Tag Archives: christian divorce

Recommended: The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Forgiveness by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood

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This one article can set you free. No kidding. If only I’d understand how this cycle of build-up/abuse/honeymoon worked, so many things would’ve been different.

I don’t talk much about the good times because looking back, there weren’t any. And yet the beast said I love you every single day. He cried if his last blow up were particularly heinous, he brought home flowers and even the occasional you’re-a-wonderful-wife Hallmark card.

He also demanded that I forgive him instantly and never mention the incident again. He made sure I realized this was really my own fault an if I weren’t such a rotten wife, things would be different. After all, how much can a man be expected to take?

When he admitted to using porn, he demanded instant reconciliation– as in, I got one night to be upset and I’d better be ready to go by the next. For some strange reason, this didn’t work out so well.

What I didn’t know? The anti-husband acted like a typical abuser– build-up the tension, look for an excuse to rage followed by The Incident, then his idea of repentance. Other women use to come in my kitchen  and make over the flowers on the table, totally unaware I paid for every single one in ways they wouldn’t understand. Those were not I-love-you flowers, those were I’m a jack-ass flowers (but now that I’ve brought them home, you have to forgive and forget or you’re the one in trouble.)

Here’s an excerpt from Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood’s article:

Another common and wicked tactic of the “Christian” abuser is his insistence, on supposed biblical grounds, that his victim continually forgive him and love him. Anyone who knows much at all about the nature of abuse will realize that abuse occurs in a cyclical manner which involves several stages. The stage that comes right after the big blowup stage is commonly called the “honeymoon stage.” During this time, which can be short or long, the abuser can appear to be contrite, remorseful and even very kind. He expresses remorse over what he has done and promises it will never happen again. He makes promises that he’ll change, that this time all will be different. He might buy presents for his victim, fulfill a few past promises made to her or even appear to take an interest in spiritual things. His promises are all nonsense, of course. In fact, because his supposed sorrow and repentance is FALSE (he even has himself deceived about it), the cycle WILL repeat itself. After all, that is the nature of a “cycle,” right?

When the abuser “repents,” he always includes more or less flagrant demands that the victim needs to forgive him. He will often throw in a couple of “false guilt/blaming” missiles about how his abuse was caused at least in part by the victim. None of this is true repentance. In fact, this is abuse itself. The honeymoon period is within the cycle of abuse and is just another aspect of the abuse. It contributes to the confusion of the victim and works to strengthen the abuser’s control over her.

Head over here to read the rest.

Nowadays, I buy my own flowers, thanks much.

Interview Over at Moving On After He Moves Out

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Not long ago, I found a new blog by Angela Ruth Strong, Moving On After He Moves Out, commented on one of her smarty pants remarks and got myself interviewed. Life is odd sometimes.

I love her site and the way she handles the tough issues of divorce with honesty and grace.

Angela asked some tough questions, some I haven’t bothered to ask myself just yet. Things like, “How long were you married and what was the image of your marriage that was presented to the world?” and “Where are you now in the healing journey?

The image of my marriage that was presented to the world?

Apologies may be in order.

To read the interview go here, then check out her awesome writing. Thank you so much Angela for having me!

Recommended: Cindy Burrell: Ezine Articles and Other Good Stuff

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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…

…nothing.

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 Know How the Blind Man Felt

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?

Working Through Bad Memories

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.

Cindy has twenty-two articles and every single one is gold. You can find the complete list here. Cindy and her husband have a wonderful blog that highlights her books and the forums I mentioned here. When you visit, please leave her a few encouraging words and tell her Ida Mae sent you.

Naked Pencil Dance~ A Little Clarification

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This blog began with two objectives. Be honest, Help others. Seems straightforward enough but just for funsies, let’s make a few clarifications.

