When Love Hurts
I love to journal. It’s where I capture my raw, unaltered, innermost thoughts about life. In 2011, a few weeks before our 10-year wedding anniversary, I found my journals that dated back to when my husband and I first got married. Excited to reminisce on how our relationship had evolved, I sat down to travel back into time, hoping to get a glimpse of a special memory, a vintage testimony, or a monumental milestone.
I dusted off these precious time capsules and curled up in my favorite living room chair by a window that provided soft rays of light that lit up the pages. As I sipped my cup of tea, I flipped through the pages, reading word for word, and I slowly began to notice that I wasn’t drifting back into time. No, in fact, almost every entry resembled a life I was living at that very moment, 10 years later.
How could this be? It’s been ten years, two houses, and three children later. By this time I somehow slithered from my comfy chair to the floor in a puddle of tears.
You see, the truth is, I knew my marriage was in shambles, but the realization that our relationship had sustained this level of dysfunction for more than a decade was like getting the wind knocked out of me. I lived in a home where love hurt. It was disguised under layers of manipulation, isolation laced with deceit, and a for-others-viewing-only façade that included a picture-perfect family living in suburbia. But the truth was, I was living in a twisted tale that could have came straight from a Lifetime movie.
I always knew my marriage was different but I could never put my finger on the problem. What I was dealing with was so elusive and deceiving. The verbal assaults against me were camouflaged as tough love, and the hurt that I felt afterwards was quickly diminished by my husband with a “get over it” attitude. I tried to get over it by praying for and forgiving my husband over and over. As a Christian woman, you have this persistent urge to forgive quickly and instantly pray for your husband and the situation for the sake of the family. Unfortunately, this combination ultimately ends up corroding your sensitivity to the hurt and enabling the bad behavior, leaving you numb, hopeless, and non-existent.
I struggled to understand why I felt so isolated in my marriage and despised by my husband. No matter what I did, I could never satisfy him. So I did what Luke 11:9 says and I went to God on a night after one of my husband’s yelling episodes, asking a simple question: “God, what is this spirit that I am battling with?” Ephesians 6:12 tells us we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against evil forces.
After saying that prayer, God immediately answered and revealed the culprit to my troubled marriage and the demise of the essence of who I am – my soul. He showed me that I was swimming in a toxic lake of domestic abuse with strong currents of fear, manipulation, and confusion. I finally had a diagnosis with accurate symptoms and promising treatment. Once I realized what I was dealing with, I felt a sense of optimism come over me. I took my findings to my husband and he immediately rejected them and me, and told me to leave “his” house.
I quickly learned that domestic abuse is all about power and control. It is spiritual battle, warfare on a unfathomable and uncomfortable level. It comes in six forms: verbal, mental/emotional, sexual, physical, spiritual, and financial abuse. I was at war, and to survive I had to get mentally smarter in order to stay two steps ahead of my husband. I also had to become spiritually stronger to ensure I was led by the Spirit and not raw emotions.
I decided to learn everything I possibly could about the cycle of abuse. I found countless websites and books that revealed a web of intricate abusive behaviors that entangled me in an unhealthy and ungodly relationship.
God did not create you to be abused. Bishop T.D. Jakes states it perfectly: “Abuse means you are being used in a way you were not designed to be used.”
In order to break the cycle of abuse for my children, I had to trek into this mysterious world hidden from most abuse victim’s friends and family. There were five things I immediately had to understand and accept about myself and my abusive marriage.
5 Things to Understand About Abusive Relationships
- You are not to blame. It is not your fault. Never. There is no justification for abuse, and although your spouse may want to blame you for his actions, it is only an attempt to manipulate you and justify his behavior. You may think, “If I had not said this…. or done that…” he would have not yelled at or hit me. That is simply not true. Abusive behavior is a choice and you are not responsible for that choice. Deuteronomy 30:19 states that we are given choices and it is up to us to make the right choice.
- You are not responsible for your spouse’s needs. Contrary to you what you have been told, you are not responsible for your spouse’s needs and he is not responsible for yours. Setting the expectation that your spouse will meet your needs is breeding ground for major disappointment. Each of you is responsible for your own needs. Malachi 2:16 says, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment [his wife] with violence. Therefore keep a watch upon your spirit [that it may be controlled by My Spirit], that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly [with your marriage mate].” God instructs each of you to keep a watchful eye on your spirit and your dealings within your marriage because, in the end, you are responsible for your own needs and behavior.
- You are not able to change your spouse. As I dated my husband, I saw the red flags, flashing caution lights, and big orange “DETOUR” and red “WRONG WAY” signs, but I proceeded on the belief that I could change my husband once we were married. I thought surely the vow I made to love him until death do us apart would eradicate the behaviors that were drawn from a jealous spirit. I was wrong. The only changes came with me changing in desperate attempts to make him satisfied. I was no longer myself; I became a possession. Change is a choice, and it is one led by the Spirit, an internal burning conviction to do and be a better person. Both of those sources exclude you entirely.
- You are not who they want you to believe. In abusive relationships it is easy to allow your impression of yourself take the shape of what your spouse tells you. Don’t be fooled. The only person who can define you is yourself. You define you. Reading the Bible daily gave me the strength and reassurance my mind and soul needed. Through reading the Word and prayer, God reminded me Who is in control and to Whom I belong. If you start to doubt yourself, go to God for revelation and strength. It is in our weakest moments that God reveals His mighty strength and plans. (Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-11.)
- You are not alone. I used to think there wasn’t another soul that could relate to what I was going through. I would talk to my friends and family, and all I received was pity. Pity is counterproductive to restoration. Charles Spurgeon said, “But the people used to strengthen us are never those who sympathize with us; in fact, we are hindered by those who give us their sympathy, because sympathy only serves to weaken us.” Instead, you will need validation and understanding. You can find both in a support group. There are numerous online and community support groups. Check out a local women’s shelter or domestic violence and abuse group. I can’t explain how vital it is to have the support of women who understand exactly what you are feeling. “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)
If you believe you are in an abusive marriage, please seek help. I share seven steps on how to expose marital abuse on my blog which is a good starting point after you have prayed and sought God for revelation as to what steps you need to take. God will walk with you every step of the way if you just trust Him.
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Alvie is an author, speaker and blogger residing in Dallas, Texas with her three amazing and children. She is a domestic abuse and violence survivor committed to helping other women by keeping her promise to God and sharing her testimony on how God’s grace restored her. She is determined to give a voice to victims and help women discover and draw from their inner wellspring of courage. She is aIso the co-Founder of RIB Ministry, a social awareness campaign designed to promote healthy marriages and she is founder of the SHEWINS Project, a blog dedicated to helping women heal from domestic abuse.