Life with the anti-husband was never fun but during the seven days of hell before leaving, the man screamed, hollered, blamed God and searched for some answer as to why I was emasculating him this way. Refusing to back down equals castration. Who knew? And asking someone to go to anger management who screams, hollers, yells and blames deity seven days straight without taking a breath is defiant. (Clarification: The Seven Days of Hell were actually Ten Days of Hell but the first three consisted of the mutter/mumble/slam doors/stomp around/slam things/silent treatment.)
None of this is particularly relevant except that in his search for enlightenment, the beast blamed ‘bitter internet women.’ Upon which, my ears perked as, believe it or not, this was my first clue that maybe, just maybe, someone out there might understand the horror of my homelife. After all, people blog on make-up, monkeys, money– why not monsters?
After leaving, I started looking and found…
You Could Never Do This on Your Own So Who Have You Been Talking To??
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of angry folks abound both male and female. I found women who’s husbands walked out, women who burned their brassieres and wrote bad poetry, women who cut their hair, their skin, their souls and blamed society. But this pool of bitterness, this raging foam of female, middle-aged Christian rebellion, this conspiracy against Christian Manhood? Nada.
Turns out I didn’t have the vocabulary to search properly. At this point, terms such as verbal abuse meant less than nothing, some psycho-babble made up to sell books, certainly nothing that pertained to the prison of my home. I was confused, blistered, raw and still hearing the anti-husband’s talking points any time I got still for half a minute. Those BIW’s turned out to be an elusive bunch.
I heard the word abuse mentioned for the first time in the counselor’s office. Don’t get me wrong, I tried it out a few times. I knew what went on wasn’t right, I knew the kids were severely wounded, I knew it had to stop. But… he never hit me. Hitting equals abuse. Everything else falls under the category, bad manners, and as I’d been told over and over, I had a problem, I was too sensitive, I was weak . (Note: he did actually hit me early on, but let’s save that story for the post on bullying.)
On this particular day, I sat in the comfy chair with my box of tissues trying to describe the tension in our house. The way the kids and I looked at one another when the anti-husband-mobile pulled in the driveway, stood frozen waiting for the door to open. How we could tell what kind of night we were in for by how hard he slammed the door and the amount of growling before he got through the entry.
Someone left muddy shoes by the door? Unacceptable. How dare anyone inconvenience the beast. Don’t you know how tired he is? No one appreciates the beast! Stepping an extra eight inches over a pair of filthy, stinkin’, nasty shoes will not be tolerated in his house! This better not happen again! Who’s shoes are these anyway??!! Louder and louder and louder until the rabbits react and then the mad dash as everyone scatters. Every single night.
The counselor says, all calm and stuff the way counselors do, “So you were all emotionally abused, that’s for certain, now what about–”
Too bad for him I was no longer in the chair. The synapses quit firing, the room goes dark around the edges, fingers drum the arm of the chair, one leg swinging like it’s taking off for Mars and one confused counselor waving like crazy to get the crazy woman’s attention.
Well I’ll Be…
This was A Clue. The loose string that once yanked, unraveled the chords twisted around my thinking. I had to know more, I *needed* to understand. And no way could I afford counseling for myself when the kiddies kept curling up in random corners sucking their thumbs that way.
I asked a few more questions, made note of Counselor from Heaven’s vocabulary and went searching. And just like that, I found manna from above. Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bandcroft. The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans. I bought a stack of goodies, charged the anti-husband’s account and hoped he didn’t remember the Amazon password.
These were not my best days. I read and underlined and squawled and read some more. Things began snapping in place. I googled verbal abuse, bullying, emotional abuse, sexual abuse in marriage and found tons of informative websites. Confusion departed.
I made an appointment for myself with the counselor.
But what I did not find were like-minded women, Christian or otherwise,who walked this out already. I didn’t know where to look for one thing and for another, I suspected they might be afraid to talk just like someone else I knew. But I wanted– no, I needed– to find someone battle tested and relatively sane with stories to tell.
Enter Cindy Burrell
Took a year to find her website. She appears neither angry nor bitter although her faith is obvious. Tucked among the articles and book reviews she moderates a forum with ladies brave enough to tell their stories, sometimes for the first time. I read but do not participate. I suspect many others do the same. Fear makes a horrid taskmaster.
More truths snapped together inside my soul and this time I cried, not for myself, but for all the hurting lambs collectively. The heavens opened, birds sang and I exaggerate only a wee little bit. I saw the power play of weak abusers pounding their mates behind closed doors and realized something profound. No way these creeps could get away with this without the darkness. Isolate the victims first, make them feel responsible, keep them separated from anyone who might help. And with that epiphany I knew I had to start talking.
In case you’ve arrived here in similar shape, here are a few links to Cindy’s amazing series of articles along with a few selected quotes:
I have never been blind, but I have been in bondage.
During my 20 years of marriage to a verbally and emotionally abusive Christian man, I did everything I knew to encourage him to see me as his wife, to submit to his leading (even when he was wrong), love and pray him back to the Lord. I forgave his many offenses against me, and I can’t begin to count the hours I spent either crying or praying for the restoration of our marriage. I imagined a day when my husband would return to his first love and recommit himself to our relationship. My first priority was to serve God, as I believed with all my heart that my faith in God and my love toward my husband would bring about God’s perfect result. I chose obedience and waited on my Lord.
Then, at what seemed like the most unlikely moment, when I least expected it, the Lord released me. I have never once doubted it. Even in writing the words, though, I anticipate the skepticism of those who may read them. Miracles that occur outside of the bounds of our spiritual limits must be rejected.
In my own experience, and in my exposure to the experiences of other women who are abuse victims, it is apparent that there is a bizarre, almost word-for-word script associated with the behaviors and character qualities of abusers. Although I have not been exposed to physical abuse, a majority of these earmarks seem to be evident, whether the abuse is physical, verbal and/or emotional. Here we go…
The Introvert Meets the Man of Her Dreams…
When the abuser finally snuffs out the final spark of hope the victim holds out, his victim will need to muster the strength to tell her secrets and ask for help. Yet the abuser has been mindful to keep his public image distinctly separate from his private brutality. After so many months or years of surviving in the shadows – even fortifying the false image of their “happy” home and keeping the abuser’s terrible secrets – the day finally arrives that this abuse victim decides to take a risk and speak up. In spite of all she has been through, she has to wonder: Will anyone believe her?
In our household, it is affectionately referred to as “bad juju.” I suppose that acknowledging temporary insanity with a dose of humor is half the battle. But when our lives are humming along at a fairly even keel, it is not at all humorous when one of us suddenly stumbles into it. The bad juju.
For us, bad juju is what we call an old wound that we thought was healed but isn’t – somewhat akin to post traumatic stress. An otherwise innocent situation can unexpectedly propel us back to a disturbing memory, registering an immediate, fear-based reaction – an emotional nosedive.