In the spirit of self-disclosure, I curse sometimes in rough draft. Those spicy little words are not intended to make it to the blog. Years ago while writing fiction, I learned that allowing the subconscious to speak brings wild-eyed revelations, particularly for someone who locked away her feelings for so long. Sometimes it indicates anger or bitterness. I’m not afraid of anger anymore and considering everything that happened, anger is a reasonable response. Bitterness on the other hand, sends down roots and defiles many. I do not want to be a bitter person. Therefore,  I treat these posts the same way I treat counseling. Everything goes to the Father. Writing gives me plenty to pray about.

If you find a word or two offensive, it probably got skipped over in editing which might in itself indicate a need for extra prayer sessions. I’m not ashamed of calling the estranged a jackass, I simply don’t want to turn others off who might possess more delicate sensibilities. Once upon a time, I was very delicate myself, an outwardly holy armor to keep from having to think too much. If you find the entire post offensive, then you and me have a problem. I can’t change who I am or what I’m going through and while my natural tendency’s to stay quiet, stay in hiding and lick my wounds, that helps no one.

One day, I hope to write about these issues in my own name. Therefore, every word on this blog is mine and I own it. Someday, when the Lord and circumstances release me, I’ll out myself. I’m not hiding behind anonymity to write any old thing I want. I’m hiding because my family is still in danger.

This is my Angry Face

I have feelings—good, bad or indifferent, they are mine. In my fifth decade, I’m finally learning to identify emotions like anger, sadness, humiliation. In some ways, my emotional health is woefully immature and its liable to peek through from time to time.

Everything you see here is just me, struggling with those nasty little emotion thingies. You’ll find no self-censoring, no judgment calls about the rightness or wrongness of any feeling unless, of course, I’m feeling guilty in which case I’m likely to beat myself about the head and shoulders whilst waxing eloquent on my many moral failings.

I do try to be honest but honesty took a turn a few years back. From the moment the I-do’s were said, I took sole responsibility for any and all marital problems while the beast took none. I didn’t realize this was the case for quite awhile but once it became clear he blamed me and me alone for anything and everything he said or did, I knew I just couldn’t carry this burden any longer.

Did I make mistakes? All the time but I’m learning, not so many as I once thought.  Do I share some of the blame? Indeed, but not in the ways I always suspected.

So you won’t see much groveling here. I spent way too much time groveling before someone helpful enough to grind me in the dirt. Frankly, I’m done.

Assumptions Make an Ass

If you’re wondering, I’m not given to making assumptions. So when I say he blamed me, he did. Literally. It isn’t nice to pretend to know what’s going on in someone else’s head and I will not write something here unless he said it himself. Sometimes I may qualify things—he seemed to think, he acted like we were, I got the idea that he—but if there’s no qualifier, it’s straight from the jackass’s mouth.

Laying on your back at the bottom of the pigpen, its hard sometimes to find the diamonds in the muck. One blessing in disguise occurred because I stayed so very long. The beast began to say the most astonishing things. He said out loud things I suspected but never quite believed, at first only to me, later in front of our grown children. I’m guessing he got so comfortable with his level of control and my submission to his every whim,  he literally thought he could get away with saying anything simply by denying it loudly later. I could list a few dozen examples but perhaps it’s best to let those crop up organically in the stories.

Beastly Man, Really

I’ve had a couple of comments about calling the estranged the beast. It’s much nicer than anything else I’ve called him for awhile now but this will probably not make the critics happy either.

A husband, by definition, loves and protects his wife. He should be proud she’s his, think she’s awesome, want to see her grow and learn, nurturing her gifts, gently living out his life with her while they both become more like the Savior. The two grow together in grace.

Living on the other side of the Looking Glass hurts like bloody hell.

Discovering you’re married to someone who hates you, who wants to dominate, control, manipulate your every thought and action—that’s a tough cookie to choke on.

Since the day I found out just how much my husband despises me, I’ve had a hard time admitting we’re married (which we are, by law even if the marriage is zombie-fried.) Sitting across the table from someone for seven days and listening as they outline how much they truly hate you cannot be described. Forget my heart, felt like someone blew away my entire chest cavity.

