When the difficulty in the marriage is because of abusive behavior, personal safety must come before the marriage.
We love to encourage husbands and wives who struggle with difficult marriages. We believe commitment, hope, and perseverance go a long way in helping couples get past their difficult season. But when there’s abuse, we have to have a different conversation.
There is a serious issue of abuse that is facing far too many marriages today. This issue should never be ignored or overlooked, by the men and women who find themselves in an abusive relationship, nor by the rest of us who have a voice to speak out against it.
In this final post of this series on difficult marriage, I want to help men and women recognize when Difficult Marriage is an Abusive Marriage. Because, when this is the case, the approach to dealing with the marriage crisis must change.
When dealing with abusiveness, it is no longer about toughing it out and owning up to personal responsibilities. It’s about drawing healthy boundary lines that not only protect you the individual but also can hopefully in many cases, restore the marriage and create a proper foundation to build a strong marriage.
If you are a victim of an abusive marriage I hope you will take the necessary steps to protect yourself, and maybe your children from any further danger. This does not mean you have to stop loving your spouse. And it may not mean you have to give up on your marriage. But you do need to get real with yourself about the condition of your marriage.
You need to:
- Identify the abuse you’re dealing with.
- Determine the appropriate boundary lines you need to draw.
- Seek the help that is available to you.
- Take courage to make a bold move.
- Pray for healing and reconciliation.
1) Identify the abuse you’re dealing with.
2 levels of abuse, 4 areas of concern.
1st level: Emotional and Verbal abuse
Emotional and verbal abuse can be very hard to define sometimes because these are more psychological in nature. Your spouse is not perfect. Their everyday sin issues will hurt you sometimes. But if they’re crossing the line of abuse you need to know. You need to know if what you’re facing is normal life sin and imperfection or real abuse.
This abuse can be very hard to determine by yourself. So, get help from a Pastor or Christian Counselor that can walk you through the process of healing and can advise you on what is acceptable behavior from your spouse and what is unacceptable.
2nd level: Sexual and Physical Abuse.
Sexual and physical abuse are both psychologically and physically damaging. While the abuse is very evident on the outside, the damage goes much deeper on the inside. It doesn’t take much to determine if you are a victim of this abuse or not. You either have been sexually or physically harmed or you have not.
The only gray area here may be in determining when that first slap or push was just a one-time deal or a sign of things to come. If and when you know this is more than a one-time failure that can be dealt with through forgiveness and accountability, then you have to start thinking about your next step.
2) Determine the appropriate boundary lines you need to draw.
Boundary lines are for protection. You have to be willing to put proper boundary lines in place for your own health, the health of your children and for any possible hope for the future of your marriage. Although there is a lot that can be said about boundaries, the main thing you need to know is it is up to you to decide you will no longer be a victim. You take personal responsibility before God to make sure you are treated in a way that is not pushing you into a helpless state.
It’s okay to be forgiving and to look the other way when you’ve been done wrong, but it is not okay to be forced to live with unhealthy treatment that goes unchecked. It is your responsibility to teach others how they can treat you. You decide what you will put up with and what you won’t, no one else has the right to make that choice for you.
For more on boundaries look for Boundaries in Marriage by Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend / Zondervan
3) Seek the help that is available to you.
Proverbs 24:6 “For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in the abundance of counselors there is victory.”
There is nothing wrong with asking for help from time to time. We are all here on this earth to help one another and to be there for each other. There are resources available to help spouses of abuse. You just have to reach out for the help that is offered to you. You can start with your own local church, or ministry in your area. Or, check out places like National Domestic Violence Hotline or Joyful Heart Foundation.
4) Take courage to make a bold move.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Your next steps are going to be challenging. It can be scary and it can cause lots of anxiety, but the worst thing you can do is stay in an abusive situation because you have learned to be comfortable there. You own it to yourself, your children, and the future generations after you to make this step toward a healthier future.
5) Pray for healing and reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
God is all about healing and reconciliation. Nothing is impossible for Him and I believe He takes great pleasure in turning hopeless situations around. So keep praying for your marriage, your spouse, your children, and yourself. No man can say what God can and cannot do. Your marriage and your spouse are no exception, what is impossible with man is possible with God.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net