Good morning friends,
I am so excited to be starting my blog experience with the Association of Biblical Counselors, specifically targeting abusive relationships. Please pray with me that biblical counselors and pastors will begin to see that the way many of them have been counseling couples caught in destructive and abusive relationships has been inadequate and at times harmful to the people in the marriage as well as the marriage itself. I think the first one will start next Monday, 8/15
If you want to read my blogs at that site, go to www.christiancounseling.com
I gave the wrong link in my newsletter last week. Thank you Mary for catching it and letting me know that my link was wrong. The blogs will come out twice a month. Tweet and respond them if you like what you read. They need to see that people are applauding their efforts to learn about this.
Next week (August 15th) I’ll be sending out my second newsletter for August, Four Lies About Anger. If you’re not a part of my mailing list but would like to be, please go to my website at www.leslievernick.com and sign up to get it.
This Week’s Question: My alcoholic husband has progressively become more abusive, hateful and vindictive. Last Monday he was angry with me for standing up to him about his mistreatment of our family (no, I wasn't mean or nasty to him, just clear). He went out to our shop and smashed and burned a number of neatly-stored family mementos, including things that belonged to me and to our children. He smashed and burned for hours. Yes, he was drinking but did not seem to be extremely intoxicated.
When I tried to reason with him, he shouted at me and told me over and over that I am “the problem”. He has reiterated that to me since.
He has shown no remorse whatsoever. He believes that the whole thing is my fault. He says that I am a “hoarder” and that he is getting out of the “storage business”.
We certainly do need to get rid of some things. But I am not a “hoarder”. I am constantly going through, improving, organizing, giving things to the thrift store. My friends often comment on how “organized” I am. Managing our belongings is harder and slower when I have to deal with his drunkenness and nastiness so much… I am falling farther and farther behind.
But is keeping baby pictures “hoarding”?! Why didn't he haul off the junk around here, instead of targeting personal keepsakes? And why didn't he just ask me to go through some boxes, instead of violating my possessions like that? I would have been willing to work with him.
It actually would have been really fun to go through some of those things with him… there were some beautiful and memory-triggering items in there. But now they are gone. I am going through some of the things that are left but the job isn't pleasant like it could have been.
His smashing and burning feels like a very direct expression of hatred and disrespect, of power and control messages… like he is showing me that he can do whatever he wants to do to me (us)… only he did it to my (our) things.
How seriously should I take this? What should I do if he tries to do it again?
Answer: You should take his behavior very seriously. Studies of abusive relationships indicate that over time the incidents of abuse are often more frequent and increase in intensity, especially when there are no consequences for such behavior. Your husband’s problem with alcohol makes it a higher probability for continued abuse and danger to you as well.
But your question is what should you do if he tries to do it again? Hear me. He will do it again. He is using his anger as a means to scare you into not questioning or confronting his behavior or holding him accountable for the way he’s treating you. You’ve already noticed the progression. It is time for you to ask yourself some hard questions and make some difficult but important decisions.
1. Are you physically afraid of your husband? Has he threatened harm to you or your children? He’s already destroyed your personal property as a statement to never confront his mistreatment of you again or “things will get worse” .
2. Do you have a safety plan in place when his behavior escalates? Living with someone this long you begin to know his patterns. I’m sure you can sense when he is working up to rage. Obviously when he is drinking, you are more vulnerable.
3. Why did you not call the police when he started his burning rampage in the shop? You knew he was destroying your personal property and family mementoes. You knew he was drinking and his anger escalating. Ask yourself why you didn’t take steps to protect yourself with some legal help?
I am encouraging you to look at these things because when you’re a repeated victim, you have to ask yourself “what’s my part?” That is not to cast blame or make you feel responsible for his behaviors, but you do need to look at why you are staying with someone who is repeatedly treating you in such disrespectful ways, not to mention being scary and abusive.
For example, are you afraid of him? Do you believe God calls you to stay for better or worse? Do you feel like it’s your fault he treats you this way (as he has already indicated?). Are you afraid of being alone? Is it that you can’t support yourself financially?
These may all be legitimate concerns why you have accepted living this way but facing them helps you to take some ownership back over your life. Whatever they are, begin to work on getting yourself to a healthier place so that your fears do not control you or make you feel helpless in this difficult situation.
Hear me: You’ve already tried speaking up. There is no “reasoning” with someone like this. Proverbs warns us, “It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than to confront a fool caught in foolishness” (Proverbs 16:12 NLT).
Reasonable people don’t purposely destroy someone else’s personal property. And if they did something foolish while drinking alcohol, they would make amends and restitution, not blame the other person for their destructive behaviors. The time for talking about his mistreatment of you and the children is over with. It’s time to take action.
I can’t tell you what specific action to take but let me give you some suggestions.
You may need to separate for safety purposes. I would definitely get some good counsel on this step because sometimes separating from an abusive person increases your risk of being harmed.
You can consult with your local woman’s shelter or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800 799 SAFE (7233) for advice in developing a safety plan for yourself and your children.
If you’re not prepared to take that drastic of a step right now, you will need to get ready because it probably will come to that. That does not mean that reconciliation is not possible. It just means that you cannot live in a home where you fear for your personal safety. Until he takes responsibility for his behavior, his angry attitude, and his drinking problem, and gets some accountability and help, you and the children are not safe.
If you decide to stay for now, it is important that you get ready to firmly take a stand. You may or may not announce this to your husband. You’ll have to decide the wisdom and timing of it however, if he ever does anything close to what he did in the garage, you must call the police.
It’s important that you send a very clear message to your husband right now and the only message he will hear are painful consequences, either you leaving or legal intervention. The crystal clear message you must convey now through your actions (because he has rejected your words) is you will not continue to allow yourself or the children to be treated LIKE THIS.
Police involvement is important because they are the only ones that can provide the vehicle (legal) to mandate your husband into some sort of treatment, either alcohol rehab or anger management. It also provides a document of your concerns if you should later need to get a Protection from Abuse order from the court.
Lastly, I don’t know your husband but you do. I don’t know what kind of man he’s become or has been but my guess is he doesn’t like himself anymore than you do, but his pride and alcohol is deceiving him.
Try to speak into his good qualities – whatever you have known of him to be a good father or husband and say something like: “I don’t know what is going on with you, but the man I’ve known all these years would not want to treat his family this way either. I want you to get some help. I can’t live like this.”
Do not say this as a request, it is a statement. You are not asking him, you are telling him. It is not a discussion open for debate. He needs to get the message loud and clear you will not live LIKE THIS anymore!
I hope you have informed your pastor, and/or family of your dilemma. You will need their support. You do not need to do this alone. Get some help for yourself.