I just returned from a whirlwind weekend back in my old neighborhood in Pennsylvania where we held a shower and celebrated the upcoming marriage of the son of my dear friend. It was good to be back. It was wonderful to see our friends again but it was also a confirmation that Pennsylvania is no longer our home. It wasn’t sad. It was a good sense of saying goodbye to one place and hello to another.
Today’s question: Truly, very little has turned out (thus far) the way I had hoped starting 20 years ago. It's not all bad, but certainly not as I had envisioned.
I have grown through this process and recognize my innate tendency to sin and am working to raise my awareness, pay attention to my reactions and self-talk, replacing lies with truth.
My question is this – how do I stand up for myself in a godly way when I feel my dreams, talents, ideas and creativity have been squashed or let go in order for my husband to pursue, achieve and live as he wants, with very little regard for how I feel or what this does to our marriage and family? I feel like that question originates from a place of “victim” mentality and that nauseates me because I don’t want to be that and I know that is NOT how God has fashioned me–yet I speak as if I am.
Learning CORE strength is indeed new to me and takes time. It feels foreign to me right now, which perhaps is why it is difficult to understand. I resonate with where the pastor’s wife is because if I stand up to my husband and choose to acknowledge the truth of our marriage relationship, it has the potential to change EVERYTHING for myself, our children, our family–literally everything in life as we know it. When I have tried to talk to him about my feelings, he twists things and tells me I have “greener grass syndrome” and “I think I have it so bad.” I am left with the idea that would have come to me with ease 20 years ago “for goodness sake, stand up for yourself!!” I wouldn’t have hesitated to do so 20 years ago. Now, it's as if I had never known of such a thing.
Answer: Thank you for bringing up this issue. I think many women will resonate with your dilemma. You feel that although you have tried hard to be a godly wife and mother, you have not flourished as a person. In deference to your husband’s goals, needs, wants, desires, and agenda, you have lost yourself. I don’t know if this has also happened with your children and in being their mother, you have forgotten that you are also a person.
You are also very wise to recognize your current thinking as “victim mindset” rather than owner mindset. When we are in a victim mindset, we feel powerless over “what’s happening to us.” We tell ourselves “he won’t let me” or “I can’t do it.” We feel stuck, scared, angry and resentful that our husband (or whoever) has not supported our dreams, talents, creativity, etc. And when we don’t recognize this victim mindset, we blame others for our life instead of taking ownership (responsibility) of our problem and doing something to change it.
Therefore, I am so glad you are aware of this tendency and want to change it. But you also say you are afraid. You said, “If I stand up to my husband and acknowledge the truth of our marriage, it has the potential to change everything.” Yes, you’re right it does. But would that be all bad? If nothing changes and it stays the way it is, is that all good?
And, what is the truth about your marriage? From your husband’s perspective, the truth about your marriage most likely is “it’s a good marriage. I’m happy the way things are.” And why wouldn’t he be happy with the way things are? Everything revolves around him. Sounds like a good deal for him. So be careful when you approach him with the truth about your marriage. What’s true for you is probably not true for him.
Therefore, a more strategic way of speaking up right now is not to talk about your marriage directly, but to talk about yourself. For example, you might say something like,
“I have a problem that I want to talk over with you.” (When you identify the problem as you and not him or your marriage, he won’t be as resistant to listening to you nor will he be as defensive. Most men like to help people solve problems). When he gives you his attention say something like this – (as it fits for where you are at.)
“Over the years I thought it was really important to pour myself into helping you build your career, help our children get adjusted to school, and keep the home environment as stable and peaceful as possible while you……..
But lately, I’ve been feeling flat-lined as a person. I need more for myself. Don’t get me wrong, being a good wife and mother is important to me, but that’s not all I am. I think I’d like to……..(Take a class, get a part time job, volunteer at…etc.). I believe that having some outside activities will do me good. I’m ready to stretch my wings and I wanted to talk this over with you before I get started so that we can work together to readjust schedules as needed.”
Then stop talking and wait for his response. Don’t suggest what he should do. Let him problem solve with you on your request. If he resists, you can add, “I’ve always been very supportive of your dreams and goals and I would like you to be supportive of mine.” If he continues to give you grief or kickback simply say, “This is not negotiable. Even if you can’t or won’t support this for me, I am responsible before God to steward my life and I feel God has more for me to do than simply take care of a home and children. I already do that well and I have more for me to do.”
(NOTE: you are not asking his permission, nor are you asking for his opinion on whether you should do it or not. You are NOT talking about your marriage problems or his problem of being more the taker in the relationship and you the giver. But you start the change in your relationship dynamics when you inform that you are taking responsibility (OWNERSHIP) of your life and that includes adding some more things into it so that you are feeling more satisfied and fulfilled.
By making this one tiny change, you are also inviting him into more mutuality and reciprocity in your marriage. You are inviting him to show care about your needs and to adjust his schedule to support your new goals. But, his support is NOT REQUIRED – and if he chooses not to give it, you still must support yourself in your new goals or otherwise you will continue to feel and behave like a victim rather than an owner.
So start here to speak up for yourself instead of with the tougher topic of your marriage relationship. However, you can initiate the same stance when he does treat you with disrespect by simply stating, “That is disrespectful and I won’t allow myself to be talked to that way anymore. When you can speak respectfully to me, I’ll listen, otherwise, the conversation is over.” Do not argue about this or negotiate. You must be firm in your resolve, not mean in your voice tone.
One of the most important changes you need to make right now to transition out of victim mindset is to stop waiting for him to change. Stop waiting for him to love you like you want him to love you, to support your dreams, encourage your growth, or to want the best for you. Being an owner of your one precious life is taking that responsibility upon your own two shoulders and encouraging and supporting yourself to become the woman God has for you to become(Click To Tweet).
Yes, it’s wonderful when we have a supportive man by our side, but it’s not a prerequisite. There are plenty of other people that God can use to lift your arms and support you in this new journey.
Friend, what helped you to transition out of victim mindset to owner mindset that helped you to stop waiting for someone else to fix your unhappiness?
