Whether diagnosed or not

Many behaviours of abusive people have a devastating impact on their intimate partners. Whether or not those abusive behaviours happen to be sufficient for the abusive partner to fall within the diagnostic criteria of any given psychological disorder, in any particular edition of the DSM, has no bearing on whether the behaviours do, or do not impact that person’s intimate partner.

The intimate partner is the most expert in regard to whether or not the abusive partner’s behaviour is affecting their own well-being negatively. A measely hour or few, several emails, and ‘X number of years psychiatry experience’ does not trump the day-in-day-out lived experience the intimate partner has had, for however many years they have been married, or partnered to their abuser.

Let’s suppose for example that you identify with 20 out of a list of 26 experiences of a non-Autism Spectrum Disorder (non-ASD) or neuro-typical (NT) intimate partner, in an ASD/ NT marriage; does an absence of a diagnosis mean your relationship isn’t evidently dysfunctional, unhealthy, and likely to be causing grave deterioration in your own emotional, psychological and/ or physical well-being? We also might consider whether the absence of a diagnosis is due to a psychiatrist being unable to categorically diagnose according to DSM criteria, or whether the abusive partner is undiagnosed because he/she won’t even get a referral to be assessed? Maybe the referral lays at home, and months go by before the abuser makes an appointment, or attends one.

Maybe the psychiatrist talks about personality differences between the abusive person and the intimate partner, but never mentions narcissism, let alone makes any kind of a diagnosis; does that have any bearing on whether or not your spouse’s behaviours are the same tactics that narcissist’s use? Just because no-one will ‘call a spade a spade’, doesn’t mean it isn’t a spade. The psychiatrist doesn’t live in an intimate relationship with your partner, and psychiatrists often differ in their conclusions.

Personalities that lack  empathy, the capacity to understand the perspective of others, or the humility to learn how, are not compatible with an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship. Taking months to get a ‘win-win’ agreement (one step forward) on one of many issues, only to find three months later your partner has ‘forgotten’ the agreement, or claims a different understanding of it, written or otherwise (two steps backward), because you’re the only one who cares about the changes you need, is essentially the same degree of progress as going nowhere at all.

At that rate a decade could easily go by with needs never being adequately addressed, and maybe your own well-being requires resolution without delay? Maybe your relationship with your diagnosed or undiagnosed partner is extremely challenging, but he/ she is genuinely engaged with making changes, even if for their own benefit. Either way, some professional support for yourself as an individual, could be beneficial for getting perspective on your situation, and your level of coping. It can be very difficult to get that perspective alone, if your own well-being is already significantly impacted.

I have read numerous places that couple counselling is not recommended if your partner is abusive, including in some of the links included in this post. My personal experience has lead me to question the practice, also.

Maybe you can highlight 80% of the Power and Control Wheel (Duluth Wheel), but your spouse has not committed a crime he can be arrested for, and will not acknowledge he abuses you. Maybe the relationship counsellor has failed to recognise that your uncertainty about where your spouse’s ‘breaking point is’ (before he uses physical violence) raises a question about whether you really do feel safe, even if you say you do. Maybe you have not linked your sense of vulnerability, or being unable to depend on your partner to be reasonable, or to self-regulate, to a sense of not feeling ‘safe’; so you don’t say the magic words, “No, I do not feel safe” that would otherwise lead a counsellor to follow a domestic abuse process.

I once read a comment on a forum that said, ‘Autistic men aren’t abusive, abusive men are’. I think this is an important comment. We hear the term, ‘adorable aspies’¹ and are reminded that ASD behaviour is easier to accommodate and provide for once we understand why we are encountering it, and adjust our expectations. This does not mean there will be no frustration, and it does not mean the person is incapable of making intentionally hurtful choices. Abusiveness is not the exclusive domain of non-ASD people, and not all autistic people are abusive. Some ‘aspies’ are adorable, others are not.

Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist has written an article discussing the similarities between narcissism and autistic spectrum disorders (here) published by Pyschology Today. In a subsequent article (here) highlighting two case studies, Susan says this to conclude:

“The bottom line from my perspective is that there is often overlap between these two syndromes [narcissism and Aspergers].  Is that because some people have both?  Is the border between the two disorders a fuzzy boundary, so the label is a function of which features the diagnosis is primarily focusing on?

In my view, the essential feature of narcissism is a listening defect.  Narcissistic behavior is behavior that focuses only on oneself—what I want, what I think.  This ‘all about me’ tendency creates, or maybe results in, deficits in ability to hear others thoughts, feelings, preferences, etc.  When others insist on trying to be seen or heard, the narcissistic tendencies lead to anger.

As to Aspergers, I regard the addition of social oddities, avoidance of close social interactions, gaze aversion, and difficulties reading others’ feelings as signs that Aspergers as well as narcissistic non-listening may be present.  Also, narcissistic self-aggrandizement is typically less pronounced or absent with Aspergers.  And Aspergers individuals do not as often have the social charm that many individuals with naricissistic features have.

Paradoxically, people with both diagnoses can be very empathic and generous.  The bottom line is that these are not all-or-nothing syndromes, and they can easily co-exist. Very complex.”

The good news is some high functioning people with or without diagnoses choose to learn, and choose different actions. The bad news is, some high functioning people with or without diagnoses have no intention of changing; maybe changing looks like too much hard work, or they don’t want to give up the power base they maintain through manipulating their circumstances to suit them; maybe they don’t want to give up the allowances made for them because of their difficulties, or their ideal image of themselves makes no allowances for acknowledging there is any problem at all.

An apt quote by Charles M. Blow says:

“One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

A list of tips from the Neurotypical Site for neurotypical spouses of ASD partners is a very illuminating read (here). It could provide some welcome validation for anyone struggling with having a stakehold in their own life; having anyone appreciate that their partner’s disorder is not their fault either; and, that their neuro-typical condition is precious, and worth preserving, not an inconsequential and expendable sacrifice for the altar of accommodating their ASD partner’s needs.

Even with a diagnosis, if it’s not their fault, it’s not yours either. A disorder is not an excuse to abuse one’s partner. What is the point of a neurotypical person gaining a psychological disorder because of the excessive pressure put on them by their abusive spouse, whether diagnosed or not, whether ASD/ narcissistic/ or both, or anything else?

From a biblical perspective, abuse breaks the marriage covenant, a parity covenant, which is dependent on both parties upholding their vows to care for and be faithful to the other. Sometimes we are blinded from the truth of the scriptures by the extra-biblical traditions of men. That is a topic for an entirely different post, but it is worth mentioning that the tips for neurotypical spouses are not invalid for Christian spouses.

