Some Thoughts on Remarriage and the Generational Cycle of Abuse

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These days, I don’t shock so easy. Years of informal counseling in a church setting combined with the real world education of an abusive marriage means I’ve heard and/or experienced my share. I’m guessing anyone nearing the mid-century mark can shout amen.

The assumption on the part of friends, family and complete strangers that I long to  reenter the dating game does surprise me, just a touch. After all– I just exited hell, why would I want to go back? The beast you know is preferable to the one licking his chops on e-Harmony, thanks anyway, and no way in a a very hot place am I ever going back.

Unlucky in Love

The girl who went in totally unprepared for a life locked in battle with a raging beast walked out fighting to stay tender in heart and mind. I don’t want to live jaded. I have children, dear to my heart, who long for love and the intimacy of couplehood. They do not need a raging witch proclaiming Doom and Destruction upon a God-created gift meant to bless us here between eternities.

The fact remains, the naive teen that trotted down the aisle doesn’t exist any more. My views on remarriage are  no big secret to those readers who’ve been around awhile  but let me restate for those just arriving:

In my heart of hearts, I believe marriage is a beautiful thing when patterned after God’s design. I believe that most divorced individuals are free to remarry another believer if they chose but I’m also a big fan of Paul when he says its better to remain single.

In my own life (including family and friendships), I’ve witnessed few  healthy partnerships. Marriage equals work under the best of circumstances and if two people love each other and share mutual respect and understanding, the work counts as joy. For those of us exiting the abusive bus, however, we also understand what it means to labor alone, fighting to keep a zombie marriage on its feet and howling. We can dress that puppy up in Sunday best, slap on a little lipstick, force those rotten feet into a pair of Louboutin’s but no way is that monstrosity what God intended when He called it good.

For years, my heart and mind were drawn away from my Savior. I’d like to spend the rest of my days getting to know Him. That doesn’t mean I have no feelings (nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) Despite what I assumed at twenty, my body is not dead at fifty. Still, I fully believe in the gift of celibacy and I’m thankful for my Father’s provision.

Some Thoughts Between Pals

A recent email exchange with a dear friend brought the topic around again and I’d like to open this up to a wider discussion. We touched on the phenomena of abused women remarrying into a second (or third, or fourth) abusive marriage and how, on the surface, things might look totally different this time around.

Here are a couple of quotes from that exchange:

You know how I’m feeling about remarriage. Its not that I’m so jaded I think that every man out there is abusive. That isn’t it at all. And its not that I’m unfeeling and particularly want to live my last years alone. That certainly isn’t it either. It’s more about the fact that however this pattern of abuse of power works, it is *so* pervasive right now and takes so many different forms and frankly, I don’t want to deal with a single one of them.

Somehow, I think we are just starting to understand the scope of this and how deceptive, low down and sneaky these people are at their very core. It’s their nature– it’s what they do and they cannot do otherwise. In other words, we’re at the edge of something huge and the Lord has led us here with eyes open and what we learn is going to be staggering once the monster gets out of the box.

Here’s another:

One other thought– I think those of us who grew up in this pattern (of abuse as children) are at a disadvantage, particularly when this gets more cunning. I think if you grow up healthy with healthy patterns of love and self respect, then you know this right down to your core. You don’t have to *think* about it– you meet someone and you aren’t attracted to them if they are abusive and carrying these qualities and attitudes at *their* core. Doesn’t mean you won’t get fooled, but if you have a healthy family to support you, maybe you don’t stay in this so long if you do get caught.

But we, on the other hand, have to learn. That means head knowledge. We pick up some here, some there. We learn by experience as we get older– like an adult learning to read and it never quite becomes fluent. So what hope is there for us?

I think we are the ones who can *articulate*.

Someone who gets this instinctively can’t tell you why something bugs them, just that it does. That’s all well and fine but doesn’t help those trapped in domestic violence and other forms of abuse. We, however, can *speak* what we learn. We can do our part to break the pattern in our own family and in the lives of those we meet. But I think its the next generation that benefits from our suffering. The pattern breaks, we model health and healing, they learn and move forward into freedom.

Yeah, I know I made some pretty big leaps here and you are more than welcome to call me on them. This isn’t Ida Mae preaching to the kiddies. This is Ida Mae searching for the truth.

The floor is open.

Let us reason together and stuff.