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I hear and understand what you are saying Leslie, but how does this play out with the whole submission theology commanded by Scripture? In counseling with both pastors present at the church I attended I was told:
1. A wife has no rights except the ones her husband gives her.
2. Even if a husband is despotic and tyrannical, that does not negate a wife’s obligation to obey him.
So, if I went to him with something that was on my heart, and he dismissed it because it wasn’t important to him…..the trouble began if I just didn’t take that response and shut up. And certainly, if I went ahead because it was a need or something else important to me as a human being…..the trouble would begin. I was evil, unsubmissive, godless and rebellious.
The pastors felt sad for my situation, but it was more like too bad, so sad you are married to one of those types of husbands. I just need to love him more, submit more.
I read you post this morning and was outraged. I prayed that God would direct someone to respond. I think he asked me to send this passage I was reading in my daily devotionals. It is so fitting:
Galatians 1:10 NIV
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I don’t feel qualified to give advise, but I can speak from my heart. A husband should lift his wife up and protect and serve her with respect. You are a precious child of God Remedy. What’s important to you should also be important to your husband or he should at least respect you to follow your dreams. Your pastors are wrong and are not educated in verbal abuse.
If you have not seen Patrick Doyle’s videos, I urge you to do so. There are also a lot of good books out there addressing verbal, spiritual, emotional abuse. See Leslie’s book.
I am praying for you Remedy and I’m sure there will be other folks who are here to help lift you up and share their experiences. Know that you are loved by our Father and He is appalled by what’s happening to you.
Your pastors need to read the Bible again……and the whole thing this time, in context. Should Sapphira have obeyed Annanias? No!! Jesus said, “The gentiles lord it over each other, but you should not.” Read Proverbs. Paul said, “Submit to each other.” Submit meaning simply a give-and-take relationship, as in deference both ways. I could go on and on, but we all need to ask the Holy Spirit to open the Word and reveal the Father’s heart to ours. Please do that and not just take your ‘leaders’ word for it.
Obviously this counseling broke down, eventally over this mindset and many other differences in foundational principles…..but it left a damaging mark on more than just myself. I no longer attend that church….but as we all know, this continues to be a SERIOUS problem in countless churches. It seems all the commands are for the wife to obey perfectly, but not same level to husband…..and if only the wife will perfectly do her part, all will be well.
As always, this site is a source for encouragement and instruction I am eternally grateful for❤.
I am glad that you realized your pastors were wrong. A husband and wife relationship is supposed to mirror that of Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. How did He love her? In a controlling, abusive, squash you like a bug sort of way? No! It was a loving, open, giving relationship. Christ gave everything He had for the church. Husbands are supposed to act in the same way. Then, wives are supposed to submit to them… “22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24). In both ways, it is supposed to be a loving, giving, reciprocal interaction – not an abusive, lording over you transaction.
I’ve got this t-shirt & the matching cap, and have heard all 18 verses of this chorus. My parents being the loudest proclaimers of this mindset. I came across this article, and it helped me tremendously and so I pass it along to you. http://foreverymom.com/marriage/enough-enough-church-stop-enabling-abusive-men-gary-thomas/
I’m sorry this is a thing. I’m sorry to find our numbers are growing. And I’m mostly sorry that church leaders are most often playing the role of advocate on the behalf of the abusive (emotionally, mentally, psychologically, or physically) husband.
Cherished, The information in your link is great. Gary T. does a great job explaining what I’m sure many of us try to. Thanks for posting.
I wonder what these pastors would say/do if God forbid, your husband dies. Will they provide for you and your kids if you are not able to provide for your family because you haven’t worked in a while and are not able to get a job? These pastors really need to be held accountable for the advice they give.
Thank you for this post – what perfect timing! I’ve been feeling very stuck, and this made me realize I’ve been harboring a victim mindset instead of taking charge of my own life. Time to hit the “reset” button!
This is really good. I would like to hear more ideas on said transition.
A good book I read recently is “Britt Marie was Here”. The excellent fiction story of a stuck 60 year old woman who wakes up!!! And what a beautiful awakening that is!!! It is sad when we obey what we think are godly principles in life and we wake up one day to realize we are not in a healthy place. Sin and brokenness in ourselves and others can twist good intentions into a destructive life. I trust that God is doing His children a big favor when He exposes the brokenness for what it is. I am being led now down a different path that involves waking up to my personal responsibility. If I have allowed another human to define me and treat me in accordance in a way that goes against my true worth and value according to God, it is time for that to stop. Tiny steps in that direction are good steps. It does not glorify God or help others to participate in a system that goes against His truth. Galatians says ‘for freedom you have been set free’. Yes it took a few decades for me to end up here, so I cannot expect change overnight. Grateful for this blog and Leslie’s help getting here!
Loved what you wrote and I plan to read the book! Thanks for the referral.
Especially this: ” It does not glorify God or help others to participate in a system that goes against His truth. Galatians says ‘for freedom you have been set free’. ”
Remedy u need to find another church!!! I have gone to conservative churches where biblical submission is taught well. This is not biblical by the way u described.
Agreed Tamara! In true Biblical sense, both husband and wife genuinely seeking the best for each other…it is beautiful!! Even when we don’t do it perfectly, but our heart intentions go in this direction, it is good, as God has declared.
Re: our questioner: “My question is this – how do I stand up for myself in a godly way when I feel my dreams, talents, ideas and creativity have been squashed or let go in order for my husband to pursue, achieve and live as he wants, with very little regard for how I feel or what this does to our marriage and family?”
—Just tell the truth. Nothing is more Christ-like (godly) than telling the truth in love, with compassion, as best you know how. As clearly and as cleanly as you know how to do that. It sounds so, so simple but most people are not. They are crafting their speak trying to achieve outcomes or what they feel they should say for fear of saying “wrong” things. I do it too but I try to be aware and catch myself. It’s the only way to live an authentic life and just by speaking the truth you let God’s Holy Spirit run your life. Because the truth is going to start making things happen in your life (—not always shorter-term pleasant); however, the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. If you can see your path laid out in front of you step-by-step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. —That’s why it’s your path!
