Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. I have felt some refreshment to my spirit and am heading to the beach next week for 3 days of R & R. I’m bringing books and walking shoes and that’s all I want to do. Hope it’s sunny.
Monday I posted another blog called Let’s Not Call it Abuse for a Christian counseling site I write for. I’d encourage you to read it and pass it on to someone you know in Church leadership or counseling who may need to take it to heart.
You might also be interested in checking out Chris Moles' new blog, Peace Works, which can be found by clicking here.
If you don’t already know, my book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage is now available in audio. If you like to listen to books rather than read them, you can find it at ChristianAudio.com. The MP3 Download is only $7.49 this week.
Today’s Question: I recently finished reading The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. It was exactly what I needed to recognize many things going on in my marriage, and to help me get the courage to do something about it. I don’t know how to explain things in just a few words, so I won’t elaborate, but try to get straight to my question.
I recognize that I am responsible for my own feelings. I now see that I can do something about the way I’m treated, and it is not ok to allow my husband to treat me as he does. I now recognize that God doesn’t expect me to sit back and do nothing. My husband believes that he is not responsible for me being hurt by his words. He says people are responsible for their own feelings and how they let the words of someone else affect them emotionally. For example, if someone calls you stupid and you let that upset you it’s your fault, not the person saying it. (Unless you believe you really are stupid) I feel there are consequences for words. Can we just go around saying whatever we want to people, expecting them not to hold us accountable?
How do I go forward with personal care, boundaries, growth, etc. if he thinks it’s my fault if I‘m hurt by the words he says? I’ve explained how hurt I am after a recent episode, and that I now realize it is habitual. I’ve explained that my heart is broken & it is closed because of being hurt so often. (He apologizes when he needs to, but somehow manages to not really take responsibility for it). He wants to be physically intimate. I thought it was my duty, so I have always gone along with it. I have been emotionally detached during intimacy for a long time. I usually end up secretly crying afterwards. I don’t want it to be like that anymore. I told him I can’t be intimate with him when my heart is closed. He says I’m holding a grudge, being bitter and choosing to stay mad. I’m not mad, and I’m not holding a grudge, but I can’t continue down this path. I am not even me anymore. I don’t even like me anymore. I want to change how I’m handling things.
I guess I’m just needing to hear some truth and direction on where the responsibility lies. Examples on how to handle this. Examples of how I can talk to him about this.
Answer: I’m sorry for your pain and confusion. Your husband is right, he’s not responsible for your feelings, but the Bible says he is responsible for the way he treats you and he is responsible for his choice of words when he’s angry or upset, especially when his words hurt you. And, your husband is responsible as your husband, to care about your feelings even if he isn’t responsible for them. The fact that he’s expressed no compassion for the pain he’s caused you signals the amount of self-centeredness and self-deception going on in his own heart and mind.
Proverbs warns us that “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18) and “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21). Jesus also takes what we say to people quite seriously when he likens harsh or angry words to tongue murder (Matthew 5:22). James reminds us, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26). Paul tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29). He also says, “But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8). Paul also exhorts husbands to “Love their wives as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25), and Peter tells husbands, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).
You say he apologizes, but it seems rather lame if he continues to do the same thing again and again and expects you to just bounce back with a warm heart. smiley face, and sexual appetite when he continually whacks you down like a child’s blow up doll.
Therefore, I want to encourage you to stand strong and keep your boundaries in place. From what I read, these are your boundaries: “I will not allow myself to be treated with disrespect, abuse, and contempt. When you talk to me that way, I will walk away and refuse to listen. The words you choose to express your feelings are hurtful, sinful and damage our relationship and me. You could choose other words, but you choose not to. It’s not that I won’t forgive you, but I can’t be in close fellowship with you when you treat me this way. Your “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean anything to me when you continue to act this way.
The consequences if you choose not to change the way you communicate your unhappy feelings is that I can’t feel close to you and our marriage relationship will suffer.”
On a broader note, one of the reasons you must leave his presence when he starts to verbally vomit on you is because you must be responsible for you. Therefore you must guard your heart against his toxic words because they are soul destroying.
Whether we believe them or not, when someone vomits all of their negative and toxic feelings on us, it impacts us and it sometimes also infects us with it’s poison. Our body shakes, our heart rate speeds up, our blood pressure rises, and we can’t get those words out of our head, even when we know they are not true. You said you’re not yourself anymore and the person you are, you don’t like.
It sounds like you’ve been infected and so I’d encourage you to work on building your CORE strengths. (See Chapter 7 in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage). You want to follow Paul’s advice when he says, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21). That does not mean you will be able to overcome your husband’s evil, but by doing good, you will apply a powerful antidote to the toxic effects he’s having on you.
Here are two questions you can ask yourself to get started:
- What in this marriage right now do I need to learn or change in order to become the person I want to become? For example, Do you need to learn more courage? How to speak the truth in love? How to set better boundaries? How to implement consequences? How to not let this person get the best of you or make you act crazy?
- What do I need to do to respond out of the person I want to be instead of my reactionary emotional self? Perhaps it’s to have more support, to remind yourself again and again who you are in Christ, to write the three things you most like about who you are and live from that place in the moment of temptation.
Your husband has a very immature view of marriage where he wants to have the freedom to throw temper tantrums with no consequences or repercussions. The only person who gets away with that is an infant. Even toddlers come to understand that when they throw a fit, they have a time-out or some other consequence so they learn to manage their angry feelings and use appropriate words to express themselves.
Friends, what do you do to shake off the effects of someone’s verbal vomit on you?