God condemns oppression and injustice, and He does not qualify that with an exemption for married people, allowing spouses to oppress or accuse their partners unjustly. That would not reflect a just God. Nor do we need to excuse abusive behaviour whether someone is diagnosed with a disorder, or not. Essentially, if someone were to be incapable of choosing right or wrong behaviour, they would be incapable of maintaining an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship, such as marriage.

Here are a few other websites and interesting articles:

Websites:

The Neurotypical Site at http://www.theneurotypical.com/about_us.html

Aspia at https://www.aspia.org.au/

The Truth About Aspergers at http://heartlessaspergers.com/

Articles:

http://heartlessaspergers.com/effects-of-neurodevelopmental-levels-on-relationships/

http://www.drpsychmom.com/2015/02/28/am-i-aspergers-or-narcissistic/

https://www.theneurotypical.com/tips-for-nt-spouses.html

¹’Aspie’ is a nickname for someone diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, listed in the DSM-IV.  Asperger Syndrome has been dropped from the DSM-5 as noted below:
Asperger’s was considered related to but distinct from autism. DSM-5 contains a new disorder that replaces both the old autistic disorder and Asperger’s: It is called autism spectrum disorder. Retrieved at https://www.livescience.com/37333-dsm-aspergers-disorder.html 

 

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Jesus Loves Me This I Know – I am who You say I am

I’m thankful for a childhood with songs like, Jesus Loves Me This I Know, that told me affirming truth that I have believed and held on to all my life. In this post there are five songs from contemporary Christian artists that are a balm to my heart and soul as a survivor of intimate partner abuse, and I imagine they could be for other abuse survivors also. The sixth one is a contemporary worship song that encourages those of us who know Jesus, to stand tall; chosen, not forsaken.

I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am

Our worth is in who Jesus says we are. He has set us free for freedom, not slavery.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5: 1)

If you don’t know Jesus, I encourage you to be curious and check him out – google, read his words from the Bible, pray, ask other Christians (don’t give up if they fail you; Jesus won’t fail you). If you seek him with all your heart, you will find him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29: 13)

The You Tube clips of the songs are followed by their lyrics below, for those who don’t have enough data for the videos. (I’m sorry that without my fiddling with the coding, some line spaces will be missing when the post is published.)

A love story…

Warning:
The next clip for Love Song, by Third Day has an image of Jesus hand on the cross and a large nail, and an image of Jesus on the cross with severe injuries that are both seen briefly three times. There is another clip of Love Song on You Tube that only has one artist’s drawing of Jesus’ face and the rest of the video is lyrics only, on a pink background, if you want to try that one. I tried to use it here, but it wasn’t playable on other websites.

 

And an anthem…

So Far to Find You

You were broken, abandoned
And crying all alone
We were waiting and praying
And longing to bring you home
And then we saw your face
In a moment you were wrapped up in our hearts
We took a step of faith
And now here we are
Will you let me hold you in my arms tonight
I have come so far to find you
So far to find you
Will you take my love and give up the fight
I have come so far to find you
So far to find you
From a world away, I journeyed
Just to hold your hand
You will never be alone again
I’ve come so far to find you
So far to find you
You were fighting and fearful
You were hiding your heart away
But I was trying so hard to show you
‘Cause there were no words that I could say
If you could see my heart
You would know that all I want to do
Is care for you
Will you let me hold you in my arms tonight
I have come so far to find you
So far to find you
Will you take my love and give up the fight
I have come so far to find you
So far to find you
Here in your eyes I see
Reflections of myself
How I’m the child that’s really running
But I can hear a voice that’s whispering my name
Saying come to me, don’t run from me
I’m all you need and I am calling
Will you let me hold you in my arms tonight
(I have come so far)
Will you take my love and give up the fight
(I have come so far)
Will you let me hold you in my arms tonight
I have come so far to find you
So far to find you
Will you take my love and give up the fight
I have come so far to find you
So far to find you
From Heaven’s throne
Down to a rugged cross I came
It was My love for you that brought Me all the way
So far to find you
So far to find you
You were broken, abandoned
And crying all alone
Songwriters: John Mark Hall / Steven Curtis Chapman

You Say

Lauren Daigle
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
Oh, I believe
Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe
Oh I believe (I), yes I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
Oh I believe (oh)
Songwriters: Paul Mabury / Lauren Ashley Daigle / Jason Ingram

Face Down

I try to find a new way to tell You
Some way to show You what You mean to me
There’s nothing new
I exhaust myself searching
The world just keeps turning
What else can I do
‘Cause I find myself empty and
Face down
Having nothing else to cling to
But need of love that only You can give
Face down
Where I know that I belong
And I pray with grace that this world sees in me
Someone humbled and broken at Your feet
I stand amazed, see the work of Your hands
Still I don’t understand why You would rescue me
An empty cross
Where You suffered and bled
Overcoming my death
Recreating me
With this freedom I will be
Face down
Having nothing else to cling to
But need of love that only You can give
Face down
Where I know that I belong
And I pray with grace that this world sees in me
Someone humbled and broken at Your feet
So I’m asking for Your help
Just can’t do this by myself
After all, this life’s for You and not for me
Through Your mercy now I see
Brokenness is what I need
So I’ll stay right here at Your feet
Right here at Your feet and
Face down
Having nothing else to cling to
But need of love that only You can give
Face down
Where I know that I belong
And I pray with grace that this world sees in me
Someone humbled and broken at Your feet
Oh, humbled and broken at Your feet
At Your feet
Songwriters: Hector Alonzo Cervantes / Marc Byrd

Love Song

I’ve heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done
I’ve never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of Calvary
Just to be with you, I’d do anything
There’s not price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I’d give anything
I would give my life away
I’ve heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It can never be done
I’ve never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea
Just to be with you, I’d do anything
There’s not price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I’d give anything
I would give my life away
I know that you don’t understand the fullness of My love
How I died upon the cross for your sins
And I know you don’t realize how much that I gave you
But I promise, I would do it all again
Just to be with you, I did everything
There’s not price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away
Songwriters: Johnny Mac Powell / Samuel Tai Anderson / Bradley B. C. Avery / David Carr / Mark D. Lee

Wedding Day

There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it’s breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
With this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so
When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day
She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
And this is what he made her for
When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day
When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign
When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day
Songwriters: Bernie Herms / John Mark Hall / Matthew Joseph West

Who You Say I Am

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am who You say I am
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
Oh, I am who You say I am
Yes, I am who You say I am
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
Songwriters: Ben Fielding / Reuben Morgan
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Good Girl

I’ll preface this post by saying it was written, as was the previous post, God Knows at a point at which I was again accepting an end to pursuing justice in my own situation, and feeling the injustice for myself, my children and the new victim, keenly. I am happy this time to have found a greater peace; that it is definitely time to ‘shake the dust off my feet’. I have spoken up, but have not been heard. Having God’s specific words to me coming frequently to mind, has helped immensely this time – summed up now by these words, ‘Leave it all behind’.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a good girl.

