Suffer, you need healing.
Profound I know. Only I didn’t for years. And while this blog could be one big rant-fest from here on out (the anti-husband provides a constant stream of inspiration) I’m not exactly getting any younger nor do I want to live out these twilight years gazing upon my belly button.
So in a highly non-professional, non-authoritarian fashion, here’s what I learned. Definitely a work in progress and hopefully those further down this path will chime in.
1) Swallow that pride. And its corollary: Recognize you may have some.
Granted, an abused woman has little personal dignity left but pride can still be a sticking point to getting out and getting free.
To get out, you’re going to need help from family, from authorities, from friends and bystanders and if you’ve lived any length of time locked away inside your own misery, asking can be about as pleasant as a root canal.
Funny thing—as the marriage fell apart, I found myself on the floor quite often, repenting for all sorts of things. I writhed around, crying, confessing my many failings– submitting to my husband halfheartedly, not praying for him with the proper enthusiasm, being a rotten wife, a horrible dance partner and a worse mother. After some of this, the Lord stopped the tirade. He said, in no uncertain terms, that I was repenting over the wrong stuff.
Seems I was just bumping over with pride.
Not to argue with the Almighty mind you, but really, what was He thinking? Took some time to understand—much longer than confessing the anti-husband’s old talking points—but eventually a few lovely gems worked their way upward. For your amusement, here’s my confessional:
I didn’t want anyone to know my marriage/family wasn’t perfect. Not friends, not enemies, not anyone.
I cared what others thought to the point of creating an illusion of a godly home by both my words and the omission of my words. Folks had the wrong idea, I let them think what they wanted. When the anti-husband pulled something in public that just couldn’t be ignored, I said my husband was difficult sometimes. Difficult? Threatening your children with a gun is difficult?
I thought I could change my husband if only I could find the right combination of prayer, fasting, obedience, submission, meekness, quietness, goodness. My abuser fed off this like a pig at a trough.
I hated the stigma of being a divorced woman and refused to play.
I knew what religious people would say if I left, therefore I didn’t want to be the one doing the leaving.
I didn’t want to admit I made a mistake. At our wedding, the attendants were taking bets on how long the marriage would last. The longest time frame? Three years. Who wants *that* chorus of I-told-you-so’s singing in the background.
Then you have pride’s evil twin—arrogance.
I told the kids they would never have to worry about their parents getting a divorce. Know why? Because I made up my mind I would never leave no matter what. I thought I could hold the marriage together all by myself. I made promises I couldn’t keep and never stopped to question why the kids kept asking.
Just who did I think I was exactly?
When the no-matter-what got past the point of holding on a moment longer, I still hung on. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere—he didn’t like women enough to find another (took too long to ‘train ‘em right’, direct quote) and he liked hurting us way too much. When everything fell apart I told him, you’re not that old. You’ve got plenty of time to find another woman to torment for the next thirty years. His response? But I don’t want to torment another woman.
But probably my biggest area of pride involved magical thinking. In the twisted arena of my mind, I alone upheld my husband. My prayers, my support, my love and affection were all that stood between him and a quick slide into a cesspool of sin. Please note the irony of this and try not to snicker.
2) Admit you were abused
Most abused women don’t know they’re abused. Unlike their tormenter, they don’t like the idea of victimhood. Recognizing the abuse as a living, vital force doing damage in their home means facing up to some very uncomfortable truths.
Along with the above, there’s always the possibility you heard someone stupid define abuse and believed them. Like. . . oh, I don’t know. . . your abuser maybe? Other folks put themselves on record all the time—pastors, mouthy internet preachers, female enablers and just about anyone else who doesn’t want to deal with something that won’t stop wiggling long enough to get a fork through it.
The anti-husband is the leading authority on abuse (just ask him.) He’s quick to tell anyone who’ll listen that he was abused all his life by every woman he ever encountered starting with his mother, his sister, his step sister, every ex-girlfriend, his one and only spouse whom he loved and sacrificed for on a daily basis, the women he worked with, women he encountered in the grocery store and naturally, every black woman he ever encountered because “everyone knows they all have attitude.”
One of these days I simply must tackle some random black woman on the street and beg for lessons.
Sometimes it takes another person to help here. For me it was, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. Eye-opening doesn’t come close. There’s so much highlighter in my copy, its simpler to just quote what didn’t get marked.
In theory, this is simple. Find someone, tell them what’s going on. But in practice, chose carefully. You want someone who’ll make comforting clucky noises and reserve judgment. Most of us, no matter how isolated, still know at least one friend we can talk to. Or, it might be someone we never considered before (see number one above)—someone judged as too liberal, too feminist, too worldly, too something. Remember your definition of ‘too’ probably got twisted by the one trying to keep you quiet. When the proverbial crap hit the fan, I was surprised who came to my aid and more than shocked at those who didn’t. You won’t know until you start talking.
I kept quiet for thirty-one years. Thirty-stinkin’-one years. I talked to my mother almost every day and she found out six weeks before I made a run for it. My best friend, known over thirty five years, heard the first tiny glimmers of this story five months before I left. She was so shocked she asked for a few days to digest before replying. (When she did call back, bless her heart, she said, I should have known, all the signs were there but you kept saying everything was okay.) Naturally when I left, the anti-husband blamed her for our break up, calling her a bitter, man-hating divorced woman. Divorced is the only true adjective in that sentence (kisses Darla.)
4) Counselors are our friends
Not all counselors are created equal. I suggest avoiding counselors from any particular sect and finding a non-denominational group that offers help on a sliding scale.
I go to a male Christian counselor. (Shocking, I know.) He’s a professional therapist with a PhD in psychiatry and counseling, not a mouthpiece for any particular denomination. We talk about things like why I have panic attacks in the hardware store, not whether or not I did the right thing in the eyes of God by leaving my husband.
Which leads to–
5) Grow a backbone
Doesn’t have to be a big one, a tiny spine will do. Just say to yourself right now, “It’s before my own Master that I stand or fall.” (Romans 14:4)
Lock twenty-five religious people in a room, write ‘divorce’ on the chalkboard and watch the fur fly. Remember, one day you will answer to one Person and one Person only. Read books, study, realize you and your children have to live with your decision, not them. And remember, your heavenly Father loves you.
Someday, I’m going to get to my Father’s arms and throw myself right in. I’ve already confessed every known transgression and dozens I’m probably not responsible for and of one thing I am assured–His welcome.
Please wrestle the Almighty with open mind and heart until you can say the same.
6) Nurture Creativity
A personal favorite and the intended topic before my belly button became so dadgum mesmerizing. . .
We’ll get to this next time. Maybe I’ll show you the fishies I painted yesterday~