Re: “. . . .[he] tells me I have “greener grass syndrome” and “I think I have it so bad.” I am left with the idea that would have come to me with ease 20 years ago “for goodness sake, stand up for yourself!!”
—Exactly, personal responsibility means living with integrity and that means not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, your “C”, even though it will create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe. This puts our lives back in God’s hands.
Leslie says: “This is not negotiable. Even if you can’t or won’t support this for me, I am responsible before God to steward my life and I feel God has more for me to do than simply take care of a home and children. I already do that well and I have more for me to do.”
—Absolutely. —And kindly ask your husband if he wants a Zombie as a wife? Don’t you want someone who is full of life and playful and . . . .maybe tell him you desire to see your marriage be vibrant, God-honoring, full of life and blooming with the beauty of God’s design —shining brightly for Christ and that requires you________and ________ and _______!
“Friend, what helped you to transition out of victim mindset to owner mindset that helped you to stop waiting for someone else to fix your unhappiness?” ―So the book by Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are has some really good ideas for doing this. I too am sick of being broken and I realize we are always going to be “broken” but I want to go from misery (current) to everyday ordinary brokenness & unhappiness (―real, real life) where Christ is in the midst! . . . . I don’t want another program, package, product from a vending machine promising satisfaction and certainty. I think, the good news of the gospel is that life is REALLY hard and we don’t get satisfaction and certainty BUT Christ will hold our hearts through it and somehow when we can deeply love, even after being deeply hurt, that gives everything meaning! As always, the true distinction is between those who hide their lack under the fiction of wholeness and those who are able to really embrace it. What helps is to keep reminding myself: Aleea, you are naturally addicted to satisfaction and certainty and, I am not sure, but I think that salvation may only takes place within our unknowing and our dissatisfaction. A faith that can only exist in the light of victory and certainty is one which really affirms the self while pretending to affirm Christ. Pastors may say they are broken and have doubts but it is all tame, easily managed and controlled “issues.” They don’t come clean with the forest fires (—the towering infernos) that genuine, earthy, real people have. The “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”—style stuff. As Brené Brown says “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions and uncertainty issues, we also numb the positive emotions.” . . . Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve/ grow/ learn?” The rest is other-focused: “What will my children think?” “What will my husband think?”
I have been stuck for 10 years in a verbally and emotionally destructive marriage. I have been married for 40 years and over that whole time I frequently felt alone in raising our three children. I noticed about 10 years ago my husband distancing himself from me, and I would ask him about this and tell him how I felt. He said there was nothing wrong, that there must be something wrong with me. After this and other abusive behavior from my husband, I began to get help and now realize when he is being controlling and abusive. I have become stronger and stronger the more I have learned and I joined groups of women in health relationships. The more I stand up to the abuse and speak the truth to him, the more he denies any responsibility for his abusive behavior. I’m making plans to leave. If he does change that’s great, but I’m no longer waiting to live my life waiting for him to choose to change. I thought for many years if I could just get him to understand what he was doing he would be willing to stop.
I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through.
But, this post gave me a big “ah-ha” moment…
Isn’t in interesting how we all seem to have some level of this victim mindset? I’ve seen so many posts that include the “if only” phrase…. (me included!) What an eye opener…
“If only” takes all power away from us and gives it to the other person. We need to step up and take responsibility for our own lives, no matter how messy they are. Only then will we get our “power” back to live the life God intended for us.
I’m praying for you and my prayer group too.
Pat, when you own your story (—like you are doing, taking action), Christ and you get to write the ending. . . . The process never ends until we die and the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. If I could kick the person in the skirt responsible for most of my trouble, I wouldn’t sit for a month! Along the way, attack the evil within, we all have it, rather than attacking the evil that is in others. All the real work happens inside us/ me. In our CORE, —the factory of ourselves. If we get things right there, everything coming out of the factory will cycle into our world changed, and changing everything in our world because we have been changed.
“I noticed about 10 years ago my husband distancing himself from me, and I would ask him about this and tell him how I felt. He said there was nothing wrong, that there must be something wrong with me.”
“Nothing is wrong” is the great fabricator of illusions; in reality, there is —always— something that needs work/action. People often associate complexity with deeper meaning, when often after way too much precious time has been lost, it is realized that simplicity is the key to everything: “Nothing is wrong” = take action. You not only have the right to be an individual, God makes it our obligation to be one. . . . .Tell the truth as best you know how about any situation and you are delivered from lack of progress, but become an outcome engineer —hypocritical or half-truths, and you may be in bondage for life. The truth, no matter how hard it is to bear, must be accepted and confronted head on about others, about ourselves, —even about God & Jesus, —because it is real. We want it said of us: “Such an impolite person. She is honest with everyone.” That way we free ourselves to live a full life by discovering the courage to face our illusions and live a true life, —real life. It is only when we take responsibility for our lives (—like you are) that we discover how powerful we truly are. —Or as my counselor tells me: “Aleea, if your comfort zone is misery, it’s time to get uncomfortable.” . . .As I look at the research, I see that the attempt to interpret human behavior in terms of models derived from the natural sciences eventually destroys personal responsibility and that’s right where God enters the picture.
I’ve stopped dreaming my dreams I had with my husband that were there at one time–singing together on the worship team at what was our church and is just my church now. He has turned against God and our church family. He has problems with many people. All the people of the world that have done criminal offenses and anyone who doesn’t agree he is right. He is turely the judge of everyone. We saw the movie The Shack and he is that man on the Judgment seat of the Girl symbolizing wisdom. He is not going to change and the movie had no effect on him. He still believes God is the cause of all evil in this world. I thought the movies was great and could see the whole message of God, God’s son and the Holy Spirit so clearly. I thought the scene with the Wisdom lady was awesome.
I’ve let go of my need to change my husband to think like me or perceive things as I do. He is in the dark. My pastor said to relate to him as an unbeliever. That I’ve been doing and it has helped. It was just so hard to face the bear facts that he wasn’t the dedicated follower of Christ I thought I married according to his words.
