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.”

Moving Forward

For those of you just now stumbling upon my blog, welcome! It’s nice to “meet” you!

Foundations of Sapphires 

I started this blogging journey to chronicle my personal struggles with separation and divorce. Over time, it became a place of lighthearted venting about my dating escapades. I haven’t updated since last September which is the month I met my boyfriend!

YES! I have found love! (But more about that later.) Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’ve neglected this blog because I’m no longer grieving the loss of my marriage or dealing with difficult decisions regarding that. I’m also no longer involved in online dating shenanigans so I’ve stopped writing about that as well. What other purpose does this blog serve than as a record of a broken woman who climbed out of the pit of despair and allowed Jesus to put her back together again? Jesus bulldozed my old foundation of abuse and hopelessness, threw the wreckage away, and rebuilt my structure on a foundation of sapphires- the symbol of faithfulness, wisdom, virtue, and true love. I’ve decided that this may or may not be my last entry as I wrap up this chapter of my life and move on to new horizons. I hope the words I’ve left here over the course the past five years can be of some help to you if you are going through a tough time and faced with many difficult decisions.

matthew2

I’m so blessed that we found one another. He showers me with affection in just the right way that fills up my heart with love. He consistently puts me before himself and brings me closer to my Heavenly Father.  I thank Him that He brought us together.

Overcoming my Past

Nearly five years after my husband left, I still feel like the same old me, but in a way, I am a new and improved version of myself. Through this experience, I have changed negative attitudes and developed a positive outlook, gained new perspectives, set new goals for the future, grown stronger in my faith, and become an individual that has more love and respect for myself. After years of biblical counseling and personal study, I can smell bull crap from a mile away and I don’t put up with it now, no Sir-Ree-Bob!

What I Have Learned in Dating After Divorce

  • Your new partner is NOT your ex. Just because something seems familiar doesn’t mean the same patterns are going to repeat themselves. I’ll admit that things were pretty difficult in the beginning of my relationship due to the trauma, brainwashing, and various types of abuse I experienced in my marriage, but I’ve learned to give these fears and burdens to God, open up my heart to love, and let myself be vulnerable. It feels so good to trust again.
  • I’ve learned to avoid saying things like, “You’re doing ‘X’ just like so-and-so used to do.” It’s important to share your feelings about the past abuse with your new partner, but try not to compare them because they are two different people with different personalities, values, behaviors, and life experiences. If you are genuinely concerned about your new partner’s actions, speak with a trusted friend, family member, or elder at your church to gain insight from someone who is emotionally removed from the situation.
  • Do not rely on your feelings! Feelings change so you cannot trust them. Every day we must choose to love the person we picked for who he is, not for how he makes us feel.
  • I used to believe that leaving a marriage for any reason other than adultery was sinful, but now I believe that God wants you to be safe. Even though my ex-husband was cruel and frighteningly unpredictable, I remained patiently committed, naively believing that my persistent, undying love would conquer all and that if I just stuck with it, we would eventually reap the “happily ever after” outcome of a healthy, mutually respectful, and intimate partnership.  Boy, was I delusional!
  • The abuse was NOT my fault. I can be pretty hard on myself as I’m a perfectionist, so I blamed myself for years for what happened to me but I learned that there was nothing I could have done to make the abuse stop except get out sooner. I was never going to leave so God provided a way of escape, as He always does for those who love Him.
  • Above all, I have learned to let God write my love story. I’ve given Him the reigns of my relationship and let the Perfect Lover teach me how to love and be loved. It is the most freeing experience to trust God that my life is in His hands and He loves me with an everlasting love. When I put Him first, my joy and sense of security come first, too.

Tips If You’re at the Beginning of Your Journey

  • Sometimes it’s hard to recognize abuse in your own relationship. Being able to call it by its name is the first step to stopping it. Abusers can’t abuse if they don’t have a victim! Abuse can be so subtle that you don’t even realize it’s happening or perhaps it’s gone on so long that it has become normative. Here are two resources I’ve found to assess whether or not you’re being abused: [One] [Two] Once you are able to acknowledge your situation for what it is, educate yourself about it. Knowledge is power.
  • Find accountability. This is your support network. It’s important to have people you love and trust in your corner. Speak the truth, no matter how scary it is. Personally, I struggled between my need to speak out about what was happening and my perceived need to  protect my abuser’s reputation and integrity. After you share your burden with others, it will be such a relief! Validation will empower you as you take the steps to make positive changes in your life.
  • Time will bear witness of true, heartfelt change. Your abuser will try to get you to come back once you are safely at a distance but don’t put yourself back in harm’s way unless you and other witnesses have seen serious change over a period of time. Abuse is not normal and you shouldn’t have to accept it.
  • Remember that you can still be who you want to be apart from him. You are deeply cherished because you belong to God and He has prepared a beautiful purpose for you even before you were born. If your relationship doesn’t survive, you still have a bright future ahead.

For further reading, please visit this library of resources I put together that helped me transition into this new stage of my life.

Thank you for joining me on my road to healing! This is not the end but the beginning of something new and beautiful!