Abuse is NOT Your Fault

Yesterday, I came across an ad on Facebook promising to detoxify your unhealthy relationship “practically overnight” with six secrets to “eradicate emotional abuse in your marriage” “even if your spouse doesn’t want to go to counseling.” I followed the Facebook ad to this free webinar.

The way the advertisement was worded was very triggering and angering.

You see, the very first time my husband ever hit me he said afterwards, “Look what you made me do… you made me punch you and I’ve never struck a woman in my life.”

I’ve spent the last five years of my life learning that the abuse that happened in my marriage was NOT my fault.

Now, I do not want to say anything negative against Deborah Watts of “HoneyBee You Authentic Living” because I watched her hour-long master class, took notes vigorously, and was very impressed with what she had to say. I even talked to her on the phone and she seems like an extremely genuine person who sincerely desires to help women in crisis. However, I felt that the words she chose to drive traffic to her Facebook page and website were misleading and drawing the wrong crowd. Granted, in the actual video she expressed that her message was NOT for anyone who was in any hint of physical danger. “Stop watching this right now and go get safe,” she explained. However, you had to watch the actual video to hear her say that. For the record, Watts DOES NOT advocate that you can change your abusive spouse, but sometimes messages permeate our culture that seem to imply just that.

If you’ve ever been in a violent situation in the past, I hope you know that  you did nothing to deserve someone hurting you and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent that person from abusing you outside of removing yourself from that dysfunctional atmosphere. Staying in a physically abusive relationship enables the person who is hurting you to continue hurting you without consequences.  If you continue hoping this person will change their behavior, you risk your safety by staying.

If you’ve never stayed in an abusive relationship, you might be wondering how it is possible for a person to endure four years of this. I received biblical counsel from a pastor when I was going through the physical abuse. I was told that if my husband didn’t believe the Word of God, I was to “win him over by my chaste behavior” (1 Peter 3:1). But this verse was misapplied to my situation because it was never meant to include women who were being beaten. I was also told I shouldn’t leave my husband because if I became separated from him, it would most likely be the first step towards a divorce and I didn’t want a divorce, did I? According to 1 Corinthians 7:13, if my husband was willing to live with me, I “must not divorce him.” So I felt that, according to the Bible, I was stuck in an abusive relationship and there was nothing I could do but suffer through it like a good Christian martyr for the love of Jesus. (I want to add that the pastor who quoted these verses to me meant well and had pure intentions, but I feel these verses were completely taken out of context and used to further the abuse that could have ended a lot sooner than it did.) Even though I knew deep down the abuse in my marriage was very, very wrong, I had to suppress my inner voice that told me “get safe” for the sake of staying in the relationship as I was instructed a godly wife would do.

Every time my husband hit me, I blamed myself for my actions that I felt propelled him to hit me. I chastised myself and became more determined than ever that I was going to be the best wife in the world so that I could “win him over.” In my eyes, the “best wife” was someone who massaged her husband, made him home-cooked meals, spoke lovingly and sweetly to him even when he was angry, and initiated love-making multiple times a day. The more and more I did these things, the farther away he drifted from me. He began spending less time with me and the abuse was getting worse. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting better if I was doing all the “right things.”

I stayed in my abusive marriage for four long years because I truly believed that if I just kept loving my husband, eventually he would change. Newsflash: That only happens in fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and 50 Shades of Gray. If there’s one thing I learned in my healing it’s that you CAN NOT change a person. (I actually read that on a free pamphlet about co-dependency at the drug rehab my husband checked in to.) They were the most magical words to me in that moment and the catalyst of my healing.

Anyone who promises you that you can somehow transform another person by your behavior is lying. If you are the recipient of abuse, know that it is never your fault and you aren’t doing anything to garner that.

We are in charge of our own thoughts, emotions, attitudes, mindsets, and actions. We alone own our values, beliefs, and viewpoints from which our attitudes and actions stem from. People can influence us for better or worse, but our behavior is our choice and no one else’s. 

You can’t change someone else’s choices, but you can change how you respond to them.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
-Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor.

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Find Your Way Back

This was a very inspiring video that I came across on my Facebook feed that I wanted to share with you all.

“You are an unrepeatable miracle, you are beautiful in your own right, you deserve healthy love, you are a child of God.”