I’ve proceeded with all my dreams of singing on the worship team. Volunteering at the Faith Center and as a Teachers aide in the schools like I did while working 15 years. I’m also be the Mother and Grandmother I want to be and God has made me inspite of my husbands strong objection at times. He has 3 blood children with 6 grandchildren and a great grandchild whom he does for and is with all hie wants. I take the same privilege even though he objects with all kinds of tactics, like you need to clean this this this at home or that I’m putting my children ahead of him. Our house is the cleanest on the block I say to him. I keep up my home and do for him all I can and it is perfectly all right for me to be out doing for others as God leads me. I DO NOT wait for his approval or encouragement of support to do what makes me feel fulfilled. I’ll never get it from him and I get the uplifting and encouragement from others I need. He is all for himself and believes I’m only living to serve him as his wife and lets no room for anyone else in my life except church activities for some strange reason–when he don’t even believe in God. He goes to gospel groups with me and watched Christian movies with me, but makes negative comments about them to me all the time. It’s just not very inspiring to be with him only to see movies and singers with him. I learn to let him be him, accept him as he is and not try to change him and walk a way when conversation it depressing and negative about me or my children or he uses my children in ways to get my to do what he wants me to do by saying, You would do it for them. I stop talking when he uses scripture against me too, because he don’t even profess to believe.
I was very much in your position, too. My dreams, talents, abilities, and desires were squashed. My goal before I was married was to be a teacher. I got the degree, but knew it would be put on hold while my husband attended college for his master’s degree. Then, when he got a job, there weren’t any teaching openings. A few years later, we started having kids. Over the years, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse entered the picture. Any dreams or plans I had were totally annihilated because he destroyed my self esteem and any chances I had of being confident enough to be in a classroom of my own. Whenever I attempted to talk to him about pursuing any dreams of mine (no matter how small – even if it was to get out of the house for a few hours a week for a part time job), they were crushed by the “greener grass” syndrome and “You don’t think I can support us.” Bottom line: no matter how much I tried to talk to him or what I said to him, he never cared to allow me to blossom. While I certainly hope you are able to overcome your situation with Leslie’s advice, be prepared incase you find yourself in my situation in which your husband is unwilling to see your side of the issue.
Aleea…..some will not want that vibrant marriage if it means giving up dominance and control. Some may even be incapable. Then is the question……what to do about that. Many churches have pat answers because they don’t have to get their hands messy, work hard, or even risk division in their church. It is truly a heartbreak for those of us who desire GOD honoring marriages while married to those who don’t.
I hope yours is a husband who delights in you! You are certainly a delightful woman!
Thank you so much —and so, so good to hear from you!
I hear you, clearly: churches want to hear positivity. It is an idol pulled in from the Corp. America culture of positive thinking and an aversion to a commitment to realism. It is completely enshrined as a dominant, mandatory, attitude. You either have positive —cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat things to say or “get to steppin!” —Just mention that God hates abuse and abusers and has overwhelming serious judgment on them. Your time is UP! —But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to Christian success and “prosperity.” That pulls the rug right out from under our 1st “C”. —That which we are told we cannot speak of are the very things about which we must never stop speaking.
. . .Remedy, that said, I don’t want to allow myself to become arrogant or resentful. I have enough sin-potential to level TEN city blocks in every direction (—And if God let off His restraining hand, you’d see it immediately.) That’s how we know the Bible is true. It’s got a totally realistic position on what people are really, really like: redeemed but still in need of constant repentance.
Re: “It is truly a heartbreak for those of us who desire GOD honoring marriages while married to those who don’t.”
. . . I know, —I know and I say this all the time to men and again with tears (—because it so applies to me too!!!): Do you want to always be right, or do you want to be in a relationship? Because you can’t always have both and as I tell them I realize I do it too. But you simply can’t cuddle up, relax and have fun with “always being right”. . . . Men often have no real understanding what marvelous responders women really are. A woman gets an environment of sincere, ongoing affection, caring, protection, nurture, thoughtfulness and she just blossoms —out responding any man by multiples. Jesus did not come into the world to make bad marriages good. Jesus came into the world to make DEAD marriages alive. —Real life only happens if we confront our own issues(—sins) and are broken by them! ―More stuff for me to work on internally!!!
Remedy, I know for me, about 90 percent of the frustrations I have are really about issues from my childhood (—I know you know that already.) . . . . I believe, the Christian view of marriage is that rather than leaving it to find yourself, you find yourself through it. Marriage itself is in essence psychotherapy and depth psychology all at once/ all the time and your partner’s needs chart your path to psychological and spiritual wholeness. —Right now, we are working through Harville Hendrix’s book: Keeping the Love You Find and the workbook. Hendrix has amazing insight as to how we are wounded in each stage of development and what it looks like as adults and that our partner does act as a mirror and shows us what needs healing…just look at the re-occurring arguments!!! —They point to exactly what you are wanting. Anyways, an atmosphere of loving accountability and support along with zero tolerance for manipulation, abuse, or power and control over another individual, is the optimal environment for biblical peacemaking and relationship repair to take place. —[I am excluding issues with neuropsychological measures outside of the norm re:—interpersonally exploitative, psychotic, emotionally unavailable, devoid of empathy, etc.]
This is timely for me, too. Thank you for the reminder that this is MY life- that God gave to me- to steward.
I have come a long way in taking responsibility, but realize that I still have some strongholds of victim mentality. I wonder what the connection between maintaining a victim mentality and forgiveness, is? Forgiveness has been on my heart a lot, lately. I’m so angry at the way I’ve been treated but just as angry at myself for allowing that treatment of me.
Anger was my internal indicator that allowed me to put a stop to regular abuse, but that same anger won’t allow me to feel compassion and forgive those who have treated me poorly (I say this with the understanding that forgiveness and compassion cannot enter in without limits being set ( and maintained) on abuse – forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things).
Now that I have firm boundaries in place, how the heck do I lay down the anger that has been the fuel that allowed me to set those boundaries in the first place? The anger was a real help in setting those boundaries. How do I now lay down the anger while maintaining my boundaries?
I’m guessing that boundaries that arise from anger are not loving, are they?
