buried and it will not come into our marriage.

We're kids and we're like, Jesus healed everything. I mean, everybody brings some luggage in, but we had like a truckload. I'm not going to say, especially most people do have a truckload and they might have a really good family background, but most of us have things that we carry in. Yeah, we've got married and moved back. You brought sort of a truckload into your marriage.

Sort of, semi-truck and a couple barges. And if you didn't listen to yesterday's episode, go back and listen to Mary's story. It's a hard one to listen to, but as you'll see, we're going to get into, and we already did, like God's saving grace that redeems our past and heals it. Yeah, we don't need to go back to the chain smoking babysitter, but if that just caught your interest, well, you got to go back and hear it. There may be a song coming later about this woman, but that story was something you probably thought, same thing. And Patrick, right, as you get married, both of you, did you have the same thought?

It's sort of done. I'm not going to bring the sexual abuse, my thoughts about sex, my visions of how that all works. Did you think, okay, it's in the past, God heals- And you shared it with Patrick before you got married.

Yeah, I wasn't deceptive or anything like that, but I think 100% of listeners could relate to this. Not only did I feel like I was healed, like you felt like you're healed from all your things, but I had this like promise that was given to me during the 90s or the 80s at this point before I got married of if you save yourself for marriage, then on that marriage night, like there's a switch that happens and suddenly it's easy and you're going to enjoy it. And nobody prepared me for the fact that it's not easy. And it's for, at least for me, it wasn't enjoyable. Plus it was extremely traumatic. So there was also this other thing going on there of we're supposed to like, no sex, no sex, no sex. And then suddenly, woo hoo, and it's supposed to be awesome. And I felt also like a failure for that as well because it was not easy and it needed to involve a lot of communication. But I, through my trauma, had completely shut down and disassociated.

So I, you know, I was just shoving things down that kept coming up and it was a very hard exercise. Oh, Mary, I wish I wouldn't have shared with our kids, hey, if you remain pure, you know, and I would say, like, God will bless this, which is true in terms of he's going to bless either, you know, whether you've been promiscuous or you haven't, he's going to bless you. And there are consequences, but man, I think that was pervasive in the 90s of telling our kids and people that, that it's just going to be that magical switch that's just like on your honeymoon, it's going to be amazing.

And it's not always amazing. Well, and that gets back to theology and that's a health and wealth gospel right there. If you do these things, if you pull these levers, then God is obligated to bless you. If you are pure before you get married, he's obligated to give you awesome sex.

And what happens if that doesn't happen? Then you feel either your disillusion with God or you have to rework your theology to move away from that kind of health and wealth. What did you do? I cried a lot. I don't know that I even because I was so young, like you guys were so young.

You don't even have like the capability of thinking, oh, my theology is wrong. I just heaped shame upon myself and told myself to try to do better. And that's kind of my coping mechanism of all the abuse and neglect was, well, by golly, I don't know why I'm on this earth, but I'm going to achieve.

And you can see, all right, 50 books. So I'm still working on this. Is that why you went to this conference with women? Yes. I was so broken there and wanted to be so much better that I went to this basically, Sexy Wives Women's Retreat. That's not what it was called. I don't want to give the name, but I'm just saying that's basically the point. It wasn't the Family Life Weekend in November. No, it was not. It was this other retreat and it was a conference and Just for Women?

Just for Women. And it was about how to be all that and a bag of chips for your husband. And they were from the stage talking about things like, well, build a sundae on your stomach with whipped cream and cherries. And I was like, I can never do that. I can never do that. And then I looked around the room and I thought, there are 60% of us in this room who what they're saying is impossible because we are so broken that the thought of doing that would just be play acting for us. It would not be genuine. It would not be out of a love for our husband.

It would be, I'm going to perform this so he'll like me better or to make the marriage better. This is the only time this has ever happened to me. There was this holy gumption in me that almost rose up and I didn't, but almost rose up in the middle of that conference and said, you need to change because there are so many of us who are broken by sexual abuse that what you're asking us to do is impossible. We can't even just try to enjoy it. So for you, you're like way over here. We're like at negative 100 and we need to get back to zero.

And there's so much healing that has to take place to get to even zero. I regret that I was probably a proponent like that's what we have. I was told that this is who we need to be. There were books about it. This is what I need to do. But I also grew up on porn. Right.

