I had a rough week. I appreciate your prayers.
Today’s Question: I’ve tried everything and my husband refuses to admit he’s emotionally abusive or controlling. I don’t know what to do next. Does God expect me just to live like this for the rest of my life?
Answer: Many reading this blog are in destructive marriages and have felt powerless and hopeless like you do. I hear that you’re tired and confused and afraid. Your husband won’t change, but perhaps you have. You are not the person you used to be, and perhaps not the person you want to be. You don’t like what’s happening in your marriage but you also don’t like what’s happening to you. I want to give you four steps that you can practice that will help you become more empowered.
A while back my friend Barb noticed I was slouching more than usual. Ugh, I feared I was turning into an old lady with bad posture. I didn’t want to end up with a walker and a curved spine so it was time to make a change. I called my gym and made an appointment with a trainer for an evaluation.
Chris a young, burly fitness trainer pushed me through a battery of tests and finished our evaluation by whipping out a camera. Already I felt old, frumpy, and fat but it got worse. You know the saying a picture doesn’t lie. The truth was right in front of me. My shoulders slumped, my belly pouched out, my back swayed and my neck and chin somehow jutted out from my shoulders in a most unflattering way—and I worked hard to stand up straight when he took the picture. Chris turned to me, eyebrows raised and said, “You need to build your core.”
“What’s that?” I asked, dreading his response.
“Your core muscles wrap around your abdomen and back support your spine and keep you balanced and stable,” Chris said. “Bottom line, a strong core keeps you from slouching and looking old.” Then he asked, “Are you ready to get to work?”
“Ummm, let me think about this for a few days,” I stammered, anxious to bolt out of there as soon as possible.
After a hard cry, I realized I faced a tough choice. I was either going to work hard to strengthen my core muscles or I could continue to do nothing and become rounded and more slouched. I didn’t like those two alternatives. I wanted Chris to tell me that there was a third choice, a pill I could take, a massage I could get, something that didn’t hurt and was easier than working out with weights three times a week. But that wasn’t one of my options if I wanted to improve my core, my weight, as well as my overall muscle strength and alignment.
In the same way, when you’re in a destructive marriage, you know that you have some difficult choices in front of you. You already know you can’t change your marriage or your man but you can change something. You. I know, change is hard but I want you to know something important. You can do something even if your husband or marriage never changes. You can choose to grow stronger through your destructive marriage. But I also want to warn you, if you choose to do nothing it will cost you.
Your emotional, mental, and spiritual core will get weaker and weaker, curving inward until your entire personhood is out of alignment. You won’t know who you are anymore, or who God made you to be. Your example to your children will be telling them that it’s okay for a husband to devalue a wife, a man to treat a woman with disrespect and contempt. Is this the picture you want them to see? The family life you want them to model in their own families in the future?
Sacrificing yourself and allowing your spouse to continue to sin against you simply to keep peace in your marriage or pretend things are fine when the relationship has terminal cancer sin is never a wise choice, not for you, not for your husband, not for your marriage. God calls you to be a biblical peacemaker, but not a peacekeeper or peace faker.
In my book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, I outline four core strengths that are essential to build and maintain good mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health. I use the acronym CORE to help you remember what they are. With God at your center and with His help you can make these four changes:
C – I will be committed to truth, both internally in my own heart and mind and externally. I refuse to pretend.
O – I will be open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, teaching me, maturing me, and guiding me into his way of living my life.
R – I will be responsible for my own responses to destructive behavior and commit to being respectful without dishonoring myself.
E – I will be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me.
Marital adversity not only reveals character, but it also shapes it. You have a choice about how that shaping is taking place in your character right now.
When you know and believe that you are a loved, valuable, worthwhile human being and live from that core place, toxic people lose their power to manipulate you. They can’t control and intimidate you as they once did when you felt worthless, dependent and needy. Click To Tweet
If you don’t strengthen your core you will always live from your circumstances (of an awful marriage) and your emotions. On the other hand, when you live from your core, your abusive/destructive husband might permanently damage your marriage, but he cannot destroy you.
Don’t forget, your CORE reflects who you are or who you want to be not just what you do. If you’d like to take a two-session Introduction to Core Strength Class, it starts next Tuesday, February 11. For more information, you can click here.
Friends, what have you done when you’re done trying to change or convince your spouse?