The problem went something like this. I thought I married someone flawed but somewhat reasonable, someone with similar values, goals and beliefs. I didn’t. I married someone lacking in things essential to personhood—things like a conscience, empathy, reasoning skills. Because of this, he didn’t see me as a person either which made any sort of cooperative relationship impossible. For him, it was all a contest. Win or lose, me or him.

When I call him the beast, I’m not trying to be mean. It’s simply a fitting description.

Full Disclosure

At some point, I intend to write about some really bad days.

Writing is cathartic. I rearrange things, place them in their proper spots, look for patterns, find the beginning, middle, and wrap it all up. It helps process things I might otherwise internalize. For example, when the Going to Hell email arrived, I literally felt a sensation of flying apart. I couldn’t read, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think. Then the numbness set in. Hurt gave way to nothing. Nothing at all. In case you’re wondering, kiddies, this is not good.

I set the email aside, prayed like crazy, showed it to a friend and let her tell me what it said, called another friend the next day and ranted for over an hour, then sunk into a blinding pit for several days. Only then did I feel strong enough to reread the missive and only because my original email asked questions about financial things and the answers were  somewhere in that mess of damning my soul.

It wasn’t until I hit the keyboard that relief oozed in and the absurdity in his demented raving became crystal. That post helped heal my spirit.

A dear friend does the same with her art. She loses herself in the colors and shapes, stretching beautiful scripture around her pictures like windsongs. Another plays the piano, pouring herself into the melody, the throbbing, pounding chords of the old spirituals and hymns. Our creativity is a direct reflection of our Creator, a living gift. We cannot heal ourselves but the Spirit of the Living God, working in beauty and harmony with his creation can partner with us to pull us right side up again.

I did not write the day I fell apart. I wrote on the upswing. I do believe to be truly helpful, I need to let you peek into the anguish that overtakes my soul, the pit my enemy dug just for me. It won’t be pretty. By God’s grace, I don’t live there anymore.

But if one dear lamb can be helped by my honesty, then it’s what I have to offer. If one other can recognize my brokenness through these words, maybe they can recognize the wreckage in others. Maybe they can begin to see their own.

Maybe we can stop trying to be so perfect and just be.

Recommended: Abuse 101 from A Cry for Justice

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Excellent article over at A Cry for Justice titled,” Abuse 101- The Mentality and Tactics of Abuse.” I’d love to just quote the whole thing but check out these gems, then go read every single word on their website. Seriously, Pastor Pippen and Ms. Woods do such a wonderful job defining domestic abuse its like water in the desert. Someone in ministry finally gets it.

Abuse is fundamentally a mentality of entitlement and superiority which uses many different tactics to obtain and enforce the power and control the abuser deems himself entitled to. The abuser judges himself to be absolutely justified in using whatever tactics are necessary to ensure this power and control over his victim.

and another…

The abuser is the center of his universe. He views his victims as objects owned by him to serve him. A person with no empathy nor conscience obviously will objectify others – make them into a kind of non-human – and this makes it easier for him to use and abuse them. Because his worldview is one of entitlement and superiority, he minimizes, excuses, and blames others for the wicked things he says and does to his victim. After all, in his evaluation of the thing, he is absolutely justified in doing “what a man has to do” to keep his property in line.

To be understood? Makes me want to cry. Thank you both, so very much.

So This Week, I’m Going to Hell?

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Just when I think maybe the anti-husband’s had just a wee change of heart, along comes an email to set my weary mind at ease.

As I said earlier, I limit contact for various reasons but since our finances are still joined at the hip, I can’t break contact completely. A two hundred dollar purchase loomed on the near  horizon. The charge would show up on his records, the man will rave.  Predictable but not so much fun..

