I finally posted my pictures of Alaska on both my regular face book page as well some slightly different ones on my facebook fan page. I’m pleased that I figured it out all by myself. Even Donna, my office manager commented that she was proud I did it without her. Also if you want to hear an interview with Susie Larson on my book Lord, I Just Want to be Happy you can download it at www.faith900.com.
For the month of July I’m a guest blogger for Christians and Psychology, a division of the American Association of Christian Counselors. You know by reading this blog that I am passionate about educating the church on issues of domestic abuse. For those of you who are interested in helping me raise awareness in the Christian community about this often hidden sin, I invite you to read my blog for this week, A New Way of Seeing. The site is christianpsych.org/wp_scp/blog/. If you find it helpful, please forward it to others you think would benefit. Thanks.
This week’s question is: I read your blogs and books. My question is I’ve been married for 21 years. I’ve read and re-read your book on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. My husband fits the example of the “should” husband you talk about. He is a believer and has recently admitted to me that he has been verbally abusive after I told him the definition. For a long time he denied it. But he feels that I haven’t been submissive, respectful and obedient to him and that in order for our relationship to ever move forward I have to admit this to him and to our children, ages 17,15, and 11. We have been to counseling jointly and separately.
I have seen how my desire to please him has led to lots of problems. It has excused his behavior and allowed it far too long. He is saying he has admitted his problems and I need to admit and change myself and the children’s attitude and behaviors toward him in order for him to stay. He has already seen an attorney as have I. Please help…I’m so tired.
Answer: You sound like you’re exhausted trying to be heard and understood. It seems to me that your husband is still saying that all your marital problems are your fault and that in order for your marriage to succeed, you will need to do what he says, quit complaining, never challenge him and gets the children to do likewise. He now admits to being verbally abusive but it’s because you haven’t been respectful, submissive or obedient. So if you change, all will be well. But you know that’s not true.
You indicate that you have tried to please him and that your desire to gain his approval has actually led to more abuse. He’s saying he’s admitted his problems but what exactly has he admitted to? Is it losing his temper when you won’t do what he says you “should” and then blaming you for his ugly words? That doesn’t sound like the kind of real change you’ll need in order for your marriage to turn around and become more healthy and mutual.
There may be some truth to his complaint that you too have been disrespectful toward him and/or contributed to the children’s poor attitudes toward their father. Confession of wrong doing is important in relationships and is a helpful first step toward healing and reconciliation. You’ll have to pray about his concerns and examine your heart and past behaviors to see if there are specific ways or times you have been disrespectful, even if in the context of being provoked.
I don’t know if this is your situation but some men think that their wife’s entire life should revolve around loving them, serving them, and doing whatever will make them happy. If she balks, objects, or wants to do something on her own, they find that threatening and label it unloving or disrespectful.
Other husbands believe that if their wife doesn’t give them carte blanche authority or if she questions his judgment in a situation, she is being disrespectful, disobedient and/or unsubmissive. I don’t believe that biblical submission means that a wife is to live with her eyes closed and mouth shut even as she observes her spouse driving the entire family straight off the cliff. (For more on this topic, go to my free resource page on my website www.leslievernick.com and see my paper on Headship and Submission). However, I do believe that how you say things can make a big difference.
Going back to your question, you’ve both been to counselors, and both been to attorneys. If you and your husband want to make your marriage work, that’s a start but it marital healing begins by identifying what the problem is and I am still not sure you are both agreed. Perhaps the best course at this time will be for you to take the first step and apologize for what you can, ask to see a counselor together to create a working definition of the problem so that together you can work on the solution. If the problem remains yours, in other words, “if only you would do what I say without question everything would be fine” then your husband still isn’t seeing his wrong thinking that is contributing to your marital unhappiness.
I wish I had better news for you but here it is in a nutshell. You can make a bad marriage better all by yourself,(by not escalating, by not retaliating, by overcoming evil with good), but you cannot make a bad marriage good all by yourself.
See if your marriage contains these key elements. A healthy adult relationship is one where both people in the relationship give and both receive. There is mutual caring, mutual honesty and mutual respect.
There is a safe and open exchange of ideas, feelings and thoughts and all perspectives are considered and valued. There is also the freedom to respectfully challenge, confront and strengthen one another. Perhaps that’s a good place to see where changes need to take place.
This week’s question: How do you refresh yourself when you feel worn out by a difficult or destructive person?