Maybe those boundaries need to be set out of love for myself, instead of anger against the other… As a lovely sister said a few posts back, that the boundaries are set against me ‘abandoning myself’. It seems to me as I write this out that boundaries don’t have a lot to do with the ‘ other’. They seem to have a lot to do with how I treat myself.
I struggle with forgiveness, too. Maybe you are right: the victim mentality and forgiveness go together. All these years, I’ve never understood what forgiveness is. When I look at it, if I say I’ve forgiven my ex-husband, to me that’s like saying the abusive words he said to me never really mattered, that it was ok for him to say it, and that they did not affect me — but, they did greatly! And still do. Maybe that’s where forgiveness and the victim mentality tie together? I have not been able to grasp the concept of what forgiveness means because to me, it always looks like it comes back to condoning what was said and done.
Thanks for relating, Daisy. I look forward to what others have to say about this.
I have found that my husband cannot relate to repentance, yet he says ‘God has forgiven me’ talking about himself. Yet my husband cannot face some of the abuse he committed for years against our (now grown children) and myself. I tired 25 years ago, to get him to talk about the definite ‘feeling’ that I was sensing, that something was dreadfully wrong with our marriage, but he didn’t ‘get it’. Those husbands who don’t ‘get it’ don’t think they need to apologize for much of anything, and if they do, it is usually because you have confronted them, and they have to say something to you, to get you off their case. And no, I do not believe it means much to them if they have abused their wife and children, as they can’t apply it to themselves as a ‘sin’, so therefore, they don’t think they have anything to repent for. This is the confusion which is called ‘crazy making’ as all we want is some type of closure, and their brain waves just don’t ‘get it’. They are not the ones hurting inside. Their constant angst is such a crusher of the spirit of anyone who has to live with them for any length of time. And so, our talents, our dreams, are crushed out of us, even though we have the Lord Jesus Christ on our side. He too suffered at the hands of such individuals, so he can relate to exactly what we have faced for any amount of years. Only God knows who his children really are, in relation to HIM, but our Lord wants us to have victory over the enemy of our soul and to live for our Lord, for our lives are but for a moment in the span of eternity, yet no child of God should have to suffer at the hands of someone they thought they could put their trust in. And I thank Leslie for her books, which deal with these very issues to give us hope. I am done confronting my husband, as I tried one more time last week, and he wanted to know what ‘triggered. the email I sent to him, which he basically denied most of what I said was abuse on his part. He doesn’t ‘get it’ because that is who he is. Only God can change the heart of stone. I once asked my husband ‘Hasn’t my life made any difference to you?’ Meaning my life as a child of God. He had no reply, so I gathered from his silence, that he couldn’t comprehend what I was talking about. The spirit of man only knows the things of the spirit of man, and the Spirit of the Lord knows the things of the Spirit of the Lord, so the person who does not understand the things of the Spirit of the Lord, can’t even begin to comprehend those deep things of God, ‘neither can he know them.’ So, we can try as hard as we can to convince someone they need to repent, yet if they don’t even ‘get’ what they are repenting ‘for’ it goes right over their head. God bless everyone on this site for their love and strength in the Lord. May healing prayers and the balm of Gilead sooth the wounds and hearts of the sisters here whom God watches continually over.
Thank you so much for sharing as you did. I copied it into a file to print off for my reference as needed for my journey on and out with the Lord.
I do see it is time to follow in His footsteps.
Grace and peace to you.
Hello, dear Lori
I have also copied some of the comments here which have been so helpful.
I am glad my comment has helped you. I also left a comment for April 13th which may also be helpful.
I have done countless research on personality traits, and I came to the conclusion, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, that I may not be dealing with a believer in the case of my husband, but a possible unbeliever. This changed my entire perspective of how to address my marriage.
Grace and peace to you too!
Forgiveness isn’t for them… its for you. You release them and what they’ve done so God can deal with them in His time and in His way, but it no longer is your responsibility. It frees you to move on, to close that chapter in your life. Is it easy? No. Do those memories pop back in? Yes. But as time goes on, God’s grace wins and it becomes less and less. Forgiveness opens the door for you to start the next chapter.
I fully agree with you, and said as much in my post below, but I like how you said it better. And boundaries are for “me” in the same way. Well said, RR.
I do not believe that forgiveness without repentance is possible. That is not the biblical pattern.
Actually, The Lord’s example shows us that forgiveness does not require repentance. The Lord forgave all those who crucified Him as He was hanging on the cross, and Stephen, as he was being stoned, forgave those who were killing him. As “Refocus and Reclaim” said above, for us to forgive releases us, the forgiver, not the offender. It frees our heart from anger and resentment that lead to bitterness. Forgiving is about letting go of the offense and allowing God to deal with the offender, which He surely will do, if not in this age, then in the next. As a believer, the One who is forgiveness itself lives in your spirit, and He can empower you to forgive.
If forgiveness without repentance were the pattern than we’d have to except the idea of universal salvation. All are forgiven by God without needingto repent iof theirsins. This simply I true. The Bible teaches, if we confessour sins He is faithful and just to forgive us. Jesus himself taught that if abrother COMESto us, repentant we are obligated to forgive him 70×70 times.
I really enjoyed reading as you processed the motivation for setting boundaries.
You wrote: “Maybe those boundaries need to be set out of love for myself, instead of anger against the other… As a lovely sister said a few posts back, that the boundaries are set against me ‘abandoning myself’. It seems to me as I write this out that boundaries don’t have a lot to do with the ‘ other’. They seem to have a lot to do with how I treat myself.”
Very helpful. I found myself adding that boundaries also have to do with how I will allow myself to be treated. More about me guarding my heart/self than attempting to control another.
Hi Lori 🙂
Thank you for helping me to close the loop on boundaries and anger. It’s not about controlling the other, it’s about how I am treating myself and allowing myself to be treated. In my case I tend to ‘abandon Nancy’ in the hopes that the other will rescue her. Victim mindset for sure.
We have this in common for sure: ” In my case I tend to ‘abandon Nancy’ in the hopes that the other will rescue her. Victim mindset for sure.”