So I spent an entire day in prayer before crafting a letter outlining the state of our finances here and expenses looming on the horizon. An entire day, people. Let’s take a moment to pause and think calmly about this ~

(Selah)

The kids and I aren’t exactly living it up over here. A brave, dear sister took us in. I slept on a cot in her bedroom for the first six months.  She doesn’t ask for rent, I haven’t been able to help  beyond food and toiletries. I help out with housework and laundry, she provided a safe place for the little’s to finish school.

The man has an excellent income. He also is in control of a business which brings in cash—lots of cash—every month. A business I started myself and ran until I had to run. Which means, a two hundred dollar curriculum purchase  is not going to break anyone. Sounds like whining I know but seriously? When you get to a point you’d rather live in a box under a bridge, things like money just don’t matter so much.

So to recap: Pray all day, get peace, write email mentioning the coming purchase as well as carefully outlining what’s coming up in the next few months (you know, wild extravagances like teeth cleaning and a mammogram) hit send and get doomed to the pits of a fiery hell.

Seriously.

The response came in three parts. If he could just practice a little brevity, but I digress.

Part 1—We’re broke, it’s your fault because you left.

Part 2—I’ve changed. But I would’ve been a perfect saint all these years if it weren’t for you therefore the reason I had to change is your fault. God has spoken to me about many things listed here in this email which proceeds straight from the Lips of Heaven. You should do a word study. I have. Because I’m holy and no way you are because you left.

Part 3—I now proclaim myself a prophet with divine unction and God is telling me, rightthisverymoment, that you had better repent! repent! repent! as your mortal and immortal soul is in danger. (Extra exclamation marks edited out, your welcome.)

Lots of love, the anti-husband

Sigh.

Printed out, this email would be pages and pages, full of half-formed sound bites I highly suspect he heard elsewhere as the man hasn’t had an original thought since he took to pickling his brain in earnest five years ago. Did it bother me? Oh yeah. I hate this sort of throw-everything-in the road and hope-something-sticks type thing.

I spent most of that evening trying to decide exactly what he was trying to get me to forget which is not my favorite activity. In the back of my mind the thought keeps ringing, I have to answer this. I cannot let this jerk say I’ve left Christ by leaving his sorry butt. Another part of my brain said to shut up, hold still, let it go.

Deep breaths.

I realized pretty quick what all the hubbub was about. A quick search of the online bank statement shows he gave a very large portion of savings away to his church, I’m guessing to buy the position he now occupies as a teacher of the men’s Bible study. Whatever. I’m certainly not arguing about money sent to his church even if I do think they’re nuts to let some guy in off the street and put him in ministry less than three months later. I’ll buy the curriculum, get my breasts flattened and be the bigger person.

And then the forward arrived, a lovely little study on repentance he’d received in his inbox *that very morning* which of course confirmed  God had both spoken to him of my need to repent and confirmed his new found role as prophet. The fact this devotional was written to Men Only and spoke specifically of the way men struggle with Pride and Stubbornness  seemed to miss his notice. It did not miss mine, however, as I tend to be observant like that.

Which is when I realized I had to answer or I’d get more email altar calls than a pants-wearing Pentecostal.

Time to set a boundary. Good gravy I hate that word. Mostly because I’m so very bad at setting them.

My response, both short and eloquent follows (although I cannot claim divine inspiration as only one person per email volley is allowed that luxury and I had no daily devotionals arrive in my inbox to back up said claim):

“I did not leave my first love (Jesus), I left a man who abused his wife and family. My immortal soul is not in danger.  I sent an email on finances and  I don’t appreciate your dooming me to everlasting darkness. In all this time, I’ve never once pulled the God card on  you and the Lord above knows I could so cut it out already.”

His response was swift. Paraphrased of course: “God did so tell me to say that and I know because I ‘felt compelled.’ None of this is really my fault because you left me twenty years ago in spirit by pulling away in love and affection.”