A Letter

To the man who promised me forever:

I forgive you.

I remember the black and white checkered pattern of the hospital floor, pacing back and forth that day you were in detox, pondering hopefully, as I am oft-inclined to do, that our situation can only look up from rock bottom. I had never loved you more than in that moment when I thought I would lose you forever. I loved you more than life itself and I would have done almost anything to stay by your side and help you through your darkest hour… but you left me… your faithful wife who only wanted to support you.

I thought my heart would always belong to you and I would never get it back. I thought I might never heal from that intense pain. I thought the aching emptiness might never go away.

But I forgive you.

There has been more than one man who won’t date me because I am your “left overs.” You chewed me up and spit me out and now no one seems to want me. I feel like Hester Prynne with a giant scarlet letter on my chest warning everyone to stay far away because I’m unable to keep a marriage together.

I finally met a God-fearing man who doesn’t mind that I’m divorced. “It’s your past but it doesn’t define who you are,” he assured me. But he thinks that his family won’t understand. He thinks they won’t accept me, at least not right away. He asked me not to tell them just yet.

Tears fought to spill from the corners of my eyes. I thought I had worked through my guilt. I accepted my truth and learned to love myself even when I wanted to despise myself. The harsh reality is that I may have moved on from mourning but people may continue to judge me (as I had once judged others in my situation) and that judgment may stir up the regret and sorrow I thought I had buried and finished grieving. Every time a man I hope to date rejects me for being divorced I feel the grief once again.

But I get it. I really do. If I’m honest with myself, I’d rather not date someone who has been divorced, either.

Whether I like it or not, you’re part of me and you always will be. You’re part of my love story because you’re the first man I ever passionately loved; the first man I would have laid down my life for because I loved you that much. You taught me how to love unconditionally… Not because you showed me what that was but because I learned to love you despite you not loving me. My world revolved around you. I was infatuated with the spell you cast on me. Even when you were absolutely horrible to me I couldn’t see anyone but you.

I won’t deny that you were once the most important thing to me on Earth.

After you left I tried desperately to win you back. I must have been plumb crazy. But that’s how I know I am a fool when I am in love and I will make someone an amazing wife one day because of you.

So thank you.

Remembering a Special Day

“Your wedding day is still one of my most cherished memories,” whispered my best friend Anna who was a radiant bridesmaid on that special day five years ago. “The fact that he left you doesn’t make that beautiful day any less sacred or meaningful.” (That sweet lady always cheers me up no matter how low I am feeling.)

Anna and I on the Happiest Day of My Life

Anna and I on the Happiest Day of My Life

On this particular evening, I had begun to regret the day I ever said “I do.” My wedding day was once the best day of my life and I was beginning to feel guilty that I still thought of it that way, circumstances being what they are. “If it’s inevitably going to end in a divorce, then wouldn’t that make my marriage a mistake?” I wondered out loud. “Is it wrong to keep those Facebook wedding albums public? Is that precious picture of me smiling ear to ear with my sisters after the ceremony somehow tainted now and better preserved in a private scrapbook rather than displayed in a pretty pink frame on my buffet table?”

I felt angry at myself for not having been able to see red flags that this marriage was not going to last. All the expenses to make June 7th, 2009 the most incredibly amazing and unforgettable day of our lives were pretty much kicking me in the stomach like a huge waste of money. My once gorgeous, white wedding gown is now yellowing with age and collecting dust in my childhood closet… it feels less and less to me like the flowy, satin raiment of a virgin queen bestowing her beloved king with the treasured gift of her everlasting commitment and more like the gown I wore on the last day of my purity I can never get back.

I wish I could write a happily ever after ending for this entry like my husband and I are now living out the purpose God has intended for us, but that would not be accurate. Too many times I fantasized ways out of my destructive marriage… the sudden, unexpected death of one of us, for instance, because I was slowly dying each day and death was better than abandoning the one I promised to love, honor, and respect “until death do us part.”

The very few people I told about the domestic violence asked me, “Why don’t you just leave him? One of these days he’s going to go too far; you need to protect yourself.” I can’t pretend I didn’t think about it. I had an emergency escape plan in place just in case I needed it, but I prayed it would never come to that. I was going to be faithful and loving ’til death do us part, even if I died trying, so help me God.