Now that we see it, we are well on our way to changing that if we choose! I choose! 🙂
google the Karpman Drama Triangle. This philosophy opened my eyes to the healthy mindset that replaces the victim mindset. You will see the different roles people bounce around to (unhealthy), and then what healthy behavior looks like. For example, the victim behavior (helpless) is replaced with Survivor/Thriver behavior.
Recognizing this was eye opening to me. Hope it offers something for you too!
Very helpful Karla, thank you. I’ll be revisiting that for sure!
Nancy, you made a comment about forgiveness and compassion, and also that it is the anger that has made it possible to set the boundaries. I’d like to address those comments. First of all, you can see forgiveness as “release” or “letting go” of the offense. You are just saying that you will not be controlled by that offense any longer, so you release it into the Lord’s hands. As you hand it to Him, you are letting Him take responsibility for the offender, and you don’t need to deal with the offender. Compassion is not necessary if you look at forgiveness that way. Maybe where the compassion needs to go is for yourself.
Surely the anger has served you well to force you to set boundaries, but anger can also be self destructive, so what about searching for another motivator to replace the anger, like….self respect? Or, whatever else you can come up with. Once you have managed that, you can ask the Lord to cleanse your heart of the anger, and He will! He has done that for me several times. We need to learn to live in peace, and anger and peace can’t coexist. “The heavens do rule” said Nebucadnezer, and when we learn to trust the One on the throne, peace prevails.
I appreciate your perspective on forgiveness, compassion and anger. I am learning to set boundaries and use my voice from a place of ‘ love for Nancy’ or ‘ not abandoning Nancy’ instead of anger. When I manage that I feel a wholeness, instead of anxiety.
I didn’t realize how much I relied on anger as a self protective mechanism. In the past year I needed to become extremely sensitive to my own anger because it told me when I was being mistreated (covert manipulation), but now I’m walking a new path.
The Lord is working with me on forgiveness, and I will ask Him to cleanse my heart of anger. There’s so much of it.
I like this quote on forgiveness that I found on a different blog. It was written by someone named Kris K:
Forgiveness is not about somehow magically undoing the pain. Forgiveness is about releasing the expectation that the person who hurt you owes you anything. By forgiving you are releasing the expectation that someone else is going to fix the hurt you feel inside. You are releasing any debt to you and you are saying “You don’t owe me anything. I don’t want anything from you.” The remaining pain is yours now. You can process it however you like. You can hold onto it and let it grow to consume you. You can keep it in a dark corner of your soul to bring out whenever his name is mentioned or someone crosses the street that looks like her. Or you can use the pain as a key to unlock the part of you that is hidden behind the pain. The key will open a part of you that holds a beautiful need. And once found, nurturing the beautiful need will heal you. Forgiveness will not heal the pain but it is a necessary first step.
The link with expectations makes so much sense. I do continue to expect my mother to ‘get it’. She has shown me my whole life that she can’t ‘get it’. I fall into the thinking that if only she would take responsibility and apologize, then I’d be able to forgive her, and my pain would be allowed to heal.
I pray that The Lord remove my fantasy that my mother will change. I pray that He enable me to accept her for who she is. I pray that The Lord give me a forgiving heart. Show me this Easter, Lord, what it is to forgive. Remove whatever strongholds block my heart and mind from being washed by Your love, and enable me to forgive her as you have forgiven me. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the expectation that someone else can fix the hurt I feel inside. I really appreciate that explanation of debt.
Attempting to ‘fix’ others feelings is the essence of being codependent, I think. Expecting others to ‘fix’ my hurt is just a natural extension of my codependency.
In fact, that’s how I’ve defined love. If you love someone, you trespass into their feelings in an attempt to ‘fix’ them.
Barbara and Nancy,
I agree that forgiveness is releasing the expectation that the person who hurt you owes you anything. But, in order for reconciliation with that person, they need to accept that they have done wrong and repent. Restoration to that relationship can only happen after that. We can forgive, but if the other person does not acknowledge the wrong and repent the relationship will be broken.
I agree wholeheartedly, Maria.
I guess it’s natural to think that the people who had the power to cause the hurt also have the power to fix the hurt. In that mentality I end up waiting and waiting, giving control of my hurts and my heart to other people, which is the victim mindset as Leslie has pointed out. I think the forgiveness mindset is far from the victim mindset, since in forgiveness I’m saying I will take charge of my own hurt and my own heart, thank you very much, and I don’t need you to fix it or fix me because 1) you can’t and 2) I look to God alone for my healing from the power and effects of sin. As Maria said, boundaries goes hand in hand with forgiveness because my forgiveness of the person breaks the connection he or she had with me (the fact that I want to get something from that person – an apology, restitution, whatever). Instead of connection, now there is distance, as there should be from people who are harmful.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
I like what you said, “I end up…giving control of my hurts and my heart to other people, which is the victim mindset”. and “since in forgiveness I’m saying I will take charge of my own hurt and my own heart thank you very much”
This is helpful- thank you 🙂
I downloaded a book on my kindle app a few weeks ago and the conversation here had prompted me to start reading it.
Debunking the Myth of Forgive and Forget. By Kay Bruner.
So far, so really good.
Yeah. Patrick Doyle really goes after that myth in his videos 🙂
This book is more than just the myths, though… It’s such a beautiful description of what forgiveness really is and is actually giving me fresh hope and vision for the forgiveness process. This is a really really good book. I highly recommend for all of us here. It’s short and I think the kindle version I downloaded was only $2.99.
Thank you so very much for your response! Finding the words to begin taking ownership of where I am is my first step. I fumble with words and think that is why I get caught in a rut–confusing even myself in any given point I am trying to make. I agree with you that “if life changes as I know it would that be all bad. Or if nothing changes would that be all good?” I see how my thinking has come from a place of fear. Thank you so much for this thought! You mentioned in an Empowered to Change call, the Karpman Drama Triangle. I googled it and was astonished that that is where I have been for a very long time–most likely, even before I got married.
What encourages me is learning that the Challenger can replace the persecutor, the Coach replaces the rescuer and the Survivor replaces the victim. Certainly not with out work, and new tools and determination to perfect their use–but well within reach to the one who commits to learning these new ways. Just like learning CORE strength:) This is truly eye opening to me.
