Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Faith Board Enables Emotional Abuse Part Two

Posted by Hannah at 5:17 AM

I guess Family Life got an earful or something, because they decided they were going to 'change' the article. I have to say - it didn't make it any better. This faith board is still enabling emotional abuse.

Do you have a one-way marriage?

See yesterdays post, Faith Board Enables Emotional Abuse to see where we left off.

Editor’s note: One of the most difficult issues to address today is, “How long do you stay in a very unhappy marriage?” In the following article an anonymous wife describes her experiences and what God has taught her during a long, difficult relationship. It also sparked some interesting discussion in our comments section (see end of article) after it was sent by e-mail in the May 2009 issue of The Family Room. To provide greater context to the story and to address some misunderstandings, we worked with the writer to make revisions on May 4, 2009.

Ahem. I don't think there were many misunderstandings. Just because they changed the slant a bit to making her 'choice' in a way doesn't change the main point. That part wasn't strong enough, and their message came Thur loud and clear!

I have been married for over 47 years to a man who has centered his life and interests on himself.

When he and I were dating, he attended church with me occasionally and was active in his own church youth group, so I thought that we had the same commitment to church and God. We were only 18 years old, I was naïve, and I should have made a greater effort to make sure that we shared the same faith.

In the first weeks of marriage I asked him several times if he would like to begin visiting churches. He finally told me that when he was a child he was forced to go to church, and “Nobody is ever going to make me go again.” I expected that he would be loving, gentle, and kind. But within one month of the wedding, he was shoving me around and making me leave the room when his friends came to our apartment. One time, I was sitting on the couch with him and he kicked me, knocking the breath out of me.

This needed to stop. I told him I would not be mistreated, and I began packing my suitcase. He apologized and said he would never do it again. And to his credit he has not mistreated me physically ever since. Of course, I have experienced many other types of pain over the years.

He was almost always negative with his words, and rarely positive. A couple of times, I discovered that he was having a fling or an emotional affair.

It’s important to understand that I did not accept all of my husband’s mistreatment without any attempt to confront his behavior and plead with him to change. Though he considered himself king of the home, I did not accept all of his behavior or his decisions in the name of blind “submission.” I often urged him to consider counseling, either as a couple or individually, and he refused. “Counseling is for nutcakes,” he said. I left him books to read, and I got him to attend marriage conferences. For awhile I tried to make myself more appealing—I participated in many Bible studies on how to be a godly wife, and I read books on how to understand men. Those things were helpful but not the ultimate answer.

In the end I realized that nothing I could do would change my husband—he was a hardened, self-centered man committed to living his life the way he wished. I knew I needed to give him and our relationship to God, and ask Him to give me the strength to persevere and to love my husband.

When people hear my story, some wonder why I did not get a divorce. They say that I should have moved on and found someone to love me, that I deserved to be loved. They say I have been too subservient, and have stayed too long in an “abusive” relationship. We had three children, and some feel I should have taken them out of the house to protect them.

This is a difficult and sensitive issue to address because so many couples today do not stay together in circumstances like mine. Many cannot conceive of enduring hardship as I have. But I have been convinced that God has wanted me to keep the vows I made before Him.

I would not counsel wives to remain in the home if their husbands are physically abusive, or if they feel their children are threatened by severe emotional abuse. But my husband has kept his word for 45 years and has not hurt me physically since those incidents early in our marriage. He was not physically abusive to the children. And as difficult as he has been to live with, his treatment was never strong enough to lead me to seriously consider separation or divorce.

I have to shake my head here. I mean can we look at the news? BOY are we firm on abortion for example, but when it comes to abuse? We are WIMPY! We stand solid as a rock for unborn children, and when it comes to the foundation of the family? WELL! That's different! She got one point right! She can't change her husband, and she may need to accept the way he will always be. That's a HUGE step for most abused spouses. We allow ourselves to dream of that change, and give in to false hope. In some ways we are programed to! Why do I say that? Lets look to a verse she used before the revision.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” This verse became my anchor on how I should live with my husband. It is very freeing to know that it is God’s battle, not mine.

I mentioned before HOW OFTEN is the 'may' used compared to the 'may not'. She may have changed her article, but way to often do you see women shamed when they mention the 'may not' portion. I'm NOT going to tell you that people can't change their ways by watching and experiencing chaste and respectful behavior.

The part I still don't see is the addressing of his soul. This man may very well go to Hell. The abused spouse isn't always the best party to hold them to accountability. I will admit the church is very wishy washy this. "We don't know both sides of the story' type of deals. Its like they need to place secret cameras in the house so they can feel comfortable seeing the real deal! Remember you can't TELL them the cameras are there - people tend NOT to be themselves. lol I realize that won't happen. Just throwing it out there about how ridiculous it gets at times.

She says she mentions his sins, but what you don't read? His consequences for his sins. None. No boundaries. Nothing. Does anyone see the incentive to change? I don't! There are alot of men and women that don't have to go to great lengths to arouse some sense of morality and ethic out of their spouse. Her husband doesn't have to. The ways she describes things I'm sure she will tell you she was quite the nag. The nature of him as written? You think he would have an issue agreeing with that?!

Strength and wisdom

As I’ve grown in my faith during my marriage, I have relied on God to give me the strength and wisdom to stay with my husband and to keep our family together. I think about what the disciples learned during their time with Jesus. As Robert Coleman writes in his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism:

Following Jesus seemed easy enough at first. It soon became apparent that being a disciple of Christ involved far more—it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master in absolute submission of his sovereignty. There could be no compromise. There was a cross in it—the willing denial of self for others. This was strong teaching. Not many people could take it.

The same is true in some marriages. It’s difficult to stay in a “one-way marriage”—where you are the only one making an effort to keep it going. There is a cross in it, and not many people can take it.

God has taught me many things through the years of heartache and disappointment.

Lets compare crosses here shall we?

The disciples of Christ's mission.

jesus Pictures, Images and Photos

Versus being a victim of abuse due to a broken spouse.
katie\'s crushing my head. Pictures, Images and Photos See the difference? That isn't her cross! That is HIS cross to take up, and he needs to heal himself. She can't do that for HIM! It takes consequences when you are dealing with a person like she speaks of. Goodness knows there are other issues within marriage that are hurtful, and very hard to deal with. She is talking about a person that will NOT give an ounce of energy, and is more than willing to hurt her with no sense of remorse.

Telling your spouse, "I'm sorry" and then slowing going back to the way things were? The bible speaks of repentance as well. Your spouse is not your GOD, and if he is abusing you and your children? I just can't handle people saying they are your CROSS!

You may wonder how this applied to a difficult marriage. When you consider that
God is sovereign and rules over the universe, you realize that He is in control
of every person and circumstance in your life. Even if your husband is making a
poor decision, in the long run it will work for good. It does not mean God
causes poor decisions, but He may allow them so that He might receive glory and
mature our faith. You can never lose by being obedient to God.

She was talking about God's character here.

I don't know HOW she feels that bad decisions turn GOOD all the time for God's Glory. Can it happen? Sure. Personally, I think she is using part of that as an excuse for him.

I can think of situations like the early Christ followers dealing with torture because of their principals of not being STOPPED speaking about Christ. I can see men like Martin Luther King, Jr. knowing that one day he KNEW he would be killed for his cause. I can understand why some people risk their lifes to become missionaries, because to them the message of Christ is worth dying for.

These are honorable. Making excuses for an abusive spouse is NOT! There is a DIFFERENCE!

She changed her prayer portion, but I still don't agree with it!

Sometimes in our marriage I was angry or hurt, and I told my husband in a very unpleasant manner how I felt. I would try to make him feel guilty. I gave him books on how to meet your wife’s needs. I tried all the things that a human can try, without success. God showed me one day that I was trying to do His work—only He can change a person.

I also learned to pray and trust God with our children. My husband loved his children, but he did not make the effort to spend time with them or build a relationship with them. Just as he was with me, he was continually negative with them, and rarely had anything positive to say.

I found myself in the position not only of being the primary parent for my children, but also working with my husband to soften him and help him understand their needs. For example, if he was too harsh in disciplining a child, I would talk with him to help him think about whether his “punishment fit the crime.” When a child brought home a report card from school, I would encourage him to praise the child rather than just criticize for what he considered a low grade. It was a constant process.

Yet I also realized that sometimes I needed to depend on God. I remember one time in particular when I was upstairs in our home, and I heard my husband criticize our children with excessive harshness. It broke my heart. On other occasions I might have run down and defended my children or removed them from the room, but in this case I cried out to God. I asked God again to give me the strength to deal with my husband and to help my children understand their father. I prayed for my husband to cease his words to them at that moment. God answered each of those prayers.

