This week I’m having Steve and Shannon Hamaker on to share their experience as a married couple of 16 years with healing and working through depression.
What were the conversations around sex that the two of you had growing up?
Even though Shannon grew up Irish-Catholic, she always knew she could go to her parents with questions, but didn’t always know the questions to ask. In California she had a very comprehensive sex education course, but when she moved to Tennessee, that changed drastically.
Steve’s parents did the best with the knowledge that they had, but mostly they just didn’t talk about sex. He grew up in a small protestant farming town in Kansas, that was very set up around religion. If you’ve seen Footloose, it’s basically that. We talked more about sex in his high school youth group than he did in his own home. And a lot of that talk was centered around God, and waiting until you’re married, because of that Steve felt a lot of unintentional shame around sex.
How did the depression really start with Steve?
Shortly after having their first son, there was this shift in Steve and how he was showing up, he shut down because he was in emotional overload. When he had to show up as a father and a husband, it was too overwhelming and he could not shake the feeling he had of not having a lust for life. The relationship as they knew it was maybe not over, but definitely in survival mode. They knew there was love and connection for each other deep down, they just didn’t know where it was.
How did Shannon react?
She started really working on herself. If she can’t make him do things, what can she do to be the best person she can be? If he follows, great, but if not their kids are going to have at least one healthy parent. She also started using her work as a distraction, "gotta go to a training!" Just anything to get out of the house. She realized she couldn't be the person that was doing all of it for Steve. And Steve knew it was his shit and he needed to do it on his own.
"You can't be the everything for your spouse, you just can't"
You have to take ownership of your own shit, because no one else can do the work for you.
What were the turning points?
Shannon started to mourn what she thought was, and she had to shift her perspective to figure out where she was going. She decided that she needed to figure some stuff out and give Steve space and figure himself out, and take the burden of having to worry about her off of him. Which really allowed Steve the permission to find himself. She told him it would suck if they weren't together, but she would be okay, she just wanted him to try to do the work first.
What are the things you did that helped the most?
Finding a community, and finding like minded people, reading, and researching, an online program, went on a retreat, found the right therapist, got together with each other for frequent check-ins, quit drinking, got into ultra running.
"If you seek the right people, they will open doors for you that you didn't even know existed"
After doing all this work, how would Steve describe their marriage as a whole?
It's opened up a sense of trust. It's okay to feel physically good, to orgasm, or to even want to sexually explore. He can physically feel sex, and isn't stuck in his head. He can look Shannon in the eye while being intimate and see into her.
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