My husband and I are doing a Bible study with a couple of friends, also husband and wife. This is very new territory for us. As long as we’ve been married (25 yrs), I can’t consciously remember the two of us deciding together to do a Bible study. As new and wild territories go, we have both enjoyed it so far.
The video this evening spoke on intentionally loving your spouse, in a way they know what you’re doing and saying. While the Mr. and I have been doing okay with this area for a time, there was a period of yrs during which we intentionally distanced ourselves from the other. We were quite practiced at being room-mates, ships passing in the nights. Honestly, has any married couple not gone through trials? Our meeting, friendship, relationship, and subsequent marriage is the stuff fairy tales are made of so, if we have had to deal with life, I know most others have also.
I would say a reasonable 55-60% of issues were caused by youth, ignorance, and stupidity. The remaining 40-45% were facilitated by wounds we each brought into the marriage. I, personally, don’t know of anyone who has not suffered in at least one area, thereby damaging at least one important component of the psyche. Yes, we are all familiar with, and can attest to the fact, we each bring something undesired into a relationship.
On my own part, I brought with me two very significant deficits – fear and a misunderstanding of love. I was sexually abused as a child and I endured two separate incidents of rape in my teen years so, of course, my understanding was askew, to put it mildly. I often told my husband he should have run for the hills as fast as he could. However, he always responded that he was hooked the day he met me so it was never an option. Have I ever said how much I love him?
The video in the Bible study this evening spoke of the five love languages. For those who may be unfamiliar, they are – 1. Touch (platonic and intimate) 2. Acts of Service (receiving help) 3. (Receiving) Gifts 4. Quality time 5. (Receiving) Words of Affirmation. The church I attended many years ago taught sermons on this subject and there were small groups offered for in depth study. At the time my husband didn’t attend church with me yet but I took the tests and found out my love language(s). I had since long forgotten them but tonight my husband and I looked over the paper from our study and we determined our love languages. This is where it got interesting for me.
I learned, or perhaps re-learned, one of my top two love languages, the tangible ways I best receive and understand love, is Touch. Because of my past, because touch had been used so pervasively to wound me, I intentionally shied away from it. Just a simple hug, even a kiss hello or goodbye, had made me cringe and shake with fear and anxiety. I was unable to give or receive a hug from a parent without desperately wanting to run away and curl up somewhere quiet. I would long to hold my husband in a warm embrace when he returned from a long day at work but almost as soon as we touched I was done and had to pull away from him. I would be so happy to see my mother and wanted to hug her until it was time to go home but I simply could not stand to be held. It felt like being stuck, bound, with no escape. This torment continued, unchecked, for close to 20 years. And I could only imagine what all this was doing to my loved ones; it was so painfully obvious.
I eventually became accustomed to greetings at church, you know, the quick ‘side hugs’? They were inoffensive and fast. Catch and release. I could deal with that. But still, ‘real’ touch plagued me. I tried to force myself to be still and wait. I would look everywhere I could see and I would think of everything I could think of. I wondered what was wrong with me and if it would ever be resolved, if I would ever be normal.
I realized tonight, if I had not ever realized before, part of the reason for my torment – I long to be touched. It’s one of my love languages. I was made for Touch. I am soothed when my mother plays with my hair or when she rubs my back. I am affirmed when my son latches on to me in the middle of Sub-way and won’t let go. I am completely loved and accepted when my husband embraces me, his masculinity covering and protecting me. Touch is my main love language!
The enemy, Satan, had so perverted my sense of self, direction, love, safety, and even friendship, that I couldn’t perceive up from down. (Satan is a jerk, in case you didn’t know.) I longed for Touch, needed Touch, yet could not possibly stand for or submit to being touched. Hence the torment. How clever is he? Yet, how stupid? Did the enemy possibly think he could ruin me forever? Probably.
At this moment I have no explanation for the turn-around I’ve experienced. I did no work. There were no steps, no pills, no potions, or lotions. I can only say I’ve been healed and I’m in the process of being healed. I have noticed in the last year or so, I can intentionally embrace and be embraced by my husband. I’m not always standing there, plotting and waiting to escape. I can hug my mother and mean it, not wanting to withdraw to a safe distance and I can make eye contact with her afterward. To me, this is a miracle!
I can say I have prayed for change. I have begged to be different. I have been through deliverance and I have just plain ‘will-powered’ through some of it. I can’t, however, say these things alone changed me. At some point, Father God taught me how to speak into the issue. He taught me to speak of my identity as beloved, accepted, cherished, unique, powerful and seen. I eventually came to know Him as someone who wanted absolutely nothing from me. If I didn’t want to be close to Him, okay. If I needed a quick touch but not to be held, okay. If I wanted to be with Him but wanted no contact, just to sit together, Father allowed me the comfort of His presence. In Him, I found my peace. It was, He was, enough. Because I found God loved me, no matter what had been done to me and no matter how I acted, I could rest. I found He was trustworthy and I could trust who I was with with Him. If I could trust my Father’s love and He respected my space, nothing else was of much consequence.
I became, and I am becoming, more secure in who I am and in the power I have; power to say yes or power to say no. The fairytale continues and happily ever after is possible after all.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (NIV)
Jeannie B. Wilbourn