Are You Courageous Enough to Explore and Admit Your Ignorance?

In a blog and video earlier this year, I identified and illustrated four adverse factors that husbands of sexual abuse (SA) survivors potentially bring into their marriage. Adverse Factors are the perspectives and behaviors a husband brings into his marriage that mimic the events surrounding his wife’s sexual abuse and/or clash with the effects of his wife’s sexual abuse.

oblivious husband who is plugging his ears and closing his eyes

Some men whom I mentor recently identified a fifth adverse factor. We labeled it Ignorance. A husband’s ignorance reveals itself in various forms, most of which are expressions of obliviousness to his wife’s voice and needs.

A husband’s oblivion clashes with the effects of his wife’s past sexual abuse. A commonality among many SA survivors, especially childhood sexual abuse survivors, was the oblivion of the adults in the survivor’s younger life. The adults’ obliviousness showed itself in many possible forms: (a) being unavailable or unable to listen, (b) refusal or reluctance to believe the child’s cry for help, (c) negligence in taking action to protect the child, (d) perhaps even being complicit in the abuse, and (e) ignorance of the trauma and long-term effects of sexual abuse. A husband’s ignorance throws the survivor back into her past of not being heard or understood at a time when she found herself powerless and alone.

A husband’s ignorance throws the survivor back into her past of not being heard or understood at a time when she found herself powerless and alone.

Here are ways husbands of sexual abuse survivors can be ignorant or oblivious in their relationship with their wives.

1. Ignorance of the trauma and long-term effects of sexual abuse.

Most of what I write about in my book and blogs addresses the long-term effects of sexual abuse, so I will not go into detail here. However, if a husband does not educate himself, he will have unrealistic expectations and an unloving insensitivity.

  • Husbands must learn why their wives cannot “just get over it.”
  • Husbands must understand that, in many cases, their wives are doing the best they can.
  • Husbands must also know that they may have been initially drawn to the vulnerabilities of their wives that they now find less attractive.

For more, read Help, My Wife is a Survivor of Sexual Abuse.

2. Ignorant of their own deficits.

In a previous blog, I wrote that some husbands create an unspoken fabricated profile describing the woman they hope to marry. Some men look for a Caregiver, someone who will dote on them and serve their needs. Others think of having good times with lots of activity, so they look for a Roommate. A third type of husband looks for someone who helps him feel like a man and who will satisfy his sexual desires, a Sex Goddess.

These profiles unveil a deficit in husbands rather than a deficiency in their marriage or wife.
The deficit of the husband can be summarized in this way:

  • Hoping for a Caregiver points to emotional immaturity and incapability to foster a mature and healthy relationship.
  • Hoping for a Roommate is a pursuit of activity rather than intimacy and indicates a fear of being known.
  • Hoping for a Sex Goddess envisions a sexual performer rather than a person to be known and treasured as a person.

None of these fabricated profiles leads to a maturing relationship because each reveals immaturity in the husband. A husband I mentor said, “We think we’re way better than we are, and we don’t see ourselves for who we are.” It is always helpful to explore how my family of origin affects me.

3. Ignorant of how to build a relationship.

Knowing how to build a relationship is too massive a topic to cover in a brief blog. Besides that, I’m still learning.

But my attention is caught by how frequently I hear husbands talk of their growing awareness of their need to be present. Being present is a significant first step to building our relationship with our wife.

Being present is a significant first step to building our relationship with our wife.

Men can be easily preoccupied. Our thoughts drift off to our workload, our next tee time, our finances or lack thereof, home projects, . . . the list goes on. Even when our wives are talking, our minds can be in a totally other location.

Being present means that my mind is . . .

  • Absorbing the words of my wife that my ears are hearing. Am I understanding, or do I need some clarification?
  • Processing the body language that my wife is using. Is it saying something I need to acknowledge?
  • Attentive to the facial expression of my wife. What is her expression telling me in addition to her words? Does her expression convey her hurt? Her heart’s cry? Her excitement?
  • Disciplined, not out of duty or constraint but because of our intentional choice to love.

Being present means that we use words. I’ve heard parents say to their children, “Use words” when they are moaning, pointing, or whining. We, husbands, need to use words rather than grunting. This also takes discipline of our minds so that we thoughtfully and meaningfully respond to our wives.

We, husbands, need to use words rather than grunting.

Being present is the first step to building a relationship. None of us likes trying to communicate with someone who is distracted.

When I am meeting with someone in a restaurant, I try to sit at the table in a place that is facing a wall. If I am facing the entrance to the room, I’m distracted by those who are coming in or going out. It’s a simple thing that helps me be present and stay on track with a conversation.

4. Ignorant of how to love our wives.

Your wife may not, and probably doesn’t, want to be loved the same way you like to receive love. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages is a helpful resource for many men.

Loving means . . .

  • Listening to her and verbally engaging with her.
  • Respecting her differences from you.
  • Granting her freedom to express her thoughts, gifts, and talents.
  • Understanding ourselves and our deficits.
  • Sharing with her our thoughts, dreams, values, emotions, aspirations, etc.
  • Being trustworthy 24/7.
  • Discovering what would cause her to say, “You make me feel so loved.”

I commend you for your courage. You’ve read this blog, indicating that you were courageous enough to explore the existence of any ignorance on your part. Good job!


  • Steve
    Posted June 1, 2023 1:13 pm 0Likes

    Great article Bill!

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