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45 responses »

  1. I have felt — I say “felt” because it may just be an erroneous feeling on my part — that there is reluctance among us to talk about personality characteristics in victims of abuse that make them more viable targets for abusers. I suppose part of this reluctance is our conviction that victims are not at fault for the abuse and we don’t even want to give them the impression that they are. And we don’t. I don’t. But being blamed for the abuse is a lot different from getting some help, looking into oneself, and striving to understand what thought patterns might be lurking within ourselves that make us easier targets for abusers. We all have heard more than one story of abuse victims entering into still another abusive relationship, and then even another after that. We can all be duped by the sociopath – that we all readily admit. But I like what Elizabeth said somewhere in a post some months back — she grew up in a fine Christian family, wonderful parents, in a sound, Bible-believing church –and this all made her a sitting duck for the abuser who ultimately swept her off of her feet. These are things that we dare not remain ignorant of. We must become wise as serpents when it comes to evil. And your correspondent was absolutely correct when she said that it may well be that when the coverup is blown off of this issue of abuse hiding in the church, we may all have the wind knocked right out of us when we finally see just how bad and widespread it is. These are evil days. Let everyone take care. The lion is on the prowl and he is just looking for someone to have for lunch.

      • “But being blamed for the abuse is a lot different from getting some help, looking into oneself, and striving to understand what thought patterns might be lurking within ourselves that make us easier targets for abusers.”

        I wholeheartedly agree. Of course this doesn’t guarantee we won’t get busted– again. The enemy is so clever and we run around trying to believe the best of others. We simply have to put the brakes on and figure out what happened and why. Otherwise, we are likely to repeat the cycle– same song, second verse.

        The certainty that we were despised and rejected combined with an irrational fear of being alone can drive some victims from one relationship to another. I’ve had people tell me, ‘I simply *can’t* be alone with my own thoughts.’

        True story– just a few weeks after leaving, I got an instant message from a man I knew from both high school and church youth group. (Small town, lots of gossip. He’s into the double digits for marriages and long-term relationships since the time we ran around together back in the day but I doubt he knew that *I* knew. )

        Then he went on at great length to tell me how (sadly) he was also getting a divorce and had I heard about the wonderful singles ministry at XYZ fellowship? Hallelujah! God is good. Oh, and , BTW, he’d heard through the grapevine that I had left my husband and wanted to know if I was dating yet.

        Excuse me?

        I told him I was still married thanks much, but even if I wasn’t, I intended to work on my issues in counseling and stay celibate and single. He assured me he intended to do the same 🙂 In a week, he was ‘in a relationship’ with someone in very much the same situation as myself.

        Sounds like a lion prowling around to me.

  2. Ida Mae, the guy who instant-messaged you was relatively easy to pick, especially since you knew something about his relationship history. I think the ones who don’t immediately slap on the hair cream and go cruising for a new relationship, but rather, toddle along in their sad single lives but then opportunistically take a new prey when a woman just happens along and seems like a nice kind lady… they are more difficult to pick. They don’t show the hunger that the instant-messenger did. Their disguise is more effective because they *don’t* show that urgency.

    • Well said.

      Which goes back to “the pervasive pattern, taking many forms.” Some scream out loud, some seem able to hide in plain site for long periods of time.

      I think Lundy’s book speaks of different types of abusers but his descriptions are more about how they present in full swing, in the middle of a committed relationship. Perhaps these have a different ‘face’ when out looking for another partner? Perhaps there *are* patterns early on that haven’t been identified as yet?

    • Barbara, that was my ex to a T. He was patient for about 5 years after his first ex left him before he came across me and sized me up as a perfect prey. Very patient.

  3. Are there personality characteristics in victims of abuse that make them more viable targets for abusers? I can go either way on this one.

    We hear of the women like Elizabeth (who Jeff mentioned above) who grew up in wonderfully healthy atmospheres but got trapped by abusers.

    And we hear of numerous women who had unhappy, unhealthy childhoods, with abuse and neglect washing round all over the place, and they get trapped by abusers in large numbers. (Can’t cite the research right now, but research does show that if a girl suffers abuse in childhood, she is somewhat more likely to suffer intimate partner abuse in adulthood.)

    Do abusers ‘sniff out’ their prey? Lions sure do. The analogy would seem to fit. Abusers are so cunning they can subtly test a person’s boundaries in the first encounter, and the target will probably not even realise that their boundaries have just been tested. (Read chapter one of “The Gift of Fear” for a brilliant illustration of this.)

    But Ida Mae thinks: “if you grow up with healthy patterns of love and self respect, then you know this right down to your core. You don’t have to *think* about it– you meet someone and you aren’t attracted to them if they are abusive and carrying these qualities and attitudes at *their* core.”