So the hell of the last twenty years is my fault because—after ten years of verbal/ emotional abuse, threats of violence and  bullying—I pulled away? Even if the man were a perfect angel (which he wasn’t, trust) your wife pulls away and you get a free pass to blast the living crap out of both her and your children for two more decades?

Now *that* hurt.

I would say something witty and clever now but nothing comes to mind. This is the sort of twisted thinking that has me in counseling, trying  like thunder to sift through the wreckage.

And while the first email might have been laughable in its verbosity interspersed with delusions of grandeur, this salvo helped me remember why I finally gave up hope for a marriage that died way before the funeral.

Verbal Abuse 101

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Verbal abuse can be a difficult concept to understand. In fact, throughout the thirty plus years I was getting whipped about the head and shoulders, I argued a blue streak there was no such thing.

So here are a few verses for my old self in case I ever show up looking:

Proverbs 18:20-22 (AMP)

20A man’s [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil].

    21Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].

    22He who finds a [true] wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

I like this one in context. Notice how the verse before speaks of a man being satisfied with the consequences of his words, either good or bad. The verse after speaks of finding a wife. Interesting juxtaposition, no?

Psalm 57:3-4 (AMP)

3He will send from heaven and save me from the slanders and reproaches of him who would trample me down or swallow me up, and He will put him to shame. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! God will send forth His mercy and loving-kindness and His truth and faithfulness.

    4My life is among lions; I must lie among those who are aflame–the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.

Not sure who wrote this and too tired to click a few buttons and look it up but let’s make pretend I did and say it’s David. Pretty obvious nobody was biting on his legs or stabbing his gizzard with their tongue. In today’s pop-psychology speak, this verse would go something like, “I’m stuck here with a whole pack of verbally abusive bad guys and God’s going to get them good.” (Ida’s Imaginative Translation)

Psalm 64:2-4 (AMP)

2Hide me from the secret counsel and conspiracy of the ungodly, from the scheming of evildoers,

    3Who whet their tongues like a sword, who aim venomous words like arrows,

    4Who shoot from ambush at the blameless man; suddenly do they shoot at him, without self-reproach or fear.

Venomous words? I can relate.

Psalm 140:2-4 (AMP)

2They devise mischiefs in their heart; continually they gather together and stir up wars.

    3They sharpen their tongues like a serpent’s; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

    4Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent men who have purposed to thrust aside my steps.

Pause and think calmly? Dude—seriously. You’re triggering me over here.

Proverbs 15:3-4 Amplified Bible (AMP)

3The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch upon the evil and the good.

    4A gentle tongue [with its healing power] is a tree of life, but willful contrariness in it breaks down the spirit.

Some of the stuff flying  around my house was way worse than willful contrariness.

And of course:

The Entire Book of James

All that about the tongue being set of fire by hell and all.

No such thing as verbal abuse. Really? What was I thinking?

I’m guessing I wasn’t.

 

More to follow however, I received a scathing email from the anti-husband dooming me to the pits of hell and since I can’t respond the way I’d like, I plan to fuss here.

Just as soon as I stop bleeding.

No One Will Believe You

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Recently, I asked a friend for feedback on these first few articles. With her permission, I’m going to address a couple of concerns.

She said she was uncomfortable with the term, “the beast.” Was he really that bad?

And here we encounter a problem I’ve bumped my head against numerous times. She may have asked if the anti-husband really deserves to be called a beast, but that’s not what I heard. Without realizing it, my friend triggered a case of the Wild-Eyed Crazies.

What I heard: Are you exaggerating?

The scary part? I’m actually minimizing.

Folks want to believe only what they see. In the case of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and other cases where a dominate party violates the trust of those dependent on them, scars aren’t always visible. You can’t imagine how many times I wished the anti-husband would just hit me already so I could call the police.

It’s hard for those outside  the fractured family circle to understand the kind of torment these men dish out.  If I walked around covered in bruises, black eye, broken bones protruding through the skin, no one would question my angst. But we’re talking injuries you can’t see inflicted by actions no one else witnessed.  You’re just going to have to take my word for it and that’s a huge leap for those who can’t imagine anyone would purposefully hurt their own wife and children.