I made a decision to follow Jesus at a young age, and have wanted to be a good girl all the more since then – be a good girl, not just pull off looking like one. I wanted peace inside, so deceit could have no part in it. I hated having guilty feelings from doing the wrong thing, so I was very grateful when I came to understand justification, Satan’s defeat, my value as a child of God, and the relief of believing, trusting, and having faith in the one and only all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God. After all he did for me, I wanted to be a good girl and please him. So, I made choices that I knew were necessary to please him; honesty and humility were vital to that. Doing what He wanted first and foremost was essential to pleasing him.

As a child I wanted to please my parents, my teachers, my extended family, church people, my friends. I much preferred things to be well between me and others. I felt unhappy when admonished. I was afraid of incurring admonishment at school or friends’ homes, so made every effort to be a good girl in every situation. I got a little tied up in knots trying to please everybody, with perfectionistic tendencies appearing, but gradually came to understand my equal value to others before God, and that my first responsibility was to please him first and foremost, not other people. He is the only One worthy of my worship, so I couldn’t be distracted from pleasing Him by depleting myself trying to please everyone else.

I also came to understand that loving others is a way to love God also. I needed to find His will for me, so that my energy was spent doing what He wanted me to do in regard to pursuing love, justice and mercy, for His glory. I didn’t have to fix everything in the world, just do the part God wanted me to do, knowing others had their part to do, and God was overseeing everything. I also learnt that smothering people is not love, enabling them to continue in self-destructive behaviours is not love, and that addressing sin with truth and grace is more loving than ignoring it, with counterfeit mercy.

I served in a few short term missions, became qualified in the health care field, and eventually married and had children of my own. Loving my husband and my children, so they were encouraged and knew the love of our Heavenly Father, became a primary focus for my loving worship of God, my first and foremost love. Loving sacrificially, serving, affirming, having grace toward my husband and children, and apologising promptly when I hurt them, pursuing our seeking God together, accepting our children as blessings from God and training them to love God and love others were all part of my worship response to my God, who had sacrificed so much for me. I expressed to my husband that my love for him and our children were part of my worship of God.

I had shared with my husband that as a child I wanted my dad to think of me as a good girl. I felt very sad as a child when I didn’t meet his expectations. As an adult I was more focussed on God thinking of me as a good girl, and one day calling me His ‘good and faithful servant’. I had also told my husband that the couple of times he had said, “Good girl” to me had meant a lot to me. Other women might think it was patronising, and maybe it was, but I had pleased my husband and it brought happiness to me to hear him say so.

Unfortunately affirmations were few, and there was considerable inconsideration toward me. I still felt great contentment as I was so thankful to God for the blessing of marriage and of each child, for all His wonderful provision, and for the lessons I had learnt over the years.

Some years later I was patient with aberrations from what I could ever have imagined a loving Christian husband doing, or saying to me. When it came to a significant conflict in our marriage, one that further impacted trust and eventually care of the children, I found over time that there was significantly more unjust reproaches, accusations, and manipulative control tactics being used with increasing frequency.

I was patient and prayerful, but even after a significant period of professional relationship counselling, I came to realise my husband’s behaviour indicated to me that he had no intention of changing his behaviour toward me; no intention of relinquishing his belief in his entitlement to maintain control over myself and the children, and little ability to empathise with our felt needs if he had to give up anything he wanted for himself.

For a woman wanting to be a good girl, and disciplining herself her whole life to that end, being consistently, unjustly accused cut at my core needs and values. It was hard work to stand against it all. Though I maintained my self-value, it took a lot of energy to do so. I was sure God had other purposes for my energy than being enslaved and oppressed by a man pretending to be a worshipper of God, who was coveting secret sins, and who’s home life when out of the public eye, bore no resemblance to that of a godly man; words and actions inconsistent with that of a caring and loving husband, a father who doesn’t exasperate and embitter his children, or an honest man.

I addressed my husband’s unrepentant behaviour by separating, with a view to giving him the best chance of addressing the dysfunctional behaviour he was aware of, and respecting the reasonable boundaries I had laboured to explain my need for. He followed this up with continued disrespect of boundaries, reproaching and accusing me while seeking the pity of others, pleading ignorance of why I left, making some remorseful-sounding confessions, and misrepresenting me to our children, to extended family and to friends.

I decided to apply for a divorce on the basis of his continued abuse. My husband made penitent sounding promises to some, but neither his promises and confessions, or the concerns I raised, were followed up with agreed accountability measures within the Christian community. The Christian community’s failure to address his confessed sin or his broken promises, or in fact his slander of me for his own ends, left him in a state of being undisciplined for his wicked conduct as a professing Christian.

To discipline is to love. I discipline myself because of my self-value and my love for God, including confessing wrong-doing to others and to God. I was a good girl who loved my husband; a good girl who brought discipline to him through separation and divorce, valuing both my husband and myself, a child of God, in doing so. Because the church has had only counterfeit love for him, they have not loved me either, leaving a good girl; a survivor of abuse and oppression, and then of slander, without vindication. The most unloving thing my former husband could do to me, he’s done; misrepresent me as guilty, when he knows I am innocent.

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent–both are detestable to the LORD. Proverbs 17:15

 

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God Knows

I was just reading about Malala¹, who started advocating for education for girls in Pakistan as a teenager, and who survived an assassination attempt at the age of 15. She is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

While many laud her bravery in seeking justice for girls denied their Human Right to an education, others detract because of their own agendas. While leaders around the world decry the assassination attempt as heinous, cowardly and reprehensible, Taliban stated she is a symbol of infidels and obscenity, and that Sharia says that even a child may be killed for propagating against Islam and Islamic forces.

Good is made to look bad. Advocating for truth and justice is made to look like evil lies. Oppression is made to look justifiable.

I am writing on the heels of news from one of my children that dad is in fact being married in the near future. My last attempt to address his ongoing reviling of me as a professing Christian has come to a point of “shaking the dust off my feet”² also. A witness to my former husband’s commitment to honour me and protect my reputation, has no where to take it further with me on my behalf, when my former husband’s pastor refuses to get ‘involved’.

