I think John Mayer’s song Daughters encapsulates it best:
I know a girl
She puts the colors inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on the steps with my heart in my hand
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers that turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too.
What prompted me to write this essay? To help people who are:
- Dating or attempting to date a ‘wounded’ woman
- Married to a ‘wounded’ woman
DISCLAIMER: I am not a therapist, expert, licensed counselor or the like. I have no formal education on this subject. I have, however, experienced to some degree what I am about to share and would like to give information and insight from my own perspective and the perspectives of those who have shared with me over the years. The symptoms, experiences, etc. are not all-inclusive, but, instead represent a sampling of possible issues. Lastly, though I recognize these issues can apply to men as well as women, for the purpose of this piece, I will concentrate on the state of being ‘wounded’ as it relates to women. Origins of the Wounds The origin of a woman’s wounds could come from many different sources (too numerous to mention). For the purpose of this piece I would like to concentrate on two particular sources: (1) Father Wounds (2) Ex-Relationship Wounds (marital or dating) Father wounds Father wounds are, as the title suggests, wounds inflicted intentionally or unintentionally by the biological father or father figure in the woman’s life. There are many but I will briefly cover six (6) possible sources:
- Neglect – Perhaps the father did not pay much attention to his daughter for whatever reason.
- Rejection – This could come in the form of feeling rejected from her parents’ divorce; feeling rejected because perhaps dad wanted a son and instead got a daughter; feeling rejected due to a step-father situation where the step-father did not make an effort to develop a relationship with step-daughter; rejection because dad physically left her life forever; etc.
- Abandonment – Again, divorce brings on this feeling. Dad is supposed to be protector and cover his family. If he leaves due to divorce or other reasons, the child can feel abandoned, even if care is taken to make sure the child knows it’s not her fault. Dad’s absence from the family unit is traumatizing. Also, if dad decides to completely leave the family and never keep in touch this will cause a feeling of abandonment.
- Abuse – This can include emotional (manipulation, control, berating/abusive speech), physical or sexual. Trust is broken from someone who is supposed to protect, and they breached and destroyed trust by selfish and disgusting behavior.
- Addiction – If the father suffered from an addiction such as drugs, alcohol or other, this could have many negative effects on the daughter including those mentioned above (rejection, abuse, abandonment, etc.). Perhaps because of his addiction, the daughter had to take on more of an adult or parental role in the household prematurely because the addicted parent was not able to behave in a responsible adult fashion.
- Death – Perhaps the dad passed away prematurely and the daughter had limited or no time with her father, which could’ve possibly lead to any of the above symptoms.
Ex-Relationship Wounds (marital or dating) Many of the same ‘rules’ apply regarding Father Wounds & may be interrelated.
- Neglect – Perhaps the spouse or boyfriend neglected her on a consistent basis.
- Rejection – Perhaps occurs due to neglect or abuse of some kind. Rejection of who she is as a person.
- Abandonment – Perhaps the spouse or boyfriend completely left the relationship (divorce or break-up) without warning, or without trying to work on it, etc. Often, the husband/boyfriend leaves her for another woman and/or leaves her a single mom fending for herself.
- Betrayal – The spouse or boyfriend breached trust in the relationship due to an affair (or series of affairs); Financial irresponsibility or creating large amounts of debt without the wife/girlfriend’s knowledge – wreaking havoc on the finances, etc.
- Abuse – Whether emotional (manipulating, controlling, berating/abusive language), physical or sexual.
- Addiction – Perhaps the spouse or boyfriend battled an addiction and it destroyed the relationship and had residual effects on woman.
- Death – Spouse or boyfriend passes away suddenly and without warning and woman is left trying to cope.
Effects of Wounds If a woman has experienced any of these wounds they may take on different side effects in her life. In her attempts to cope or ‘normalize’ her life or ‘ignore’/push away the bad memories, some of the following may manifest:
- Promiscuity – particularly when a woman has suffered abuse of some kind and/or abandonment, she may cope in a way where she feels like SHE is going to control what happens to her and SHE will be the aggressor. She secretly may not feel like she’s worthy of a good relationship.
- Withdrawing from life – Often, as a coping mechanism, some women will just politely withdraw from life. Yes, they’ll go about their normal daily routines but they will largely shut themselves off from forging new friendships or relationships. They’ll stay in their own bubble of a world and will not let others in easily, if at all.
- Sabotage – Because of all she’s endured, she doubts her worth and therefore if anyone gets too close, she either knowingly or unknowingly does something that sabotages any growth in the relationship, particularly if it is getting “too close” or more intimate. Possibility of intimacy or a serious relationship causes fear of further rejection, etc. She shuts the relationship down to protect herself from having to potentially experience hurt EVEN IF the guy is a genuinely good guy.
