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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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.

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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!

What’s in a Name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

but that which is embryonic and mercurial and yet undefined is intangible. Still sweet, but abstruse and therefore unnerving.

We need labels. They give us a sense of security. We cannot live comfortably in the realm of unknowing.

A name imbues meaning and significance. With words God breathed life and filled the emptiness of space with light, land, and sky.  Ann Voskamp reminds us that the first man’s first task was to identify the animals, “releasing the land from chaos, from the teeming, indefinable mass. Naming offers the gift of recognition. “

A definition imparts substance to that which has no essence. A name would manifest purpose, coalescing a real relationship into existance. Until then, it’s still a relationship, though I’m not sure what to call it.

Three gentlemen asked me just this week, “I’d like to take you out on a date. Are you seeing anyone?” My response: “Not really, kind of, sort of-ish, it’s hard to explain you see.”

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‘Tis better to err on the side of caution and be patient. Just respond and let him lead. This is what I must keep telling myself.  I long to feel something real but just as the nature of what we are is impalpable because it’s “too early to tell,” anything conceived predevelopment would be counterfeit.

Time will tell. Until then, I will enjoy that which is undefined.

Episode III in Dating Adventures & an Epiphany

Me: I am a spirited, fun-loving, outgoing, bubbly, affectionate, fiesty personality.

But I am also a deeply introspective individual who loves to have passionately intense spiritual, philosophical,  and intellectual conversations.

I am perceptive and intuitive of intentions and attitudes but also very accepting and nonjudgmental. People who build walls to protect themselves from getting hurt feel intimidated by me because I won’t let them hide behind their defense mechanism.

I’m very self-aware and I know exactly what I want. For some, I’m just too much woman to handle.

Because of this, I’ve learned to temper myself. It feels inauthentic to hold myself back, but as my Ultimate Crush of 2016 jokes, “Don’t go full Dannielle right away. You don’t want to scare him.”

I have heard every variation in the book of the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” line including: “You’re too good for me.” “You’re out of my league.” “You deserve someone better.” “I wish I were, but I could never be what you’re looking for.”

Most of these excuses reek of a self-depricating attitude and reflect a low evaluation of his own worth. I was exhausted from hearing these phrases but I had an epiphany a couple days ago after a super fun date with a quirky fireman who took me for a spin in his Daytona Sunrise Metallic Orange Corvette Z06.

When I asked him why he hadn’t called for a second date after he said he’d call, he was refreshingly straightforward when he replied,”Your personality is not what I’ve envisioned marrying.”

I think that’s the most honest reason I’ve ever heard. I also think it’s what all the others meant when they said I deserved better. They were just trying to be “nice” so as to not hurt my feelings. I really would rather they be as frank as Corvette Guy instead of spoonfeeding me insincere, sugary sweet nonsense.

Corvette guy said, “You’re an awesome person and our date was one of the best I’ve had in a while. But I also know I’m not what you’re looking for, either.” What a breath of fresh air to hear him tell me straight up that he knew what he wanted and it wasn’t me. I was so thankful to hear him say this because I knew I would be spared from being dragged into yet another relationship where the guy knew I wasn’t what he really wanted but strung me along anyway because he was too selfish to let me go.

I think I had been holding on to some secret chagrin with my Ultimate Crush of 2016. It bothered me that he said, “I can’t really put my finger on why exactly but I just feel in my gut that you’re not the one.” Funny, because I’ve always felt in my gut that he WAS. Every time I asked him “why not” he had a different reason and I called him out on it because I felt it was invalid.  I told him, “You better figure out what you want because if you don’t know then she’ll walk right past you and you won’t even recognize her.”

But after my encounter with Corvette Guy, I think I FINALLY understand and respect his reasoning.

Feelings are lighthouses in the ocean of our being. They cut through the fog of confusion and doubt, illuminating our needs, and lead us the way home.

Although feelings can be deceitful, sometimes they are all you have when evaluating a decision and you have to trust them.

“You need to be more picky” Corvette Guy said. “WHAT!?” I replied. “I’m already so picky as it is!” And he responded, “You need to be even more.”

This comment made me think of a gentleman I dated in October. He had an uncanny resemblance to Wolverine and that’s precisely the name I put him in my phone contacts as. On our date he gave two sandwiches to a homeless couple and shared the gospel with them. I was blown away by this and couldn’t believe what a man I had encountered. He was just as into theatre as I am and ended our date with an incredibly amazing massage and told me there was more where that came from. The date was LITERALLY PERFECT and I can’t say one single thing wrong with how it unfolded from start to finish. But there was something missing… I hope it doesn’t seem shallow but we didn’t connect the way I wanted to and it’s my guess that’s because he’s a sensing personality and I’m intuitive. I REALLY wanted to like him so bad because he’s handsome and charming and a driven go-getter and so many things on my list. Hanging out with him felt like catching up with an old friend from childhood. But I haven’t really thrown him out of the picture yet for whatever reason but I think I have to, as wonderful as he is.

I let what Corvette Guy said sink it and I discovered he is right. I really do need to be more picky. Even my Ultimate Crush wasn’t absolutely EVERYTHING on my list that I wanted. But he was so damn close and no one else I’d ever met in my entire life came that close.

All of this changed last night when I met someone we shall refer to from this point onward as Dream Guy.

I was COMPLETELY myself around Dream Guy from the moment I met him because I thought, “What have I got to lose?” And he not only accepted me, he was smitten with me just exactly as I am, and he even called me out on the date when I was feeling self-conscious and not being my true self. I told him today that the best gift he gave me last night was the permission to feel safe in my own skin. When someone gives you room to relax and be yourself, you don’t believe you have to shrink so others won’t feel insecure. He made me feel that I was more than enough just the way I am and that made me feel invincible and irresistible.

