Please pray for me. I have been a bit overwhelmed with all that is on my plate and I’m working hard to juggle it well, but sometimes things fall off. There isn’t one thing that I’m doing that I want to let go of but there just aren’t enough hours in each day to do it all. Please pray that I will have wisdom and discernment on what God has for me to do. Ask him to enlarge my plate and my energy levels.
I also believe God is at work in some very powerful ways to wake the church up to the issue of abuse. Pray for this. Pray that the Church wakes up and responds in the right way. So many women are being diminished and devalued, not to mention dismissed when they come forth with their stories. Pray that God does something to open the Church’s eyes to the truth.
I’m going to be starting a new Walking in Core Strength Group in April – I only do these twice a year. If you need some extra support building your CORE and learning how to walk in Core strength without wobbling, this is the class for you. We have very limited openings and if you are interested click here.
This week’s Question: I have been married for 22 years to a man who was abused by a family friend for most of his formative years. My husband was unfaithful in our second year of marriage, and that lasted for 2 years. Our relationship never healed. We sought counseling and I was basically told to endure. There were incidents of aggressive behavior and physical aggression. He was extremely angry for many years, but has since entered counseling and is now despondent.
He has apologized for many things, but he blames me for the condition of our marriage, and while I admit I had difficulty standing up to him and speaking up for myself, I am taking steps to change that.
He has become suicidal at times, and I am not sure what to do. We have 5 children and 2 of them have disabilities. I have not worked in about 18 years. I do not know how to feel.
I understand that he is in pain from his past and not having dealt with any of it (though he told me he had), but I am angry that I am being blamed for things I have never done.
Am I doing the right thing by staying? He continues to ask me whether I love him, will I stay, how do I feel about him. I feel trapped and have difficulty being honest in my answers.
Answer: Dear one, you are in quite a dilemma. Your husband is leaning hard on you for his sense of well-being and security. He wants to know that you are there for him regardless of how he behaves, what he does, or what he’s been through. You have been there – at least physically for 22 years but I hear you when you say you are hurting and are tired. It is not always all about him and his needs and feelings. You also are a human in pain and in need of care.
Although he is going for help now, sometimes the help phase feels very painful for a season and right now he’s stuck in his own pain and doesn’t have much to give you. As long as he threatens suicide or is suicidal, it’s very tough for you to be honest with him about how you feel.
You said you don’t know how to feel. Instead of thinking about what you should or should not feel, why don’t you get curious about how you do feel? Are you tired? Resentful? Afraid? Insecure? Angry? Defensive? Ashamed?
Once you can allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, then you can begin to ask yourself some critical questions. (Tweet that)
The psalmist asked himself “Why are you downcast oh my soul?” (Psalm 42:5) Why questions and what questions – such as what triggers these feelings? What do they mean? What are they trying to teach you or tell you, are very important. They help you start to listen to your own voice instead of being pressured to only listen to everyone else’s voice.
Listening to your own feelings and needs doesn’t negate your responsibility to care about your husband’s feelings and needs, however right now it seems like the only one whose feelings matter around your house are his. Isn’t that how it’s always been from day one? His feelings trumped – so he had an affair. His feelings trumped so it justified or excused him from acting out angrily and aggressively. His feelings trumped so now he’s despondent and suicidal so you’re walking on eggshells, not able to be honest with him about your own feelings.
You haven’t mentioned what specifically he blames you for but you allude to not being able to speak up earlier. Yet you’re once again in that same position. If you tell him the truth and he acts out aggressively towards himself or you – it’s a bad situation. I don’t blame you – you don’t want to go there.
So what can you do? First, work on your own negative feelings. Listen to them, name them, get curious about them, ask them questions so you learn from them. That is your best shot at not getting caught unaware by them or acting out on them in ways that you dishonor yourself or say something you later regret. Journal, talk with a friend, process these emotions until you squeeze every bit of wisdom you can from them so that you are able to let them go.
Second, get plenty of support for yourself. You cannot walk this journey all alone and your husband is incapable of thinking of anyone besides himself right now. Perhaps later when he’s more healed he’ll be less self-centered, but for now, he’s stuck.
Third, if he wants you to be more honest, tell him you are uncomfortable with that because you’re not sure he can handle your feelings. Tell him you are willing to discuss your feelings in a session with his counselor so that if he gets upset or can’t handle it, he has someone to talk with about it afterward. That way you are not the “blame” for him acting out or imploding. I would start small – such as “I am tired. This has been a hard time for me. I need you to care that I am tired.”
See how he handles your self-disclosure. Is he caring or mocking? s he supportive or critical? If he’s the latter, more self-disclosure will only result in more abuse, but now you know that his healing is not translating into him being more loving and caring for you, at least not now.
That brings us to your question of whether you should stay? I can’t answer that for you. It’s a question you must wrestle with before God. But from what you say you are not prepared to go even if you wanted to. So at this time why don’t you start preparing yourself financially, educationally, job training, etc, so that if you ever sense God telling you it’s time, you would have more options than you currently have right now.
You have a lot of compassion for the terrible things that happened to your husband in his childhood. Childhood abuse has long lasting effects but it does not necessarily turn someone into an abuser. Your husband must also take responsibility for his own actions and ways he has treated you if your marriage is going to turn around. I’m sure you have some things he can blame you for. None of us are perfect. But if he’s not looking at his own part in where the two of you are now, he’s still a very long way from getting healthy.
Friends, how have you learned to listen to your own feelings and make sense of what they were trying to tell you?