Which then is just adding to that guilt. But I was like, okay, you know, I'm going to do that. Here we go. Yeah. And I thought like, I guess this is how we solve this problem as women and as wives, I should say. Not even thinking, I wish that you would have gone up to say that to those women.

Well, you know what? I was just thinking you're doing it now. Yes. Now I'm doing it.

I mean, in a sense, I wish you would have too, but I'm like you are now. I mean, this book not marked is helping people realize they aren't marked. This isn't their identity. Right.

So way to go now. You know, and even as we're talking about right now, I can't imagine. You don't often think who's listening right this very second. But six out of 10 women are identifying with both you two. Well, and she's feeling so much guilt and shame about this area of her marriage.

And she just doesn't know how to get out of it. How do you heal from that? So Mary, thank you for addressing it because you've given us hope. And this, as I mentioned before, I mean, this was a joint effort on the part of my husband and I. And he had to get to the place just to be super frank. He had to get to the place and work through his own anger about it. Not only against what those boys did to me and those other men, but against me because I wasn't what people promised him I would be like. He also got that promise.

It's all going to be great once you say I do. And here he gets this damaged girl. But he for a while and what made it hard was just that anger that made everything difficult. But once he dealt with that and realized, okay, yeah, it's not fair, but a lot of women are damaged in that way. And so he had to kind of say, okay, this is what I have. This is who I have in front of me. How do I love her?

How do I serve her? And the best thing he did for me was he read Dan Ellender's book, The Wounded Heart. Dave did too. And he was shocked afterwards. He came and apologized.

He repented. And he said, I had literally no idea how pervasive that trauma was and it affects every area of your life. And I am so sorry. And thus began us finally having frank conversations about our sex life and how we can make it a mutually enjoyable experience. And I finally was brave enough to say this, but not that. And those kinds of things that are just excruciating to talk about. But I could do that because he had worked through his anger of I didn't get what I wanted. And I'm like, yeah, I didn't get what I wanted either. We're both broken.

So let's acknowledge. And that to me is a huge encouragement to all couples is that you might think that one, and this is not necessarily related to sex. You might think, well, he's the problem or she's the problem. But the camaraderie returned in our marriage when both of us said we're the problem. Phew.

Hearing you say that, it's so our journey. I did the exact same book. And now we can say you can read, you know, The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender, or you can read Not Marked by Mary and Patrick. Because you get to hear Patrick's perspective in that one as well.

But yeah, I was going to ask you, how did his anger go away? But you just said it. I mean, mine was the same thing. I just didn't know. And I was disappointed in Anne.

I was like, you gotta be kidding me. I don't want to go on this journey. That's your journey.

But no, it's our journey. But at first I was so angry. But reading that and then saying, that isn't what your wife needs. She doesn't need an angry husband. Extra guilt. I get the righteous justice, which is part of the heart of God on this. But vengeance is his.

She needs a compassionate, empathetic partner who can be gentle and sensitive and say, I want to hear your heart, right? I mean, I had never said that to you. Oh, the guilt and shame was awful. And I was so naive. It was like, come on, it was 10 years ago. It was five years ago. It was 20 years ago.

Yeah, you did say that. I mean, how hard can it be? Just get over it. And then land on the spiritual part of it as like, Jesus heals, you know, and you're not receiving, you're not understand who you are in Christ. All that was so wrong from me as a husband. I think a lot of us do that. So to hear both of you say, this is what you need, in a sense, it means for us as men, Patrick wrote about it.

But to go, okay, we got to go before God and say, God softened my heart so I can be what she deserves and needs. I'm thinking of today that so many people are walking in with so much pornography in their backgrounds, men and women. And so they have expectations of what they think it should look like. And a lot of that's based on their porn background. How do those couples talk through? Because I think the same thing happens where they're disappointed in what their physical intimacy is like.

What would you say to them? To add on to that, I would say that porn fuels sexual abuse. And sexual abuse can also fuel porn use, which was something I did not know. And so when I found porn in my house as a teenager, that was another thing that had to have this shame heaped on me. So I brought that into the marriage as well.

And that was the problem. And I think that's where you get back to theology of reclaiming a healthy view of sex, is I could only see it as shame-filled and horrible or crooked. And I had to go back to oneness, and I know you guys do a great job of this with family life, of back to the Garden of Eden and what that intention was for Adam and Eve. And that was a slow process because my intellect could say, sex is beautiful in the context of marriage, but man, we've made a big mess of it.