Prayer is powerful. It can go where you cannot. It reaches inside your husband’s head and heart.

God’s way is so often different from ours. 1 Peter 3:1 tells us, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” This verse became my anchor on how I should live with my husband. It is very freeing to know that it is God’s battle, not mine.

sighhhhhh. Spiritual Pixie dust.

God has given me joy

Some people who hear my story feel that I have responded to a bad marriage by adopting some type of unrealistic, super-pious spirituality, or by hiding behind a shroud of “submissiveness” when the truly loving thing to do would have been to confront my husband. But both of these assumptions are far from the truth. Whether I kept my mouth shut or confronted my husband, the bottom line is that I feel like God wanted me to stick it out in my marriage and that there was no way I could do that without relying on Him. The essentials I’ve mentioned here have helped me to do just that, but I learned them over many years of trial and error as well as failed attempts to fix things on my own. I have certainly not practiced them perfectly. I’ve failed many times, and I’ve acted unbecoming of a follower of Jesus Christ. But confession and repentance bring me back to where I should be.

Do I still wish I had a husband like I’ve seen others have? Yes. Is it my ultimate goal? No. When I let go of my expectations and gave them to God, I was set free. He offers a joy that no one can steal and a peace that passes all understanding.

In a sense, God has become my sweetheart—one who loves me perfectly and never fails me. His companionship has become so real to me over time. I’m reminded of the verse in Isaiah 54:4 that describes God as a husband. So although I wish I could have had a loving husband, I wouldn’t trade that for the oneness I have experienced with God as a result of my trials.

I finally accepted that my marriage might not ever get any better. You might think that realization would plunge me into despair or hopelessness, but it was actually the opposite: I felt an incredible sense of freedom and peace as I released my marriage to God.

Someone once asked me how I would feel when my husband passes away. Would I be relieved that he couldn’t hurt me anymore or cause my life any more stress? My response was no. As God has helped me grow over the years, He’s also given me a genuine love for my husband. I released my marriage to Him, knowing that it would never be a fairy tale romance, and He has filled in the gaps where it fell short.

I am so grateful to God for teaching me these spiritual disciplines. Today my marriage is not the major struggle it once was. In our older age I have increasingly become a caregiver in our relationship because of his disabilities due to strokes, and our home has mostly become peaceful. God has given me great joy in life. You, too, can thrive in a difficult marriage and experience an intimacy with God you never thought possible.

I can see this article being helpful for those deep in denial, and able to view things so they look better. I seriously have to wonder WHY Family Life would tell a spouse that you need to use God as your rose colored glasses.

I think this lady may be surprised at how much relief - after her grieve of course - that death my bring her.

She reminds me of my grandmother. I didn't learn until I was adult that my grandfather had beat both my mother and grandmother during his life. I lived 1,000 miles away, and I guess that part of the family history was easy to hide. I knew my grandmother had an unhealthy view towards things, and when I found that out I knew why she did. She used it as a tool to endure the years of being beat and abused. I'm sure there came a time in which he stopped hitting her, but his verbal and emotional they didn't stop.

The saddest part? After 60 some years of marriage, and at an elderly age my grandmother for first time actually started to live when he passed away. I'm thankful she got that short period of time, but the reason it wasn't longer was because of the teachings she got at her church. She made him her cross, and he didn't get better. The church ignored it, and gave him a leadership role. The Southern Baptist Church made sure he got everything he wanted, but I don't think he ever had peace. You know the peace that the church was to help him find in his relationship with Christ? He didn't find PEACE in his authority and her submission. She on the other had peace during her life. Different types of peace, and the type of peace the author claims she has now.

I still think this article is irresponsible, and it doesn't give a good view of what you should do when your PEACE within the home isn't present. I'm not saying divorce, but YE SH why does the church always forget about the sinner? Ya know! Those are the ones Jesus came FOR!

A Faith Board that enables Emotional Abuse. Its a sad and irresponsible stand. Is that truly the family values they want to show? How to endure entitlment, Rage and Wrath? What? We can't show protection for the abused? She and her family need our prayers of enlightment, and to show what true peace can mean.

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zoeygirl on 10:31 AM said...

"It does not mean God causes poor decisions, but He may allow them so that He might receive glory and mature our faith. You can never lose by being obedient to God."

