Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Struggling Marriage and Emotional Abuse

Posted by Hannah at 9:51 PM

I find articles from time to time, and I have to wonder if this author ever asked the people doing the abusing the same questions he asks the spouse that is enduring these things?? Somehow I doubt the approach to the abuser went to the extreme he seems to be pushing in his article towards victims.

Here is the beginning of his article:

Today, many married women feel defrauded. They married their husbands, believing that the tender care he showed when they were dating would continue throughout their married life. Yet they discover that the very relationship which seemed to promise the most pleasure, instead brought the greatest pain. In fact, for some, the emotional pain is so intense that they come to believe that it is beyond their ability to endure. In desperation they find themselves forsaking their vows and fleeing the marriage.

And now the icing on the cake:

One of the biggest mistakes we make today is to marry with the intent of getting our needs met. We assure ourselves of frustration, because we enter marriage with the wrong purpose. Most of us marry to get. God has called us to give. Our concepts of love today are so mixed up with self-centeredness that we have an incredibly difficult time adjusting to the sacrifice required to make a marriage work. We antagonize one another inadvertently by our misunderstanding of what real love and selfless commitment is all about. Our self-oriented intentions begin when we are dating and set the stage long before most conflict becomes abusive.

I will admit a lot of people get their balloon popped during the first phrases of marriage, and we have to admit also that includes both parties. You can even speak to happily married people, and they will speak about the hardships at times they never saw coming. Despite this people continue to grow within a relationship in the upcoming years. Anyone that is married for any length of time can think back on times of great joy and sorrow.

I’m sure there were times we all had expectations of the relationship that never came to pass. In time you find that those expectations are now different, and that’s okay also! We have new visions that are just as good if not better! This author seems to think this is somehow abnormal, and its NOT! We all have this to a degree – some worse or better than others. That’s LIFE and learning – not unrealistic!

I also think we have all been guilty of some type of mistreatment! In most relationships you find a way of getting past that after apologies and repenting and forgiving has happened. There is a difference between life’s uglies with your spouse, and struggling with someone’s warped vision of needed power and control over another.

I’m not talking not using that hot pink nail polish that your spouse doesn’t care for! I’m talking your spouse giving you no say in the color, and pick's it out and forces you to put it on.

I’m not talking about getting rid of a dress that your spouse seems to have issue with after you get married! I’m talking him telling you what clothes you can wear, picking them out, and you losing your freedom of choice all together.

I realize those may seem small, but how about that happening within every aspect of your life?

  • You can’t eat this – you must eat that! 
  • You can’t talk to your family, friends, or even LOOK towards a person of the opposite sex in ANY way! How about knowing that you are at a fast food place, and you go and get those ketchup packages and because a man hands them to you it will mean punishment for 2 days! 
  • Your mother called to see how things are going? Well BOY are you in trouble he told you that talking to family is NOT ALLOWED! Power and control – not normal martial riffs within a relationship. 
  • We aren’t talking disappointment that our Romeo throws his socks on the floor and not the hamper! That our Fabio can’t seem to remember to take the trash out without reminding! Those items can be annoyances YES, but we aren’t talking soul crushing accidences here!

This author speaks a lot of sacrifice, and I have to admit there are some that do have a problem with this for a while. Some the learning curve comes quickly, and some it may take a while. That isn’t all that strange either. Its normal I would assume.

Let us remember that the apostles who gave us God's commands were themselves the victims of severe emotional and physical abuse. They, like Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, endured torture beyond anything we have ever seen. In his books, Pastor Wurmbrand describes his 14 years in a Romanian prison at the hands of communist torturers. His love and compassion for his torturers testifies of the assurance we have as Christians that we too can selflessly love our wives and husbands. 

Certainly if those tortured on a daily basis can see the good that comes from suffering, then we as minimally suffering, soft Americans can handle the opportunities for growth that come our way through the difficulties of marriage. If we are able to cease our "giving to get" mentality and begin simply "giving" we would finally be able enjoy the fulfillment that comes from loving selflessly in the image of Christ.
When you sacrifice things you do it for a purpose. For example, you may throw out the hot pink nail polish or the dress your husband can’t stand. You do this for a reason, and that reason is very honorable. We can also apply this to bigger items or actions within a marriage as well.

We have all read how Jesus’ followers had to sacrifice to the point of death for the cause. There was purpose and meaning to this. It was for the good of mankind. They were tortured, murdered, mocked, and totally abused. They endured it and did this for Jesus, and what he died for. They did this for the grace of God! They wanted to spread the word so that others may live.

I think the point the author was trying to make was the suffering they did in their lives, and why they did this. What he seemed to miss is there are different forms of suffering.

Some with purpose like they did, or another recent example would be Martin Luther King, Jr. There are many people that suffer for the good of others, and I’m not trying to say they are better than what Jesus’ followers did okay? Just making a point.

A different form of involuntary suffering maybe in the form of rape of a child, woman or man by another. There is no good purpose to that act and yet people are thrown into suffering for no good reason. There are all kinds of purposeless crimes it seems, and people don’t suffer for any cause besides their own mourning and pain. There is no great means to an end!