LOVED this that you said:
“I think, the good news of the gospel is that life is REALLY hard and we don’t get satisfaction and certainty BUT Christ will hold our hearts through it and somehow when we can deeply love, even after being deeply hurt, that gives everything meaning! ”
. . .Oh Lori, I’m so very thankful for you too! —And yes! . . .the fact that God would use me in —any— small way to bless people is almost more than I can comprehend . —I’m so mixed up most of the time. . . .Trauma is so very personal and it does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally, until someone enters that pain and hears the screams, then healing can begin and then comes love. . . .As you know, God is all about changing us and that is usually maximum discomfort! To me, the Good News of Christianity is instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, Our God testified to in the Scriptures exposes the gap for what it really is (—more idols being created: the idol of satisfaction; the idol of certainty, etc.) —and He eliminates them, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to ALL idols, especially the idols of satisfaction and certainty (—re: I know for sure that I know “NO doubts”). Our culture of idols has turned the Lord God Himself into a product to be marketed, something that will satisfy where other idols fail. But that just makes God into an “Uber-Idol.” —Rather, —maybe, God is the one who cannot be marketed, and has not come to satisfy us, but to free us from our need for satisfaction and certainty —to me, that is a HUGE difference. The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction, not here, not now, not in this life —that is just another idol (re: Jesus is a better route to what all the idols are offering: satisfaction.) The fantasy is of “them” having all the “fun” and “satisfaction” that is blocked off from “us.” . . . .That is what the Lord has been giving me in my prayer and Bible readings of late. . . .But the reason that may be really important is that once we understand that, maybe we can engage in real forgiveness of our abusers who are often chasing those idols and thus leading to real freedom in Christ to deeply have compassion and deeply forgive/ love them/others. . . . Anyways, Jesus is the best in-love-experience ever! You know what I am talking about if you pray and worship a lot. I need forgiveness and I want tenderness and love in my life and, again, Jesus is like the best in-love-experience ever! —What else is out there? I see from the lives of those who have lived life their own way and I see the tremendous price they have paid. I know I don’t want to be like that.
I did something today so unlike me. Something I cannot remember doing for quite some time. And it felt WONDERFUL! A gift day from God. I was supposed to pick up my mother-in-law this afternoon to take her to an appointment and I thought I would leave early and stop by the fabric store to see how much batting costs now a days. Recently I’ve begun quilting again. The other me would seek permission to leave early to do something like this. And I didn’t. I said to H, “I’m leaving now to check out batting prices along the way to your mom’s. Do you have anything you would like for me to pick up for you while I’m out?” He looked at me with a mixed look of surprise and hurt and gave me a sulking reply of no. And I left.
When I got to the store, it was gone! I don’t even know when it moved. lol So I made the best of it walking around downtown checking out a few stores. I found the cutest coffee shop with a deli and book store. I treated myself to a chi latte, perused the books and chilled and read. It was like a mini hour vacation and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. That little bit of pampering was awesome.
I found I get so involved in doing what is expected, I’d forgotten what it felt like doing something just for myself. I felt so free. I felt that I caught a glimpse of what life is supposed to be like. And I liked it. 😀 I just had to share. My adventure is something I’m grateful for today.
That sounds that a fun afternoon!
A “Brave” thing to do and you were rewarded! Sweet.
Aleea…I love these analogies at the end here and about getting honest and real. But, it must be done within reason..many of us have tried and wanted that with all our hearts, but were met with terrifying, truly terrifying responses from the other person. Rage, violence, threats……all manner of things designed to keep us silent…..and unable to get away from them.
I realize you always do make the disclaimer of the disordered personalities…..I just wanted to add that.
God has given you a very keen mind!!!
“. . . . .many of us have tried and wanted that with all our hearts, but were met with terrifying, truly terrifying responses from the other person. Rage, violence, threats……all manner of things designed to keep us silent…..and unable to get away from them. . . . “
Remedy, I know something of how hard they have tried and how hard I have prayed for them as they have tried and I fully agree with you about the terrifying responses —absolutely. . . .It is so, so sad that some people only understand power (—like police power; like raw legal power —and the more the better.) I hate that place, it is so, so destructive but I understand a place for it certainly exists. I understand dominance hierarchies where people are brutes and any weakness is exploited until you fight/ leave at every level. . . . If all you are getting is dominance and control, you have to utilize all the defenses. It is our duty to defy unjust dominance and to challenge unjust control. I agree with you Remedy, —certainly . . . . All evil seems to arise from the desire to dominate others. Most in our society are taught from a very early age to try to dominate. It isn’t something that they even think about consciously. It operates at a subconscious level. They are taught by the adults around them and their peers. Someone dominates them and they in turn try to dominate others. They do it without even realizing it (—some engage in benevolent dominance —but it is dominance all the same) and they do it without even thinking about why. It is without question. Dominance hierarchies are everywhere: at work, —at church, God have mercy on us/me even on this blog at times. It is the structure and fabric of society. That is why actions trump words any day because actions speak for what really motivates from a subconscious level. I think that’s the level to get more awareness of. —Only God can really help us with that, i.e. prayer, self-reflection, et.al. . . . Real Christ-like love contains zero attempts to hold power/ influence over the other person. When we are attempting to hold power over another person, there is no room for real love. . . . .But when you are dealing with neuropsychological measures outside of the norm: —interpersonally exploitative, psychotic, emotionally unavailable, devoid of empathy, etc. that makes normative responses utterly unworkable.
Connie, Aly, Nancy,
I felt like it more appropriate to give you ladies my “thank you” here. 💕
I thought I’d just leave the bottom of last week’s thread for Robin.
I do really appreciate the wise, thoughtful responses you ladies wrote out. I didn’t immediately respond back – partially because I wanted to absorb what you had to say before I responded. Partially, because a cold front came in which aggravated my sinus triggering migraine cycle.
There are specific gems each of you ladies spoke into my heart.
📖Connie- especially about reading and LISTENING TO WHAT THE SPIRIT IMRESSES ON MY HEART.
