I’m in sunny California helping my daughter with her new baby Natalia and the other two grandbabies, Amaya and Leilani. She has her hands full with three under three years old. It’s exhausting just to be there for a few hours, but so much fun. I’m especially enjoying Amaya as she remembers us from our last visit and so our bond is growing. Today I painted her toenails and fingernails hot pink and when I was finished she said she felt like a princess.
Thanks for your responses to last week’s question I posed. In my new book I’m writing a chapter for church leaders. Pray that I can write what I need to say so that churches will hear and validate women who come to them for help.
I’m on the home stretch of writing. I have two more chapters to go plus lots of edits and footnoting. Please pray that I have some concentrated time, even while here to write.
Today’s Question: I’ve been a Christian since I was a teen, I am now 52. When my husband is mean and upset, it feels so overwhelming, I feel I could have a breakdown. He scolds me and criticizes me constantly. I try to stay composed but it takes so much emotional energy to listen to him and take it again and again. I’ve told him numerous times in our 24 year marriage about how he’s hurting me but it keeps happening again and again.
I’m afraid of him. I wanted to leave him once, but he said he would kill himself, so I didn’t leave, but I’m getting to the breaking point. I’m exhausted from having to deal with his mean words. He swears at me and looks at me with hatred when he’s angry. We’ve tried counseling but he refused to continue.
I wonder if the only solution (besides praying and getting godly counsel) is to leave? I’ve talked with our Pastor numerous times. He believes me, but he doesn’t think I should leave. However, nothing changes.
My husband is always sorry later after he is mean and promises to be different, but it doesn’t’ last. I’m scared that leaving him will cause my family to fall apart, but maybe it has kind of fallen apart anyway. I’ve tried to be nice, but I just can’t accommodate my husband the way he wants me to. He wants me to pay lots of attention to him, but even when I do that, he still is mean if I made some kind of mistake like not having dinner ready on time when he gets home from work.
Its very hard to be affectionate with someone who’s been so harsh with home, and then he gets in a rage when I don’t want to be affectionate with him. People tried telling me before we got married that he was abusive but I just didn’t see it then.
I know God will help me, but if I stay with my husband, I’ll continue to be bullied. There is no way to escape. He doesn’t’ care even when I ask him to stop or when I tell him he’s being mean. It feels so painful, so sad and I feel ripped apart. I’m also tired of what I’m living with and I think I’m getting ready for some changes.
Do you think I can leave even when my pastor advises me against it?
Answer: This question is actually the blend of two different people’s questions. One has to do with the reality of the abusive situation this woman finds herself in and the second question is from a different reader who wonders why women allow their pastors to have the final word as to whether or not they should leave an abusive marriage.
I want to address both concerns because I think these dilemmas are so common for many women in abusive marriages.
First, should you leave your husband? From what you wrote, I think you are already leaning in that direction, for good reasons. However it is important for you to realize (as well as those of us who are concerned about you and others in your situation) that no one can tell you with absolute certainty that you must leave this situation or for that matter, that you should stay.
It’s tempting for those of us who are people helpers (pastors, professional and lay counselors and marriage mentors) to step in here and advise you what to do). We want to help, we care, we’re afraid for you, or want to remain true to the scriptures so we all have our opinion on what’s best for you.
However, only you can make that decision. In fact, in order for you to grow up and get healthy, you must make that decision for yourself. You’ve been used to having your husband make all the decisions and you doing what he wants (or suffer his wrath). If you just “do” what the pastor or counselor wants you to do, you are still not taking responsibility for your decision or taking the necessary steps to decide what God is saying to you about your particular situation.
I believe each person should pray, consult with others as well as consider the risks and the consequences of staying or leaving. In other words, what will it cost you and your children (emotionally, spiritually, relationally, mentally, and physically) to stay and what it will cost you to leave? Leaving may be warranted but it is not without perils and suffering. Staying has a high price too.
You are suffering. You see your children hurting and growing up under the mindset that men get to be mean and treat women disrespectfully and abusively if they are angry and don’t get their own way. Since you have sons, this is very worrisome indeed and you’re concerned even now how your oldest son is treating you. Research on abusive men show that many of them grew up in abusive households watching their father abuse their mother. As little boys they didn’t like it. But as grown men they see it as normal.
It also sounds like you’ve tried talking and telling (your pastor) with no change or movement in your husband. You’re right to realize that leaving will create a crisis for your husband. He might wake up and realize that if he wants his family to stay, he will need to make some major changes. Or he might do something harmful to himself. You, your children, and your husband are the ones who will live out the consequences of your choices whether you stay or whether you leave. Therefore, I don’t think it’s wise to give another person the power to make that choice for you.
Friends, how have you handled that dilemma of not knowing whether to stay or to leave?