Learn something new every day, right? I was hoping for cake recipes, not sexual abuse.
The hunches have been there for years. I won’t say they’ve trembled with malignant fervour or emanated some ominous aura. It’s not as though they’re sitting in a dark room drinking whisky with Rebus and dreaming of Val McDermid as they slip into the ether.
Where the hunches began? Who knows. There have always been niggles. Little wonderings. Stories told and information gleaned that caused a pause. Pieces of knowledge that felt incomplete. There have been plenty of heartbreaking moments along the way.
One sunny morning, Mr. Juniper and I were in the kitchen talking whilst the boys wreaked havoc in the living room. Leaning against the countertop, I drank hot tea. Hot tea! It was marvelous. Mr. Juniper stood across the room, every so often lapsing into staring off into the distance.
He kept talking about categories. Where did he fit in the categories? You’re kind of in all of them, darling. We knew therapy would be difficult. I’m not sure Mr. Juniper realized in what way therapy would be difficult. He had, in the time before therapy, been coming to realize that childhood incidents he knew weren’t right, had been not right in a sphere that might gently be called sexual abuse.
Juniper, he said, was – was what happened, was that sexual abuse? I was watching a grown adult look like a hurt puppy. All I could really do was shrug my shoulders and say, I think so. What could I say? Darling, given what you’ve been saying for years, I’m pretty sure the answer is a glaring YES! This needed to be a slow process. Anything faster would have overwhelmed him. I’m not sure he could have coped with the force.
Sunshine flooded the kitchen, it was a beautiful summer morning. He talked and talked. I listened and listened. Every so often, he’d stop and ask a question or I would interrupt to help him articulate his way out of a corner. I answered the questions as best I could. Mostly it was a simple answer of whether or not something was appropriate. Mostly, I said no.
The hunches that had been there for so long were coming together. I thanked the universe that Mr. Juniper was working with a wonderful psychologist. There was the spoken history coming through. There were the physical signs, too. Tiny jarring moments that were gaining significance. Ways of being touched that elicited a “no” or a “stop.” Bigger moments where Mr. Juniper moved my hand. Always an edge of alarm.
These days, I’m familiar with most of his trigger points. The hard days are when his whole being is a trigger point. A difficult day and a hug was too much. But then there are the nights when things change. A night snuggled up together watching The Great British Bake Off is a joy all of its own.
Mr. Juniper is trying to process a lifetime in a different light. I’m trying to figure out how to be a good partner through all this. Wherever I look, I see much of the same: Do Your Duty. One site, under information for partners, said in bold, “It’s not about you.” No shit, Sherlock.
We’ve been living with the effects of abuse for years. I know the drill. Most of which boils down to respecting the other person emotionally and physically, and listening to them. Prior to the more recent discoveries about abuse, we would check in with emotional and physical boundaries. Feelings were validated. And listening. Always listening.
Wherever I looked, I kept hoping I would see something about relationships. My searching left me feeling entirely selfish. How awful to think of our relationship during this time. It’s not about you, after all. Many sites made it clear that a partner is there to do their duty and nothing more. Since then, I have come across different sites that acknowledge when a partner seeks support, they are perhaps seeking support for their partnership, too. A partnership being a safe space all of its own.
Pull up the blinds, draw the curtains, fling the windows open. The rain comes on and brings a cooler breeze. Little sunshine to brighten the day. Autumn’s colder days and longer nights are all but here. I wonder what the winter will bring. Time to light the lamps and pull the windows, too. This I can do. A warm home, a light home, a safe home. Tell him I love him. Tell him I’m here. It’s all I can do.