Yes, we are divorced. But the fact remains, the issue has been raised that a professing Christian in that pastor’s congregation is continuing in sin, which we are cautioned about in I Corinthians 5:11-13 (quoted from NIV):

11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

The justice I was motivated to seek, was for the future wife, and my children primarily, and yes, I wouldn’t mind vindication either. I was once in that woman’s position, when apparently no one in a former church had followed up his first wife’s assertions about him, that he told me of himself. Of course he told it to me as if she had been spreading lies about him, and I felt compassion for his apparent suffering.

So, after receiving injustice over many years in relative silence, and after counselling made no significant difference to my concerns, I maintained a boundary regarding my right to feel safe by separating. Some understood, some didn’t. Slander continued. Then despite so many ‘sorry’ words to me (and once to another  pastor) there was no apparent accompanying sorrow, because the abuse continued and further abuse was added. How could someone who is truly, sorrowfully, ‘sorry’, continue to use the same tactics as he was apologising for? There was obviously no accompanying repentance; no turning away from his sin (and no accountability, as there was no follow up by the pastor).

So, I applied for a divorce, which some understood and some didn’t. Slander continued. Despite addressing concerns numerous times over the years to no avail, I finally felt compelled (after prayerful consideration) to give further effort to address his ongoing sin, for the sake of his new girlfriend. The witness I approached understood, others didn’t. The pursuance of biblical intervention with justice in view, was described in a negative light by my former husband because he had his own interests to protect. He is not concerned for anyone else’s interests, certainly not mine, and not even the interests of the woman he is now professing to love, I assume. I would not like to be in that unregenerate man’s shoes, nor have to answer for his example to his children.

His deceptions, lies, abuses and theft have caused me and my children pain, and he has been the cause of the theft of my good name, and the good name of my children’s mother. And that through the injustice of misrepresentation, not through the justice of truth.

However, God knows the truth. He knows who I am, my heart, my actions, my words, my prayers. My poor children are sometimes confused, but they are not silly, and they do come to their own insightful conclusions.

I am finding online and in person, that many more people than I knew are awake to the inconsistencies of thought among Christian tradition regarding marriage. We may be decades away from the tide swinging in a more righteous and just direction, as it was for Wilbur Wilberforce³ and the abolition of slavery, and as may be the case for Malala and her quest for the right of girls to be educated, and in fact the right to education of all children, to become undisputed across the world.

Our just, thoughtful and prayerful actions, may be viewed negatively through ignorance of all the facts, or through the deceptive misrepresentations of slanderous, self-indulgent narcissists. We  cannot always protect ourselves against this further injustice, but that does not mean we should back off from pursuing justice anyway. Nothing will change, nothing will be gained, if we are not prepared to lose anything, even our good name.

Our reputation, through staying the course for righteousness and justice, may yet be restored many times over, only God knows. Certainly, the attempt on Malala’s life catapulted her fame and her voice to an ever-increasing world stage, the complete opposite of the Taliban’s attempt to silence her.

Who’s opinion do we count most dear? Those that will treat us respectfully even if their opinions differ from ours, or those who value us so little that they trample us underfoot without care, or without even seeking our perspective for themselves? When all is said and done, no one’s opinion of me matters more than that of Jesus Christ, who will be the one to judge.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)

‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.’

John 5:22

‘Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son…’

I want to be found to have obeyed God’s word, and responded to the Holy Spirit to me directly, and so I act when certain He is directing me. So that our willing, and fulfilling service to God may be long, and not cut short, prudence is certainly necessary; being patient and diligently waiting on God for guidance. When certainty comes, that is when we can act without the fear and dread that Satan tries to scare us with, knowing that God’s hand is on us, and nothing can separate us from His love, come what may. I ask Him to preserve my life until my children are grown and independent, but I trust Him to take care of them in what is beyond my control.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Thank you, God, for rescuing me and for all of your loving care and provision for myself and my children. Thank you for the lessons learned in difficult times, that make times of blessing all the more appreciated. Thank you that there is nothing to lose by choosing to walk in righteousness, and everything to gain from peaceful companionship with You. I am comforted to know that others who may suffer at the hands of abusive people (who appear to get away with it) will find you in their circumstances if they seek you, and can know the joy of your rescue and provision, and your healing and renewed purpose for their lives. I praise You for Who You Are, and thank you for all that you do, in Jesus’ Name. Amen

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

Remember, God knows.

 

¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai
²Matthew 10:14 (NIV), ‘If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.’
³https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce
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Caught Out

I always believed that I had consented to intimacy, but later realised with regard to one aspect of it, I had been coerced.

A lack of awareness of what constitutes sexual coercion, as well as being deceived by my former husband, led to my failing to see what was really happening. This story of coercion is mild in comparison to others, but hopefully it illustrates the underhandedness of coercion.

These are a few definitions of sexual coercion:

Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way.1

“Sexual coercion” is the use of violence, threats, harassment, drugs or alcohol, nagging, repeated pressure, or other psychological means to get sex from another human who is not interested, i.e. against their will or consent.2

Coercion:

  • Coercion is a tactic used by perpetrators to intimidate, trick or force someone to have sex with him/her without physical force.
  • Coercion is an issue of power and control.
  • A perpetrator who uses coercive tactics knows that his or her victim neither wants nor enjoys this sexual interaction.3

Somewhere in the first couple of years of marriage my husband introduced the possibility of me ‘kissing’ him other than on his mouth. The suggestion was put forward as an option for foreplay. Song of Solomon in the Bible got a mention, and though very conservative in some of my views as a Christian, I was not aware of any prohibition in the Bible to kissing any particular body parts.  I wanted to love my husband generously, without holding back from him, so even though I had previously had no personal desire whatsoever to participate in such an activity, I consented willingly. It became an every now and then occurrence.

It was a little off-putting after my husband initiated the suggestion, that he then voiced concerns about it, which led me to feel somewhat responsible for having agreed to it. However, because I had consented only after considering any Biblical prohibition to it, I put myself at ease over it.

Because my husband had requested my ‘kissing’ him in the alternative region, but repeatedly recoiled at returning the favour to me, I became a bit upset that there was no mutuality to it, and felt a bit degraded by his reluctance. He eventually acknowledged the justice of my concerns, and reciprocated. Though I appreciated some aspects of it, as time passed I came to generally decline it for myself, but continued to ‘give’ in that way to my husband. Personally, I was perfectly satisfied with unquestionably natural love-making.

The frequency of the alternative kind of foreplay increased somewhat in the latter years of our marriage, and I gradually became more inclined to think it might after all fall into an ‘unnatural’ category of sexual intimacy, as expressed in the Bible in Romans 1:26-274 for example, though homosexuality is most obviously being discussed in that instance. My husband was aware of my uncertainty.

