Could Early Childhood Experiences Sabotage Your Marriage?

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Article by guest blogger Janet K. Tilford: Could your earliest childhood experiences be sabotaging your adult relationships?
Author, When It’s All Her FaultJanet K. Tilford, CPCC

Question from Irene: Why did you name the book When It’s All Her Fault?

Answer: The title came from my husband Greg’s belief for 29 years that the challenges in our marriage were 100% my fault. Passivity opens the door for this victim mentality. The passive person commonly thinks, “What did I do?” and “I didn’t do anything.” Passive behavior is often actually passive aggressive behavior. Procrastination, avoidance, distraction, false accusations, and ducking responsibility all confirm to the passive that he hasn’t done anything wrong.

Frustration and anger grows for his spouse. She is often over-worked and under-appreciated. In public he looks innocent and she looks frustrated and/or angry. When It’s All Her Fault becomes a great title because the potential male reader believes it and empathizes with Greg, and the potential female reader has heard that phrase most of her marriage. As we wrestled with the best title we wanted to call the reader with the familiar mantra.

This book is a story about a marriage where it was perceived by the storyteller that their marriage problems were all her fault.


In my case, 29 years of marriage were spent under the negative influence of events that happened to my husband in his early childhood years –trauma suffered before age 10.

As our marriage reached a crisis point and neared divorce, my husband Greg sought answers. He struggled with the seeming failure of his marriage, and he reflected upon his family and the events that shaped his emotional makeup. With the help of a qualified family therapist, Greg soon uncovered the Arrested Emotional Development (AED) that held him in the emotional grip of his wounded boyhood.

Does this situation resonate with you?

There are five core wounds that can lead to AED. They are:
1. Abandonment (rejection or neglect), real or perceived
2. Incest
3. Molestation
4. Emotional abuse
5. Physical abuse

Greg’s symptoms included control issues, irrational fears, lack of personal responsibility and a deep sense of shame and worthlessness.
These symptoms deeply affected our marriage, and left me terribly unhappy, with a perpetual chip on my shoulder. Having a husband who looked terrific from the outside but who was emotionally exhausted in private was a great burden.

Since Greg began dealing with these early issues and their ramifications, our entire family has done the difficult work of healing and reconciliation. If you or your loved one is suffering with these symptoms, we urge you to seek counseling. Please know that you are not alone, and that there is tremendous hope for a better tomorrow.

Janet K. Tilford, CPCC

Author, When It’s All Her FaultJanet K. Tilford, CPCC

Photo of sad man is by Charlottedallot on Flickr

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15 thoughts on “Could Early Childhood Experiences Sabotage Your Marriage?”

  1. It’s very amazing to me that alot of men,dont know that marriage is an exact example of love… Meaning you allow marriage to create you! Just like love. I say men because they have a strong innate pull or drive to try and make marriage from what they believe,or learned or seen. And then they marry and come face to face with love, a power that is unexplainable, but seen by it’s effects. I guess its hard to let go of one’s self when that’s all they know. An eye-opener, that he has chosen to be lonely…

      1. We are wired to want to be with more than one pnetarr. That’s funny and wrong. Marriage is a gift designed by God. As a happily married man of 15 years I can’t think of anything that would provide more short term pleasure and long term pain then being with multiple pnetarrs. Thats just one of satans many traps. I know all children would agree also.

        1. You are so right about the short and long term pleasure.
          I think that we are wired to be with one person in long term relationships and develop a strong emotional connection – not just short term pleasure, because our changes of survival is greater when we are together – also for the children.
          Thanks for commenting Rahana.
          irenesavarese recently posted..Most Popular Posts in 2011My Profile

  2. Blame is such a destructive thing in relationships. Rarely is it true that one person is entirely to blame for the problems in a relationship. More often than not the “Blamer” is just as culpable of contributing problems to a relationship as the person being Blamed. Who was it who said, “Take the Log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brothers eye”. Most people use blame so they don’t have to fulfill the responsibility of getting their own house in order. I work with people on a daily basis who never take responsibility for their own actions and become preoccupied trying to control, police, manipulate their partners. Blame is such a harmful thing in relationship. Here’s the absurd thing though. In all my years I have never seen “Blame” work. It certainly doesn’t work for the Blamed and equally if never works to make the Blamer happy. In fact the blamer tends to become preoccupied with seeing the faults in others. They often become stressed anxious, depressed and they don’t often realise that it is their preoccupation with blaming that is the cause of their own distress and the distress of others.

    1. Thanks Jim for a great comment.
      I agree that blaming is destructive for relationships. When couples come to see me, I think it is very important to listen to their stories (and blaming) before working with HOW they are communicating disagreements and differences. If you feel listened to you are also more likely to be open to learning new ways of expressing self.

  3. As a psychologist who has worked with abused children, and adults who were abused as children, I have seen the pervasive scars and lifetime hardships it can cause. Sometimes I have found adults abused as children who were able to live happy productive lives, completely overcoming the trauma.

    I’m conducting a survey to see what has made the difference in their lives. If you are an adult who suffered childhood trauma, please take this confidential survey. I’ll share the results.


  4. Hi Linda,
    You obviously get the title. Fun! I can appreciate your empathy for the constantly blamed spouse.
    We coined the AED, Greg says he got tired of writing out the Arrested Emotional Development. He’s an engineer and I’m pretty sure they introduced the first acronym.
    Thanks for the well wishes. i’ll check out your blogpost!
    Best wishes!

    1. Hi Irene,
      Thanks for the encouragement. We are believing that it is time for other couples to experience what we have. It’s truly amazing what was accomplished without any traditional marriage counseling. Two healthy people make a healthy marriage. :)

    2. my hubasnd did not have an affair on me, but was not aware of a child he had produced till after we were married, we have custody of him now going on 3 years, its tough but if you can forgive him for the affair, maybe you can love the child and help raise her, it will be hard but hey if you are strong enough to get over an affair you are one tough lady!!! my hat is off to you

  5. Hi Janet and Irene–

    What a wonderful title to lure the blamer…I’ve had sessions with adults who feel so exasperated, so alone, and helpless when it appears to the outside world that their partner is this shining beacon of light and promise.

    I didn’t know that AED was a clinical term…thank you for enlightening. I’m so happy your husband found the help he so needed and you both deserved.
    Linda recently posted..“Ugh! This Is The Worst Blog Post In The World-” And Other Psychological Weapons of Mass DestructionMy Profile

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