Understanding Men and How They Are Impacted By Trauma
Understanding Men and Trauma
Over the past few months, some men in my life, including my dad, have revealed childhood traumas. These deeply troubling revelations are helping me understand why these men were so terrible to me and others in their orbit who loved them. Most of these men have acknowledged with their pasts, a huge step towards healing and atoning. The past for them includes pain from physical and sexual abuse, sadness, anger, neglect, loneliness, isolation and lots of distrusts.
The older I get, the more I realize carrying around bags of poop on our backs not only prevents us from having a more pleasurable life for our own benefit, but those bags of poop negatively impacts the lives of everyone around us. We all have bags, some people just make others carry those bags for them. Men have directly and indirectly ruined a plethora of women’s lives because they don’t deal with their issues head on.
Most men will carry their bags of poop to their graves unless they have a trusted friend or confidant to confide in. When they confide in friends, spouses, lovers, or exes, it can be a monumental reveal. Sometimes it’s the last piece to the puzzle, at least that’s how I feel about it. We women may know when something is wrong with the men in our lives, we just don’t have the proof. Men, being trained at a young age to not acknowledge their feelings, try to hide them. They just manifest themselves in our lives in other ways — ways that hurt lots of women and girls.
Those scars stay with us a lifetime.
The Impact of Childhood Physical and Emotional Abuse on Boys
I believe past traumas from physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse suffered by our parents can be transferred to their children. Because boys are usually taught to be strong, not cry, not talk about their pain, and sometimes often have trust issues because caretakers responsible for their well-being violated that trust, the trauma may manifest later in life when they are older, more settled, with more time to reflect on their pasts.
Let’s face it. Society doesn’t protect our boys the same way we protect our girls, making it easier for predators to molest our sons. Most times when we hear about sexual assault, we immediately think of women and girls. Rarely do we think of young boys and male teenagers as victims of sexual violence and child molestation. That’s because women unfortunately control the messaging, partly because we are victimized the most.
I have dated men who told me their first sexual encounter was with an adult female babysitter or caretaker in middle school. One male acquaintance told me his first sexual encounter was with his female middle school teacher. I was pretty floored hearing about the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse among young African American boys from men because it’s so under-reported. The trauma from losing innocence and the lack of experience dealing with premature sexual activity is a lot for young men to comprehend alone. We often create our monsters by looking the other way or ignoring the subtle signs of childhood abuse and trauma. There are signs. There are always signs.
When we don’t help boys deal with their childhood abuses issues as kids, they just manifest in other ways throughout adulthood. Sometimes trauma from childhood abuse reappears as habitual cheating, serial dating, child abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), anger issues, poor marriages, poor parenting, horrible coping skills, poor communication skills, substance abuse and addictions, mental health issues, and personality disorders. Disassociation from childhood trauma is often a tell-tale sign of some form of child abuse or neglect. Blocking out conscious awareness of trauma does not mean that the survivors are not impacted by their trauma, it just means they are refusing to deal with it.
The Ex’s Sexual Abuse Disclosure
An ex’s who I loved dearly but couldn’t get along with finally confirmed what I’ve suspected for years — he was sexually abused as a child. He confessed he was angry nearly every day of his life. His revelation explained so much for me. When we were younger, he was somewhat violent, and he always seemed to be unhappy/dissatisfied. He could sit for long periods and not say anything. I always felt there was more to him and his behavior. The disclosure answered so many questions about how he acted and how he treated women.
It’s easy to understand why some people act the way they do when they disclose they have experienced some physical or mental impairment such as depression, bipolar disorder, or other conditions that may make cultivating and maintaining relationships challenging.
But when a person you love makes relationship goals challenging (and sometimes impossible), we often wonder if there is a back story. I would say women purge easier than men do, and we are more likely to admit we have a problem. But men, they are different. They will go throughout life treating people shitty either intentionally or unintentionally until one day they have an epiphany. Men need to share it with someone, but believe seeking professional therapy is weak and would rather seek a close friend/confidante to make a personal disclosure. Disclosing is fine, but some men really need professional help, especially when dealing with addictions (i.e. gambling, substance abuse, sex). We can’t serve all the world’s problems.