After a health incident, I did some googling around the issue, and came to a place where I decided I did not believe it was a natural thing to do. I had no personal desire to participate in it, it was physically uncomfortable for me, and I no longer felt it was acceptable to do it. (My husband had sometimes queried whether I enjoyed it, and I would reassure him I did, as I had found some enjoyment from knowing he appreciated it.) Despite communicating to my husband my new certainty that I did not want to be involved with it, I still found myself obliging him for a couple of reasons.

On occasion it was because my husband had been particularly attentive to me, and I so appreciated it, I would do what I knew he wanted most (hoping it perhaps wasn’t, after all forbidden and God understood my motivation was love, not lust). I hope my husband’s attentiveness was genuine, but wonder whether his motivation was to ‘inspire’ me to relent on my (apparently wobbly) boundary, regarding this activity.

My husband also claimed he had loss of sensation due to his health disorder. He did not have any noticeable trouble with impotence, but it seemed plausible that the disorder was causing sensation issues. As a consequence, I sometimes found myself ‘helping him out’ with the activity I had attempted to draw a line on, because of this issue also.

He may have been just as likely to have arousal issues due to his porn use and masturbation, but I was unaware of it at the time. After I had separated from him he disclosed that those issues continued through our entire marriage, even though I had specifically checked in with him at infrequent intervals through our marriage, and he had always denied there was any problem.

There were times when love-making was taking so long that it would become apparent that he was probably ‘needing’ another form of assistance. I would enquire what he was thinking, willing to help, but obviously hesitant to participate once again in the activity at issue. Sometimes he would put forward the suggestion of my ‘kissing’ him there, and other times he would’t say much at all, or say he didn’t want me to do anything I didn’t want to, but he didn’t suggest any alternative either, or call it a night. He knew I was always determined to pursue his full satisfaction (though he did not show the same determination for me). It seems on reflection, that he sometimes just waited ‘meekly’ until I made the choice to put my wishes and concerns aside for him.

I became firmer in my expression that I could no longer ‘kiss’ him there with a clear conscience, and that I was very sorry, as I knew he particularly valued it. Sometime later it dawned on me that the frequency of that activity had actually escalated from every once in awhile to every time we were intimate.

I called him out on the fact, stating what I had noticed, and that I believed he had been holding out on purpose, waiting for me to ‘help him out’, and that despite his statements that he wanted to respect my wishes, he had in fact disrespected my known wishes. He lay there with a look of someone who recognised ‘the jig was up’, that he had been caught out with no defense, and he said nothing to deny it.

He had been deceiving me, tricking me into doing something he knew I did not want to do, for his own gratification. He abused my love and generosity, and had no concern for my earlier hesitations, or respect for my certainty later, that I was not happy to participate in that activity anymore.

The thing that hurt me most was his deception. He abused my trust in him. He spurned my generous love for him; though he used me, he did not cherish me. He is a thief.

I am still stunned when I think of what happened. My only comfort is to turn my eyes to Jesus, who gives me life, and joy and loves me faithfully.

This is my comfort in affliction, that Your promise has given me life. Psalm 119:50

 

1Retrieved at https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/other-types/sexual-coercion
2https://medium.com/@DuffCoach/why-is-sexual-coercion-wrong-6f7d3d0dcac3
3https://sapac.umich.edu/article/205
4Romans 1:26-27 (NIV) 
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
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Do abused women always have low self-esteem?

I usually ignore statements in articles that assert abused women can be characterised as having low self-esteem, because the articles are otherwise championing justice for abuse survivors. I believe such assertions are ill-advised, however. Not all articles make such generalizations, but I have come across it numerous times, and think it is worth mentioning.

In an age of striving to avoid stereotyping and discrimination, such generalised statements lump every abused woman into a category irrespective of her individual story. This is disrespectful to women who have been abused who do not have low self-esteem.

Generally advocates for victims of abuse are calling for an end to heaping further injustice onto abuse survivors through not believing them, not supporting them, not addressing their abusers’ behaviour through prosecution or church discipline, and so forth. We would do well to be careful we do not cause any further injustice by assuming abuse survivors are suffering from low self-esteem when they may in fact have a healthy self-esteem.

A survivor with a truly healthy self-esteem will likely recognise with equanimity the mistake, but could certainly do without any further burden of self-evaluation regarding her level of self-esteem. She has perhaps already been faced with constant self-evaluation and use of positive self-talk and other coping strategies, due to her abuser’s constant reproaches, in order to maintain her self-value and her mental health. Abusers storing up material for later use could also use such categorizations against their victims, by taunting them from an additional angle, ‘If you’re a victim of abuse you have low-self esteem and need to see a psychiatrist’.

If we categorise abuse victims as having low self-esteem, are we not categorizing them according to their abusers’ behaviour, and not seeking to hear the survivors’ own stories? That is, the woman’s partner’s behaviour is abusive, therefore she must have low-self esteem?? That’s equally as unjust as the relationship counselling scenarios where blame is levelled through a ‘no blame’ focus for both parties, inadvertently making the abused spouse as responsible for the abusive spouse’s behaviour as the abuser is.

I have read articles about the type of women that abusers target, and women in these categories do not necessarily have low self-esteem. At the blog, A Cry For Justice (ACFJ) we read in the Don Hennessy Digest that abusers target kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful women¹. Who is prepared to say all kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful women are going to have low self-esteem? In an article about covert narcissists2, who specialise in abusing people through manipulation tactics to achieve their own ends at the other person’s expense, we find those abusers target highly empathetic people3. Who wants to deny they are highly empathetic to avoid being pigeon-holed as having low self-esteem?

Plenty of kind, loyal, dedicated, truthful and highly empathetic people also have healthy self-esteem, not to mention courage and the capacity to investigate the confusion they are experiencing.

I know that not all abuse victims have low self-esteem because I have been abused, and I don’t consider I have low-self esteem. I have known both what it is like to have had low self-esteem and what it is like to have healthy self-esteem. I had low self-esteem as a teenager, but worked through it into my early 20’s before I was ever married. It was only because I saw my value in how God values me (priceless – He sent His own Son to die for my redemption!), that I later survived as long as I did in an abusive marriage. I was caught up in extra-biblical traditions and biblical truths that have been separated out from scripture, rather than viewed within it as a balanced whole. I was unable to recognize for some time what I was truly dealing with, in order to act sooner. It wasn’t because I had low self-esteem.

Rather than low self-esteem, or ‘co-dependency’(another term misapplied to victims of abuse, see ACFJ tag for codependency) another aspect of who I am contributed both to my surviving abuse with my healthy self-esteem intact (though it was a battle to keep it that way because of my abuser’s attempts to erode it), and to my remaining in the abuse for as long as I did. My style of loving is an authentic altruistic style of loving that is sustained because of my relationship with God as the filler of my love ‘bucket’, and the source of my self-value.

