We got quite a response to last week’s blog on five reasons a woman may be resistant to “seeing” or “stopping” the destruction in her marriage.
This week I want to talk about what we can do to shorten that learning curve. It does not have to take 30+ years of suffering to identify destructive behavior, to find your voice, to challenge what’s happening, and to develop the courage to walk away from continued destructiveness to you and/or your children if it does not change.
One woman I spoke to this week said, “After 43 years of marriage I finally told my husband, I will not allow myself to be talked to that way any longer.” It was the first time in 43 years she stood up for herself. She was shocked that her strong statement immediately impacted her husband’s behavior and he stopped cursing at her. That alone did not solve her marriage problems but in that moment she realized that she was not helpless and by speaking up for herself, she created a small change in her living environment.
Had she taken a stand the first year of her marriage instead of waiting 43 years, her marriage might not have developed the destructive patterns she partially enabled by her silence, her over-functioning and her false view of submission and godliness. Or, if it did, she would have seen much earlier that her husband was uninterested in hearing her concerns, respecting her feelings, or loving her personhood. She would have seen she was merely an object to use, not a person to love. Knowing that, she would have made some tough but wise choices about her marriage before she added children to the family.
Last week I promised to talk about some things that would shorten the learning curve for women in destructive relationships and marriages. If we look at the difference between the woman who took action to speak up and set boundaries in year two of a destructive marriage and the one that waited over thirty years to do the same, what would we see?
I think it boils down to three main areas:
1. A woman’s emotional and spiritual maturity: People who are emotionally healthy and spiritually mature are less likely to view “enduring” marital abuse a spiritual virtue.
Many women suffer in destructive marriages believing that it is their only option if they want to please God. Since she’s been taught (and believes) that God hates divorce above anything else, taking action to protect herself or speak out against abuse is seen as destroying the marriage.
Therefore she needs a new awareness of who God is, and that he hates what’s happening to her more than he hates divorce (tweet this)
True spiritual maturity is not possible without concurrent growth in emotional health. In one of my comments to last weeks’ post, I said that what’s going inside of us often repeats itself in our outside world. For example, when we’re unhealthy on the inside, we attract others who are unhealthy. When we beat ourselves up on the inside for our faults, flaws, mistakes, and failures, we are more likely to tolerate that behavior from others on the outside. When we don’t think for ourselves we are more likely to blindly follow or believe things people tell us without checking it out for ourselves. When we feel unhealthy, we also often feel incapable of taking care of ourselves or standing up for ourselves in appropriate ways. When we don’t care about ourselves or care for our soul, spirit, mind, or body then we are more likely to accept relationships with others who do not care for our body, mind, spirit and soul either.
On the other hand, when we are healthy and spiritually mature, we are less confused about truth and what God says is good and right. We are not double minded, or tossed about by every other person’s opinion because we have listened and read God’s word for our own self and studied to see what it says. (See: James 1:7,8; Ephesians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 2:15)
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” Enabling or allowing someone who has promised to love us to abuse us is not a godly virtue. It is poor stewardship of the body, mind, soul and spirit that God has given us to nourish and protect.
It’s important as women and mothers to teach our daughters how to be God-centered women (not man centered or self centered) and good stewards of themselves. My CORE Focus Class teaches women how to change their view of how God sees a destructive marriage. If you struggle with thinking God will love you less if you leave an abusive marriage, I encourage you to learn more about my class by clicking here.
2. Peer support and educational resources: Educational and informational resources on abusive relationships and destructive patterns are easily located on internet search engines including sites with Biblical values and support. If a woman wants to know what’s going on when the water she’s sitting in starts to feel hotter and hotter, she can find out.
Domestic violence support groups, on-line support groups and blogs (for example, A Cry for Justice ), validate a woman’s (or abused man’s) feelings, provide Biblical support, and give good information on what steps to take to gain safety and sanity. Isolation is not as powerful as it once was 20 years ago there was no Internet to easily access information and support.
3. Positive Peer Pressure: There is a good deal of research on the effects of positive peer pressure. More and more women (and men) are speaking out against all kinds of abuse in the news, on social media and thankfully in the church. For example, when bullies are confronted by other strong men and told, “We don’t act that way around here” or “We don’t treat our women (or our friends) that way” it does yield positive results, especially with young men.
Once I encouraged a client of mine to disclose to her small group the abuse she was experiencing at home. When she did, the couples surrounded her and her husband with truth and love. The men said to her husband, their friend, “We don’t treat our wives this way, it’s always wrong. No excuses.” And they said to her, “If you are ever afraid, you call us, night or day.” It was the love and support of the men from this group that kept her husband accountable and focused on learning new ways to manage his temper and how to love his wife. She also felt heard, valued, supported and safe.
The apostle Paul encouraged the use of positive peer pressure. He tells believers, “don’t fellowship with certain kinds of people who say one thing but do another” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Paul is advocating the use of positive peer pressure to help someone wake up and come to repentance.
Women will feel braver and be empowered to step out in faith and to take necessary action steps if they know their home church is behind them and will exert positive peer pressure on her spouse to look at his attitude and actions and repent.
As a church we must do much better in this area. Together, both men and women must exert consistent and relentless peer pressure for pastors and other Christian leaders to pay attention and as a group speak out publically against abuse.
They need to prioritize educating themselves about abusive relationships and how to handle them. We must refuse to allow them to minimize or cover-over abusive behaviors of any kind. The Bible says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defending the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8).
I believe with peer support and positive peer pressure a woman who feels afraid, frozen, or stuck, can find her voice more quickly and secure the resources to take positive and godly action hoping that her spouse will come to his senses. If not, then she and her children will be supported to find safety.
George Albee said, “No epidemic has ever been resolved by paying attention to the treatment of the affected individual. Healing is important but abuse will only stop when we impact the hearts and actions of abusers.
Friends: I so appreciate your wisdom and experiences. Do you think these things would have shortened the learning curve for you? Anything else?