Unresolved Trauma in My Failed Marriage
As I reflect on my failed marriage, one thing I noticed early in the relationship was my ex-husband never talked about his mother. And when he discussed his mom, she wore the role of a victim fleeing domestic violence, or she was sick of living with sickle cell disease. His mom was usually too sick to care for her five children, or his dad used his kids as pawns his abusive, alcoholic dad. Because my ex-husband was so young, his memories of his dad were extremely skewed. Listening to the family violence described by his older siblings and comparing his stories I noticed immediately there were huge discrepancies in how the stories of family dysfunction and violence were interpreted. Even his younger sister remembered the family violence, poverty, her dad beating up on her mom, but my ex-didn’t recall any of it. Same household, but different interpretations of the household events.
Even when my ex recalled his dad’s violence, being split up from his mother because of his dad made his mom leave without them, those memories seemed to be fond of him. He did not see his dad as an abuser.
It wasn’t until I mentioned to him how skewed his childhood memories were that he realized he had better memories of his dad than his mom. He had almost erased her from his memory. Fast forward to his marriage number three to yours truly, and I’d learn my husband didn’t have respect for women, especially not a wife. In his mind he had a very defined roles for a husband and his wife. Learning about his childhood, albeit too late, helped me to understand how he handled relationships with women once they became his wife.
I got my PhD in emotional abuse. It was the first time I had been in a relationship with an introverted covert narcissist. He was smart, handsome, well-liked and charming in his professional circles. On the outside he appeared to be all the things we women are taught to look for in a man. I learned that dream guy on the outside can be a nightmare on the inside. His personal thoughts about our marriage was as long as he didn’t physically abuse me, nothing else is abuse. Withholding sex and affection wasn’t abuse. Controlling our finances wasn’t abuse to him either. Allowing his children to be manipulative and disrespectful wasn’t considered abuse either. I found myself in a whole new world and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I experienced gaslighting, a lack of empathy, passive-aggressive interactions, double-standards, threats, verbal abuse when we were alone, his superiority, and most times an inability to address difficult conflicts. I had to control my weight, diet when he dieted, eat what he wanted, exercise when he wanted to. If I tried to do anything on my own, it was hell. Marriage to a covert narcissist is terrible for your self-esteem.
My life would eventually be flipped upside down and it would take years after I finally left for good to recover from his narcissistic abuse. I’m still recovering.
Once I realized what type of relationship I was in and the real person I was married to, I needed to know how my ex-husband got that way. How could such a smart, handsome, well-liked guy be so evil behind closed doors? What I discovered in study after study on malignant narcissism was that he was likely created after birth. His tumultuous childhood that included an abusive, controlling, alcoholic father, parental neglect, and forced abandonment by his mother/primary caregiver led to the formation of the man I’d eventually marry.
The childhood neglect created the covert monster I married who would eventually shake me to my core and cause me to rethink everything I thought I knew about people and life. His childhood trauma caused my adult trauma. He’d be able to go off into the sunset and start again hunting for wife number four, pretending I was the problem like all narcs do, and I’d be left trying to put the pieces of my life back together again.
It seems throughout most of my life; I have crossed paths with men suffering from hidden or yet to be discovered pains and traumas. And since hurt people often hurt people, including the people these men claim they love, I like many other women in their orbits end up getting hurt. My traumas will probably cause harm to others, and my trauma may also cause me to indirectly harm myself.
Because men like the ones I described weren’t willing or weren’t able to address their childhood issues, nearly all the personal relationships have ended with more trauma for all involved.
We end up being their collateral damage.
Only one of these men had an epiphany about his trauma, realizing how his unresolved trauma had hurt many people throughout their lives. It’s bittersweet to get a phone call apologizing for the trauma he caused after trying to move on from my share of relationships that included abuse, neglect, but it’s better late than never I say.
If men could better understand the power they posses and how unresolved trauma destroys the lives of family, friends, children, spouses, and significant others, perhaps they’d work harder on dealing with the traumas. From having children, taking a wife, or even asking a woman out on a first date, unresolved trauma can negatively impact these activities.
If we women are going to have relationships with men, we need to get to know them. I mean really get to know them. That’s not always easy because we all hide the “real” us until we’re comfortable enough to let go. Sometimes the man is your brother or even your father. After going through an emotional breakdown with my dad who I thought was strong as a rock, I discovered he had unresolved trauma and abuses he had endured as a child. A light came on for me about how he abandoned me as a child.
We can’t underestimate the power of life-altering childhood trauma, and we can’t assume that most men aren’t broken little boys who need to be put back together with Elmer’s Glue and Scotch Tape. Understanding where a man’s been can help a us where he’s going. There is no textbook way to behave when we act when we experience trauma, but the signs are obvious if you are looking.
©2019 Marley K. All rights reserved.