    Personally, I’d love to hear detailed accounts from such “healthy” women of how they assessed and sifted potential partners and cast out the bad apples, to know whether or not this is true. Does a psychologically strong & healthy person have a better system of alarm bells to warn them of sociopaths? Or is it just the luck of the draw whether a psychologically healthy persons ends up married to a non-abuser or an abuser? I wish I knew. [Not that I believe in “luck”:- God’s providence ordains all things; we don’t live in a random universe.)

    I used to think, before my second marriage failed, that I was somewhat good at picking (identifying) an abuser from a non-abuser. After all, since my first marriage to an abuser ended, I’d been writing and ministering on domestic abuse for some years, and I’d learned stuff. But it turned out that I’d married another abuser! YIKES!

    • “Personally, I’d love to hear detailed accounts from such “healthy” women of how they assessed and sifted potential partners and cast out the bad apples, to know whether or not this is true. Does a psychologically strong & healthy person have a better system of alarm bells to warn them of sociopaths?”

      Me too. I think this sort of dialogue would help on so many levels.

    • What about the psychologist/Dv therapist (on lovefraud blog?) who fell prey, not once, but twice? She taught these things, for crying out loud! She simply fell prey to very manipulative and deceptive sociopaths. I guess a wounded soul searching for love may have fallen prey quicker. But nevertheless, when sociopaths target their prey, they often look for strong and powerful people that they can be parasitic to. By the time they have finished with them, the strong and healthy people do tend to show characteristics of co-dependency and other unhealthy dynamics.

      Sometimes what we call co-dependency is trauma bonding or Stockholm Syndrome, which happens as a result of NOT BEING ABLE to escape the abuse (marriage is permanent). It is a clever resistance to the abuse in order to survive, but it is seen as unhealthy enabling of the abuse because one tries to identify with the abuser. It is when this dynamic becomes a part of the victim’s personality and is no longer a useful resistance technique that you would say that the victim has a victim mentality that attracts abuse.

      Just my thoughts anyway.

      • Excellent points. I’ve read a bit on trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome. Personally, I don’t like the word co-dependent. Just doesn’t really explain what happens in an abusive marriage.

  4. I really appreciate your blog as well as the replies from both Jeff and Barbara. I become born-again when I was nineteen and in the same year got married, he was twenty-seven at the time. He was catholic and that was enough for me to believe that he had his own relationship with God. Well the marriage was nothin but strife…the sun always went down on our anger. There was emotional abuse and adultery at the same time. I wasn’t quick to leave him after finding out about the adultery because I thought getting a divorce was “hardening my heart.” We were on our third child and where in the world was a going to go. I was tempted to go a women`s transitional house but too afraid to take that step. So I was stuck in a godless marriage. I myself fell into temptation and got emotionally involved with a married man online. At this point I realised that I was seriously sick and stuck at the same time. A friend convinced me to stay with her, which I did for three months. From there, I went, with my four kids into a women`s transitional house. It was then, in that place, full of abused women, that I realised for the first time that I was also in an abusive relationship. I was embarressed and ashamed that I ended up there. Denial can sure be a deadly! Now at 31yrs old, I have my own place with my four kids. I am legally seperated and can`t wait for the day to be fully divorced. I have had to overcome condemnation and guilt. And it certainally doesn`t help when leaders throw `God hates divorce` that definelty added to my guilt and condemnation. I understand what it means when scripture says the letter of the law kills. So I thank you for you blogs. I have been able to understand more about abusive christian marriages. I came out of one and i`m sure glad to be out of it. This journey is a painful one but the freedom is worth it.

    thanks again.

    • Much welcoming, Andereza~

      (heard a little kid say that the other day 🙂 )

      And thank *you* for sharing part of your story. I can so relate to the ‘sick and stuck’ comment. That is probably the best, most concise description of the process I’ve read in a long time.

  5. I can relate to everything you share, Ida Mae. I was completely jaded and viewed all men as scum. Yep, that was my word. Until a dear friend of mine asked me, “What about your sons?” It was then that I realized it couldn’t be so. Men couldn’t all be the same, because I refused to believe such a thing about the two young men I was striving to raise to be men of character and faith.

    It took a lot of time and counsel and prayer and evidence and study to see what God meant men to be (and the book “Wild at Heart” really gave me a deep appreciation for the male gender). A couple of year later, I dated a few guys who were interested until they found out I had four kids or whose true colors were revealed in due time.