“There are atruistic lovers, who may be somewhat other-centred and very willing to meet the needs of the other person. Carried to the extreme, the altruistic lover may become a martyr, trying to meet his or her own “empty-bucket” needs. There is, however, an authentic altruistic lover: a person who has a full bucket and enough inner strength to be able to love another person in a very unselfish manner. Many altruistic lovers have strong religious beliefs, and find a relationship with a Supreme Being keeps their own buckets full.”(Fisher & Alberti, 2014, pp. 184)

The following are some comments I inserted in an earlier draft of this post, in response to quotes that contained statements such as ‘every woman in an emotionally abusive relationship can be characterized as having low self-esteem’. I don’t wish to reference the quotes as they came from an otherwise awesome article, so I have removed them. I think my comments give some perspective of my concerns on their own.

I looked to God’s acceptance as the measure of my worth [not my husband’s acceptance], and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I think the prevailing Christian traditions regarding marriage and divorce contribute heavily to some women being vulnerable to the controlling tactics of the abuser, not necessarily or always, low self-esteem.

I did not develop feelings of guilt and inadequacy for not meeting his [my husband’s] standards and needs. I believed he had serious personal issues, prayed for him and did everything I reasonably could to get help for the marriage, and to encourage him to seek help for himself personally.

I saw God as the fulfiller of my needs [not the marital relationship], and when faced with many questions about the reality of my experiences, and the beliefs held by Christian’s about marriage and divorce, I prayed, contemplated, and researched the confusing issues. Eventually I felt God spoke directly to me that it was time to leave my husband in his hands, and I separated from my husband.

In closing, abused women have in common that they are women who have encountered abusive behaviour from their intimate partners. As to the factors that caused them to remain in an abusive relationship for varied amounts of time, those factors can be equally varied among them.

1 https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2018/02/12/how-the-male-intimate-abuser-selects-sets-up-and-grooms-a-target-woman/
2 https://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-to-spot-a-covert-narcissist-2018-5?r=US&IR=T
3 https://www.businessinsider.com.au/why-empaths-and-narcissists-are-attracted-to-each-other-2018-1
4Codependency is a controversial concept for a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency, the most common theme is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.
Retrieved at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency
5 Fisher, Dr. B. & Alberti, Dr. R. (2014, pp. 184) Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends. Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers.
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The ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer

When someone remorsefully suggests that his long-standing actions did damage to another’s heart little by little, shrewdness is called for. The apparently ‘remorseful’ offender may be attempting to plant the suggestion in the minds of his listeners, that the person whom he offended hardened their heart through unforgiveness toward him. Beware the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer.

We could assume that the offenses of the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer being plural and of some duration, would quite naturally cause a breach of trust between himself and the offended person. If we also accept that trust is essential to relationships, then his breach of the offended person’s trust in him, could quite naturally cause a deterioration in the relationship, and a reduction in the privileges usually associated with it.

If we assume that a change in behaviour would be necessary to facilitate the restoration of trust between the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer and the offended person, it would follow that an absence of change in the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer’s behaviour would prevent restoration of the privileges of the relationship. We might note that this would hold true irrespective of whether the offended person expressed forgiveness to, or withheld forgiveness from the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer.

Let’s say the offended person has expressed forgiveness to the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer, but the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer has not changed his behaviour. If the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer is directing focus toward the offended person, along with a subtle reproach of the offended person for gradually hardening their heart, what are we really hearing? (If we are shrewd, we may also be feeling a proverbial chill up our spine for the wickedness unfolding.)

  • Would a truly remorseful person, one who feels genuinely sorrowful, shift responsibility from himself to the one he offended?
  • Might the offender himself be holding resentment toward the offended person for holding him to account?

There is a term for indirect resistance to the demands of others (e.g. being accountable) and an avoidance of direct confrontation (e.g. subtly shifting focus to the inferred flaws of those one holds resentment towards) – it is called Passive Aggression. There is also a term for which a common trait is to project one’s own issues (e.g. unforgiveness/ resentment) onto others – it is called Narcissism.

The modis operandi (mode of operating) of such people as the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer is underhanded manipulation and deception. The more we understand this, the more shrewd we can be and the less taken in we will be.

Needless to say, remorse and finger-pointing, or remorse and blame-shifting are contradictions in terms. Remorse¹ being a strong feeling of sadness and regret about something wrong that you have done, and finger-pointing or blame-shifting², being a tactic to insinuate someone else has done wrong to avoid responsibility for the wrong you have done. We will recognise the ‘Remorseful’ Finger-pointer is likewise himself a living contradiction; someone who says one thing (‘I’m responsible’) and does another (shifts focus to that other person(s) who is responsible), if we pause and listen with shrewdness and discernment.

¹ Retrieved at https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/remorse
² See types of blame-shifting at  https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/5-types-of-narcissistic-blame-shifting.388/

 

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For the Kingdom!

Re-posted from the blog, A Cry For Justice here

There was an unhealthy dynamic in our marriage. But generosity, forbearance and patience are not sins, while unkindness, unjust accusations, lies and selfishness are.

This guest post is by our reader ‘Gaining Momentum’. Many thanks to her for writing it.

This feels like it’s been a long time coming – writing down what I want to say. Now part of me just wants to close the book on that chapter, but I know it will always be a part of me like every other struggle, or intense joy I’ve experienced. I do so value all those experiences and the lessons learned; they are part of my story, and part of what I can contribute to the present and future.

I’m writing primarily to my fellow Christian survivors of intimate partner abuse perpetrated by professing Christian spouses. We worship God and Him only, not anything in His creation or His institutions, and we remain disciples first and foremost when we marry. Marriage does not annul that, nor should it render us vulnerable to be treated less well than other human beings. Marriage does not allow that our spouses be able to treat us treacherously without culpability or expectation in the Church that we can biblically end the marriage for their abuse.

God was present in my life from before my earliest memory. His existence was accepted and unquestioned in my family. As a child I heard we each need to make a personal decision to follow Jesus, and I chose to follow. Gradually all of my fears and all my insecurity found answers in the absolute truth, love, trustworthiness, faithfulness and power of God, and His value for each one of us.

I was diligent, but stopped short of embracing singleness to live an undistracted life of obedience and worship of my God. I was also inspired by the awesomeness of God’s plan for men and women to marry and live lives of obedience to God together, raising their children to love God, and love others, and raise their children likewise.