To me the irony is this--many churches teach that submitting to abuse is a wife's cross to bear, that she will be rewarded. Thus this article. But what I have learned is that accepting abuse is a SIN. Allowing yourself to be abused is a sin against the God who created you. So this woman has been in sin for 47 years by allowing herself and her children to be abused, yet she is being held up as a candidate for sainthood.

She truly believes her situation is going to work itself for good, that it is for the glory of God. How is abuse glorifying to God??? This makes no sense, and my God makes sense. She and her children have had a miserable life. How is that an abundant life? She is absolutely convinced that God told her to stay in this marriage. I don't believe it. I believe her CHURCH told her to stay in the marriage, and she interpreted that to be from God.

Hannah on 10:58 AM said...

I agree with you Zoey! I think the church does some brainwashing, and if you say it enough...people believe it hook, line and sinker.

I don't understand WHY people don't think healing, and HECK even reconcilation can happen if you address the sin head on! They can have power over parts of it, and choose NOT TO! Then use the 'cross' as the reason.

It reminds me of the story of the good Samaritan. The church sees and keeps walking on down the road.

Amy on 10:59 AM said...

I added 3 comments yesterday...mine are on pg. 2, time 5:59 and 6:03...interestingly though I had originally added 3 comments and the 3rd one is gone.

Personally I think the editor's note and the so called revision of the article were only done to try and sugar coat it.
What infuriated me was the editor's comment about the issue of "how long to stay in an unhappy marriage"...my comment was that the issue isn't about unhappy marriages, but about abusive marriages.

They can try and say all they want that this woman lived through an UNHAPPY marriage, but you only have to read her story to see how abusive it was.

The author herself says that she would never counsel wives to stay where there is physical abuse or the children are being subjected to harsh emotional abuse. Huh????

She needs to read her own story. What does she think her own children went through?
And she says more than once how he did not continue to physical harm her because she put her foot down in the beginning, so to me this article really is telling women that unless there is physical abuse there is no alternative but to stay.

It's interesting to me that in scripture I don't see where the different types of abuse are laid out. God hates a man covering himself with violence and breaking covenant with his wife. If a man is unfaithful to his wife God permits divorce.
Being violent, breaking covenant and being unfaithful...all of these things can occur without hitting, kicking or punching someone.

I right now feel so crazy and mixed up in my mind, and sadly it's from years, 20 to be exact of being with someone that abused me psychologically, and my boys.
I told my counselor yesterday that even with my husband gone I still have a hard time making decisions, I become fearful of making the wrong one, I tense up and worry about what he will think, and he isn't even here!
For years I used to scream into my pillow for him to just hit me. It would have seemed more real, there would have been visible wounds and bruises that others could have seen too. As it was the wounds were invisible to those around me and to myself, it didn't seem real yet I knew that something was wrong, but to explain it to others just didn't make sense.
Just recently someone asked me what I'm afraid of...did your husband ever physically abuse you, did he hit you they asked...

So, articles like the one you posted about only work at making women like myself feel more guilty about wanting to leave a situation that is most definitely damaging to ourselves and to our children.
It tells us that we are to somehow find joy in an abusive marriage because God calls us to be matyrs and suffer for Him...I just don't see in God's word where He tells us this, but for years I tried to find the joy and finally decided that if I couldn't be happy then it was all my fault. I was just an unhappy person, just like my husband always told me.

Now though I see differently, and I am making choices that aren't very popular with some people I know, but they are choices that are vital to my health and well being.

And someday, I'll be face to face with our Lord and He can tell me whether I did the right thing or not.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone claim she is honoring God by staying in an abusive relationship? She did not do the right thing for their children. What kind of life pattern did they teach them - that abuse is normal with marriage - most importantly a supposed to be a Christian marriage? I'd be surprise if their children remain Christians with such example. It is never right to abuse anyone, no excuse to cause pain especially to those people who by promise and blood should be protected by the one abusing. The writer said the husband does not spend time with their children. Does she understand how an unavailable father, emotionally and/or physically, is damaging the children's emotional health and they will pay big time later on in their relationships. Jesus Christ gave His life for the oppressed and the downtrodden to give them hope, freedom, dignity. Some Christians do not understand God's heart and mind. She enabled her husband. She did not help him overcome his dysfunctionality by staying around. If she left, maybe the husband could have been forced to solve his problems and stopped his sinning. Being martyrs for God is not the same in staying with an abusive husband. Martyrs for the truth not to abuse of sinning husband. A mother should think about the welfare and safety of the children first and foremost.

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