We had a great launch for our CONQUER membership. Hope you joined. More than ever, as Christian women, we need to put our brave on and speak out against abuse of all kinds and the power structures in our society and churches that keep women stuck, scared and silent. It’s tempting to depend upon good Christian brothers, pastors, husbands to protect us, but I think it’s time we learn to protect ourselves.
Today’s question: What if the emotional and verbal abuse isn't from your husband, but his family instead? What if he doesn't know how to handle his family to protect his wife and kids from the abuse, but thinks he does?
Answer: I’m sorry that you are going through this. In a healthy relationship when something bothers you and you say “ouch”, “stop”, “I don’t like that” or “that hurts me” the other person listens, reflects and usually stops doing what caused you pain. In unhealthy relationships when you speak up for yourself, you get blamed, accused or attacked. Or you might get punished by the withdrawal, silence, and disapproval from the person you were hoping would hear your complaint.
You say your husband’s family is emotionally and verbally abusive towards you and your children and your husband isn’t stepping up the way you’d like him to in order to protect you and the kids. He thinks he’s doing something but from your perspective he’s failed or he’s not doing what you would do or would like him to do.
Perhaps he’s already learned that trying to talk with his family about things is like spitting in the wind. It usually comes right back and hits you in the face. Or maybe what they do doesn’t bother him like it bothers you so he wants you to just ignore it and “tolerate their behavior and turn the other cheek.”
Let me ask you a question.
I hope you would be a good steward of you and get yourself to a doctor and tend to your bloody finger. You say that you and your kids are being repeatedly injured by the words and actions of his family. Despite what your husband has done, nothing has changed. What’s your next move?
It should be to take care of you and your kids, not try to get your husband’s family to change their ways. That means you need some boundaries. Here’s an example. If your husband’s family smoked cigarettes in their home and you did not want you or your kids to be exposed to secondhand smoke here are your options.
Choice #1 Speak up. “Hey family, I know it’s your house and you choose to smoke but I don’t want to breathe in second hand smoke while we’re here. Would you please smoke outside?” And if they are willing, then you can hang out. But if they’re not willing to change their ways then you can make a second choice.
Choice # 2 Set a Boundary for yourself. “Hey family, since you do not want to smoke outside, the kids and I won’t be coming over to your house.”
I understand Choice # 2 of implementing boundaries may cause some friction between you and your husband if he is used to just “going along” and not speaking up or standing up for himself or for you. However, if you can do this for your own self in a strong, yet loving and respectful way, you might be the role model your husband needs to see to become healthier himself.
I know you long to have him be the protector and go-between for you with his family, but you do not have to continue allowing yourself to be repeatedly abused by them.
Friend, when you’ve had to take ownership of your own safety and sanity, what boundaries did you create to steward yourself?