It also plays smack dab into the hands of the abuser.

Typical Family Time

The beast loved to verbally beat the bloody hell out of me and the kids right before company pulled into the driveway. Then as we stood there bleeding, he morphed into Totally Charming Man– witty, funny, man’s man, envy of wives everywhere.  Throughout the coming evening, he sat  back and watched, taking potshots at each of us in turn, saying things no one else could possibly understand without the subtext.

Challenge anything he said, I wound up looking like a heinous bitch. The kids react, he punished them publicly, making an example of them, showing his audience how fully he controlled his home. Was this abusive? Taken as an isolated incident, maybe not. Day by day, damaging friendships, dividing the individual family members from one another, isolating the family unit which no longer wants outside contact with the world– You bet it was.

Could anyone else tell what was going on?

Only if they’d lived through  something similar. Later, several friends came and apologized. One said, “I lived with an abusive alcoholic father for 18 years and you had red flags waving all over the place. I should’ve known.”

Appearances Are Deceiving

Ours looked like the perfect Christian home. Others wanted to model our success. But please understand—if you only saw us sitting in a pew an hour on Sunday morning, is that really any indication of what goes on behind closed doors?  If you come over once every three months for barbeque and cream soda, can you possibly have any inkling what’s going to happen the minute your car pulls out of the driveway?

Tell Me What Happened

I can’t. If I told you I was sexually abused as a child, would you ask me for details? Would you want me to recount the incidents, one by one so you could judge for yourself how damaging these might  be? Would you decide that fondling really isn’t all that bad and I should be over it by now? Or get into a discourse about how your neighbor’s wife was repeatedly sodomized and that is much, much worse. In comparison, what you describe doesn’t sound  like abuse at all.

And yet, abused women who live with hateful domination, verbal onslaughts lasting hours on end, raging fits designed to punish them for their crimes,  and constant  threats of violence  get this reaction all the time. Tell me a few incidents. Tell me what happened. The implied message? I’ll be the judge of whether this is abusive.

The very worst incidents are the ones I don’t want to remember. The words ‘domination’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘bullying’ are codewords for memories that lap at the edges of the very stuff it takes to get through another day. I use them to talk about what happened without plunging back into the muck. A triggered memory–one that shows up without invitation– can set back recovery by days, weeks, even months, depending on  how long  it takes to find the shreds of truth that barely hold me up and weave them back together.

It’s taken years to even admit to myself that abuse took place. How can I expect you to understand in the thirty minutes before you head back to your semi-normal family and the husband who may annoy the crap out of you, but never would purposefully set out to destroy your soul?

Google This:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Sexual Domination
  • Manipulation and Control.

If you really want to help,  really want to understand, you’ll have to educate yourself. Material is out there, pages and pages of the stuff. You’ll have to put criticism to one side and realize that women and children coming out of these marriages are showing the *effects* of abuse.

Please try to understand:

That pain you see, making you uncomfortable, isn’t free floating out there in space.

Something caused it.

*Someone* caused it.

The pain itself is a pretty dadgum good indication the story is authentic and, Yes Virginia, it really was that bad.

Don’t  judge  victims based on your own observations. You can’t see the damage done to the human spirit with eyeballs. You can’t examine the broken and bloody soul, x-ray the innards, assess the wreckage. What you *will* see is a fairly put together woman who’s learned to shut up and play nice, peeking out around the very frayed edges who probably overreacts to seemingly minor statements.

You can’t expect a survivor to explain in ten minutes it took her a lifetime to understand.

Why Did I Stay?

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Why did you stay?

I have no idea.

All I possess are tiny scraps,  embryos that might grow into possible half truths that will never tell the whole story.

As futile as the exercise might be, I still wrestle with the question every single day.