We've taken this beautiful gift that God has given and we have made it icky. All I will say is that it is important if you do have a porn addiction to address that and to tell yourself this isn't what God intends. And really it's lesser. I think we think it's more like this is sex plus stuff, but it's actually lesser.

It's degrading. It is not about the Imago Dei, the image of God in every human being. And we are disobeying the Lord. When we view our spouse as an object, we are sinning against them. And what you said about just kind of acknowledging that when you've kind of forced things, we need to repent as couples and just say, I don't understand sex. I don't understand God's way of doing it.

I have definitely settled for lesser than for the fullness that God has. And I don't know, it's a hard journey. I don't know if it's a clear cut answer, but that's the best I have. I think that's good. I think that's helpful too. I think it would also be helpful to, you'd be a good one to say, okay, how does a husband talk to his wife about this?

And even his wife, how does the wife talk to her husband? Because I think some of our listeners are like, I want to go there. It's scary. I'm afraid. I also don't want to share anything.

How do we start this conversation? And you also talk about telling your story brings freedom. Is that the first place that you tell your story?

I think it can be. The main thing is that it's a safe person. But again, as I mentioned before, maybe if it's so scary for you, write it down and push the letter across to your spouse. And I don't want to forget that there are men in the audience out there who have been sexually abused and they don't talk about it because there's further shame, especially no matter what it was, whether it was from a man or from a woman, there's just this heavy shame.

And maybe he needs to write that letter and push it across the table to his wife because that will mess with you so much just as much as it messes with a woman because again, it attacks that image of God. You are an object, not a human being. And that's such a big lie of the enemy. I know that for me as a pastor and every once in a while I'd preach on this topic, it was easier for me to share more vulnerably with a thousand people than my wife in the kitchen. It just feels more intimate and scary. And so it was almost like, man, I'm being pretty honest up here in front of people I'll never really have another conversation with. But then Ann looks at me and says, so let's talk about it. I'm like, no, let's not.

Can we go out to dinner? It can be a scary, intimate place, especially for men. I don't know if it's that way for women, but it's a defense mechanism to say, I don't really have a conversation because it's too intimate. And then the thing about doing that with our wife, it's scary.

But you and Patrick have done that for now decades. I was terrified, but I will tell the audience this. First time is terrifying. After that it gets so much easier. Once you've let the cat out of the bag, the cat's roaming around your house, and now you have to feed it. But you begin to have a level of intimacy in your marriage that you've never had before.

So there's a huge cost benefit analysis, an ROI, if you will, of sharing once because it begins to open up some of those closets that you have shut to your partner. And Patrick gave me this illustration once, and I believe it's in the book, of sexual abuse causes you to disconnect from human beings and not just in your marriage. So he said, it's like you're on a high dive and the kids and I are in the pool and you're pacing back and forth on the high dive and you cannot jump into the pool.

And we're splashing, we're having fun, he said. And what you do instead is you walk back down because you're afraid and you get back down, you come to the side of the pool and you put your toe in, but that's it. That pictured for me disassociation. And I realized I need counseling because I cannot join them. I can't play with my kids, I have a hard time being a little kid with them. I'm disconnected from the people I love the most.

I need to reconnect with who I am and with who they are and I need help. And so that besides talking with him, I also had to get some help. What do you mean by, you talk about having more counselors than you realize, there's more help than you realize. What do you mean by that?

Well, yes, I know there are people out there that can't afford counseling because that was me for so many years, for a decade. So what I would do is I would read a lot of books. I would read some of those Allender books. And there's a lot more out there now, a lot of great resources in the Christian space, but also like The Body Keeps the Score, which is a general market book. But that book changed everything. I haven't read that. Who's it by?

Bessel Kock, I think is his last name. But he talks about we hold trauma in our bodies. And I read it and I had a sense to it.

I was like intellectually assented to it. And then I found who that guy was that had abused me. And I don't advise this to anybody, but on our anniversary, we went on a trauma tour.

Don't ever do this on your anniversary. So we went back to the, I'd never been back to all those places. We went back to all of those places that it had happened.

And I remembered everything. I said, I think there's a pathway here. And there was a pathway there. This is where the school is. The school was there. This is where the park was. It was there. That's the ravine. I mean, I remember everything. Did you go to the hemlock tree?

All the things. I went to all the places and there's pictures of me smiling in front of the hemlock tree. Jesus is so good. La, la, la. And I'm happy and God, look at all these things. And Patrick did it with me.