Just as Christ washed his disciples' feet (John 13:5) my husband and I promised to serve one another. I truly meant this with all my soul.

Just as Christ washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:5) my husband and I promised to serve one another. I truly meant this symbolism with all my soul.

I’m in a better place now. Tragic though my story is, it is also a story of hope. I no longer pine for a way out or desperately cry out to God for some kind of miracle. His ways are above my ways and while I don’t understand them, I know His will is good. Now I look forward to the future, forgetting the former things. I’m done dwelling on the past. I am making a way in the wilderness and straining toward what is ahead. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Philippians 3:13)

If you are struggling in a difficult matrimony, please don’t ever believe the lie that your wedding day was a mistake. If you truly meant those vows with all your heart that day, they are just as real and valid today as they were then. If he’s told you, “I regret the day I married you,” that doesn’t mean you have to regret marrying him. I chose to love my husband for better or worse within God’s Divine Providence. I committed my marriage to Jesus Christ and tried my absolute best to make my relationship honor God. He could have disallowed it if He intended, but I’m convinced everything happens for a reason.

If you are grieving over the death of your marriage, please remember that your pictures and memories of that special day are still just as precious and it’s okay to feel warm and happy when remembering that day you put so much time, energy, and money into making memorable.

I still look back on my wedding day fondly, even though now my memories are tinged with an edge of bitter-sweetness.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Walking around today in the beautiful weather with my new cowgirl boots and haircut… I felt like a new woman. Today was absolutely splendid spectacular and I am feeling so blessed and loved.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I have some friends who are definitely going to find out just how much their friendship has meant to me, especially during the most difficult year of my life.

Rose

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the people who stood by me and helped me through this difficult time of my life. I love love love you sooooooooooooo much!

Speaking of my friends, I am friends with three married couples who are going through the worst kind of trial imaginable right now. In all three cases there are young children involved and in all three cases it was the wife that cheated on the husband. I feel as though the Lord is using my heartache to reach out to these young couples and encourage them in any way I am able. I am much better at expressing my thoughts through writing and I never truly know just what to say when they call, but sometimes I think the Lord speaks through me. I find myself saying things like, “You can either go through this or grow through this.” // “Stop. Breathe. Be still and know that He is LORD.” // “Remember that He is in complete control of this situation and He will not let you experience more than you can handle.” // “You cannot change the past but you can forgive and forget. Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re okay with what happened, but that you will no longer harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness in your heart. Live in the present, taking it one day at a time. Focus on the small tasks at hand that need to get done and dwell on positive, praiseworthy things.”

I wasn’t always able to shell out advice so easily. Only a few months ago I was a complete train wreck myself experiencing mental breakdowns at least once a week. I didn’t feel whole without my husband’s love and commitment. I was in utter shock, incapable of thinking clearly or doing much of anything productive. I refused to accept the reality of what was happening, choosing to believe that it would all eventually go away like waking up from a bad dream. I kept feeling like I was this shameful failure at life. A loser. A leper. The worst kind of sinner… a woman headed towards the long, lonely road of divorce. Oh, “if only, if only,” I cried so many nights. (Which is SO unhealthy by the way!) No matter how relieved I was to be extricated from my intolerable state of affairs, I was still utterly heartbroken and kept reliving all my lovely memories and the beautiful hopes of what was supposed to someday be.

I felt massive insecurity, helplessness, and instability. I was in tremendous upheaval calling up my loved ones and family so much when I was crying hysterically that a few of them needed breaks and asked me to stop calling so much. I felt like something was wrong with me because I wasn’t getting better and I was distancing my friends in the process. Everything in my life was topsy-turvy. I was getting sick and was freaking out about the bills that had to be paid. But the Lord provided and I was able to keep going… even though at times it felt like I was going one step forward and two steps back.