You Don’t Have Grounds

At first I stayed because I couldn’t catch him at anything.  I was told bullying wasn’t actual violence, threats weren’t actual abuse, raging fits were differences of expression. Scraps of paper with women’s names and numbers in his wallet were meaningless. Refusing to introduce me to his friends we met while out shopping only showed a lack of social graces on his part and revealed  much more about my suspicious nature. Old girlfriends calling the house meant nothing.  Everyone drunk dials occasionally. Oh! And you didn’t actually catch him with the porn, now did you?

In the prison of my narrow world, no proof meant no grounds for divorce.

Woman, Submit!

I stayed because those in my church  were quick to assign blame for marital problems on wives, not husbands. Took years to realize this wasn’t personal but a result of years of women-blaming going way back to Adam, Eve and one tricky reptile.

Blame the woman. She’s suppose to be the helpmeet so get busy with the helping already. Your man struggles with sin? Clearly a reflection of the many ways you failed him as a wife. Want to read more on this, head over to this site. (Just not after a big meal.)

Any Father is Better Than Divorce

Later on, I stayed for the children. The anti-husband told me on numerous occasions that no woman would ever take his kids away from him. He’d get full custody, he’d make my life a living hell, he’d turn them against me, I’d never see them again.  I believed him.

Perhaps it was arrogance, but I thought I could protect the children by staying right where I was— a living wall between them  and their father, even if it killed me.  I could punch his buttons just fine, thanks much, deflect his anger away from them and take the hit while they ran for their rooms. I figured, I’m plenty big, they’re little. I can take it, they can turn eighteen and get out of this hell hole.

He hadn’t crossed the line into physical abuse at that point (although the line was getting mighty soggy) and the children would get an earful of his twisted thinking during visitation. And who knew what he’d do without someone around to call the police?  The idea of the beast, alone with a pile of hurting pups who adored his every word at that point in their young lives scared the crap out of me.

The problem with that reasoning? By that time, I had no idea where the lines might be so how could I judge if he’d crossed one or not? When he screamed at our twelve year old daughter over how long it took to wash the dishes, grabbed her bodily and pinned her against the wall over his head, shaking her—that wasn’t physical abuse, was it? When he berated the kids for hours at a time before whipping them across the backside until they bruised—that was just discipline, right?

A woman who’s been emotionally and verbally battered for over a decade is punch drunk. Reasoning? What does that even mean? More like surviving, one crisis to the next, waiting for the another round to begin.

Saying I stayed for the kids sticks in *my* craw these days. Maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I’d been a little braver, left a lot sooner,  maybe I would’ve met a kind man who modeled love for the children.

This is my biggest regret and on this particular topic, hindsight hasn’t  help one bit.

I Must be Crazy

The fault must lie within the one whining about the difficulty of her outwardly perfect  life. Hadn’t I been told time and time again how blessed I was to have such a perfect husband? Handsome and charming and such a godly man! After the thirty-second time some lady cries at your dining table, confessing her sin of envy over your perfect marriage you, start to think you must be nuts.

Later, the anti-husband learned a little trick called, Gaslighting. Look it up. This made the last five years particularly fun.

God Hates Divorce and He Doesn’t Like Me Much Either

Whatever reasons, large or small, there’s one I identified only recently. I stayed because I believed  its what God required.

As a Christian teenager, I prayed for a husband. Through various supernatural answers to prayer, I came to believe God gave me this man. So if you pray for a husband and God gives you a monster, what does that tell you? Well, if God is good, then I must be bad.

Maybe I didn’t start out with such twisted logic, but the verbal and emotional battery eventually had its way with my psyche.  I deserved this man, this marriage. I was unclean, shameful. I needed to be punished. This was the kind of husband I deserved.

So I stayed, thick or thin, bad or worse. He was my cross to bear. I would be transformed through suffering into the image of Jesus Christ.

Bunkum.

I was not bad or unclean or shameful. I was, however, quite broken.

