TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault and rape. All names have been changed or left out to protect the identity of the author and all related parties.
“My body, my choice” – The women in the crowd cried out.
“Her body, her choice” – The men in the crowd echoed the sentiment.
I marched in the Women’s March with my husband and my brother-in-law. I know good men because I married one of the best. Just seeing my husband in the crowd was powerful for me, but even more so knowing what he does for me, this woman, on a daily basis.
The intergenerational trauma of violence perpetrated on the female body lines my family tree and I question how I got here from there. My mother was raped by her step-father, which resulted in the birth of my older sister.
My father had so many children from so many women over the years and habitually left them when things “weren’t right” for him anymore. My father also raped my 14-year-old sister. Pregnant with her step-father’s child, she opted to terminate the pregnancy.
Here I am today at thirty, married to a man who, when I told him at 20 that I didn’t want to kiss a man again until I was married (after having men kiss me unwantedly and pressure me to have sex) said, “Okay, that’s fine. Whatever you need.” I didn’t end up holding to my resolve on that decision, kissing him a few months into our dating relationship, but his initial response was one of complete respect for me and my decisions.
On that day, the man who would become my husband showed me what it felt like to have a man hold space for me.
In that vein, I would like to share ways my husband holds space for me in hopes to help other good men hold space for partners with a history like mine:
1. He recognizes that I need to control my own body.
This runs deeper than just not pressuring me to have sex when we were dating, but to a deeper knowledge about the power that has been stolen from women in regards to their bodies. He has supported me when I was younger and didn’t drink alcohol at all for fear of not being in control of my body and he takes seriously my pondering over whether I want to experience the physical changes of pregnancy.
2. He doesn’t try to fix me.
When it comes down to it, we are all broken people. We come to relationships with our past heartaches, fears, and insecurities. But my past is not an area my husband can fix. He can listen to me tell my story, and he does. He can be a voice to end violence against women, and he does. But my past is still my past. It’s up to me to work through.
3. I feel safe enough to fail in fixing myself.
It turns out you can’t process all this in a day or a year, or even a few years. It takes a while. I don’t always get things right. But he doesn’t need me to be whole. I can be broken and that can be okay.
4. He offers me humble guidance and a willingness to help should I desire it.
In my mid-twenties, after I had confronted my mother about my father’s rape of my sister, it was the first time I really started to deeply process that part of my past. To put it bluntly, I was a mess. I am normally a fairly cheery person, so after seeing me struggling for weeks, he gently suggested that it may be time that I seek counseling. I had been so wrapped up in my head that I hadn’t even seen that option, but his gentle suggestion was what I needed in order to find extra support.
5. He never makes it about him.
About 97% of the time, we lead a very normal life for a young married couple. We both work full-time and I’m in grad school. We go hiking and we hang out with our friends. But every once in awhile, something happens and I’m forced to process the past in a new way. Maybe I go back to my childhood home to visit family or I’m faced with a reading for class that parallels my experience. Whatever the case, no matter my expression of it, he remains focused on supporting me. He goes home with me, not advising me how to deal with my family, but as a support. He listens even though he’s heard it before because he knows it’s what I need.
He holds space for me.
I know good men because I married one of the best.
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