Marriage, Uncategorized

Affected by the past? Childhood experiences affecting your marriage?

dare 2Happy Friday, my friends! I’m so happy you are back with me as I commit to this 40-week journey back through the Respect Dare, what I consider my 101 manual as a wife in my most important backyard mission, my marriage.

Last week, I wrote about expectations and how my unrealistic expectations of myself, my husband and my marriage threatened to destroy it all. If you missed, it, no worries, just come back to it here  in a few minutes when you’re done reading!

This week, Dare 2 challenges us to examine how we might be filtering our marriages (and other relationships for that matter) through past experiences that taught us something about marriage, although we didn’t realize it at the time.

The further I get in my journey, the more I realize that deep in my brain are these deeply embedded subconscious memories that my body and mind go to in certain situations, without my permission!

I spent a good deal of my childhood living near a couple in the neighborhood that struggled with domestic violence.

In the still of the night I would be jerked from my sleep by the blood curdling screams from the wife, begging for help and for the man to stop beating her. I would hear terrifying crashes and sounds from the scene of the violent struggle going on in my neighborhood as my heart raced and hot adrenaline filled my veins, a sickness overtaking my stomach and rushing into my throat. Inside my head, pulsing with terror, I would pray, God please help her. Please save her. Don’t let her die. Make him stop.

I would see the wife in the days following, her face swollen and often bruised from the beating. Her eyes were despondent, empty and flat. I can still see her face when I close my eyes. And it haunts me.

Fast forward my entire adult life, and I still hear those sounds in the night. I still wake up with a jerk, my heart racing and struggling to catch my breath.

sunglassesIt took most of my marriage for me to understand that I was filtering my relationship with my husband through this lens. Because those sounds and sights were so deeply impactful, my brain interprets so many things as dangerous even when they are not.

It’s kind of like the way wearing sunglasses changes the way the world looks to you. It filters your perceptions.

So many things trigger me back to that childhood experience. Raised voices, anger, screaming, anything that seems like fighting all cause the alarms to sound. I have to stay away from violent movies. My brain goes back to those moments. Every time.

So how does any of this relate to my marriage or other relationships? 

Well, I’m married to a man. A normal man with an emotional range that includes anger. 

Problem is, his anger triggers me. Every time. In fact, ALL anger triggers me. And I feel unsafe, even when there is no real danger, which is 99.99 percent of the time.

Because I have lived my life in fear of being hurt like that woman whose screams I heard in the night, I have the tendency to go into overdrive to keep myself sheltered completely free from anything unpleasant, including confrontation of any kind in my marriage or other relationships.

fearI’ve struggled to allow my husband to discipline our children, for fear that they would interpret it as abuse and then become abusive or be abused. I’ve struggled to listen to or communicate with my husband when he is at all emotional for fear that I would be enabling some type of abuse.

As a result, I’ve been controlling to the point of suffocating as a wife. I’ve isolated my husband and judged, criticized and labeled his every action, making him and me miserable. 

Walking through the Respect Dare and other life-changing resources, including Celebrate Recovery, I have come to learn that fear is NOT from the Lord.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Well, if it isn’t from God, then who?

There’s an enemy who hates us. You, me, our husbands and our families. And he keeps us living fear-based lives, playing on our emotions and past experiences. Like a formidable foe, he knows his enemy, us. He knows our weaknesses and fears and capitalizes on them to bring us to despair, hopelessness and catastrophic thinking.

That’s why 1 Peter 5:6-9 gives us instruction on how to strategically deal with a predictable enemy.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”

Did you catch all that? In order to defeat our real enemy, we must HUMBLE ourselves. We must give our fears to GOD. We must stay aware and alert to the schemes of the devil. And, we must RESIST him.

James 4:7 instructs, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”


It’s hard not to filter all of life through our difficult experiences, especially those that leave us scarred. But we must be wise and humble enough to allow GOD to heal us and change us. We are responsible for our responses to our triggers. And, we don’t have to let them control us!

Ibattle‘ve learned that every time I react in fear, I’m being led by the enemy. I’m unknowingly firing from his side of the battle lines, straight at myself. And I don’t want that. Can you imagine? A enemy who is such a good liar, the father of lies, in fact, that he can talk a wife into working against herself and her husband and marriage on his behalf? He can just sit back and laugh and let her do all the work to undo what God has given her.

It’s pretty cunning.

Until that woman wises up. Until she learns how to fight. Until she gets to know her God and His character and His plan and His purposes and how to see people through His eyes. And then learns the playbook of the enemy.

He’s nothing if not predictable.

Ladies, is there an area in your marriage that is being affected by a past or childhood experience?  Psychology says that the answer to this is a YES for pretty much everyone, so if you can’t think of it, God says that when we ask for wisdom, He will give it.

Would you ask God to help you call to mind what it is? He wants us to know the truth so the truth can set us free.

What’s controlling you and your marriage without your knowledge or permission?

Thanks for loving me right where I’m at my friends.

Can’t wait to hear what you all are learning, too!

To get your own copy of the Respect Dare, click here.

Fun sidebar, it’s been a little more than 5 years since I first found the Respect Dare and my sweet friend, author Nina Roesner. You may have noticed this meme going around Facebook:

five yearsI can say with TOTAL CERTAINTY my life is better because of this book and the people who came in to my life as a result!

And, no, I’m not being paid to say that!

It’s just … true.

Sending BIG Texas love, y’all!


If you’ve not heard of it or not checked it out, I highly recommend the new free ecourse, Strength and Dignity to learn how to face those fears that keep us from respecting ourselves, our husbands and others in a healthy way.

Check out this post by Nina Roesner for more info and a sign up! I would be soooooo giddy happy to have you all joining us for this new and exciting journey in learning next-level respect.


About Melissa Smith


3 thoughts on “Affected by the past? Childhood experiences affecting your marriage?

  1. Thank you Melissa. These words were very timely. We are having a huge struggle with my husband’s father – AGAIN. This time the attack has been aimed at our son. This just reinforces what my husband and I were discussing last night and today. Thank you!!

    Posted by Stefanie | January 16, 2016, 4:46 pm
  2. Hi! I just started my respect dare journey too! Nice to find a travelling companion 🙂 Blessings to you!

    Posted by respectrevolution | January 19, 2016, 7:49 pm

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