After experiencing singleness for some time, I believed God finally answered my prayers and blessed me in marriage, and I was married to a long-time, long-distance, Christian friend. My friend had been separated for a couple of years after a brief marriage before being divorced. He told me his wife had committed adultery and I had full trust in him at that time. We started courting a matter of weeks after the divorce was final, and were married several months after that.

I adored my husband, and enjoyed loving and serving him generously in every respect. I was patient with some lack of generosity and consideration toward me, believing I should take care of my own conduct and leave his to God. I trusted my needs to God, embraced an attitude of gratitude and chose to think the best of my husband. We enjoyed each other’s company and were affectionate toward each other. I felt very blessed.

Later my husband was increasingly depressed, anxious, and discontented. I suggested we ask God for answers to his concerns, and he consistently expressed that he did not know how to hear from God despite years of good teaching. He was active in the church and had done some study with a bible college.

At times he would become so anxious that he would appear to ‘lose it’, and be very disparaging about oversights and misplaced items, though there was no evidence to suggest who might be responsible. He called me names and berated me in front of our children, also blaming them for misplaced items.

I was quick to forgive, putting it down to his anxiety, and though concerned kept praying for him, suggesting medical investigation, and assuming there would be resolution in time. When he started resorting to treating finances with a gambling mentality, and I discovered several deceptions, my trust in him was significantly impacted. I was surprised, and wondered where things would end up if he continued to make such choices.

My trust was gradually broken in various other ways, particularly by his unjust accusations during attempts to resolve differences, re-writing history to find fault with me, and using psychological terms out of context to indicate the problem was with me. His unreasonableness and his unkindness caused me to feel unloved and essentially unsafe. I could not depend on him; trust his word, depend on his being rational or reasonable, or be assured any more of his affection. He was crossing lines I would never have imagined a Christian man, devoted to God, could possibly cross.

His gambling behaviour was having an impact on my ability to feed the children adequately, causing me to decide to separate so that I could care for them properly. The sheer waste of time while he asked me over and over to explain my position and share my concerns, followed first by his expressions of remorse, and then further recriminations toward me, also impacted my ability to take good care of the children. The wasted time caused everything to be more frantic and rushed, increasing the tension in the home and undermining my sense of being able to cope. There were further bumps and turns along the way before I finally made concrete plans to move out.

I found help personally through counselling, particularly when I started seeing the counsellor as an individual. I had begun to see that the relationship counselling was not going to change anything in the relationship while the real problem was unrecognised, and the relationship counselor had a ‘shared blame’ focus, which I found unjust. I had been diligent in my relationship choices and was not responsible for my husband’s behaviour. There was an unhealthy dynamic in the marriage, but generosity, forbearance and patience are not sins, while unkindness, unjust accusations, lies and selfishness are. It didn’t alter anything when I attempted to be assertive about reasonable requests. Nothing altered until I left.

While the self-compassion recommended by the counsellor would have been supportive for a self-aware individual prepared to make changes in their life, it just gave an abusive individual further licence to make it all about him.

Hearing each other’s “perspective”, without any consideration given to objective fact, felt like an exercise in futility – one cannot gain a better understanding of another’s perspective on something that didn’t happen. After counselling commenced, my husband consistently complained I wasn’t ‘hearing him’ whenever I had an issue that needed resolving, essentially resulting in my not being heard. I patiently listened to his perspective and responded with active listening skills. Then when it was my turn to share my perspective, he would complain that he was allowed to have his opinion. This essentially resulted in my opinion being shut down and the course of the discussion becoming about my errors.

Eventually there came a point where I felt God was saying, ‘it’s time now…you need to let go and leave him in my hands’. The gravity of the situation caused me to think how it would be if I didn’t leave, but my conscience was not easy. I was so certain of God’s response to my cries for help, and His wishes for my husband, that to fail to make active plans to leave now would be an act of disobedience. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew it was the right thing to do. I did not want our children growing up thinking our marriage was normal: thinking that was an acceptable way to treat a wife, or that being treated that way as a wife is acceptable.

I was aware that my husband would not have the opportunity to push past his maladaptive coping strategies if I stayed with him. My remaining meant he had no reason to do the hard work required to work through his issues and learn to respect the reasonable boundaries of others. Rather than recognise the wake-up call provided by the counselling, my husband continued his counter-productive power and control tactics to try and regain control. (His strategies were counter-productive for him at this point, as I was clearly waking up to his game-playing). I had made it abundantly clear that I needed to see different, respectful behaviour, but he continued to confirm by his actions that he is abusive, and confirm my choice to separate was the right decision.

I decided to apply for a divorce when he started to insist I reconcile within a time he specified, on account of the fact we were married. I didn’t want there to be anything left to control me with. He insisted on a maximum time for separation, whereas I needed to see consistent behavioural change over a prolonged period of time before trust could be rebuilt, and before I could consider reconciling or remarrying.

The simple fact that while he insisted on ‘his way’ on this issue, I was never going to come back, appeared to escaped him. He needed to accept my terms, when I was the one with the grievance. I was asking for my welfare to be considered, that I be heard and respected. However, I was only hearing loud and clear that he was not capable of considering me, hearing me, having empathy towards me, or able to respect my reasonable boundaries, while he dictated terms to me, ignored my reasonable requests, invented my many sins, and minimised his own.

When he finally accepted I was serious about divorce, he consistently treated me as an enemy and became nastier in his abuse of me through texts and emails and in front of the children. Suffice to say, it has been difficult and sad – and it confirmed that my decision to leave was the right one. We have since agreed (after a gradual process of trial and error) on care arrangements where the children are not present with both parents at the same time, unless for school awards for example, in a public place.

The man I had adored, and served willingly and generously, whose “I love you” endearments I had taken at face value, long after recognising his actions were not loving (leaving me in confusion for some time) was now treating me worse than any other human being had ever done before. I had long sensed that if given the choice between his life or mine, he would save himself before risking his life for me. We had two very different concepts of love.

Even before I left he had threatened that if his needs weren’t being met he would move on to another woman. I now had the evidence that he was indeed prepared to cut his losses and move on, rather than ‘go to the ends of the earth’ to find help in learning how to treat me with respect and with equity. He has made it patently clear that he thought it was too much effort to make healthy choices, and no real value for me as an individual. I had served a purpose and was now not performing as expected or required. Out with the old, in with the new!

I planned to remain single, as my sense of faithfulness led to my leaving room for that ‘hope’ that my former husband would have a revelation from God, do the hard work of restoration, and come back a changed man. I would be found faithful with my unconditional agape love intact, ready to be courted again and be remarried to him if it made sense to me at the time, and I believed God wanted it.

