I’ve been meditating on the women of Advent this season in the genealogy of Christ and have been so blessed to see how God uses and blesses women who have experienced grave injustices like Tamar and Bathsheba; women who are disenfranchised, stranded and broken by life’s circumstances like Ruth and Naomi and yet, raises them up and chooses them to be in the lineage of Christ (See Matthew 1 for the lineage). I will be devoting my newsletter article next week to Tamar’s story (Genesis 38).
Friend, we have a God who sees. And, like Hagar, another rejected woman discovered, we have a God who sees us personally (Genesis 16:13,14).
If this holiday season is leaving you feeling lost and alone, remember you are not alone or lost. El Roi, the God who sees, sees you. Click To Tweet
This week’s question: I just read your book and have read most of the blog comments. My situation seems different from the rest.
I've been married for twenty-one years. I left him three months ago. I had called Focus on the Family with a question about our daughter, but the counselor asked me a few questions about my marriage, told me about your book, and suggested I needed to leave. I was stunned. But I left the next morning instead of going to work while he was at his job because I feared him.
I was thankful to finally feel released from it, but now he wants to reconcile. When we were together, my husband wouldn't let me use the DVD player or use the lawn mower for fear I break them. I couldn't get in bed at night unless I'd showered. If I didn't shower at night, I couldn’t sleep in bed and sleeping on the couch was also not OK.
My husband is so disconnected that he asked me what church I went to last year after I'd been going there and volunteering weekly for three years. On a different occasion, he also didn't know what my job duties were and asked what I did. I have been at the same job for fifteen years. He wouldn't allow me to turn up the heat in the house if I was so cold I had to wear a winter coat with hat and gloves inside. He didn't ever want to drive our daughter places and she now wants nothing to do with him. I could go on…what am I dealing with?
He's also just generally mean as well, fuming over small things like an issue with a towel rack or a scratch on something. So I did what others have said, leave the house a lot to preserve my sanity, and try to do the right things and be loving as I waited for him to change.
There are a lot more things that I consider strange that went on, but my story seems so dissimilar to others so I'm confused…do you think I did the wrong thing by leaving?
Answer: I’m not so sure your story is all that different from other people’s stories here on this site. You describe your husband as “not letting you” do or decide things that a normal healthy adult would decide such letting you use the DVD player, turning up the heat in your own home, or even sleeping in your own bed unless you first showered. This is not normal. It is controlling and abusive. The details may be different but the elements of controlling and abusive behaviors are the same.
You also state he’s generally mean, and disengaged from the daily details of your life and your daughter’s life unless it relates to what he wants to control. You asked, “What am I dealing with?” It’s not appropriate for me to “diagnose” what might be going on with his own mental health, obviously something, but I do want to ask you what’s going on with yours that you would allow yourself to treated this way?
You said that you left because Focus on the Family told you to and you were thankful to be released. But now you question that decision and are asking me if you “did the right thing by leaving?”
What that says to me is that you have a very hard time thinking for yourself as well as standing up for yourself. It seems that you depend on others: Focus on the Family, what “others have said” and now me and this blog community to affirm that you are indeed in a destructive and abusive marriage. Sometimes a woman desperately needs that validation because she’s been so brainwashed by the destructive person in her life that she’s lost her ability to think and fight for her own safety and sanity. Or his poor mental health has affected hers as well. So let me be clear. You are right for leaving and you are right for staying away. You’ve given me no indication that he’s done any work or gotten any help to change his ways. Does that help you?
But the problem for you right now is that you need to get to a healthier place. This isn’t about your marriage right now, it’s about you. It’s about your own ability and your own resolve to make good decisions on your behalf. You said your husband wants to reconcile and your daughter wants nothing to do with him. But what about you? You’re relieved to be away from him, but if you don’t do your own work to get stronger and healthier you may be tempted to “do what he says or wants,” instead of thinking through for yourself what’s best. This element of dependency makes you vulnerable to controlling individuals and even if you don't choose to reconcile with your spouse right now you may gravitate towards someone else to “decide” for you in the future.
This brings me to a bigger problem in the church at large. Girls have been taught and trained to be dependent and submissive and those traits are seen as godly attributes for women to emulate. Other women who take charge, take initiative, are brave, outspoken or say “No” to others, especially men, are sometimes cast in an unfavorable light. Yet the “model” woman seen in Proverbs 31 is described as having “strength and dignity” as her clothing and that she smiles at the future unafraid. She is a woman who takes initiative, has competence, makes her own decisions about buying a field, makes decisions about people in her community to help, owns her own business and is still considered a loving and loyal wife.
Right now safety is still an issue for you. Your husband shows no signs of changing his ways and from what you report, shows some indications of mental illness. You are still in a weakened state emotionally and mentally, and you need to do your own work right now to get stronger and healthier. Your husband also has his own work to do and allowing him to return to the home will only start a new cycle of the same old dance and danger for you. Please don’t do it.
Friend, were you raised to be more dependent and unsure of your own thoughts and ideas on things? When challenged or told you “can’t” by your spouse, even when things were unreasonable, how did you learn to stand up for yourself?