Emotional Abuse In Christian Marriages

he got you

Today will be a little departure for me, this is something that I feel passionate about. I have experienced this in my own marriage.  Emotional abuse is rampant in our society, and Christians unfortunately are not immune. While all emotionally abusive relationships exact a toll on their victims, this type of domestic abuse within marriage is particularly destructive.

I love watching marriages that reflect Christ and the Church: husbands lovingly leading their homes and wives lovingly submitting to their husbands. It is such a beautiful sight to behold!  It truly warms my heart to see real life examples, especially at a time when marriages are being attacked from pornography,  abuse and cohabitation. I’ve also seen broken marriages and emotionally abusive relationships, including my own which has taught me a lot.

The women I’ve met, including myself, thru my support groups and speaking engagements believed in submitting to their husbands and tried hard to do so. They all share the following characteristics;  they began to change negatively without knowing it. They begin to isolate themselves. They begin to question themselves, in some way taking on the blame. They start to make excuses for their husbands’ sins.  And begin to question themselves and their sanity.

When I think of marriage, “protection” is one of the concepts that comes to mind. Perhaps that’s why emotional abuse, or any kind of abuse for that matter, in marriage saddens me in a deep and profound way.

My desire is that God might use this blog post to encourage those who are weary and heavy laden, that you are not alone.  To challenge those who are not trusting God or seeking counsel for their emotionally abusive relationships.

In searching the scriptures, the Bible doesn’t use the label “emotional abuse,” but it does prohibit it. First, we are not to curse people who have been created in the image of God (James 3:9). I often wonder if these christian men ever think about the fact that the one they are abusing, thru intimidation and constant yelling is Gods beloved child!  Second, emotional abuse violates the two greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40). Third, emotional abuse violates God’s design for marriage where the husband lovingly leads and the wife lovingly submits (Ephesians 5:21-33). Fourth, it violates Christian living by denying yourself (Mark 8:34) and speaking wholesome words (Ephesians 4:29). Fifth, it displays pride and a lack of fear of God, which leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). A husband who commits emotional abuse deceives himself to be a king who deserves glory, honor, and praise. Sixth, emotional abuse is betrayal to God and people by trying to be like God and deceiving others.

The definition of emotional abuse is control. Emotional abuse occurs when someone tries to control you through actions or words. They might not physically hurt you, but believe me they know how to instill fear through intimidation and manipulation. If emotions are produced by your evaluations or perceptions,  then emotional abuse involves hurting how you view yourself and others. Over time, you negatively view yourself. You might question yourself, blame yourself, or not see the severity of the situation. You become weary, trying to please your husband’s unreasonable demands but rarely is he ever pleased.

Emotional abuse is more much deceitful than physical abuse. When you’ve endured emotional abuse for years most of the time no one knows about it. It is not uncommon that your friends and church members don’t even know until you finally decide to share with them. Most of the time they are shocked, because this usually happens either when you chose to separate or ask for help (Of course, the same could happen with physical abuse.) Make no mistake emotional abuse is unacceptable and sinful. It is slowly killing a person. It is also not the same as occasional arguments in marriage; it occurs frequently and deliberately.

Manipulation/hypocrisy. This sin is revealed in different ways:  Which is a big part of the problem, people tend to not believe the wife.  why?  Because the husband tends to be a different person in front of church leaders and friends.  He knows how to blame his wife.  They will often cry in counseling sessions and convince the pastor or friends they are the victim.  Then, everything that the wife has shared in the past carries little weight.  After all he cried.  Then what happens is the wife begins to trust people less and less. The husband meets with other family and friends to win them over.  Commonly, the husband will say the wife is exaggerating or blowing things out of proportion or fabricate a whole different narrative to protect himself. At the same time the wife tends to minimize the problem.  Another problem is well meaning friends will say “Every marriage has it’s problems”, not realizing or understanding the real problems.

It is not uncommon for emotional abuse to lead to physical abuse, so please seek help and counseling as soon as possible. You might think that emotional abuse would not happen in Christian marriages, but unfortunately, I’ve seen cases where the husband was a church leader. Don’t keep it private.  You may think your spouse will change or if you are obedient he will not get angry.  Be very careful with this thinking.  In a real way, it deceives you to think that you are in control of the situation, which you are not.

Sometimes, church leaders are either deceived (by your spouse) have little knowledge on how to handle the problem or don’t want to get involved in messy problems. Don’t give up until you find a godly person who knows how to help.

Important: Pray for your spouse’s repentance. If the spouse is not saved, pray for his salvation. Pray that God would protect your heart from anger and bitterness.

I know only to well just how hurtful it is when family, friends, and church leaders don’t believe you or desert you, but God knows the truth. You can rest in His care and know that vengeance belongs to Him.

He is faithful. He is all-knowing. He will never desert you!

Please remember when someone shares about any kind of abuse with you, know that a lot of courage and trust was involved. Be careful of shattering that! Most likely, this person is vulnerable and fearful and somewhat shell shocked. As I often tell people, good intentions are not enough. I’ve seen friends get involved by meeting with the husband and then they are left more confused.

One woman said to me: “If God allowed this pain to happen so that my husband might know Christ, then it was worth it.” She also recognized that God used the trial to draw her closer to Him. It’s easier to submit to a loving leader in the home, but to love a husband who constantly questions you, belittles you, and lies to you is a powerful display of faith in God.