You’re right about this too – that I must keep my distance as long as he uses me as an excuse for his destructive behavior. 😔
He just keeps saying “I wouldn’t do X, if you didn’t do Z”. He thinks bc I do X that we are equally guilty. 😕
Here’s an overview of his grievances:
X=Ruth was repeatedly late to work (We own a family business; it was a TERRIBLE idea for me to work with him. I don’t work with him now except in bailout situations).
X= Ruth was slow at work. (He works at a Break neck pace that I simply can’t keep up with)
X= Ruth wasted money. True: materialism is my besetting sin. 😔
X=Ruth lied to me about money.
X= Ruth doesn’t worship the Lord with excitement as much as she used to. Whether or not this is true, is not a reason for you to harass me.
X= Ruth didn’t put enough energy into sex. She put more energy into reading, gardening, the kids, etc, he has problem feeling jealous with my energy and attention. But while he wants my energy and attention, he isn’t considerate or helpful to me so I consider his expectations absolutely ludicrous.😠
🔴 This is the only one of his grievances that I actively offend him on in the present tense.
I no longer lie to him.
I am trying hard to be financially responsible and use self-control with my spending.
I try to be respectful and supportive of him whenever it’s feasable.
I don’t work with him on a regular basis so, that’s cut the opportunities for me to disappoint him in our business.
I don’t do anything that would get him in trouble business-wise.
You’re right about my heart hardening toward him. When we had our ‘do-over’ in August I felt quite a bit of compassion for him. Maybe I was too optimistic. This time I am MUCH more cautious and skeptical.
we have an appointment for counseling next week. I was heartily going to resist couples counseling because I have heard the horror stories of how they go for abusive marriages. But my pastor set this up for us and our church is paying for it – otherwise, my husband would never have agreed to it.
I think the first session is for us together unfortunately.
I’m just going to go in well armed with several journal entries that I’m going to turn into statements prepared to read. Depending on what the counselor asks us to address I’m going to have the appropriate statement ready to read.
Does that sound like a good plan?
[ sorry for the typos ]❤️
Ruth, I’m glad you are going for counseling, and I hope and pray that the counselor is a good one. As a marriage counselor, His/her client is the “marriage” itself….or should be. Your therapist is not there to choose sides, but to mediate and to provide perspective. If you feel at any time that the therapist is not providing appropriate perspective, or is unhelpful, be sure to speak up. That is so important. The therapist needs feedback, and without that, he/she can’t do their job. I think it’s good for you to have your journal with you. That will give credence to what you have to say. We will pray that it goes well and you get some real help.
Can you share with us how your counseling session went?
Just in case a reader here was in need of encouragement by way of a song here are a few songs that are current favorites:
It is Well by Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music 💕
Oh to Be Loved By Jesus by Page CXVI
Nothing But the Blood by Page CXVI
I think this is why Jesus is so radical….you want to be first? Be last. You want to be served? Serve. The Gentiles want to lord it over you….but not so with you who wish to follow me. It just goes against everything instinctual.
“….you want to be first? Be last. You want to be served? Serve. The Gentiles want to lord it over you….but not so with you who wish to follow me. It just goes against everything instinctual. . .”
. . . I went back and studied some of those texts, this morning. . . . this turning of even the greatest evil into the greatest good, it is really hard stuff to process. . . . But it is the reverse logic that God always seems to use: The way right is left; the way up is down; the way to save your life is to lose it completely. . . . . Evil does its worst, but God takes it as the actual raw material by which to bless people. —Unbelievable! . . . .Bringing grace out of pure sin, you know Remedy, making use of sin to work out even more grace. . . .One thing looks clear, no human person would ever think up that way of doing things. . . God bringing all good out of all evil, not only to overcome the evil, but to make the evil work toward even more good. . . . .”bless them which persecute you”, “recompense to no one evil for evil”, “avenge not yourselves”, “overcome evil with good”. . . .
—Help, I’ve lost myself in my marriage (wrong way to lose yourself) vs. Please, Please —Don’t— Help!!! . . .I’ve totally lost myself in Christ (the right way to lose yourself). . . .Christ is all I am, all I see . . . .but there is no me if He is my identity, my All. The right vs. wrong way to lose yourself. . . .My abusive mother used to tell me growing up: “Aleea, you have lost your mind with all this “Jesus talk.” —What is the matter with you? How about you consider having a personal relationship with reality?” . . . .I had not thought too deeply about things in those days and I would just start crying. . . . I don’t talk to my mother anymore (—no contact) until we (—my counselor and I) can figure out what to do. We have so many internal (Aleea) issues to deal with now. . . . .but just typing this out now I would say: —Mother (I can’t call you Mom), lets both consider “losing our minds” so we can come to our senses. What would you say to taking the journey together? We’ll get two books each to read and discuss: . . .hmmm . . . .say. . . .The Case For Christ and The Case Against The Case For Christ and lets see if we both can learn something. My belief is a defense mechanism but so is your unbelief. Lets take that journey through the gnashing rocks of Christian Orthodoxy all the way to the very furthest shores our imaginations. . . .Lets do our level best to be brave and completely, totally honest (—with no question begging, no special pleading.) . . .The truth will set us free but first I bet it will shatter both of our hearts to pieces. . . . . Everything is in balance and that is why it is the same with a woman as with a tree. The more she seeks to rise in height and into the light, the more vigorously do her roots struggle earthword, downword, into the dark, the deep —into evil. Or as Dr. Carl Jung, (Swiss psychotherapist, psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology) was always telling people: “your vision will clear only when you look for answers in your own heart.” Trying to find answers outside of ourselves was like dreaming. He also said: “. . . No tree can grow to heaven unless its roots reach all the way down to hell.” “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” “There’s no coming to consciousness without pain.” ―I bet, and that is why we fight it so, so hard. So, never pray to be a better slave if God is trying to get you out of your situation. Lean into the discomfort. —They say moving on will show you a lot about who you are, what you truly want, and what you have no desire to waste your time on (Husbands/ Mothers, et.al. who don’t want to take the journey with us). . . . Do what the Holy Spirit tells you to do. Remedy, the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. If you can see your path laid out in front of you step-by-step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. —That’s why it’s your path!