    I finally learned to really trust my instincts. When those yellow and red flags went up I paid attention. And that’s what I encourage others to pay attention to. Then when my now-husband came on the scene, he was grounded and real and transparent and strong and wise and full of faith – not that churchy, preachy, phony kind of faith, but a settled, deep relationshp with God just emanated from him in a natural way. And he saw me, with all my faults and frailties and damage (and kids) and loved me (and them) just the same. And we felt God moving between us, leading us. It was not forced or contrived. I pray that for you, in His time.

    But before Doug arrived, I made new, good memories with my kids, enjoyed what it felt like to rediscover my sense of humor, had coffee with friends, spent quiet time with a book, or relished waking in the peaceful twilight every morning and thanked God that I was alive and content to be single. Being single is not a lesser life, it is a gift and the beginning of a new life.

    Never let anyone talk you out of where you are. Just appreciate every step of the journey.

    Cindy

  6. “I finally learned to really trust my instincts. When those yellow and red flags went up I paid attention. And that’s what I encourage others to pay attention to.”

    Excellent point. And I love the distinction between red flags and those pesky yellow buggers. Maybe it doesn’t matter so much in other situations, but when you’re thinking about walking the aisle, learning to spot the not-so-obvious yellow-means-caution flags is crucial.

    Kind of reminds me of all those times the anti-husband made some insane remark and I assumed he couldn’t possibly mean what he said. He must have mispoke. I made up my mind to think the best of him and I was flat, stinking wrong.

    • “… all those times the anti-husband made some insane remark and I assumed he couldn’t possibly mean what he said. He must have mispoke.”
      In my case, the anti-husband made insane remarks and I knew, without having to assume, that he was quite wrong and quite irrationally prejudiced and intransigent in his view. I had long ago found it was fruitless to reason with him on such matters, so I just ignored the insane remark and got on with things. It’s like walking along a path and every now and then there is a giant granite boulder in the way so you just walk around it. The path is pretty circuitous, but you keep on going. Only problem is, those granite boulders eventually come alive and chase you down and want to eat you up.

      But boy, do I know those illogical remarks. The utter disconnect. “WHAT did he just SAY?” It’s too illogical to compute and too illogical to remember. A few times I actually wrote his comments down, before I lost them. They were riddled with bamboozling absence of sense, semantically, grammatically, syntactically, every which way you can analyse language, they made no sense.

  7. Interesting to read this. I was just talking to my mom on a girls day out the other day (the day of my hair rebellion) about this very topic. We were discussing my mother in law. Several years ago my father in law passed away suddenly. My mom made the comment that my mother in law didn’t seem that broken up over his death and didn’t seem to have any interest in getting remarried. For years and years I have known my father in law was abusive in some form to her. It wasn’t until the last year that I have come to understand. She is hugely Catholic. To the point of extreme. She never left him largely due to her faith. When he died…she was free. For the first time she got to spend her money the way she wanted. She didn’t have to account for every dime. She could paint the walls in her home whatever color she wanted and do whatever home improvement project she felt like doing. Since his death she has been the happiest I have ever known her to be. Her kids keep encouraging her to remarry, but, I can sense she has no desire to do that. She is not one to open up about any of this, just observations. I can completely understand. I don’t know that I would want to remarry. Ever. The thought of having to live my life by someone elses rules again, right now that thought is overwhelming. Maybe feeling like this is just because of where I am in life right now. Seeing my mother in law free and able to live life after all those years though makes staying single look mighty appealing.

    • Funny– my grandmother was the same way after my grandpa died (more of those patterns?). She was hugely criticized for not grieving– grandpa was a pastor and she had plenty of folks to blast her from every side.

      Providentially, I found out about six months before I left that grandpa was a violent alcoholic who stepped out with the ladies on a regular basis– and those criticizing my grandmother knew it. My dad’s family kept that secret for forty years after the man died. An elderly aunt finally broke ranks and told the whole story, then of course, all those little pieces of the puzzle made sense.

      No wonder grandma was so happy~ and she never once considered remarriage. I asked her time and again and she always said the same thing. Why would I want another old man to take care of?

    • For the first time she got to spend her money the way she wanted. She didn’t have to account for every dime. She could paint the walls in her home whatever color she wanted and do whatever home improvement project she felt like doing.

      She was “submissive”. What if she had dumped the belief that she needed to be “submissive” and stood up for herself? Like you did when you cut and colored your hair despite the people in your life applying pressure which robbed you of your authority over your own hair.

      Ida Mae, your post resonates. I would NEVER marry again! Been through way too much and I’m too cynical about marriage. My “man picker” is broken. But I am still married to my husband of nearly 30 years and the marriage has gone from something resembling a concentration camp to a much more pleasant environment as I recovered my voice and my authority. My journey OUT of submissive wifery is chronicled here: http://hupotasso.wordpress.com/

      • Charis– you make a very important point here.