When you enable an abuser to continue you are allowing both parties to continue to live in pain for no purpose either. When the rage and the pain and the terror of their own insecurities are never addressed, but ignored where is the sacrifice in that? When you never help the parties that are being terrorized by this person? They aren’t selfish when they say I can’t endure it any longer.

I may love them, but I need to have this pain STOP! What is wrong with that?

Its not like this is something uncontrollable, and we have no power over at all. We may not be able to relieve all the pain, but we can help to find solutions to minimize the pain. Or even find a way to stop it. The author never addressed that.

He instead uses some comparison of a man that was tortured in a prison in Romania, and has love for those that tortured him because that is what God has asked of him. I’m not saying that isn’t a true showing of strength okay? That gentlemen thankfully gets to love them from a distance now, and just because you may separate in order to wake your spouse up to things they should realize that doesn’t mean you stop loving them as God has asked you to.
I realize some may think this sounds uncompassionate and unsympathetic to those who have experienced genuine trauma and pain at the hands of a verbally harsh spouse. It is my hopes though, that those who respond that way will take a moment to step back and consider God’s greater plan. I am especially concerned that it not be misconstrued that I am negating the validity of the pain endured by those abused and neglected. God knows the reality of emotional hurt. 

Once again, knowing full well the reality of emotional pain, Jesus taught His followers how to deal with it. We see by their example how they responded to verbal persecution.
In other words the author is relying on the spouse that is terrorizing the family to see the errors of his ways.  It is 'his hope', but what he seems to forget it is 'action' that Christ asks of his followers to confront it.

About the suffering he claims is the job of the victim: Matthew 5:11 Happy are you when men give you a bad name, and are cruel to you, and say all evil things against you falsely, because of me.

Abusers aren’t doing that because of Jesus.   The key portion of that scripture is 'because of me'.

They are doing it because they are broken inside, and need healing. People like this author are asking spouses to suffer for God, and are allowing the abusers to continue to suffer also. God wouldn't ask either of them to suffer JUST because Reb Bradley doesn't know how to deal with this biblically.  Its not about the painted side of selfishness as the reason they are asking for relieve. It may be because they aren’t the proper party to help their spouse, and with people like Reb Bradley telling them to deal with it – he may never get that help either.

His other point:

I do want to mention at this point that from my counseling experience, I have observed that those who are most susceptible to emotional pain are those who are trying to get their needs met in the relationship. I've noticed that those who are primarily oriented in giving to their mate rather than taking from them, handle so-called emotional abuse much better. When we want nothing from others we don't open ourselves up to be hurt by them.

It is this very attempt to get fulfilled that makes an individual susceptible to getting "hurt" by their mate. They look to the other to be satisfied by them in some way. It is their desire to receive that has made them so vulnerable to hurt. A broad look at human relationships reveals that people often are not hurt easily by those from whom they expect nothing. For example, the insult offered by the transient on the street doesn't hurt you the way it would coming from the lips of your mate. Why? You have not opened yourself up and made yourself emotionally vulnerable to the transient. You have no expectations of him – his opinion of you is unimportant. In fact, were it your purpose to minister to him, you probably would perceive his insult as a sign of his spiritual emptiness. The selfless nature of your love would spawn understanding and compassion. However, for our mates, we lack the same selfless concern – we look to them for something to satisfy us. In doing so, we make ourselves vulnerable to insults or the pain of rejection.

In Matt 5:44 and Luke 6:28 Jesus commands us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us. In 1 Peter 3:9 -16 we are told not to return evil for evil, but to respond to abusers with gentleness and respect. God's standards of love are quite high for us, and are therapeutically sound.

In his article he primarily addresses females, and yet he never addresses what God has asked of the spouses.

He says don’t expect anything from them, and you won’t get hurt.  If you expect anything than you are selfish.

How often do husbands expect their wifes to submit?  How often to wifes expect their husbands to love like Christ loved the church?  Why is that preached if we are to expect 'nothing', and are selfish if we wish to be honored as Christ would have us be within marriage?

God asks husband’s to love their wives, but if you don’t expect that love from him you won’t get hurt.

God asks wife’s to honor their husbands, but if you don’t expect honor from her you won’t get hurt.

According to the author if are detached enough from our spouses it won’t be an issue. You are to deny yourself what God says you need for your gender, because I guess according to the author that is too much to expect.

The author is correct that we are to pray for our abusers, but somehow I doubt God wishes us close ourselves off from the love of others forever just so that we no longer can get hurt. Why would God ask us to never be emotionally available to anyone any longer just in case they try to intentionally or not hurt us? It seems to me if you detach yourself from the world in that fashion you may also miss other aspects of life that would cause great growth within us.

Detaching is a good tool to be used at times. Once you realize that you are being abused detaching from the harmful effects, and realizing you are doing nothing to deserve this treatment is a good thing. I would hope that fellow followers would come along side that person that suffers, and support them emotionally, spiritually, etc while they attempt to help the one that is very much broken and is showing their pain inappropriately. When both parties are healed you need to remove that detachment, and grow within that relationship as God intended. Emotional detachment is not what God intended within a marriage.

Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers, if a man is taken in any wrongdoing, you who are of the Spirit will put such a one right in a spirit of love; keeping watch on yourself, for fear that you yourself may be tested. 2 Take on yourselves one another's troubles, and so keep the law of Christ. 3 For if a man has an idea that he is something when he is nothing, he is tricked by himself. 4 But let every man make test of his work, and then will his cause for glory be in himself only, and not in his neighbor. 5 Because every man is responsible for his part of the work.

This passage tells me that followers are to put the person whom is abusing right, and not inform the spouse to just detach from them so they feel nothing. We as followers of Christ are to help the wrong doer, and he is responsible for the pain he or she has caused. We are also asked to help heal the victims he has wronged.

He ends his article by:

Frequently, our faith in God is weakened by the lack of a clear conscience (1 Tim 1:19). If we defile our conscience, and refuse to acknowledge or repent of the sin we harbor in our hearts, our faith in God will be weak, and we will be unable to trust Him and enjoy the benefits of His grace. Remember, according to Ephesians 4:26-27, when we cling to anger we give the devil authority in our life. This unresolved anger (we usually call it "hurt" or "long-term emotional pain") defiles our conscience, thereby creating unbelief which cripples our ability to handle stress. The very anger which we seek to justify is what weakens our emotional endurance.
The primary reason we find ourselves in the condition that says, "I will tolerate no more," is that we have sought from our marriage a fulfillment which can only come from God. May we stop seeking from our mate the emotional fulfillment which God intends we find in Him. And may we then find the joy and satisfaction which comes from loving and serving our mate as Christ does the Church.
How do you feel love from anyone - even God - when you are counseled NOT to expect anything from anyone so you don't get 'hurt'.  When you do that you also don't feel love.  You are not to feel ANYTHING remember?!

Abusers cling to anger and allow the devil authority in their lives. Are we not to allow them fellowship with others to show them the right path? Are not called to help these people? The reasons most say, “I will tolerate no more” is because the church tells them to detach so they don’t feel anymore.  Why do we ask people to turn off emotions instead of just helping them?

We are to expect nothing from our spouse, and detach from them emotionally. When does the abuser get approached about serving their mate as Christ does the church? I guess according to this author they don’t matter…you see they aren’t the ones screaming, “I can’t tolerate this anymore!”  The author just 'hopes' he turns his life around.  Sigh!

I wonder what the abuser has to scream in order to receive the help, love and fellowship they need? Do they not count Mr. Bradley?

How about helping things to be more tolerable within the home, and maybe neither has to be detached and both can be vulnerable to life’s hurts now in a healthier way! That sounds like a much better plan to me.

I would think God would agree also, since they could teach others in the same place they were in the past to grow past their hurts. If the abuser refuses that help I think God would ask more of us than to tell the spouse to detach. That doesn’t seem to me as the path of light he has asked us to walk in.

Link to Article - Correction!  Reb Bradley has removed the article from his site.  Here is a copy of "The Struggling Marriage and Emotional Abuse" in its entirety.

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Ifeoma said...

I'm thankful for this post because I've sought for understanding and help for my situation.Turns out that society ( I live in Nigeria) and even the church seem to be condoning even encouraging abuse. I intend to get out of my marriage but Im crippled by fear of the future. I have two kids,ages 4 years and 5 months . I have no job, no skills and zero self confidence. I've left before but went back because even my parents were against it . It's refreshing to hear at least one voice speak up against the abusers. Maybe one day , they will know that that they also have to be accountable. So, I say "God bless you for this post!"

Hannah on 4:39 PM said...

Thank you Ifeoma. I pray that you find a support system that helps you and your children - and your spouse from the pain you are enduring now.

That is not something God intended for marriage.

Anonymous said...

If u ask me this is all too confusing. I live with a passive aggressive husband and I myself have a few of those traits and I'm starting to feel angry all the time. I'm scared of dying without feeling loved. I agree church's ignore these problems like the plague.I feel so alone and unsure. I feel resentful to my husband I want change I want us all to be happy. 4 children are caught in this wild fire and my pastor knows the situation he like my husband swept the problem under a rug.

Hannah Thomas on 10:50 AM said...

I think at times people that are victimized don't realize they are doing things out of emotional self defense.

I know I have been ugly at times, but I also had not realized at the time I had attempted all the rational approaches in the past...and it was received with deaf ears and dead hearts. I'm not going to say that 100% justifies it, but it does make it understandable. Its like a dog that snaps back when they have abused over and over again. His snapping wasn't his primary way of life until such a time he feels he has nothing else left.

The story above about the man that was in prison for 14 years? You notice he didn't 'stay' to live out his mission as the 'author' seems to be present it. God helped this man during his trial no doubt! People don't guilt him into going back, and continue to live with the torture. They don't accuse him of 'giving to get'. Yes, he relied on God in that time. True. He also fled when God presented a time to do so.

Funny how one version is the "Grace of God", and the other is presented as 'selfish'. If the world is too cowardly to deal with abusive people? They need to stop bullying those that try to escape them. They deal with neither with that approach, but seem to think they do.

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