When I prayed for a fish, my enemy was more than ready to slip in a scorpion and at the ripe old age of eighteen, I couldn’t  recognize a loaf of bread if Gabriel himself made delivery.  (Vague reference to Matthew 7:9-11)

But broken or not, I was also  forgiven and covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Those miraculous answers to prayer?  I believed I was flawed, I saw what I was looking for.  And the man in question was more than willing to manipulate my emotions any way possible to get what he wanted.

If I’d had any understanding of a loving, protective, merciful earthly father, I never would have fallen for the lie. My Father in heaven is a good, good God and He never intended for anyone to live in a daily hell of one tyrant’s rage and control.

So why did I stay?

Once I learned to truth, I didn’t.

There’s Always a Message

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Today the little check came in the mail, money from my mother’s estate. A few hundred dollars every month he believes he deserves and shouldn’t have to send.

When I finally left after three decades of non-stop verbal and emotional abuse, I stopped all communication with the beast. Much later, I told a counselor the only way I got out was on the run, hands over my ears chanting, “I know the truth, I know the truth, I know the truth.”

All others voices had to stop to save my family.

Early in our relationship, the Estranged learned that if he just keep talking long enough and loud enough,  he’d elicit some emotional response—fear, anxiety, guilt.  Any one of those in sufficient quantities and he knew I’d cave to his current demands. He’d put another in the win column. Nothing would ever change.

Confusion was his favorite weapon. Change the subject, get loud, get furious.  So once I was out and my family safe, I  turned off the cell phone and checked voicemail a few times a day. The kids knew how to get in touch. That’s all I cared about at that moment.

It took decades to understand that  the way he treated us defined abuse. The man was vicious and he enjoyed the carnage. I lost hope years back he’d ever change and while running and hiding isn’t exactly pretty, sometimes you just have to do the needful things.

Of course once the phone calls ended, the emails began. Those of a long and ranting nature (which meant every stinking one during those first days) met the trash bin without reply. Anything I absolutely had to address got the short and not-so-sweet treatment.

“The gas bill is in the drawer with all the others. Ida”

“Insurance is due in three months. You can’t find a copy because they haven’t sent the renewal yet. Ida”

“I will not return the car. I need transportation. Ida”

I deleted all the curse words before sending. Mom would be so proud. . .

My lack of communication infuriates The Estranged but then what doesn’t?  After three decades I know:

Anger is his go-to emotion.

Rage his drug.

 I’m his target.

Once the emails stopped, I started getting messages through friends. A six page, rambling letter (hand written, mind you) about how disappointed one woman is in my failures as a wife and Christian and how sorry she is to see that I’ve ‘hardened my heart against my husband.’ She understands because she has anger issues too! And if I’d just read these lovely books she sent on anger management, surely I would see the error of my wicked ways.

I keep this one on the shelf, tucked inside the book she sent. Someday, I just might send this Ivy League graduate a discourse on the difference between Anger and Fear.

Others messages were more subtle and bespoke the same confusion I struggled with day after day for so long.  My mother calling after a particularly long rant-fest with the beast, begging me to have my teenage son ‘just talk’ to his dad so the man would let up on us. A friend who’s support will always mean the world to me,  slipping into conversations about how my husband is calling hers and ‘You know he’s gone back to church, teaching Bible study now, doing all the right things’ and ‘he says you won’t even go to counseling.’

So when the check came in the mail today, the heart rate went  orbital. Recent messages have been subtle but oh-so-very clear. And in ways only another woman who’s ever spent the night thinking her husband’s coming up the stairs to blow out her brains could possibly understand—more threatening.

There was no letter. No note, no card. No meaningless little notation on how he’ll love me forever or signed, Faithfully, The Beast. Nope—that’s all over.

He simply wrote my name in big bold letters. He added Mrs. to the front. And scrawled a heavy underline beneath my last name to remind me who’s name I still carry.

Not for long you anti-husband you.

Not for long.