I so appreciate all your support and comments to one another. We are building a great community where women can feel safe and deal with hard marriages and heart issues. This week’s question came directly from the blog but I thought it deserved greater attention and discussion.
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Question: I’ve been reading and participating on this blog for a while now. All of our stories are of what our husbands do, but I have such a hard time letting go and forgiving myself when I have reacted poorly. I know I’m forgiven but I can’t help but grieve because I feel like I should know better, that maybe I’m no different than him sometimes.
Why can’t I always control the anger, frustration, the sadness? Even when I try to walk away to pray or just praise the Lord in my head so I don’t say anything “unloving” I feel he badgers me until I “give in” and fight with him. Then he points the finger at me saying “see look how you act.” A lot of times I don’t like myself. Sometimes just the anxiety of him being around sickens me. I know that’s not the Lord’s plan.
Does anyone else have problems sometimes responding in the right way when he’s treating you wrongly? Perhaps retaliating in abusive ways or being as destructive as your husband? It would be helpful to know I’m not alone.
Answer: You are not alone and I’m quite confident that some of the other women in this community will reassure you that they struggle too. We all do. Even when a spouse is not abusive, it’s still a challenge to respond rightly sometimes. That’s one reason I wrote my book, “How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong”.
The Bible is very clear that people who are closest to us have a strong influence on our attitudes and actions. For example, we’re told not to associate with angry people because they will rub off on us and we’ll become angrier too (Proverbs 22:24–25). When we keep company with those prone to violence, we will also be more prone to those paths (Proverbs 1:10–15; 16:29). The apostle Paul tells us that when we hang around people with low morals, they will drag us down to their level (1 Corinthians 15:33). When we’re married to a destructive person, we too may become destructive toward ourselves and others.
When you’re a victim of abuse, it’s tempting to blame your spouse for your reactions to him. But if you want to change things and get healthy, it’s crucial for you to see clearly. You must see not only what your husband is doing, but also your own part as well.
For example, some women realize they’ve been way too passive and allowed themselves to be captured and controlled. Others realize that they’ve over functioned and allowed their husband to under function but they’re not happy with that arrangement. Instead of stopping their over functioning, implementing consequences for their husband’s under functioning, or putting some boundaries in place, they start criticizing and belittling their spouse in the hopes of waking him up or getting him to change.
When we live with a difficult and/or destructive person, it takes its toll on us. Over and over we get hurt, angry, worn out, and afraid. If we are not extremely careful, it’s quite likely that we will start to become destructive too. Why? Because serious sin not only affects us, it infects us with its poison. If we don’t guard our heart, we can become like the very thing we hate.
Once we recognize that we have been infected with evil’s poison or are spewing out some of our own we will take care of ourselves, or get help so that resentment, indifference, and our human tendency to pay evil back with more evil of our own does not become part of our character. It’s important for our own well-being that we treat our husband with respect even when he doesn’t deserve it because we understand how we treat people is much more a statement about who we are rather than how they act. In the same way, how your husband treats you is not about you, it says something about who he is.
When you choose to treat people with respect because that’s the person you want to be, you will gain self-respect, which enables you to respond wisely when your husband doesn’t treat you well.
That said you will still sometimes fail which is part of being a human being. What troubles me from your question is that you have trouble forgiving yourself for these imperfections, faults, flaws, and even sins. The difference between you and your husband is that you see when you have failed. It grieves your heart and you want to do better. That is the heart of a Christ-follower who has not yet become what God has called her to be (which is where every one of us is at) but wants to grow, to change, to repent, and to submit to God.
On the other hand, from what you wrote, your husband blames, accuses, and refuses to own his sin or wrongdoing. It serves him well to provoke you to lash out or strike back so that he can deflect the attention off his own sinful behaviors and blame you. It’s much like our teenagers do when we overreact to their provoking disrespect and then they tell us what a horrible parent we are. It’s easy for them to focus on our sin all the while being completely oblivious to their own.
So accept you are not going to do it perfectly. When you mess up, talk to God about it. He knows your heart. But stop expecting that you SHOULD always do it perfectly ALL the time. No one managed that feat except Jesus and that’s why he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. We can’t do it.
Don’t let the accuser Satan beat you up and stop beating yourself up.
Here are two recent blogs that may also help you with this.
Friends, can you share your own struggles in this regard and ways you have learned to guard your heart and tongue?
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