I love the sweet interactions you have with one another on this blog. I see how so many of you have grown and are functioning in CORE strength, reaching out to other sisters to help them along the way. Thank you, Dawn, for your guest posts and encouraging us in believing that God not only redeems us and restores us.
Research shows us that a key component to healing from an abusive relationship includes a community of supportive others who know what your life is like and can encourage you, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I’m so thankful for this community. So many of you hold each other up through prayer, committing your time to share your experience, both the successes and the failures. We all experience both, but don’t always feel as comfortable sharing the failures, but they are there for each of us. Thank you, friends. I so appreciate you.
Question: As I look back, this destruction has been happening a long time. I have found emails dating back to 2006, 2 years after our 1st son was born. He lost his temper with our son when he was 10 months old…he said words out of anger to me that cut to the core of my being. He was selfish and hurtful and yet I kept living and pretending it wasn't that way.
I have tried all these years to pretend and patch things up until I couldn't do it anymore. In January 2016 he slammed my oldest against a car, came inside and yelled, “I am sick of you, and you, and you,” to all 3 of us. Anger burning in his eyes. He looked at my son and said, “Get your damn bag in the car!”
We were all crying. My son had to go to a hockey game and I had to let him go, scared of what could happen. I let my husband know I was done with the treatment of all of us and he needed to get help.
As soon as I stood up to him, my life fell apart. He was awful to all of us and the church that I have loved counseled me that I need to kiss his forehead and tell him, “I’ve got this” when he is acting out. They said that it is my Godly duty to sit and pray as God can change and do anything. I have been doing this for 14 years now and things are only getting worse.
I don't feel I can do this anymore. He has gone to counseling but has now found excuses for his behavior. He has blamed others, his childhood, and recently that it is a reaction and not a choice.
How does change really happen if someone can't take responsibility? Recently, I was in a car accident, and on major pain relievers and muscle relaxers. In the night, he pretended to be someone else and ask me personal questions. He asked why a pretty girl like me isn't wearing my wedding ring…if I loved my husband…if I am proud of him for all the changes he is making…when he didn't like my answers, he started yelling…get rid of the jerk…leave him!
It startled me awake fully. Then, he came around the bed saying “Honey, where are you? I have been looking all over for you!” I asked what he meant by that. My memory recalled the conversation the next day. I asked him about it. He tried to lie about it at first, but then he felt he didn't violate any boundaries or trust. He needed to know if I love him so he knew whether or not he needed to file for divorce.
He let me know he also did this another time after a surgery I had. My trust has been totally violated and I am not sure I can get it back. Twenty minutes later he said we need to go to couple's counseling or we are done. I refuse to do that at this point as our case was closed due to what they saw in our counseling and were advised to seek individual counseling.
I am tired of the threats, mistreatment of the kids and myself, and really don't like who I have become. As I start to move forward, people in the church including my Pastor bombard me. They tell me that I am the problem and that I need to make this right. My husband has used Scriptures against me… saying he doesn't believe in divorce and but on the other side he has threatened me with divorce at least 5 times.
The latest is my brother-in-law and sister want to mediate for us. Both have seen what I have walked through, but now that I have stood up to him, they are saying I need to stay in this marriage at all cost. They tell me that it will hurt the children more to not have a family unit. I don't feel that way anymore but am realizing I will not have support from the relationships I value most. I feel very confused on a day to day basis.
Our home is one of no peace but stress. I’ve been told that I will be disappointing God if I leave and it was my decision to enter this marriage. Both of my sons are in counseling. One talked of ending his life and the other developed very aggressive anger issues and frequent stomach aches. There are times I feel so desperate that I have wanted to end my own life but know that is not an option as I have 2 boys that need me.
With sexual infidelity being a way out I would be lying if I didn't consider it. I have read your book, I have searched scriptures, but how do I keep my mind straight when I am told I can't feel the things I do. I feel compassion for my husband, but not marital love…it almost feels like that part of my heart has been closed…maybe to protect me from more pain. I want him to get real help where he owns what he does, not make excuses.
How do I move forward when sometimes it feels I have so many on the opposite side? I don't want to hurt my husband or my kids either, but I am not sure I can live like this. I feel confused when I try to make decisions or unsure or afraid. Please help.
Answer: Your question clearly captures the confusion so many women experience when they are in a destructive marriage, especially when they are receiving advice from people they trust and respect, people who seem to have a hotline to God himself. These people wouldn’t outwardly say this is what they teach but the bottom line comes across like this: a man can abuse his children, his wife, commit adultery, lie, violate trust repeatedly, but if he says to his pastor or counselor, “I want to work on my marriage” somehow his wife (if she is a godly woman) is supposed to forgive him, believe him, and give him another chance. Even if this cycle is repetitive.