Later however, pondering his revelation that pornography and masturbation had been an issue through our entire marriage, I came to a decision that I would not risk a second marriage to him. Because I could not trust his word and I had no idea where his lust may have taken him while we were separated, I had no reassurance there would be no more nasty surprises again, maybe years into the future, appearance of a changed man or not. I wished for him to find peace with God and be happy, as I always had, but it wouldn’t be with me. I had no wish to risk going through everything all over again, either for me, or for our children.

Back to the beginning – I’m a disciple of Christ. I shall have no other gods than the One True God. I am responsible for my stewardship of my time, energy, talents, resources and health. Living with an intimate partner who was abusive did not allow me to use my time, energy, or resources according to my own conscience, preventing my stewardship of my talents and health also. I was essentially enslaved to a human being who worshipped himself, prioritising his own comfort and gratification, not the God he professed to worship.

My emotional well-being was most noticeably deteriorating, as well as some physical impacts that have resolved since I left. Staying with an abusive husband impacted some of our children noticeably also, requiring counselling. My leaving (though sharing care of the children with their father) reduced the pressure they were previously under.

If I stayed, I was concerned I would lose my sanity and end up a mental health inpatient, unable to care for my children. In that case, I would have failed to take care of the life God had given me, and my responsibility to parent my children well. I could not stay with my husband without failing to ensure my children’s general and emotional well-being. I have accepted a shared-care arrangement with respect to finding balance with their desire to, and prevailing opinion that they need to, have a significant and meaningful relationship with both their parents. They have adjusted to the separation fairly well, though some have been affected by the reality of their family life more than others.

Now God has rescued me again, I’m His alone. No more ‘distractions’ as Paul mentions in the New Testament regarding a married person’s divided attention! I’m thankful He heard my prayers to be married and have children, and I’m thankful for the lessons learned through the heartbreak. God in fact blessed me with a large family, and I was blessed to birth them naturally and breastfeed them. That period of my life will always stand out as a most beautiful time indeed. My body working as God made it to, and my experiences in trusting God with all our needs, was a very encouraging and confidence-building period in my life – ‘empowering’ for the task of parenting and the times ahead. God was always first, and always will be – it could not be any other way after all He has done for me.

I understand my freedom to remarry after divorcing my husband for constructive desertion and abuse (many thanks to Barbara Roberts for her book, Not Under Bondage). I wish anyone brave enough to remarry after an abusive relationship every blessing of a truly healthy and happy relationship with their new spouse. At this point in my life however, I strongly identify with Paul’s recommendations for singleness.

My eyes are more heavenward than ever before, because of the distress I have experienced, and because of my gratefulness to God for his snatching me back from harm. My primary goal for my mortal life is to parent my children prayerfully and diligently, that they might all wholeheartedly follow Christ, walking in Truth; and to cherish the freedom I have to use the life left to me with good stewardship, to love God and love others, sharing the good news of freedom through Christ, to His glory – “For the Kingdom!”

I can see Mel Gibson shouting “Freedom!” (in thankfully the only image I can remember from the movie “Braveheart”) as I exhort myself and other survivors of intimate partner abuse, including spiritual abuse, to remember their standing in Christ, and the discipleship He called us to. He is the one to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61: 1), to give recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed (Luke 4: 18). What your journey should look like right now, if a disciple of Christ, or a year from now, is between you and God, not me or anyone else. He is hearing you, and He is unfailingly loving and faithful. To God be the Glory.

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Prologue to ‘For the Kingdom!’

When I commenced posting at Hadassah’s Legacy, I posted what was on my mind to say, being conscious of any hesitations or confirmations I felt, as I asked for God’s guidance. I have lately considered the fact that my story of abuse though guest posted at the blog, A Cry For Justice, has not been posted to provide background to my posts at Hadassah’s Legacy. This has been due essentially, to my concerns to preserve anonymity. I have no wish either to hide evil, or to cause any pain to innocent people, including my children. I trust that avoiding use of my name, or my abuser’s name, will be sufficient to avoid the latter, in addition to taking care to de-identify content.

I have also not provided much explanatory information regarding intimate partner abuse at Hadassah’s Legacy, or for spiritual abuse though I have defined them briefly within a few posts. For the time being, I can heartily recommend A Cry For Justice for a wide range of information to assist abuse survivors, church leaders and survivor supporters.

Here is the link to my story, a guest post at A Cry For Justice using a pseudonym, Gaining Momentum. I will post it in full in a separate post directly after this one, also. Again, many thanks to ACFJ for their acknowledgement and support of myself and other survivors.

For the Kingdom! – A survivor of domestic abuse tells her story

There is one thing from the post I would like to clarify, and that is that in hindsight the relationship counselling focus was more strictly spoken of as ‘no blame’ rather than ‘shared blame’, though ‘no blame’ essentially means shared contribution or responsibility, and  results in a ‘shared blame’ focus as written in the post.

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Mercy and True Love

‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ Luke 6:36 

‘…the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son in whom He delights.  Proverbs 3:12

‘Watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents¹, forgive him.’  Luke 17:3

A few thoughts:

  • God’s love for us inspires us to love others
  • God’s mercy toward us inspires us to be merciful to others
  • God disciplines us because he loves us, just as parents discipline their children because they love them, and want the best for them
  • If someone makes a mistake we show mercy
  • If they make the same mistake again, we may put in some accountability measures
  • If they repeatedly make unacceptable choices, there are usually consequences in order to train, deter or guide
  • If we constantly choose mercy as a response, we enable poor choices to continue
  • If we fail to ensure accountability measures are in place, we are not ensuring the person’s best
  • If we fail to ensure accountability measures are in place, we do not ensure the best for those affected by the person’s unacceptable choices
  • All of us make mistakes
  • All of us are valuable
  • All of us are valuable enough to be kept accountable for our actions
  • All of us are valuable enough to be treated justly; not blamed for responding justly to the unacceptable behaviours of others

No minimising, no blame-shifting, no enabling.

Yes, mercy. Yes, accountability. Yes, counsequences. Yes, true love.

 

¹Metanoia, a transliteration of the Greek μετάνοια, can be defined as “a transformative change of heart; especially: a spiritual conversion.” The term suggests repudiation, change of mind, repentance, and atonement; but “conversion” and “reformation” may best approximate its connotation. Retrieved at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanoia_(theology)
Though the verb metanoeo is often explained etymologically as “to change one’s mind,” or popularly as “to be sorry for something,” neither rendering is adequate. . . . What is meant is not a merely intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance, but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which results in “fruit in keeping with repentance.” Retrieved at https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/03/11/is-repentance-merely-a-change-of-mind/

 

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