It was this like awesome tour of God's awesomeness. We get to the Airbnb and then I start vomiting. So much so that I almost go to the hospital. This is your body keeping score. My body kept the score of that trauma. And so we do have to be very cautious about our trauma because it is not something to be trifled with. And I was like, yeah, yeah, it holds in my body.

And I'm like, what? So that's why we have what are called triggers. You have a bodily response to something if you've been traumatized by something. What do you mean by when you talk about how God made you? How God made you is how he feels you.

Oh, thank you for asking that question. So one of the ways that God has healed me is through being a writer. He has caused me to be a creative. And I joke that I had to write 50 books because I'm so messed up because God uses every book to heal me. And so the way in which you're bent is the way in which God heals you. So I paint pictures, I drop things and I write books and all of those creative ways that God has made me has been part of my healing journey. So examine your life. How has God created you?

He's gonna probably use those pathways and your strengths to be a part of that healing journey. I think that's fascinating. Dave, I think about you because your upbringing was traumatic. And I think about music. You started playing guitar when you were eight. You've played so many things.

I wonder if it was an escape. But also that God has healed you through it in a way too. Yeah, who would think God heals through the Beatles?

But He sort of did. But I think it's even like, because you're an artist as well. So for listeners to think through what are your gifts?

What are your passions? What are the things that you do that when you do it, you feel, ah, that fills me up as part of the way God is healing you. Yeah, in some ways, I think you've already said it, Heals you through talking about it.

As public speakers, even communicators doing what we're doing right now, talking about it. I think this conversation is gonna help some men and women have conversations they've never had. As I sit here and I think of two women that walked into their marriage with sexual abuse, whether your husbands at the time knew it or even understood the depth of it, what would you change? Is there anything if you look back and you could do that again, would you do differently? Especially thinking of a woman that's walking into marriage right now, who's like, I've got their story, help me.

I would think if we could have had the economics to do it, and again, we didn't, so I can't change it, but to go to counseling together and have a trauma-informed counselor be able to educate both of us about trauma and how it's going to manifest in our marriage and to help my husband understand that this is a deep wound, help me understand, because I was like you. I was like, oh, it's a little healed. Just a heads up would have been so helpful. So that's what we're doing today.

We're giving you a heads up of it does matter. It doesn't work to stuff it. It's like the beach ball.

You can hold it down for a long period of time underwater, but it will eventually pop up because there's air in it. The air is the story. You have to let the story out, let the air out, but in other lots of capacities. So you asked about how else can they heal? They can read books. They can talk to friends. They can explore their gifts.

They can go to counseling. There's a lot of different ways and God is super creative and He can use really creative ways to heal us. I would have said the same thing. And I would have said to myself, and I say this now to younger women, just know that God is gracious in His timing of healing. He could have healed me all at once.

Wouldn't that be great? If all of it was healed, just, oh, you're done. You're healed.

You're great. But He's gracious and sometimes it takes time. It's like, I always refer to it as an infection's going on in your body. He's so gracious to remove the scab and then some of the infection will come out and I'm always mad like, wait a minute. I thought that was all healed. And then something else will come up where I'm triggered or a response will happen and I'll realize, oh, He's so gracious. I couldn't receive all the healing at once.

It was too traumatic. So now I'm gonna go back into it again and allow Him to heal some more. And I wish it was all at once.

And some people I'm sure it could be, but I think He's gracious for even us, Dave, in our marriage. We've had to be really intimate and know each other so well. And that doesn't come all at once either.

It takes time. It takes Jesus. And Mary, one of the things I've appreciated about you is your love for God's Word and how that His Word has healed you and that's a passion for you.

Will you just talk about that for the last few minutes of why is that important? Well, what I love about the Bible is, first of all, we have to remember when it is prescriptive versus descriptive and you do see sexual assault in the Bible, but it is not prescriptive like you should go sexually assault people. It's descriptive of every time in the Bible when you see sexual assault, violence follows, war follows. And so having that understanding of God really hates this and really bad things are a result of sexual violence begets physical violence. Oh, I've never thought of that like Dinah.

Yes. If you think back to all those Bathsheba, it's the same. I mean, it's amazing how Tamar too. So reading the Bible and finding myself in it and realizing that God is for the quartet of the vulnerable and the Old Testament and that I felt so much like part of that. And the other thing I found in the Bible was just this idea of just what you said of, I am broken, I am wounded, I am weak, but those are the places where Jesus shines the best. When we have it all together, we're doing this, we're stiff arming God, but when we know we're a mess, we have this dance floor for Jesus to dance his best steps.

