Being Sexually Abused As A Child Almost Made Getting Married Impossible

I was sexually molested by someone 8 years older than me when I was 5-years-old. It happened every summer for three years.

It has affected so much of my life. For 20 years I thought I was just a bad person. I didn't know I felt this way because of the abuse I survived. It's something I still wrestle with. It has affected how I feel about myself. 

It has also affected how I feel about relationships.

In junior high, high school, and college I always had a complex with boys. My husband was my second boyfriend who wasn't cheating on me or just horrible to me. I had such low self-esteem that any time a nice guy liked me, I literally would freak out and run the other way. I would have anxiety attacks and think, "Why does he like me? What's wrong with him? If he likes ME, something must be wrong with HIM because I am bad. Why would someone like you like me?" I would just get these sick, panicky, anxious feelings. I started dealing with these feelings around 12. 

It took me awhile to see how I was sabotaging these potential normal relationships.

I get to high school and I started to act out and make some stupid choices. In college, it became very easy for me to rationalize away some poor decisions. It was very easy for me to throw away everything I had been taught about morality...and with not the greatest young men. I was usually the girl on the side or was the main girl but they had three others on the side. Nothing I would want for my children. Crappy situations, but that's what I felt comfortable with because I didn't feel like they really liked me so I didn't feel like I had to run the other way. 

When I was 24-years-old, I was working as a receptionist. I had just put in some real and hard work to "clean up" my life and make better decisions especially when it came to boys. I had decided that I was tired of living my life like this and I wanted to get married. My sister had recently gotten married and it was sort of a painful experience for me (although I was so excited for her!!) because I really did not believe that I could have a normal and healthy relationship with a great guy. I felt so frustrated with myself. 

I never thought I was going to get married. Ever.

I remember being so pained about it because it was something I wanted in my life so badly. I saw how happy my sister was. I remember intensely bawling--like the kind of sobbing where you wake up with your eyes swollen shut the next day. I was regularly pouring my heart out to God and begging and pleading that I would be able to have a normal and healthy relationship. I just kept thinking that something was seriously wrong with me. Why wasn't I capable of the kind of relationship I saw my sister having? Was it because I was just a bad person?

While I was working one day, I read this article about a little boy who had been sexually molested by his babysitter at age 2. As I was reading about this little boy's experience, a light clicked on and I was like, "Oh my gosh. I was molested." 

I finally told my parents. I got into therapy and put myself back in college. The pattern of freaking out whenever someone liked me was holding strong. Stronger than ever!

Then I met this really nice guy. We started dating. I decided I was going to be very open with him about my past and why I was having so much anxiety about a relationship with him. I took him home to meet my family. I had never forced myself to work through those anxious relationship feelings before. This was a first for me. And it was hard for me. So hard.

Ultimately, it didn't work out between us, but he was/is such a great person. When we broke up, I was in tears...not because I missed him, but because it was another relationship that I had failed at. 

And then I met Richard.

 
Learning to Date After Being Sexually Molested - JennOldham.com
 

He was in a college class with me. I thought he was dorky. I wasn't attracted to him at all, but I thought he was a nice guy. Once I started talking to him I realized how smart he was and that was very attractive! I remember just liking him as a person and I liked running into him around campus. I liked seeing him the hall. It was almost like running into him was a comfort for me--like he brought me peace. Looking back, I get emotional typing this out. I see the divine intervention that took place. I see God's hand in my life. My prayers were being answers.

We were in a finance class together where there was a lot of group work. I had my little group work clique that I always worked with, but on this one project, the person that I usually worked with put himself in another group. I was a little dumbfounded, but then Richard was all, "Hey! I would love to be in your group." Serious divine intervention happening. I need to write that guy that I usually did group work with a thank you note and tell him that I got married because of him. HA!

Richard and I started working together and I became more and more intrigued by him. We eventually started dating but it was very, very, very slow. I don't even know when we started dating because it just morphed (slowly) from studying to hanging out a little longer than we needed to and then dating. 

 
Learning to Date After Being Sexually Abused - JennOldham.com
 

Again, I felt such a sense of peace when I was with him. I remember the first time we held hands. It was butterflies! Fireworks! The works!

This was fun! Anxieties would still hit, but it felt so different than any other "relationship" that I had been in. I realized that I really liked this guy.

I started to realize and stop myself when I was looking for reasons to tear him apart because I was wondering how such a great guy could like me. I had to stop and remind myself not to do that.

I fought anxieties like crazy. I had a very difficult time being myself around his family because I had such intense anxieties. I want the world to know that if someone is being standoffish or anxious, the best thing you can do is find out what's going on with them and not judge them. 

I was working through some pretty serious and heavy stuff. Richard was my first serious boyfriend that I actually liked. 

Richard was very patient with me...even though he did break up with me one time. I was beyond devastated. I went to my sister's apartment and I cried for 3 days. I knew I was really in love with him. I missed him. I wanted him in my life. I mean, he just broke up with me and I was so worried that I would never get to talk to him again.

I fought like YOU-KNOW-WHAT for Richard. I fought so hard for him. I loved him. He was calming to me. There was a peace around him. (There still is!)

To help me in my fight for Richard, I started seeing another therapist. And actually, I confronted my abuser via email and asked for an apology and for him to pay for my therapy. And he did both of those things. 

 
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I battled my anxiety up until the day we were married. When I introduced Richard to my mom, I remember her telling me, "Jenn, this is your guy! You're going to marry this guy!" She just knew. She could see how be brought so much peace with him.  

I often hear people say that things get harder when you're married and anxiety gets worse, but it was the complete opposite. It was a miracle. 

 
 

For 20 years I thought I was bad. I thought I was unlovable. I thought I was somebody that someone couldn't date so if anyone was dating me, something was very wrong with them. That is how poorly I thought of myself. And it stems back from the abuse I suffered as a kindergartener. I still battle those feelings today, but the work I've put into my relationship with Richard has helped me see that I am lovable. 

 
 

If you're struggling with relationships in this way, please reach out and get some help. 


 

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) offers an online hotline as well as a telephone crisis line. If you are in crisis or need to help someone who is, call RAINN now at (800) 656-HOPE. Most cities also offer rape crisis centers, which offer support, information, and counseling to survivors.

To find your local center, click here.

 

When you are an abuse survivor, you desperately crave getting some control back into your life. Some of that control can come in unhealthy ways like self-sabotage and rejecting people before they reject me. On the other hand, being able to use natural remedies to help control negative self-talk and uplift my mood has been extremely powerful for me. Not to mention creating my own successful business. I often say it's the best self-help program I've ever been a part of. 100% EMPOWERING!

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