        I have heard of women with dictatorial husbands who stopped submitting (and by that we all know hopefully that we’re speaking of that doctrine of submission making the rounds that is so perverse) and things improved. At that point, the husband has a choice to either acknowledge his wife as an independent person with thoughts, feelings, ideas, rights and choices of her own and the freedom to make them or he refuses to admit this and applies pressure to get things back under his control.

        In my case, I stopped submitting and things got ugly. Violence escalated and he went after the kids when I wasn’t around to punish me for my rebellion. We ended up running for our lives.

        Thank you for the link. I’m going to head over here in a bit and read your story~

  8. Rule of thumb for ANYONE (term that has a nasty origin in the abuse of women but God can turn anything around for good, right?) after the end of a relationship, whether a broken engagement, a divorce after a dreadful marriage or after the death of a spouse, even if that spouse was a saint, NEVER EVEN THINK ABOUT DATING, let alone marriage for at least TWO YEARS. Anyone who has gone through the trauma of the end of a relationship, whether good or bad, needs time to grieve, to mourn, to wail, to lick their wounds and climb into their own single little bed and sleep for a long time. They need to get to know who THEY are in their heavenly father, not as part of a couple, but as a single person.

    Don’t listen to the well meaning person who jokes about setting you up with a really special guy friend that they have known for years. Don’t hang around single clubs, and don’t attend a divorce recovery group if there are for mixed genders. Vulnerable people don’t need to meet other vulnerable people, and sometimes those lions are wearing the sheep skins that make them look vulnerable too.

    Time, sweet sisters, time. And sometimes that means “forever, until the end of the age” time. You don’t have to be part of a pair to be whole. You ARE whole, simply because the Lord has his hands around your face, is looking you in your eyes with his beautiful gentle ones, and saying, “YOU ARE MINE.” “YOU ARE MY BELOVED.”

  9. Morven – every time I read something like this ” You ARE whole, simply because the Lord has his hands around your face, is looking you in your eyes with his beautiful gentle ones, and saying, “YOU ARE MINE.” “YOU ARE MY BELOVED.”” It makes me want to cry. Still working to really internalize that. Still working on how to completely trust it and really believe it. To know I can be loved for who I really am deep, deep inside is an overwhelming feeling. Every time I see that typed out it is like He is speaking directly to me – reminding me. Whispering it in my ear. Maybe that is creepy. I just know it hits a tremendous chord in my heart.

    • Oh sweetie, it’s not creepy …. those little tingles down your spine are Godly goosebumps, reminding you that this is all a “mystery” that ONE DAY will all make complete sense.

      A picture God gave me years ago was myself as a little girl, running down a long hallway towards a huge throne room. The throne room was jammed packed with people longing to catch a glimpse of the King, and as I ran down the hall, the throng started to part with the whispering words “the princess is coming. Let her approach her Father.” And I ran through the parting crowd into my Father’s outstretched arms, right up on the throne there with him. Then I realized that ALL of the people in the throng are running down the hall towards him, all being welcomed as sons and daughters, all being received on his lap as He sat on the throne. ALL being made to feel that they are UNIQUELY SPECIAL to Him because they are HIS children. You, my dear, are a princess. Get used to the idea 😉

  10. “Don’t listen to the well meaning person who jokes about setting you up with a really special guy friend that they have known for years. Don’t hang around single clubs, and don’t attend a divorce recovery group if there are for mixed genders. Vulnerable people don’t need to meet other vulnerable people, and sometimes those lions are wearing the sheep skins that make them look vulnerable too.”

    This is what I was referring to at the beginning of the post– exactly. Its almost as if well meaning friends want to see you in another relationship asap. This is somehow viewed as a cure for what ails ya.

    And on a related note–some may disagree, but I think part of finding someone else is being open to the possibility. You are either on the market or you are off the market and others can tell mighty fast. Hanging out with others in the same situation is asking for trouble.

    Heal awhile, rest, recover. Learn to be comfortable alone so you have something to give another. Then– if you want– find someone who’s healthy too. Of course, I am just emoting, not speaking from experience 🙂

    • This is why I refuse to go to “singles” luncheons and functions at my church. It seems, at least from the outside looking in, like nothing but a meat market. I do the single moms activities, where it is just women, and that is fine, but I resist the pressure to do the mixed singles thing. I am no where near ready (not even officially divorced yet!) and may NEVER be ready for THAT scene! Some people don’t understand.

