It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of 2013 and Christmas will be here in a few short days. I hope you’re not getting all crazy busy and not giving yourself some moments to pause, reflect and enjoy the music and beauty of the season.
Today’s Question: In the 24 hours since discovering this site, I’ve read the Destructive Marriage e-book, watched every chapter on YouTube, scoured the blog posts, and read the Nine Tactics of Manipulators PDF… I’m desperate to understand how to restore my situation through any means necessary, but I just don’t know how to stay well OR leave well.
Staying well means take care of yourself, don’t harbor bitterness, don’t engage in behavior that matches or retaliates the abuser… But we’re also to show the law of consequences… How? How do you show consequences to a man that disdains your existence? Who is just as happy to lecture you for five hours as to ignore you entirely for weeks? I’ve demonstrated sacrificial love and perpetuated this cycle deeper every time, so what does the balance of good behavior and consequences look like?
Leaving well means establishing a community of support (which will certainly violate his expectations of privacy and respect) so you can do so safely and sanely. But how do you kick out a man who refuses to leave, except on his terms? And how can you walk away from a home to leave him to destroy everything of value to you?
Answer: Your feelings are valid and many women (and men) in your situation feel the same. They feel desperate for answers that will restore or fix their marriage – at any cost or any price.
But that approach will never lead to peace, true reconciliation or healing of your marriage. You don’t really tell us much about what’s going on in your marriage but you are quite clear that you feel ignored, distained, lectured, and trapped. You don’t know how to stay well or leave well. Either choice will result in some pain and staying and doing nothing is also painful.
You said, “I’ve demonstrated sacrificial love and perpetuated this cycle deeper every time, so what does the balance of good behavior (CORE STRENGTH) and consequences look like?”
Let me take you to that passage in 1 Peter to give you a couple of examples of the balance of good behavior and consequences.
First, Peter tells us how to handle ourselves in the presence of abusive people. He is clear that believers should be respectful of others regardless of how we are treated. That’s good behavior.
Often in destructive marriages a spouse who is verbally battered or emotionally neglected or abused can start to lob some verbal bombs of her own. Instead of responding to mistreatment in a way that honors God, she dishonors herself, her husband, and God by her building resentment as well as her explosive or sinful reactions to his abuse.
God tells us that as godly wives, we must choose a different path. Peter encourages us not to pay back evil for evil by reminding us of Jesus, who, “when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22,23).
However, good is not merely being passive in the face of evil. The apostle Paul reminds us that we overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) and overcome is not a passive word.
Second, Peter explains when a believer should endure abusive treatment. He writes, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
The good Peter is talking about here is a moral good, a “doing the right thing” kind of good and that often means implementing consequences and setting boundaries by refusing to go along with immoral or abusive behavior. Although in this passage Peter specifically advises Christians to submit to authority, Peter himself was flogged after he refused to stop preaching about Christ even though he’d been ordered by those in authority to stop. Peter refused to submit because in doing so, he would have to stop doing good (Acts 4:19; 5:17-42).
In the same way when a wife refuses to submit to her husband’s sinful behavior, refuses to pretend or lie, stands up for her children who are being mistreated, refuses to sign a dishonest income tax report, or calls 911 when her husband is threatening to harm her or himself, she is doing good even if it doesn’t feel good to her spouse.
Her behavior is good. It honors God, protects her children and does what is in the best interest of her spouse (It is never in someone’s best interests to enable sin to flourish).
When a wife takes these brave steps and sets boundaries and implements consequences for her spouse's sinful and abusive behavior she will most likely face suffering. She may suffer financially as her husband sits in jail because she called the police when he hit her. She may suffer the censure from her church when she separates from him because of his unrepentant use of pornography and verbal abuse. She may suffer with loneliness, retaliation from her spouse, disapproval from her friends and family for the stance she’s taken. That’s exactly the kind of suffering Peter is talking about. He’s speaking about suffering for doing good instead of being passive, fearful or doing the wrong thing or nothing at all. Peter is saying that when we do what is right (stand up, implement consequences, refuse to go along with wrong doing) and we get mistreated for it, God sees it and commends us.
As I’ve said repeatedly, we all have choices to make and those choices have consequences. When a husband (or wife) repeatedly chooses to treat his spouse with contempt, abuse, indifference, harshness, cruelty, and deceit, he or she cannot demand the benefits of a good marriage. To do otherwise is to lie and pretend, which is not good.
To not implement consequences for serious sin also reinforces the abusive person’s delusions that he can do as he please with no negative impact. It would enable him to stay blind to his sin and colludes with his destructive ways, which is not good for him, for her, or for their family. That kind of passivity does not honor God.
Peter concludes his teaching with these words. “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV).
So friend, your first step is to tuck your heart and mind in close to God and ask for wisdom and discernment for your next steps. You also need to be crystal clear on your highest values. You said you fear walking away from a home because you believe he will destroy everything of value to you. I’m not sure here what those valuable things are but your mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health and that of your children should be your highest values and priorities right now, even if it means a lower standard of living.
Friends, please share your support and wisdom of how you handled your fear of the next step.