“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoice with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:4-8
“I CAN’T STAND YOU!!!” He roared at me.
And you know what? I got it. After 27 3/5 years of putting up with his rage, 18 moves, 9 churches, and 3 children, I got it. The day began uneventful. He was out of town a lot. My teenage son and I had begun a minor bathroom update project. Granted, we were novices, but the mood was light-hearted as we laughed at our mistakes and redos, making several trips to the local building supply store.
Then He arrived home – just in time to help install the new toilet. He grumbled, complained, got angry, and began directing all of this at my son. That’s when I intervened, first trying to lighten the mood with joking, then trying to get us all to see the lighter side of things, and failing at that, I finally told him in no uncertain terms to back off. My son had already left the area for a more stress-free zone. Then my husband started defending himself. He didn’t know why I was so upset. He had complained just a little. Couldn’t a person even grumble a little around this place? I reminded him that He had not simply grumbled a little, he had begun to rage and directed it toward our son. We were in the hallway of our house and that is when He roared at me, eyes flashing fire, all of his 6 foot, 230 pound frame puffed up to its largest size.
The argument then flowed out the front door into the driveway to where my son had escaped. What followed was yelling, crying, someone leaving in a car. Scenes you see from a bad movie. My son later told me that the older couple who lived across the street from us was on their front porch during the confrontation, so add mortification to the flood of emotions I was already experiencing.
Up to that point I had used the thoughts in the above verses to help keep me in an unhealthy relationship. After all, “love keeps no record of wrongs.” However, beginning that day I could see the above passage from a different viewpoint. My husband said that He loved me, but comparing what I experienced living with him in our everyday lives with the description of love in I Corinthians 13, I don’t know what He felt toward me, but it was in no way, shape, or form, the love described above.
That moment was the start of my denial beginning to crumble. It was the start of my willingness to admit that the picture I held in my heart of a happy Christian family did not exist for me at that time. Both realizations were extremely painful.
I did not wade through the pain alone. It was too big for me; it would have drowned me. At the risk of stating the obvious, God himself walked with me. I also had a very good counselor and family and friends who provided a support system for me. I needed other’s perspectives to keep me from sinking back into denial and dreaming.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t try to go it alone.
1. Guard your quiet time with God each day. It is your lifeblood!
2. Find a good counselor. The first time I spoke with a counselor and told him what I was living with, I expected him to tell me that I simply needed to buck up, to try harder. It was amazing to me to have an “outsider” verify my reality. All counselors are not created equal. The counselor I just mentioned was the second one I had tried. The first one simply heaped more pain on me. If one does not work for you do not hesitate to change counselors. There are family crisis centers across the country. I found the local Family Crisis Center to be an invaluable resource.
3. DO NOT GO INTO COUNSELING WITH YOUR ABUSER!!! I cannot say that firmly enough! Normal marital conflict counseling is for couples in which both partners hold equal power. In abuse cases one partner holds most or all of the power with the other partner holding little to none. Using normal marital conflict counseling for abusive relationships is like putting a bandage on a cancer. Not only will it not work, but it is destructive.
4. Have a safety plan!!! If a situation escalates to the point of physical danger, you need to have planned ahead of time where and how you (and your children, if children are involved) are going to get to a place of safety.
5. I know it is difficult but try really hard not to lean on your children for support. We as parents are supposed to support our children, not the other way around. I have to confess that I was ignorant of this point for a great deal of the 27 3/5 years and my children suffered for it.
6. If you are a reader, some books that made a difference for me: Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend; The Search for Significance by McGee, Safe People by Cloud and Townsend, and Codependent No More by Beattie. May God guide and accompany you in your journey.
Let’s pray: Ah, Father! So many times in our churches there are hurting families who are so good at image control that no one knows we are hurting. Then when we get to the point of finally intending to break the silence, we have kept the secret so long that the words get stuck in our throat, and it feels impossible to share our pain and let our image slip. Please help us to realize that darkness and secrecy are two of Satan’s most powerful weapons. Please help us to identify safe people to share our pain with. In Colossians 1 you tell us that in Christ all things hold together. Please hold us together, for at times we feel as though we will surely fall apart. Thank you ahead of time, for I know you will answer our prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen