October is domestic violence awareness month
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
I loved him. I believed these verses. I wanted to live these out even if he did not. I thought I could love enough for two. Love was a decision I made every day. Besides, I loved Jesus even more and after all I had been forgiven for – what with nailing him to a cross – how could I not forgive? Forgive and forget. So I protected the lie and kept it cloaked in the darkness.
We had watched as his grandparents eclipsed their silver anniversary and sailed on seemingly calm waters into their golden. I wanted to be a member of that club. I wanted ’til death do us part.
it was against my religion
Divorce was a dirty word. In a world where 50% of self-professed believers’ marriages end in divorce I didn’t want to be part of that number. It was sinful to even think it. According to scripture there really is no exception. I felt guilty for even entertaining the thought.
I trusted in every promise of God I could cling to and decided that even if my loyalty brought about my death then I would be a beacon, a martyr, a testament to the sanctity of marriage. I hid these words in my heart:
“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps….Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 2:18 – 1 Peter 3:6
The first time it happened I thought it was a fluke – a one-off. The second time I thought it was my fault. The third time I knew I was in serious trouble. Serious trouble with no way out. Not in my mind anyway. I was ashamed that I had caused this. I was ashamed that I didn’t see it until it was too late. I was far too embarrassed to tell anyone. Who could I tell that I made my husband angry enough to do me harm?
By the time I realized that it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t causing these temper tantrums, it had gone on far too long. I was ashamed I’d let it get this far. I was ashamed I had ever allowed it to happen to me.
I was ashamed for my abuser. I didn’t want anyone to think poorly of him.
I was ashamed for anyone to know my secret. What would people think? Would they think that I was stupid? Would they think that I asked for it? Would they think I was getting what I deserved?
I was weak
Having always been insecure and self-deprecating I found esteem in being the perfect wife. Not from my abuser, but from my God and from those in the church. Being a help-meet is what I was created for. It was noble and prized.
My abuser detected my weaknesses with pinpoint precision and exploited them at every turn. He knew my propensity to be a people-pleaser and reminded me often that I didn’t want to disappoint him…or God. Who was I to deny him even the smallest of things as his God-ordained completer?
Having been emotionally tied into knots I saw the belittling as a challenge to be better. If only I could be better.
i was strong
I have been told that I’m tenacious. Stubborn is more like. It can be my greatest strength and my achilles heel. Like the doctor who continues to compress the chest of a patient whose last breath has long left their lifeless body I continue to attempt resuscitate the deceased.
If I am a failure it won’t be said that it was because I didn’t try. I think I can, I think I can…no, I know I can fix anything.
I also have a high pain threshold. What signals to most people there is something wrong provides me little information. I have a tendency to tough it out and push through the pain. I have also been told that if something would hurt my feelings it might draw a blister on a wash pot. I have, myself, made the joke that if you’re trying to hurt my feelings you’d better tell me.
denial – not just a river in egypt
It isn’t that bad. It doesn’t happen that often. It could be worse. He won’t kill me. He isn’t hitting me. It’s not really abuse if he’s not hitting me. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. All of these are the things that I told myself. Even when I wasn’t in complete denial I seriously minimized the condition I was in.
You can find the reasons why I left here: Why I Left