To preserve the victim’s health and sanity and safety, sometimes a “therapeutic separation” is necessary. A “therapeutic separation” gives the victim time to heal and hopefully “creates a crisis” in the life of the abuser. It forces him to face the destructive nature of his behavior and gives him an opportunity to seek help. The ultimate goal of this type of separation is healing—for the victim, the abuser and the marriage.

Sometimes—and despite our best efforts—separation and divorce are unavoidable (as in my case). Other times, couples restore their relationship.

No matter what happens in your marriage, continued to draw closer to God.  God can rescue marriages. In fact, God loves picking up broken pieces and molding them back together again. He’s in the healing business. But sometimes the thing that He wants to heal is YOU, not your marriage. So chase after God now, and focus on God, not just on your marriage. And then, no matter what happens, you will find yourself stronger and able to stand firm.  It may seem hopeless, but it’s not. There is a way out. There is hope.

As you consider your options for obtaining professional assistance, it’s important to understand that this probably isn’t going to be a quick and easy process. Abuse is usually rooted in deeply entrenched patterns of thought and behavior, and you can’t expect to reverse those patterns in a couple of counseling sessions. While working on the problem, you may find it necessary to create a crisis by giving your husband an ultimatum. An abuser can sometimes be persuaded to make a change if their spouse has the courage to stand up for themselves and say, “I’ve had enough.” Tell him, “Either we both get counseling (separately), or I’m moving out until you’re ready to help me resolve this issue.” Separation may be what it takes to open his eyes to his behavior and to stimulate some badly needed self-examination on his part. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your support system is in place and that you actually have a safe place to go-the home of a friend, family member, or neighbor-before you put the matter to him in these terms. Lay your plans, line up your resources, and make your arrangements prior to packing your bags and walking out the door.

CLOSING ENCOURAGEMENTS

Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal the reality about a potentially abusive relationship. Admit you are being abused and recognize the damage it has done.

It is critical to seek support from friends, family, and, ideally, your church.

“Pastors, church leaders and church members vary in their ability to give support to women in difficult marriages,”  “Always be willing to reach out to your church for support, but remember that staff may not have the same training as professional counselors.”

Soak in God’s presence and truth. God invites us into his presence and transforms us by renewing our mind (Romans 12:2). Spend time in God’s Word, prayer, worship, and fellowship. It’s possible that because you are damaged emotionally, you are unable to spend long periods of time in prayer or study. That’s all right. Do what you can and trust God with the rest.

Forgive. Forgiveness is not denying or excusing the damage caused by abuse. We forgive because God forgave us. When we forgive, we allow God to heal us. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Forgive your abuser and yourself, if necessary. God will deal with everything else.

With professional help—and by following these principles, you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and begin your healing journey. As you reach out to God and others, you can experience God’s redemptive purposes in your life and become a channel of healing in the lives of others. Make Jeremiah 29:11 your mantra: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”

The important thing for you to know is that God LOVES you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of Jesus Christ. When you truly see yourself as created, accepted, approved and loved by God you will not allow anyone to devalue you or treat you any less than what you are ….a child of the Most High God…

May God richly bless you and keep you in his loving care!

Prayer for the Abuser

Father God, thank you for leading me to find the help that I need.  I first forgive __________ for wounding me emotionally, verbally and mentally.  I release ____________ as my first step of faith towards healing.  I know that forgiving this person releases me.  I ask you Lord to show ___________the error of their ways.  Show them how much you love them and heal their wounds so that they will no longer wound others.  I pray for everyone that is involved in this abuse ____________________, ______________________, ______________ that you will heal all of them and give wisdom and guidance to each.  Send your Holy Spirit to comfort and bring healing.  I pray that ________ will be open to going to counseling with me.  Speak to their heart and grant them the grace to do the right thing and seek help and healing, in Jesus Name, Amen

Here are some scriptures for meditation:

Psalm 34:18 (NKJV) “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Psalm 51:6 (NKJV) “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”

Psalm 139:14 (NKJV) “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 New International Version (NIV) “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

1 John 4:18 “Love will never invoke fear. Perfect love expels fear, particularly the fear of punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been completed through love.”

Psalm 63:3 “Your steadfast love is better than life itself, so my lips will give You all my praise.”

Romans 8:37-39 “But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.”

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV) “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

 

 

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Author: Cheryl Downum

My name is Cheryl Downum, 2015 was a difficult year for me. I chose to separate from my husband because of his unrepentant abusive behavior and a year later we divorced. I moved from Atascadero ca to the Temecula Valley in Socal. As I’ve walked this journey, I’ve found myself growing closer to Jesus. My heart is now infused with empathy for others that find themselves in this place. And, God has given me a story, a message of hope to share. A message birthed in my brokenness that brought forth a sweet-surrendered dependence on God’s unconditional acceptance and love. The reason I am writing this blog is; I have found in my life that the Lord often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad to our deepest calling. My desire is to encourage His children to seek a deeper relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope that as you read my blog, you will feel inspired and encouraged. Thank you for visiting! God Bless! The Lord has opened a door for me in ministry with women who have been raped/sexually assault or abused by their spouse.  I have become a fulltime Advocate for women with a national organization.  For more information on this exciting chapter in my life, please visit my Healing Heart Blog https://thehealingheartblog.wordpress.com/ I am a Survivor and an Advocate, I am passionate about raising awareness about Rape/Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Visit my The healing heart facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/thehealingheart77/

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