      I am glad to see the “divorce recovery group” thing mentioned too. I thought about getting into one of those, but was discouraged to see it was mixed (men and women). I feel like that is a prescription for disaster for some people. Also- the one I looked into said it was for people going through a “biblical divorce”. Who decides, and how is it decided, if you divorce is “biblical” or not. Sounds like another problem for me.

      • Biblical divorce is definitely a codeword. So they have no intention of supporting someone who’s going through a divorce they consider non-biblical? But wouldn’t the very fact that someone showed up at a divorce recovery group indicate that the person was devastated and hurting like crazy? I don’t know too many people who initiate a divorce just for funsies (or for clearly sinful reasons such as an affair) then run off to a recovery group.

        I stay away from mixed groups myself but mostly because I’m not on the market and don’t really want to explain to those men who are. Turning down dates was rough in high school– not really wanting a repeat, thanks much 🙂

  11. It’s good to be reading that the issue of abused women going into another abusive relationship is being raised. I was raised in an abusive home and up until the age of 32 was stuck in a cycle of abusive or unhealthy relationships. When I got saved, I was still not fit for a relationship (sometimes we think accepting Jesus is going to fix all that straight away!). I had a work to do. I had to take resonsibility for my lack of ability to discern abusive character, taking care of my needs in unhealthy ways, what caused me to repeat the cycle and with God break it. I dated and made mistakes, some were healthier than others, one was very unsafe to date. However, I kept going back to God and earnestly seeking, wisdom, understanding and breakthrough because I wanted to be in a safe healthy, loving relationship and believed that with Him I could.

    Sometimes we are so afraid of making another mistake, we choose not to date ever again and say we will practice celibacy and singleness. I think for many this is a wise choice if they do not know the path on how to break the cycle and buid intimacy with someone capable of it. Some I find would rather keep blaming the abusers and say they hate all men and use that as a reason to stay away from the hard work of becoming a whole woman who can build whole relationships.

    The work is worth it, my change has allowed me to modle healty relationships to my kids. My son, has broken his cycle of choosing women who use him. My daughter’s journey is slower but at least when she does turn to me, I can give her the right response, the right wisdom and show her that path to breaking the cycle. She is changing. You can’t do that if you remain single after abuse and never work on becoming whole, you don’t have good gifts to offer those who need it around you. You can ony offer them your brokeness.

    I am now with a man who is whole and enjoying a safe relationship and for the last six years been delivering workshops, coaching and counselling services to women on how to break the cycle. I also wrote a devotional bookd for dating women about being in a cycle of painful relationships.

    I have seen many women date in safe ways and end abusive relationships as result of beign willing to do the hard, painful work of breaking the cycle.. Learning what abuse is, is only the start, we also need to work out our core and develop our characters and do the stuff of ‘growing up’ and completing our developmental needs that were not done in childhood and further neglected as adults (and why we keep repeating the cycle).

    We are never responsible for abuse but we are responsible for staying safe. Let us embrace our part in ending the cycle rather than fearing man and what he can do or fearing we have no choice but to stay single cause we can never build something healthy. Let’s no neglect our courageous work of becoming whole women and saving future generations the curse of domestic abuse repeating in our familes.

    • Hi Jo,

      I like what you have to say here and really appreciate it. There’s one line, however, that I don’t agree with:

      “You can’t do that if you remain single after abuse and never work on becoming whole, you don’t have good gifts to offer those who need it around you. You can ony offer them your brokeness.”

      While I believe with all my heart that God *can* use a romantic type relationship to heal and bring wholeness, I firmly believe you can work on attitudes toward men, work on becoming whole and offer good gifts to those around us without dating or remarriage.

      There are many ways to relate to men and romantic involvement is only one. Getting to know my brothers in Christ brings healing and wholeness and teaches healthy boundaries. Not wanting to remarry doesn’t mean I don’t want to heal and/or refuse to put in the work.

      • I agree, I have chosen to stay single, the place of wholeness is just the opposite of being in another romantic relationship. I can offer my full self, including any Godly gifts I may have, share them with my friends, family and especially my children. Your wholeness comes from your relationshiop with God, your maker and your husband. MY humble opinion is you have to be whole on your own, within yourself, THEN you are able to share the side of God with a mate.