And, if she refuses, she now is cast as the unrepentant one. Now she is labeled as the one who is tearing apart the family, breaking God’s covenant of marriage, violating her vows for better or worse, etc. Sheesh! What pressure you must feel.
I don’t blame you for second guessing your decision to be done with this cycle. You have very little support and it’s very tough for most people to stand up against their own peer group.
Let me give you two questions to ask yourself that will help clarify your choices and when you answer them, it will give you a roadmap forward:
1.We know it is God’s will that we glorify him with our lives. Therefore, do you think you will glorify God most by kissing your husband’s forehead (enduring and forbearing) while he abuses you and your children? Do you glorify God most while allowing someone who claims the name of Christ to degrade you, abuse you, lie to you and mistreat you and your children? It clearly dishonors you and your children, but does silently enduring honor or dishonor God?
Or, Do you glorify God most by speaking the truth in love, calling the authorities, and separating yourself from a man who is clearly destructive and unrepentant in the hope that by your brave actions, he will come to his senses?
There are a couple of interesting passages in 1 Peter I’d encourage you to study. 1 Peter is a book that teaches us how to suffer in a way that glorifies God. The first passage says this: “If you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God CALLED you to do good, even if it means suffering… (1 Peter 2:20,21).
The second passage says, “But even if you suffer for DOING WHAT IS RIGHT, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats (1 Peter 3:14).
You and your kids suffer because your husband abuses you. You are suffering much like a rape victim suffers at the hands of her rapist. That kind of suffering is involuntary suffering, it is not virtuous or voluntary; it is forced suffering.
On the other hand, the kind of suffering that is virtuous, the kind of suffering glorifies God, and the kind of suffering that Peter is talking about is the suffering that comes about from doing something good. The apostle Paul teaches us that we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). What is best in this situation? Is it good to allow the abuser to continue to abuse with no accountability or consequence? Or is it better to bring his actions to the light of truth, so that he might repent?
Will you suffer for doing that kind of good? Yes, and you have through the rejection and shaming of your church leadership. But that is a virtuous, voluntary suffering that most glorifies God.
2. We know it is God’s will for us to love, even our enemy. Therefore, do you love your husband best by enduring his deceit, his oppression, and abuse? Or is it more loving to hold him accountable, allow him to experience the legal and relational consequences of his behaviors in the hopes that he will wake up and come to his senses? Do you love him best by enabling or by confronting?
Much of the confusion and second-guessing yourself comes from the mixing up of two biblical concepts. Yes, God calls us to unconditional love (love even your enemies), but he does not call us to unconditional relationship (we don’t marry our enemies or even fellowship with them. That’s why we call them enemies and not friends).
The idea that we are called by God to maintain a relationship with someone even when he or she is repeatedly destructive toward us is not Biblical (Click To Tweet).
In my previous blog Is it Biblical to implement negative consequences, I gave plenty of Biblical examples of relationships ending because of unrepentant sin.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. God love for humankind is unconditional but he does not offer anyone unconditional relationship. He tells us that our sin separates us from him and that without repentance we have no fellowship with him (1 John 1:6). Our sin does not separate us from God’s love (Romans 5:8) but it does separate us from his presence (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Jesus distanced himself from certain religious leaders because he didn’t trust them. He knew what was in their heart (John 2:24). Throughout much of the Old Testament, God withdraws his presence from his people because of unrepentant sin.
God calls people to a covenant relationship that is like a marriage. He not only wants us to enjoy his love, he wants us to love him back (Deuteronomy 6:5). He not only promises us his faithfulness, he requires that we be faithful in return (Deuteronomy 4:23-24). The book of Hosea is a picture of God’s love for his unfaithful spouse (Israel). He longs for her, but his relationship with her will remain broken until she is willing to change.
In this sinful world there is no perfect person and in every relationship, there is some brokenness and suffering. That’s why Jesus tells us that when someone sins against us we are to go and talk to that person so that we can be reconciled. However, he also adds, if they refuse to hear you after you have repeatedly tried to get them to listen, he says, “Treat them as you would a pagan and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17). Jesus says if there is no repentance, the relationship you once had changes. Pagans and tax collectors were not trusted, nor were they friends, although a good Jew would help a pagan or tax collector who was in need, fulfilling the biblical mandate to love one’s enemy.
Being in close fellowship with someone is not a right, even if both people are Christians. It is a sacred privilege. The apostle Paul advises us to distance ourselves from people who are continually destructive, especially if their behaviors or attitudes are sinful and unacceptable, both to us and to God (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).
Loving a person unconditionally may indeed require sacrifice and suffering but we suffer and sacrifice for another person’s good, not to allow them to continue to sin against us. That is foolishness, not biblical love. Too many people have been wrongly instructed that biblical love means they must be nice and suffer quietly, even as they are being mistreated and abused.
Friends, how and when do you second-guess your decisions? And what do you do to gain clarity?
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