It's just so amazing. What would you two say to the husbands? I've sort of said it, but coming from one of you or both of you to a husband who's married to a woman and he's just realized, maybe knew it, but now he's realizing, oh, this is a real deal in our marriage.

She has been abused. Maybe he has, but I'm thinking he's discovered that she has. Like when I realized, and again, he thinks, okay, probably like me, it's not a big deal. No, it's a really big deal. It's bigger than you have any idea.

I've already said that. What would you as a wife, as a woman say to this man? What does he need to know or do? I just go back to love her as Christ loves the church. And that means he sacrifices for her, which means he sacrifices sex. He sacrifices convenience. He sacrifices needs, and he sacrifices his own way of understanding it and thinking that he's got it all figured out. So that means you ask questions and you find out why does this hurt you?

Why are you struggling? And not in an accusatory way, but I want to understand you because if I'm Christ to the church, if I'm serving and loving, I have to understand who I'm serving and loving. And then also stop comparing yourself to ideal other couples because nobody knows what's going on behind closed doors, but I think we think we do. And like, oh, I'm not as cool as them.

And we feel bad. Like, no, this is your marriage. These are these two people that God has brought together. You need to both wife and husband needs to know each other in order to sacrifice and serve the other. I would say that same thing. And the scripture that came to my mind was in scriptures when it says, when it refers to sexual intimacy, many times it will say, and he knew her. That's what I would say to the husband, know her. It's not just an act. When you know all of her, it's the intimacy of every part of us.

And so take your time, know all parts of your wise because the outcome will be better than you ever expected because it's more than just a physical act. Will you pray? There's so many people that are being affected by this. Will you pray for them?

Yep. Jesus, we thank you for those listening today who may have a fractured story. And we know that you are the mender of all those stories. And Lord, I pray that you would place a safe person in their lives to be able to share that story with. I pray that you would use their bent to heal them. I pray that you would send healers into their lives. And I pray for marriages.

I pray, Lord, that there would be enough safety in marriages that people wouldn't feel afraid to share. And I pray for a revolution, Lord, and a revelation, a revolution of sacrifice and love for each other and a revelation of who you are and how you heal. I know it's a huge conundrum, Lord.

I know that people who have been abused ask the question, where were you? And so, Lord, sometimes we can't honestly answer that sometimes in this side of heaven, but you tenderly hold our stories. And I thank you for doing that. And I pray supernatural healing over those listening today. And I know it starts with one step, but I pray that it would be 10 steps and 20 steps and 100 steps, that this journey would be beautiful and that they would experience you like no other way that they've ever experienced you.

We experience you when we're broken. And so instead of stiff-arming you, Lord, and blaming you, we ask that you would come into those tender spaces in our marriage and in our lives to heal us. I pray this in the beautiful name of Jesus. Amen. Amen. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Mary DeMuth on family life today.

You know, I have certainly asked that question, God, where were you? I'm a sexual abuse survivor myself, and I was just a little kid when it happened to me. So I really appreciate her insight today that Mary gave and honestly just her willingness to be vulnerable and honest because it truly does help with the healing process as we listen to all of that. You know, Mary has written a book called Not Marked, Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse. This book is obviously deeply personal for her, but it also gives some added insight from her husband, Patrick, about how a spouse can really support their wife or husband who has gone through something traumatic like this. So you can get your copy of Mary's book, Not Marked, by going online to, and you can find it in the show notes. Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And you know, one of the things I love about family life and being a part of this ministry is that we're not afraid to talk about topics like what we heard today. We want to help and be part of healing in people's lives. We want to offer hope.

We want to reach out to them and help marriages and families move toward Jesus and become a part of the solution in other people's lives to help them see Jesus. And that's why I'm excited for the month of May because any donation given will be matched dollar for dollar up to $550,000. So that means when you give a monthly gift of $100, it actually becomes $200 a month.

And that's the uniqueness of the month of May. So I encourage you to head online to, click on the donate now button at the top of the page, and it'll walk you through how to become a partner with us to help reach more marriages and families. Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Now, coming up next week, join us as award-winning musician Jamie Grace sits down with the Wilsons to talk about mental health and the struggles she's been through with Tourette's, ADHD, and anxiety. That's coming up next week. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-17 07:55:01 / 2024-05-17 08:09:26 / 14

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