- Does Not Trust (Easily / At All) – When a woman is deeply wounded, as a defense and/or coping mechanism, her guard goes UP. Think of this guard as a 5-foot-thick, 10-foot-tall concrete enclosure. Nothing’s getting in…and nothing’s getting out, barring demolition equipment. Why is it so difficult for trust to happen, even with a really good man who has the best intentions? Because her trust has been completely violated and utterly demolished. It will take time and LOTS of patience and understanding for a man to penetrate this wall and/or for her to begin to let it down. If you’re not a patient person, this may not be the job for you. RECOGNIZE just like the song I quoted at the beginning of this piece, that her inability or apprehension to trust you has really “got nothing to do with you”. As for her, it’s up to her to take the initiative to work on herself as well, and to get some quality professional counseling as well, if necessary, to begin to work through her ‘demons’ and get to a healthy place again where she CAN begin to trust. Be patient with her because this will take TIME and consistent work. But also help her to want to help herself in this area. Be in her corner and cheer her on.
- Workaholic – She may use work and her career as a reason to ignore or block out any possibilities of intimacy (a deep, meaningful relationship). She may be wildly successful professionally, but, severely lacking in relationships of any significance. The schmooze, she can do. Forging close friendships and relationships, she avoids like the plague because they make her uncomfortable. They force her to have to be vulnerable, to open up that place that once was so deeply wounded. She may feel as though she cannot risk being wounded again, so, it is difficult for her to consider opening up for even the possibility of sharing her heart.
- Non-Committal – This is intertwined with some of the above-mentioned effects. She’s a casual dater. She’ll go from one guy to the next, not letting anything get too far before she breaks it off. This is similar to #3 (Sabotage). This non-committal attitude may carry over into other areas of her life as well.
- Jealousy – If the woman has been continuously cheated on in previous relationships and made to feel as if she was second best, or not as good as “girl number two”, the result is often overwhelming and unfounded jealousy in future relationships. She has no reference for a TRULY GOOD and honest relationship. Everything she may have experienced to this point may have been low-life guys who always sought out opportunities to be unfaithful and to make her feel second rate. She will have to take steps to heal from this & work through her own thoughts and reactions in subsequent relationship(s). But, if you are her spouse or boyfriend and are a truly good guy who would never cheat on her…if she’s the love of your life…be lovingly patient and reassuring. Know that it’s not really you that she’s reacting to, as much as flashbacks of past incidences that may remind her of something or someone that brought harm to her previous relationship. Also, take stock of your own actions. Maybe you’re just an overly friendly guy who calls everyone “honey” and chats it up with everyone and their mother. But, maybe she feels threatened by this and she’ll need your reassurance, and perhaps tweaking your friendliness just a tad to help her to feel comfortable.
What Is The Solution? That is a loaded question. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to loving your wounded woman. I think that one of the key factors in any relationship is that both people have to continually want to work on the relationship and on themselves to make/keep the relationship better/healthy. Perhaps your woman does not realize she’s doing some of these things / reacting in some of these ways. You may want to lovingly bring this to her attention in a gentle & non-threatening way. She may still rebuff a bit, but, if you remain calm and patient it may help her to more readily receive what you’re saying. If she’s not ready to deal with it, you may have to let the subject rest for a bit. But try to revisit and reiterate your love for her and your desire to see your relationship be the best it can be. Remind her that you are a team and in this together for the long haul.
Educate yourself. There are definitely many books and videos, etc. on this subject that can help you to better understand your woman and work proactively to make the relationship the best it can be on your side of things. She will also have to be proactive to improve herself and help herself resolve certain issues. Perhaps even couples’ counseling could be an option. Don’t look at counseling as a ‘dig’ at your ability to fix everything yourself. Instead, look at it more as a tool or a resource to aid you in reaching your goal: which is to better understand your mate, and to help grow your relationship into the best it can be. Just like on your job, if you do not understand how to accomplish a task or a process, you seek out information and resources to aid you in completing your project and in reaching your goals/projections. The same principal applies in your relationship. Find and use resources to help you obtain your set goals and to maintain your ‘numbers’, so to speak.
Another example is your vehicle. Your car is your ‘baby’. If she gets scratched or dented, you’re immediately concerned. You want to rectify the situation quickly. If she’s making a funny noise or if engine light is illuminated on your dashboard, or if a belt snaps, or a tire blows…you’re seeking out the mechanic ASAP. Or if you’re mechanically inclined, you’re fixing the vehicle yourself, right away. You also do regular maintenance on your vehicle to prevent future issues. And you wash and wax her to keep her looking and smelling good. So it is with your relationship. Maintenance and repair are a regular necessity. No, it’s not all on you. The woman must take equal responsibility for investing into the relationship. But, ideally, it should be a team effort. And this piece, hopefully, is a ‘light bulb’ or catalyst to ignite you in your own research on this subject and help you to better understand the wounded woman in your life, so that you can ‘go in’ with more knowledge under your belt and more compassion in your heart. I hope and pray that this will be a beginning to assisting you in your current relationship or in relationships to come. It was my goal to shed a little bit of light on the subject. Happy researching and much success to you!
© KD Corner 2012 “Loving Wounded Women”