Tag Archives: spiritual abuse

Recommended: I Have a Dream by Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts

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There’s a short post over on Anna’s blog titled I Have a Dream by Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts. I can’t quote  here without giving away the punchline but anything that involves YouTube videos, rotten tomatoes (properly blessed, of course) and a rephrasing of Mark 11:27-33 gets my vote for Best Blog Post Before Breakfast.

Seriously guys– there aren’t enough tomatoes on the planet.

Covering as God Never Intended

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For years,  I covered for my husband. I thought telling the truth about our family was disloyal. I refused to be anything other than positive, upbeat and supportive which meant for the most part, I kept strangely silent.

My husband did not reciprocate. He took subtle jabs in front of company calling me such lovely names as dimwit and ninny. I shrugged and walked away. To any of our former house guests, in case you’re wondering, those are called ‘red flags.’ Normal, loving husbands do not call their wife a ding-a-ling and no, it wasn’t a joke.

Another favorite pastime involved covering for the anti-husband’s words and actions with the kids.

“Your father didn’t really mean that.”

“You know your dad loves you, he just has a hard time showing it sometimes.”

“Maybe what he said was a little over the top, but your dad had a rough upbringing.”

The day I figured out that—

a)      yes, he really did mean every single word he chose to say with his very own mouth

b)       he loved no one but himself and

c)       his rough upbringing should’ve made him more compassionate not less

–was the day I started walking in truth.

Turning Lanes

I remember the day this Cover for Dad policy changed.  I’d taken to carrying the cordless phone everywhere, 911 on speed-dial. I’d calculated how long it took the police to arrive at our home and kept a close eye on the clock. Things were about to break open.

I knew it. I smelled it. I wasn’t going down without a big fat fight.

The beast had been carrying on for days.  Read that–hollering, yelling, stomping, screaming, slamming, cursing, muttering, raging, without taking a breath—for days. One afternoon things got particularly spectacular so I loaded the kiddies in the car and pointed the front fender southbound. After a few tense moments of silence I turned to the front seat passenger and said, “You know what your father’s doing isn’t right, don’t you?”

My son imploded. He sighed so loud I heard it over Travis Tritt on the radio. His shoulders slumped. He melted on the seat and ran into a puddle on the floorboard.

I’d finally told the truth and there was no going back.

I sat and listened while my son spewed and I did not say one Mom-ism the entire trip. All the kidlets knew—something changed that day. They still talk of it.

Apologies Not Accepted

I tried later to cushion my heinous crime just a little. I told the kids I was sorry for putting their father down that way. What I heard opened more than my eyes—I got a dose of reality nothing else could match. My kids unleashed. They said exactly what they thought of their dad and what kind of man he was (or was not in this case.) They were angry, furious, resentful, frustrated. And hurting like so many scalded pups in a washtub.

Not long after, my grown children took me aside and gave their silly mom an intervention. They said they didn’t want to hurt me but did I have any idea the things dad had been saying, about me, to them, when I wasn’t around? For years.

Well no, golly gee. I sure didn’t know that Bumpy.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Lying doesn’t help anyone. I may not have purposefully told windies but neither was I walking in truth. All my covering, dodging, and weaving just made everybody seasick. I added to the confusion. I was a linebacker, blocking so a man who refused to care for his own family could keep barreling on through, trampling everyone in the process.

I was not being loyal. I was not supporting my husband. I was providing cover, making it easier for him to get a clear shot. Big difference.

Talking to the kids since leaving has been tough. I struggle with how much to say and when to say it. Mostly I just listen and let them vent. The beast says I’m poisoning the children, but saying  I’m at fault for finally admitting the truth goes beyond ironic and borders on the absurd. The fact that the man has no relationship with his progeny rests squarely on his shoulders because (duh!) he verbally, emotionally and physically abused and bullied the dog mess out of them. He refuses to admit he fed them a steady diet of arsenic all their lives and now, for some odd reason, they won’t have anything to do with him.