1 Forward, 2 Back

One step forward and two steps back…

In the early stages of marital separation, it is imperative that you lean on your support group for balance, otherwise you may not be able to stand on your own two feet. It’s so easy to curl up in a ball and shut out the world. Depression can be a comforting friend that we cradle and embrace and drink tea with on the porch. It’s all we know and it’s easier than pulling ourselves out of it and trying to feel something else. But there comes a time that you’ve got to woman-up and reassert yourself as a functioning, responsible adult who can take care of herself. There were times that my own sister was so worried for me because I could not act in a rational manner and seemed completely unable to cope emotionally. When she called me all excited to tell me her wedding date I just panicked because I thought she was getting married too soon and I guess I just projected my own fears and insecurity onto her upcoming nuptials. Instead of showering my affection on her and displaying my overwhelming joy for her engagement, I pushed her away a little bit. That day was the wake up call that showed me I have a lot of growing to do in the area of emotional healing and I better start lickity split. I HATE being in pain! (Especially when those close to me are rejoicing.) “There is a time to mourn and a time to dance,” the wise king says in Ecclesiastes 3. If I couldn’t celebrate with my beloved sister when it was time to rejoice, then I had serious issues. I decided I needed a spiritual makeover. I had to rebuild my self-confidence and remind myself who I am in Christ. I am a Princess of the One, true King and I am precious in His sight. He is mine and I am His.

I had a song in my heart as I walked in the sunshine to the bus stop today to get from my first job to my second job. I was so cheerful that even the attitude of one particular co-worker did not get me down. (For some reason, she has always enjoyed picking on me since day one and we simply don’t get along.) This is the song I was singing:

Who can cheer the heart like Jesus
By His presence all divine?
True and tender, pure and precious
O, how blest to call Him mine!

All that thrills my soul is Jesus
He is more than life to me
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see

For passels of days, I can feel exactly the same. Not any more sad than yesterday but not any more content today. It’s as though healing came by for a visit but didn’t stay long enough for a cup of tea. There is no timetable for grief. There are some weeks where all I can think about is my husband and how much I still love him so dearly. My faithfulness can be a curse because it will not let me let him go so I can finish grieving and move on. Separation feels worse than death because there is no finality and closure as when someone dies. At least if he died I could have a funeral and all my friends and family could come and we’d grieve his loss together and then bury the coffin and walk away. Yes, I am still mourning him and it happens whenever I think of a fond memory- something he said or did that was so precious and endearing that I just cradle that memory and rock it for a moment too long and it breaks me up inside. For instance, just the other day, I was remembering this one time that he baked me up some wicked pistachio whoopie pies. I loved when it was his turn to cook for us; he was always making such yummy things to fill me up with.

Pistachio Whoopie Pies

Pistachio Whoopie Pies

There’s nothing wrong with cherishing old memories but when I dwell on them too long it breaks me down and I miss him so bad. I want to call him and talk to him and tell him how much I miss him, but I have to remind myself that the person who picks up the phone when I call won’t be my husband, it will be the stranger he has become.

There are so many things I miss about him but one thing I really miss is being the most beautiful woman in the world to one special someone. I REALLY miss that. I miss being absolutely perfectly beautiful in the eyes of one man. For some reason I’ve been extra conscious about my looks lately. Someone once said that a woman thinks about her looks every seven seconds. I don’t think that’s necessarily true (at least not for me, but it’s crazy to think about if it is true for someone out there!) I know I have been more self-conscious than I’ve ever been about my pimples and skinniness and small chest etc. I literally believed my husband was the most handsome man in the world. I COULD NOT see the attractiveness of any other man no matter what anyone said about “that hot guy over there.” I simply only had eyes for MY man. When I saw him for the first time in 8 months a few weeks ago…. I was surprised to find myself looking into the eyes of a stranger. This was not my husband! Who was this thin Kurt Cobain doppelganger? I had to sit on my hands so as not to run my hand through his sexy hair… but other than that, I no longer felt he was the most handsome man in the world and that scared me. It really, really scared me. What does this mean?

Okay, so I have this cavernous wound that I can’t seem to get over. When will I truly surrender my pain to Christ? Oh Jesus, fill my emptiness and make me whole. Teach me to fully rely on You alone. I want to know You as my Husband, my Best Friend, and my One True Love. Jesus, You are everything I need and You were madly in love with me before I even knew You. Be my Valentine tomorrow and fill my heart with Your unfailing love. I feel like a little vulnerable girl who wants to crawl into Your lap and cry. Fill me, Jesus. You are the only One who knows and sees and fully understands. You are my Healer. Help me to remember when I feel rejected that no one else knows better than You just how I feel.

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“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

-Galations 6:9