Note: It’s been difficult to post from Vanuatu with the excruciatingly slow internet (if there is any!) Plus, my Tablet wouldn’t charge, so now that I’ve landed back in civilization (Australia), I again have access to all my information!
Isn’t this normal?
One of the main reasons that the abused stay is that she, shockingly but genuinely, does not see herself as being abused. An abusive up-bringing may cause her to think her life is normal. That’s all she knows. Having no friends to “compare notes” also keeps her blind.
Or she lives in the delusion that each incident is merely a temporary loss of self-control and that it won’t happen again. After all, he apologized and says he loves her.
The Christian wife will remind herself that she too has weaknesses, so how can she proudly ‘hold a grudge’ against her abuser? She reasons that one sin is just as bad as another in God’s eyes.
Believing there exists some biblical mandate commanding a wife to endure all in the name of submission keeps many a wife in an abusive, destructive relationship. She reads in Ephesians 5 that a wife is to submit to her husband in everything as unto the Lord, and forgets that God hates oppression and abuse, and she is to submit to God, not evil. 1
Forgive and Forget
Further, she has been taught that she is sinning if she does not “forgive and forget” – that forgiveness means never bringing it up to the offender again, to yourself or to others. Thus, she hasn’t “forgiven” if she mentions that his actions have become a 5-year pattern or that he outright lied again, and it certainly prevents her from getting counselling or help. This wrong thinking will be discussed in Series 4. In attempting to do what she thinks pleases God, she finds herself caught in a web of silence and spiritual abuse and is kept there by the spider who reminds her that God will not forgive her sins, if she does not “forgive and forget” his.
She has been controlled and manipulated for so long that she has lost confidence in her own opinions or intuitions, and is unable mentally to face the overwhelming change and insecurity that leaving would bring. She literally questions her sanity. She has no idea where she and the children would live or how they would survive financially.
She may be too embarrased/shamed OR proud to admit the enormity of her situation.
Or she may be depressed and let go of hope. She believes his lies that she is worthless, helpless and undesirable.
Being isolated from family and friends makes her believe, “No one would even believe my story or be willing to help me.”
Additionally, she typically has no access to money or knowledge of how to manage on her own. She has no job skills or support group surrounding her, and no idea that there are myriad avenues of aid for women like her – free shelter, free legal advice, financial aid and counselling provided by government and private organizations. There is even an organization that offers free facial re-structuring for those who have suffered injury. 2
Sometimes she stays because she’s clinging to the hope that her husband will change.
Or she feels sorry for him, believing his plea that he needs her and threatens suicide if she leaves him.
Often she believes that her children would be better off with a bad dad than no dad, especially if her parents divorced.
She has been made to sincerely believe that she is to blame for the problems in the marriage. “Please, God, help me to be more submissive and godly in my responses so he won’t act like this”.
Most Christian wives believe that divorce is always wrong and separation is not an option. “Let not the wife depart”. “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Again, hang in there for Series 4.
Often, she has become co-dependent and needs to feel needed. She may be the one keeping the family from falling apart, continually covering for him to the children, parents, neighbours, his boss, the debt collectors and church family.
Or, the kind gestures (“Honeymoon Phase” of the abuse cycle) deceive her into viewing him as being the husband she wants him to be. The times he makes her feel special or needed make her conclude that a little niceness is better than none at all.
Occasionally, the issue is the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7. We don’t do what we should and we do what we shouldn’t. She feels helpless and crazy.
Often, she feels too guilty or that it would be too selfish to get out of her toxic situation.
Acknowledging that the children will probably take sides, makes celebrating birthdays and holidays difficult.
Some even admit they would rather stay in their nice house than live in poverty . . . though the inevitable escalation of the abuse will wipe away that reason soon enough.
“I still love him.” It’s a puzzling, but documented phenonemon that members who have left abusive groups or cults remain loyal to the annoined and appointed leader/authority. They will blame themselves before they blame their former leader. Questioning him is equal to questioning God – and who knowingly fights God, right? Especially if you genuinely love God. The degree of loyalty is directly tied to the magnitude of sacrifice given to the authority. It is easier to embrace delusion that face an error of judgement of such immensity, affecting so many people, including her children and church family (especially if he is a leader).
I so appreciate the comments and stories I’ve received privately. I think we all would welcome helpful comments shared publicly, motivated by a desire to build up others who are either unfamiliar with the world of abuse or for those who are currently IN it and desperately grasping for hope. “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing” – and pretend abuse isn’t in our midst.
Coming next: Series 3 – Why Abusers Abuse
3 A Matter of Basic Principles by Veinot and Henzel; obtained on Amazon.com