Wow, we had an incredible response to the registration launch of our Live CONQUER Women’s Conference on October 14th & 15th. We’ve already had 120 women register and I hope you are one of them. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out. Click here for more information. I hope to see you there. It will be an amazing time. You will not want to miss it. Invite a friend and spread the word.
This week’s question is from someone who feels stuck in a different way from our friend from last week’s blog. My heart goes out to her, but validation of her pain will only help her feel heard, it won’t help her change. She needs to be empowered to take some constructive action over her life. Let’s see how we can learn to move from being a continuous victim to an owner.
Question: I am in an emotionally abusive marriage. We have three adult children and my husband has repeatedly undermined my self-worth to two of my children. Thus, they are a continuation of his verbal abuse using some of the same phrases that he uses. My oldest has tried to micromanage me verbally as if she is the mom and I the daughter. In addition, he enlists them in every aspect of our marital issues. I have pleaded with him through counseling to set boundaries so we can begin the healing of our destructive marriage. He is very hesitant on excluding them and wants to know the boundaries he'll have to adhere to. Can you address these complicated issues?
Answer: From your question I’m assuming that your three adult children are still living in your home? Your husband has regularly enmeshed your children into your marriage so that there are no clear boundaries between the marriage and the children (even though your children are now adults). You are not only being controlled and verbally abused by your husband but also two of your children. It must be awful to live that way.
I'm curious about the third child? Why has he or she been excluded from your husband’s behaviors? And what is your relationship with this child?
I’m not sure why your husband is not clear on what you want from him. You say that despite counseling together and pleading with him to set boundaries with your children he is still fuzzy about what boundaries you want him to adhere to? Have you not been clear or is he playing dumb?
This issue is not as complicated as it seems. The most important thread of this mess that I’d like to untangle for you is that you are stuck in a victim mindset. I don’t say this to shame or scold you but rather to empower you to take ownership back over your own well-being.
You keep waiting, begging, pleading for your husband to set boundaries but where are your own personal boundaries? What is okay for you and not okay for you? And if your adult children or husband are regularly being disrespectful to you or treating you like a child, why are you putting up with it?
It’s true, you can’t change them, but you can change you.
The first change you can make is that you must move yourself from a victim mindset – (I am a victim of their problem and have been helpless to change anything) into ownership mindset – (what is MY problem here? What do I need to change in order to not be a victim anymore?).
Your problem in all of this is you don’t like the way you are being treated. You don’t like being treated like a child and bullied by your daughter. You don’t like your husband demeaning you in front of your children. You don’t like your husband involving your kids into your marriage relationship.
When we have an ownership mindset, instead of helplessly waiting or continuously begging for someone else to do something to change, we ask ourselves, what am I going to do about my problem(s)? Do you hear the difference?
As human beings, we all have choices to make and our choices have consequences. Over the course of your marriage, the consequences for you have been a loss of self-esteem and a loss of respect from your kids, not to mention the emotional, mental and physical stress you must experience day after day living in that kind of environment.
But what if you spoke up and said to your daughter, “I don’t like the way you are talking to me and I want you to stop it.” Yes, she might escalate, or not talk to you for a few days, but she also would begin to see you have boundaries. You are speaking up for yourself and not willing to be bullied or controlled any longer. And if you were consistent, and refused to engage in any conversation that was disrespectful or controlling, she might decide she has to change her tone if she wanted to have your help or input with anything.
What if you said to your husband, “I’m not going to tell you again what I want. I’ve told you for years. But if you continue to put our children into our marriage and degrade me, I am no longer able to share the bedroom with you or I will disengage myself from the conversation or I will get my own apartment.”
When you regularly behave like a helpless victim in the midst of someone’s mistreatment, they quickly learn that they get their way and there are no consequences for their bad behavior. Perhaps if you implemented negative consequences for their poor choices, they might make different choices in the way they treat you.
The second change you need to face is that you might not be living in reality. Healthy people live in truth, not in what they wish was true. If you speak up for yourself and tell your family that you don’t like the way they are treating you, you might discover that they don’t care about what you have to say or how you feel. If you leave the room or the house it may not matter to them.
If that’s true, what is your problem? Your problem is you are knocking yourself out to have a relationship with people who don’t care about you or want to have a healthy relationship with you.
A healthy relationship takes two people who mutually want to work at caring for one another’s needs and feelings. (tweet that)
If you are living with people who do not care about your feelings or needs and instead see you as someone who meets their needs and is an easy target for all of their own emotional vomit, what do you need to do?
I know this sounds awful, but love sometimes speaks some tough truths. The person who needs to care about you right now is you. God loves you. You are precious to Him. So is your family but he doesn’t want you to be treated this way and perhaps God is calling you to speak up for yourself not only for your welfare but also for theirs. When people treat others contemptuously and bully them around as if they are property they not only dehumanize and degrade you, they dehumanize and degrade themselves. As much as it depends on you, don’t allow it.
Instead of focusing all of your attention on what your family is doing “to” you, which is clearly sinful, do something new. To get unstuck from the victim mindset, ask yourself another question. Ask yourself what are my family’s action and attitudes doing “for” me. In other words, what does their behavior towards you teach you about you? About your relationship with them? About what you need to learn in order to get stronger? About your fear of speaking up, or your passivity in enabling them?
Your husband and kids are clearly sinning against you, but the only way through this mess is if you change; not keep wishing, hoping, or begging them to change. Changing you is now your challenge and your opportunity for growth. God wants to help you grow, get stronger, and be a God-centered, not a family-centered woman. Get some help for yourself to be able to do that instead of wasting time at the counselor’s office trying to get your husband to change.
Friends, what helped you to switch your thinking from helpless victim to responsible owner?