I’m snowed in today. Yesterday too. It’s beautiful but cold. I feel like I’m in Chicago instead of Pennsylvania.
Many of you feel like you are in the desert place. Some are tempted to despair. We must fight that feeling. Thomas Merton writes, “The desert is the home of despair. And despair is everywhere……This, then is our desert; to live facing despair but not to consent. To trample it down under hope in the Cross. To wage war against despair unceasingly. That war is our wilderness. If we wage it courageously, we will find Christ at our side.” Friends, we must not consent to despair. Fight it. Trample it. Wage war against it.
Today’s Question: My 13 year old marriage began becoming abusive about 6 years ago. Last year I went to my pastor and of course that infuriated my husband. Now my husband and I go to separate churches.
I have gone on occasion with him for our children’s sake but I don’t feel right. I feel like when I’m with him I’m supposed to put on some show and I can’t do it.
Then I feel like I look miserable and don’t want to do that either. He won’t let me bring my kids to my church (he physically will pull them away from me) or he talks really bad about the church to my children.
He accuses me of having an affair with the pastor, tells my children the pastor is a sexual pervert and a child abuser, and that I love him (the pastor) more than them. He says that people at that church are all pretending to love and serve God, he called my pastor a Pharisee etc.
Most people are very supportive, but occasionally someone will say I’m being stubborn by staying at my church, that we should be going somewhere together. I feel I need a free safe place to worship, but the issue with my children is killing me. They are so confused. He also will say things such as I’ve never been a good wife, or I’ve never been affectionate.
When I say no to sex he pulls the God says not to withhold sex. But there is no trust. I have filed for divorce hoping to separate and we could get help but he won’t leave. Apparently that’s not going to happen. We went to 10 counseling sessions together, but he said he doesn’t have to change anything until I stop going to my church and un-file the divorce.
This has been our marriage. I have to be the one to do everything different. Be better at everything when I can’t possibly meet his expectations because they always change. I have tried to look at my part, but its difficult when I know half of what he says is not true or twisted. He also just had our 17 year old son arrested. He antagonizes and badgers us until we snap, then points the finger at us.
That’s what happened with my son. He ended up punching a hole in his bedroom wall. He has never been violent his entire life. Now my husband says he has to put a restraining order on him to protect our other kids and yet he tells me he wants him to come home (he’s staying with friends of mine). I don’t get it. He said he was glad to go to jail to get away from him.
My husband calls me an enabler because I’m trying to help my son. Then my husband will be nice to me but I just found out he called the DA to bash our son and he talks bad to our little ones in private. Then he tries to kiss me and asks what my problem is. I’m so frustrated. I just want it to be over but at the same time don’t want to not have hope. My pastor says to separate but I filed 5 months ago and nothing is moving forward and he just puts us through more hell. I feel like this should have been his time to work on reconciling and he made things worse now I just want the divorce. I can’t afford to live on my own and neither can my husband but I’m trusting God.
That’s why I was hoping if they would tell him he’s got to leave due to the abuse at least he could stay with his mom, maybe being physically separated would do something.
I don’t see that either though. I don’t have anywhere to go unless I get my own place and then were paying double. But he has no problem telling me I am financially irresponsible for doing this. However I cant live like this. So I know I rambled but I guess it was the matter of him accusing me of being “unfaithful” in many ways that sparked my writing. He won’t see how his abuse has been unfaithful to me and my children. Thoughts?
Answer: I left your question in tact because once we put things into words, it’s much harder to deny what’s happening to our own selves. I want you (and other’s who visit this blog) to see the crazy-making that is going on. How he says one thing and does another. How he lies. How he contradicts himself. I also want you to see that your “hope” for things to be different is sorely misplaced. I think you said it best when you said, “I always have to be the one to do everything different.”
You could try to be different every single day of your life and you still won’t be different enough because you cannot be your husband’s fantasy wife. There will always be something else that bothers him, aggravates him, or makes him unhappy. If he can make you the lightening rod for his entire well-being, then he can blame you for everything, pressuring you to somehow make him feel better.
The deceptive part of this whole dance is that it often works−temporarily. If he throws a big enough fit, you scramble to make him feel better. Sex often works but then his unhappiness returns and then it’s the next thing you have to “change” or “do” to sooth his internal storm. It’s like a three year old who knows if he throws a loud or scary enough fit, you’ll give into to him and buy him a new toy, or let him stay up late. Then he’s “good” for a while until there is a new toy he wants or something else he can throw a fit to get you to give into him.
But in that kind of dynamic, he never learns to take responsibility for his own emotional well-being or solve his own problems. He becomes an expert at blaming others, or goading them into feeling guilty and responsible for his unhappiness. He provokes others to react or act out (like your son did) so that he can point the finger at their “problem” instead of looking at himself.
But it takes two to continue this dance and I’m glad you want to stop dancing. You know you must learn how to stop feeling responsible for his bad moods, negative emotions and sinful behaviors. It’s also important to know when to nurture true hope things are changing for the better and when to realize that your hope is misplaced desire.
Of course you want your husband to “get it” and to change but to hope that he actually will change is nurtured when we see some evidence of movement in that direction. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
When your husband begins to show some humility and admit his own mistakes, when he’s willing to confess his wrong-doing or take responsibility for his temper outbursts, when he’s willing to tell you the truth, and does so, and he stops blaming everyone else or putting them down so that he looks better, then you can start to hope that things might be salvaged. But when you hope for something that you have absolutely no evidence is true and in fact have a lot of evidence to the contrary, you start feeling sicker and sicker. That’s when you have to let go of hope.
The psalmist struggled with misplaced hope. He asked himself, “Why are you so downcast? Why are you discouraged within?” (Psalm 42:11). We don’t know what exactly was wrong, but his answer to himself was “Put your hope in God.” Hear me, he didn’t say put your hope in what God will do, but in God himself. God is good. He loves you. He cares about your family. He loves truth and justice and humility. Put your hope in God and He will not disappoint. If we put our hope in another person or what we think God will or should do, we usually get disappointed or disillusioned.
So I’m glad you have taken some good steps forward. I’m glad you are starting to see more clearly. But if feels to me that you are still allowing your husband to have way too much power to wreak havoc on you and your kids. Time for tighter boundaries.