Several have tried talking to him. Each has come to the conclusion it’s hopeless. He fusses, he fumes, he refuses to accept responsibility saying they are–each and every one– a rebellious lot. Later when they quit taking his calls, he tried playing the god-card, starting with  the ‘if-you-don’t-forgive, you-won’t-be-forgiven’ line but since I taught them the ‘bring-ye-forth-therefore-works-worthy-of-repentance’ retort back in grade school, somehow his biblical fuming doesn’t work so good.

I guess they’re smarter than their mama.

Saint Ida and Her All Girl Band

Before you get the idea that Ida Mae is a saint and all the little kiddies are gathered about, holding hands and singing campfire songs, let’s put that to rest. The kids are damaged. I’m not going to talk much about them here, not yet. They have their own stories to tell and I imagine some day they will. I doubt I’ll get knighted in any version.

Some are doing better than others. Some of the girls have problems picking men. Some of the boys are mad as hell. Oh wait, some of the girls are too. They show, in various degrees, all the effects  of growing up in an alcoholic/abusive household.

One blessing—in every case, their faith is intact. For that, I am profoundly grateful. Now, I have to trust in my Heavenly Father’s care to finish the work He began in them, just as He’s completing the work He began in me forty-two years ago. It’s not easy. Some days it’s impossible.

But there’s always tomorrow and for that, I remain forever grateful.

Get Free, Stay Free

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Suffer, you need healing.

Profound I know. Only I didn’t  for years. And while this blog could be one big rant-fest from here on out (the anti-husband provides a constant stream of inspiration) I’m not exactly getting any  younger nor do I want to live out these twilight years gazing upon my belly button.

So in a highly non-professional, non-authoritarian fashion, here’s what I learned. Definitely a work in progress and hopefully those further down this path will chime in.

1) Swallow that pride. And its corollary: Recognize you may have some.

Granted,  an abused woman has little personal dignity left but pride can still be a sticking point to getting out and getting free.

To get out, you’re going to need help from family, from authorities, from friends and bystanders and if you’ve lived  any length of time locked away inside your own misery, asking can be about as pleasant as a root canal.

Funny thing—as the marriage fell apart, I found myself on the floor quite often, repenting for all sorts of things. I writhed around, crying, confessing my many failings–  submitting to my husband halfheartedly, not praying for him with the proper enthusiasm, being a rotten wife, a horrible dance partner and a worse mother. After some of this, the Lord stopped the tirade. He said, in no uncertain terms, that I was repenting over the wrong stuff.

Seems I was just bumping over with pride.

Not to argue with the Almighty mind you, but really, what was He thinking? Took some time to understand—much longer than confessing the anti-husband’s old talking points—but eventually a few lovely gems worked their way upward. For your amusement, here’s my confessional:

I didn’t want anyone to know my marriage/family wasn’t perfect. Not friends, not enemies, not anyone.

I cared what others thought  to the point of creating an illusion of a godly home by both my words and the omission of my words. Folks had the wrong idea, I let them think what they wanted. When the anti-husband pulled something in public that just couldn’t be ignored, I said my husband was difficult sometimes. Difficult? Threatening your children with a gun is difficult?

I thought I could change my husband if only I could find the right combination of prayer, fasting, obedience, submission, meekness, quietness, goodness. My abuser fed off this like a pig at a trough.

I hated the stigma of being a divorced woman and refused to play.

I knew what religious people would say if I left, therefore I didn’t want to be the one doing the leaving.

I didn’t want to admit I made a mistake. At our wedding, the attendants were taking bets on how long the marriage would last. The longest time frame? Three  years. Who wants *that* chorus of I-told-you-so’s singing in the background.

Then you have pride’s evil twin—arrogance.

I told the kids they would  never have to worry about their parents getting a divorce. Know why? Because I made up my mind I would never leave no matter what. I thought I could hold the marriage together all by myself. I made promises I couldn’t keep and never stopped to question why the kids kept asking.

Just who did I think I was exactly?

When the no-matter-what got past the point of holding on a moment longer, I still hung on.  I knew he wasn’t going anywhere—he didn’t like women enough to find another (took too long to ‘train ‘em right’, direct quote) and he liked hurting us way too much. When everything fell apart I told him, you’re not that old. You’ve got plenty of time to find another woman to torment for the next thirty years. His response? But I don’t want to torment another woman.