  12. One more comment, there is early warning signs before abuse gets into full swing. Such as:

    Continually speaking about himself – he is a poor listener
    Your views feel discounted
    Something in you feels unsettled every time you leave his presence
    You say no, but you find he has a way of pressing you around to his view
    He speaks poorly of past partners or blames them for everything
    The courtship is intense
    He doesn’t like to wait
    He seems helpless in some way, you feel needed and want to care take him
    You feel you are always waiting for him to recognise what you need or hear you
    He wants things his way

    The path is subtle but controlling behaviours don’t just appear, he increases his power as the victim gives in (perhaps believing she should be earnestly supporting her partner through compromise). An abusive man lacks empathy, the ability to see things from your side……, if you know character, you will be able to discern a man’s ability or inability to step into your shoes and see things from your views.

    Learn to say no and keep your personal relationships and intersests alive while dating
    Know your core values in dating and stand on them
    Date from your core values, not on how you feel being with that person or your unmet needs
    Feel deeply loved and accepted before you date, don’t go out there if you still don’t feel good enough to meet someone who can treat you right
    Lose the attitude that all men are the same, if you believe this, you have not healed the wounds and got to the stage you know in your heart that there are good men out there ( you can’t hate men and expect to love one at the same time)
    Learn to trust your intuition and leading of the Holy Spirit, don’t make excuses for things that you see and don’t like. A good man will respect your no and listen to your needs. If you don’t set boundaries in dating you will be more likely to accept abuse.
    Learn to be truthful and a woman of truth. Living in denial may be a way to survive abuse but it is not a tool for starting or building a healthy relationship If you deny what you really need and ‘settle’ or excuse the other person, you are more likely to set yourself up for someone that is not right for you. People who lie can’t tolerate people who speak to the truth, denial goes hand in hand with others who are deceitful.

    just some suggestions……

    • Jo this is great stuff. In looking over the warning signs you listed, I can only say I only experienced one (or maybe two) of them as I was getting to know my second husband.

      1. He seemed helpless in some way, and I wanted to care take him. But he also seemed morally strong, much stronger than any other man I’d met, in that during the ‘getting to know you’ period and the courtship and engagement, and during the first part of the marriage, he actively and vigorously supported all the work I was doing to combat domestic abuse within Christianity. This ‘but’ was so impressive, it carried so much weight in my assessment of him, that perhaps I let it override the warning sign of “wanting to take care of this man who needs someone to care for him a bit.”

      2. He spoke poorly of past partners and blamed them for everything. But in the case of his second wife (the one prior to me) she had been really crazy, I have heard that from independent witnesses who knew her well. So his account of that woman and how she had mistreated him is, I think, pretty accurate.
      I never got independent verification of his claims about his first wife. He claimed that she left him because she became a lesbian. One doesn’t wish to probe in to the truth of such a claim! And even if I did probe, could I be sure I had found out the truth? So I never attempted to verify it.

      The other seven items on your warning sign list, did not apply at all in the early stages (friendship, courtship, engagement, early marriage). In fact, the very opposite of each of them applied.
      He didn’t continually speak about himself, he was a good listener.
      My views did not feel discounted, they felt supported and validated.
      I never felt unsettled when I left his presence; I felt grounded, comfortable, sensible, ‘myself’.
      I never felt my ‘no’ or my preferences overridden: it was the opposite, if anything – I often had to probe or prompt him to tell me *his* preferences and his wishes.
      He was very happy to wait, to leave the friendship just as a friendship, he did not pressure me into courtship. When I eventually became keen on him in a romantic way the courtship went quickly from there, but it was not due to his impatience in particular, I myself had a desire to move forward quickly from that point.
      I never felt I was waiting for him to recognise what I needed or hear me.
      And he didn’t always want things his way (as I said, he usually was backward in coming forward with what *he* wanted).

      HOWEVER, most of those things in the paragraph above were things he displayed increasingly in the second year of the marriage, and it was those things (plus a few others) that were the reason the marriage ended.

      And one more thing: right until nearly the end, he was backward in coming forward with his preferences, at least, he was like that when he was quiet and sober. But he used this really deviously to make out that I had *pressured* him into a certain choices because he had listened to my ‘subtle tone of voice’ and ‘discerned’ what my preference really was, and chosen what I wanted rather than what he wanted…. But (he claimed) I’d been manipulating him all the time, with my subtle tones of voice, to enforce my will on him. (crazy making stuff, if ever there was!)

      • Maybe the wife prior to you, was VERY angry at his abuse and was one of those people who did not handle being judged by him and others in a nice way. Either way, you cannot verify she was REALLY crazy based on HIS statements or the OPINION of others….that is like gossip, maybe he already got to the people you asked about her also. Yes their are CRAZY people in this world, but related to HIS abuse of YOU and no doubtedly THEM, seems a slippery slope to announce that she REALLY was crazy, when in fact we do not REALLY know.