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So it all started with a message on OK Cupid from a handsome Hispanic man playing a guitar in his profile pic. His interests were all the same as mine: poetry,  dancing, theatre, learning languages, specific movies we had in common, and even the fact that he wanted to do foster care. Here’s his message:

I’ve been reading your profile multiple times now and I just can’t believe how amazing you sound. You karaoke? Game nights? You’re writing a book? For teens? That’s incredible! I have a passion for mentoring teens myself. Salsa? I was literally born to salsa. And you’re in love with God, that’s the best thing of all.

So here’s the catch, I wasn’t going to message you at all, because I live and work in Maryland. I’m just visiting my sister in Tucson for a week or so. But I jumped on this app for whatever reason, saw your profile, and seriously thought I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try to see if it could work between us. Either way, it sounds like you’re doing great things and I hope you’ll continue to bless the people around you.

And also merry Christmas!

Get this… it turns out he was less than a minute’s walk away from me… his sister was my neighbor! So we got together for karaoke.

I was flipping through the music list to pick a song as a guy named “Coach” with a voice like Tony Bennet was singing an old-school love song when I felt a warm hand gently slip into my own and confidently guide me out onto the floor. Before I could process what was happening, we were swing dancing together. It was the most perfect moment… just like a scene out of a romance film. I have been asked to dance so many times in my life I cannot count them but I’ve never been led out to dance like he knew it was exactly what I was unaware I even wanted.

“When you sang Crazy by Patsy Cline, I was blown away. Actually, every song you sang was absolutely beautiful,” He said. I knew he meant it because he’s a musician in a band and has a a gorgeous voice himself.

We talked a lot about Jesus and danced in the parking lot some more. Then we went back to my apartment and played a card game my sister gave me for Christmas called Oregon Trail. We both got cholera and then I traded all my supplies including my extra oxen to buy medicine for him so he wouldn’t die of typhoid. The very next turn our oxen died and since we didn’t have any extra we were stranded along the trail and died. We laughed until our sides hurt and we didn’t want the night to end so we got cozy and watched Bruce Almighty. His flight was leaving the next day so he had to leave and get some rest. I squeezed him and said, “NO! I finally found you- I’m not letting you go!” And he replied, “What should we do? I can’t just ask you to move to Maryland after one date…” We were stuck. No one finds their soulmate after just one date, right? But we both had this sense that we were done looking. We exchanged phone numbers and decided to “See where the Lord would lead things.”

What happened last night was pure MAGIC. After a night like that I will never accept watered down, mediocre versions of the real thing. Why settle for luke warm when I could have FIRE!?

Whether this works out or not, meeting Dream Guy gave me valuable insight I will keep with me forever:

♥ Always love yourself and be yourself because if you don’t, you’ll always be chasing after people who don’t love you, either.

♥ Love that isn’t freely given isn’t worth having.

♥ Find someone who loves the same way you do.

♥ Don’t EVER settle for less than exactly what you want. It’s not selfish to ask God for what you want. Ask, believe, and receive.

♥ Who would you be if you weren’t afraid of what people would think? To be yourself and believe you are worthy is to be truly beautful.

♥ Someone giving you less doesn’t mean try harder. If they don’t love you for who you are, they aren’t for you.

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The Truth Will Set You Free

The truth is a gift. The truth will set you free. No matter how hard and scary it is to speak the truth, you must find the courage to get beyond your vulnerability to reveal how you honestly feel. Speak the truth as kindly and gently as possible, but never hide the whole truth. It is the key to living an authentic life that honors God and honors yourself as well.

The truth?

Mathew wants to get back together with me. He has written e-mails stating thus. However, my pastor has talked to him and does not feel that Mathew wants to be reconciled with the right reasons. He feels Mathew only wants a roommate, but not a wife.

The truth?

I am completely open to the possibility of reconciliation, but it can only happen if my husband does a complete 180° in the direction of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He must totally surrender his life to Him and follow Him with all his heart, submitting to the Lord’s headship as the ultimate authority. I care so very deeply for my husband and it hurts that he wants nothing to do with Jesus. A marriage simply cannot work if he is unwilling to yield to God. God is number one in my life and I have nothing in common with a man who does not trust in God. I was willing to try to make it work for years and years, but when he finally abandoned me, it gave me the courage to move on from what was a very abusive marriage in which I was unequally yoked with an unbeliever.

The truth?

I drove to the courthouse to file the papers. The whole way there I listened to Christian music. It was a very difficult road and I almost turned around and went home twice, thinking that I love my husband very much and maybe I could give him one more chance to make some positive changes in his life. When the song by Casting Crowns based on Psalm 103:12 came on the radio, tears streamed down my face during the lyrics “You know just how far the east is from the west… from one scarred hand to the other.” In His great love and grace, Jesus sacrificed his life to remove my sin as far as the east is from the west. He remembers it no more. His compassion and mercy gave me the freedom to continue on the journey to the courthouse and file the papers that have been signed and sitting in my house for months when I did not yet have the bravery to stamp them officially.

It took me another couple months to actually have the papers served to my husband. This morning they were served. I felt a mixture of relief that it is finally done and a little bit of grief that it’s over.

This is my story: I am getting a divorce. I, who am a daughter of the most High King and who hates divorce, yes, I am divorcing my husband. In a way, he already divorced me in his heart two years ago and I’m simply just making it legal.

I never thought this would be my story. I am a stronger woman because of the pain that I’ve experienced and the grace that has set me free. I trust God with my future and I can’t wait to see where He leads me next. I am totally open to Him and ready to go where He guides me.