Thanks for your prayers. This is a very busy season for me so I deeply need and appreciate them. Continue to ask God to give me a deeper wisdom of his character and his love.
I’m reading through the Bible again this year and reading some of the Old Testament books can be challenging. I struggle sometimes to see the OT God and Jesus as the same God. I have no problems seeing Christ in the Psalms but it gets more confusing and dark as I read through slaughtering entire cities of men, women, and children in Joshua and Deuteronomy.
I think if we’re honest, we all struggle to see the God we know and believe in certain passages in the Bible. And perhaps this is where some of you can get a bit lost. The Bible is one way we know God. Nature and creation is another way (Romans 1:20). Jesus tells us that he is the exact representation of the nature of God (Hebrews 1:3) and that the Holy Spirit will lead us in all truth (John 16:13).
So I trust that when I am in the dark cave, God will show up or send a sister or brother to help me know him in one way or another. I pray that same thing for all of you. When one of you gets lost in the darkness, another can come and shine some light on the path.
Please remember that none of us is 100% healed and no one but God knows all truth. –Click To Tweet
This blog is a support blog, not a therapy group. We can share our light with one another as best as we can, but let’s continue to be gracious and respectful even when we disagree or we see someone believe things or make choices that we believe are unhealthy. We can share our concerns, but please let’s do it humbly and lovingly.
Question: I have been having trouble in my marriage since my daughter was born (2 years ago) and things have progressively gotten worse. The MAIN problems in my marriage are…
1. He is always CONSTANTLY negative.
2. He is controlling (looking through my stuff, making me tell him when I go somewhere and with who, he won't let me/my daughter go to church, etc)
3. Anger issues – Blows up about small things like LITERALLY spilled milk (We have a hole in the wall because of that).
I’ve tried every approach and nothing helps. I’ve tried leaving and brought it up but he admits he has a problem and wants to change, so I stay and try again, but he never changes. We JUST started getting into couples therapy. I’m trapped and unhappy.
Any advice on how to help him, myself, or just survive? Is my marriage doomed?
Answer: You are in a tough spot but I’m so glad that you recognize that there is a serious and dangerous problem while your daughter is still young.
First, the three things you mentioned, constant negativity, controlling behavior and explosive anger are all red flags for domestic abuse. Let me ask you a question. Is he negative, controlling and explosively angry at work? In other settings? With other people? Or just at home?
My guess is no one else knows what he’s like at home. Is that true? If so, that tells you that he has a whole lot more “control” over his negativity and explosive anger than you think. You also mentioned that this behavior started when your daughter was born and is escalating. This is a typical pattern in interpersonal abuse.
Often women report the first incident of physical violence while pregnant with their first child. Pregnancy often threatens an abuser’s status as #1 in your life as your attention begins to be divided. You are no longer solely focused on pleasing him or making him happy or doing what he wants. Now you have another little person to consider and you can’t always be there for him.
I’d ask you to reflect back on the time before you got pregnant. Was he also controlling, negative and angry but you were more able to accommodate all his needs and demands so you didn’t experience the backlash and anger that you’re feeling now? When we look at the pattern of domestic violence, it usually escalates in frequency (happening more often) and intensity (getting worse and worse) over time. You’ve noticed that is exactly what’s happening to you.
You also mentioned that you just started couples therapy. I don’t recommend that approach for you right now. In a recent blog, I talked about three reasons why marriage counseling is not helpful. It’s important that you realize that his anger, his negativity and his controlling behaviors are not marriage problems.
They are personal and character problems that are negatively affecting your marriage. In marriage counseling, your husband will attempt to make his anger about you. Sadly many counselors who are not trained to recognize abusive and controlling behavior will try to help him by “helping you” try harder so he doesn't get so mad. Or will try to frame his controlling behaviors as his attempt to exercise biblical headship. Bad ideas.
Plus, I bet you have not felt safe to fully disclose with your counselor what’s truly going on at home.
You asked what’s next. What can you do to help him, help yourself or your marriage?
I’m going to give it to you straight and I’m sure the other women on this blog who have lived through what you’re living through will also share their experiences and wisdom they’ve gleaned.
- The worst thing for your marriage is for you to do nothing. The abuse will only get worse and you will get more trapped and more beaten down and it will be harder and scarier to leave. Plus you might have a few more children making you feel more stuck. Trying harder to make him happy only reinforces his idea that it’s your fault that he acts that way because you are not meeting his needs/wants/demands at all times.
Your child or children will grow up seeing dad abuse mom and mom being victimized again and again. This is very traumatic for children and for you. You can’t be the good mother you want to be when you live afraid all the time.
2. You cannot change him. You know that because he hasn’t changed despite your best efforts. Only he can change himself and so far, although he’s said he’ll work on himself, he hasn’t. The only way he’ll even consider working on himself is when he suffers strong consequences for his actions. As Henry Cloud says, “jail does some people good.”
However, I want to be realistic. Your husband has the classic signs of someone who will not change, not because God can’t change him, but because he won’t do the work and submit himself to the right people who could help him change. If that’s true, where does that leave you?
3. The only person you can work on to change is you. And for your sake, your daughter’s sake and the sake of your future, please get some help for yourself and do not just “survive.”
You need help in staying grounded in truth and reality because it sounds like your husband is a good talker and can convince you of things (like he’ll change) or (it’s all your fault) which are both not true.
You need help to get and stay safe. You and your daughter are not safe in this environment. It’s only a matter of time before he explodes again.
Remember, not all abusers are 100% abusive all of the time. Many have a charming side that is quite enjoyable and fun. When you are with that side of him you might think to yourself, “He gets it. He’s changing.” He is not. Your husband’s charm can be a strength or a front, but being “nice” or charming doesn’t mean he’s changed his controlling, negative or abusive ways.
Your husband needs to learn how to handle his negative emotions and insecurity without abuse. He needs to recognize and change his entitled way of thinking. Until he sees that the problem is not “you” or “the marriage” but him, he won’t get the help he truly needs. It will always be shifted to you to “stop making him mad.”
Please call your local Domestic Abuse organization to develop a safety plan or call 1-800-799-SAFE and talk with someone who can help you. I know this isn’t the answer you want to hear, but right now you need to steward yourself and your child and bring yourselves to a place of safety and restored sanity.
This blog community can be a great support for you, but you will need to do what you need to do to not be a repeat victim of his anger, insecurity, and control.
Friends, when you woke up to the abuse in your marriage, what was the first baby step you took to get help for yourself?