  13. I agree so much, Ida Mae. I can’t imagine ever remarrying at this point, if ever. Of course, the ink is not even dry on the divorce papers for me, so I SHOULDN’T be thinking about it yet! 😉 Yet, people are already trying to set me up, and it just blows my mind!!! (And frankly, makes me a little mad.)

    Something you said struck such a chord – “In my own life (including family and friendships), I’ve witnessed few healthy partnerships.” Ditto here. I look around at my friends’ marriages, and see that they are all experiencing abuse to some degree or another. It grieves me. Maybe there is a high percentage of it in my circle of friends because they are “Christian” marriages, so it is excused as “the way it is supposed to be”. I even have a friend who is in her second marriage, having escaped a horrible first marriage to a drug addict and adulterer, and things she tells me about her current marriage make me cringe. I feel like I can’t say anything, but should I…?

    For now, I am thrilled with being single. Yes, I get lonely and have feelings just like everyone else. But why would I trade my freedom and autonomy and safety for becoming someone’s slave again? I just can’t imagine marriage being any other way, because I’ve never witnessed it being so. In anyone. Ever.

    • I’m really enjoying singleness myself, Julie. Really, seriously, truly. I know that’s hard to understand for some who are so lonesome but there *is* a joy in this state.

      I can concentrate on things besides relationship issues and enjoy simple pleasures. The freedom is such a treat after so many years of bondage.

      For those who want to remarry, I think that’s fine. But some don’t and that’s fine too.

      • Gods the one who directs our hearts and minds of where we should be. Lonelliness is painful, sometimes our feelings push us towards decisions that will take those feelings away, rather than riding through them, seeing what evolves when they dissipate. Usually a better version of you!

  14. I am so glad to have found this conversation today. It set me to thinking. I am legally separated, and not planning for divorce. It was a hard decision as to how to handle my situation. I had not yet read Barbara’s book or any others on how to handle an abusive marriage like mine. Like others above, I have no desire for another husband. I still have one, and had hoped that we could each work on our own problems while separated, with the hope that the Lord would some day bring us back together, after reconciling us each to himself first. Now I know what is necessary for that to happen.

    Like Cindy above, I began to understand the men in my life a lot better when I read Wild at Heart. Sadly, it was too late for my marriage, but it has helped me in my relationship with my grown son.

    What has helped most, however, has been my experience with Captivating,Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul. I just completed a 10 week small group video study that has aided my recovery tremendously. It was through the book that I first heard about “ezer kenegdo” and the powerful meaning that this term for Eve at the time of creation carries. I can also understand Christ as my bridegroom, and me as his beloved. He is the only one who can answer my deepest questions, longings and desires. It was a hard-fought battle, but I am no longer double-minded about who to please.

    Isaiah 61 is now burnt into my mind and heart. This is assuredly “the year of the Lord’s favor”. As in Hosea 2, the Lord is ‘my husband’ in the truest sense of the word. And my wounded heart is healing.

  15. Not my best recommendation for spouses, Barbara. I don’t need a knight on a white horse to rescue me, to take me under his wing and be my authority. I have the Lord for that. Lots of folks like it, but I find many young men, including my son, quite put off by it.

  16. Thanks so much to all who have posted here. I survived over 21 years of abuse by a “supposed Christian” and have been free for 2 1/2 years now. One book that has helped so much with my healing process is “Foolproofing Your Life” by Jan Silvious. It is based on the book of Proverbs. It does not speak the usual “Christian” message of forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe so strongly in this book that I have given out nearly 40 copies in the last 2 years. Midday Connection has had the author on numerous times, one way just this past week – http://www.moodyradio.org/brd_ProgramDetail.aspx?id=86661

    Another book is “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick. It’s also written from a christian perspective, but has real answers and help.

    Women need help, and the Church is unaware or does not know how to help. We who have lived it need to speak up and help everyone who can. The more women I can help to not live another day in a situation like I did, the better!

  17. Ya it is not included in the wedding vows “” I promise I will make your life a living hell, I will tortue you, and your children, I will lie, manipulate, contort others views of my actions until you think your crazy, then I promise to threaten, stalk, and leave you feeling helpless, I promise to financially control, and threaten you and your children till death do we part” …….

    The same people that are supporting abusers are blaming most victoms of the same belief you once had….that he is a STAND UP GUY!!!! later when they ALSO see the truth, they sure arent going to admit they were manipulated also and they did not even FALL in love with him at one point, and have children with him. So yes its no mystery why other women say it would NEVER happen to them, then when it does, they do not want to talk about it……that servers the abuser great joy I am sure!

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