*Sigh

But probably my biggest area of pride involved magical thinking. In the twisted arena of my mind, I alone upheld my husband. My prayers, my support, my love and affection were all that stood between him and a quick slide into a cesspool of sin. Please note the irony of this and try not to snicker.

2) Admit you were abused

Most abused women don’t know they’re abused. Unlike their tormenter, they don’t like the idea of victimhood. Recognizing the abuse as a living, vital force doing damage in their home means facing up to some very uncomfortable truths.

Along with the above, there’s always the possibility you heard someone stupid define abuse and believed them. Like. . . oh, I don’t know. . . your abuser maybe? Other folks put themselves on record all the time—pastors, mouthy internet preachers, female enablers and just about anyone else who doesn’t want to deal with something that won’t stop wiggling long enough to get a fork through it.

The anti-husband is the leading authority on abuse (just ask him.) He’s quick to tell anyone who’ll listen that he was abused all his life by every woman he ever encountered starting with his mother, his sister, his step sister, every ex-girlfriend, his one and only spouse whom he loved and sacrificed for on a daily basis, the women he worked with, women he encountered in the grocery store and naturally, every black woman he ever encountered because “everyone knows they all have attitude.”

One of these days I simply must tackle some random  black woman on the street and beg for lessons.

Sometimes it takes another person to help here. For me it was, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. Eye-opening doesn’t come close. There’s so much highlighter in my copy, its simpler to just quote what didn’t get marked.

3) Talk!

In theory, this is simple. Find someone, tell them what’s going on. But in practice, chose carefully. You want someone who’ll make comforting clucky noises and reserve judgment. Most of us, no matter how isolated, still know at least one friend we can talk to.  Or, it might be someone we never considered before (see number one above)—someone judged as too liberal, too feminist, too worldly, too something. Remember your definition of  ‘too’ probably got twisted by the one trying to keep you quiet.  When the proverbial crap hit the fan, I was surprised who came to my aid and more than shocked at those who didn’t. You won’t know until you start talking.

I kept quiet for thirty-one years. Thirty-stinkin’-one years. I talked to my mother almost every day and she found out six weeks before I made a run for it.  My best friend,  known over thirty five years, heard the first tiny glimmers of this story five months before I left. She was so shocked she asked for a few days to digest before replying. (When she did call back, bless her heart, she said, I should have known, all the signs were there but you kept saying everything was okay.) Naturally when I left, the anti-husband  blamed her for our break up, calling her a bitter, man-hating divorced woman. Divorced is the only true adjective in that sentence (kisses Darla.)

4) Counselors are our friends

Not all counselors are created equal. I suggest avoiding counselors from any particular sect and finding a non-denominational group that offers help on a sliding scale.

I go to a male Christian counselor. (Shocking, I know.) He’s a professional therapist with a PhD in psychiatry and counseling, not a mouthpiece for any particular denomination. We talk about things like why I have panic attacks in the hardware store, not whether or not I did the right thing in the eyes of God by leaving my husband.

Which leads to–

5) Grow a backbone

Doesn’t have to be a big one, a tiny spine will do. Just say to yourself right now, “It’s before my own Master that I stand or fall.” (Romans 14:4)

Lock twenty-five religious people in a room, write ‘divorce’ on the chalkboard and watch the fur fly. Remember,  one day you will answer to one Person and one Person only.  Read books, study, realize you and your children have to live with your decision, not them.  And remember, your heavenly Father loves you.

Someday, I’m going to get to my Father’s arms and throw myself right in. I’ve already confessed every known transgression and dozens I’m probably not responsible for and of one thing I am assured–His welcome.

Please wrestle the Almighty with open mind and  heart until you can say the same.

6) Nurture Creativity

A personal favorite and the intended topic before my belly button became so dadgum mesmerizing. . .

We’ll get to this next time. Maybe I’ll show you the fishies I painted yesterday~

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.