Feelings of Rage Welling Up…

Recently I found out that a good friend’s husband sexually abused her sister and a niece when they were adolescents. She is completely devastated at this horrible news and feels guilty because she was the one who invited her sister and niece to spend a few days at her house during the summer several years ago.

As she told me about this, feelings of rage began to well up in my chest and wanted to spill out all over the place. I had considered her husband a friend, he had been to my home many times, and I had trusted him.  My friend’s pain was my primary concern but now I’m dealing with my own feelings of disgust and even hatred at times. I know we should not hate the sinner but hate the sin…but I’m having a hard time with that one.  They live in another country so there’s no chance I’ll bump into him and be tempted to hit him, but these horrible feelings are still here in my heart.

A heaviness for my friend’s pain lodged on my shoulders and I couldn’t sleep.  The rage took over my mind and clouded my concentration for days. Yesterday I wrote him. I probably shouldn’t have, at least not while I still had these feelings inside. I told him he was a monster, a rapist, a child molester. I was not kind.

Now I’m processing not only what he did, but what I’ve done.

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Positive People Who Help Us Heal

As I think back about my abusive marriage one bright spot stands out (no, not the marriage). God blessed me with awesome friends who were with me through it all.  None of them knew the extent of the abuse (it was sexual mostly and that’s a very intimate topic to talk about, even with your BFF) but they knew things weren’t good and even based on what they could observe about the way he treated me and the kids, they knew it was rough.

One friend kept in touch via email regularly. Another friend invited me for coffee almost weekly. We didn’t necessarily talk about HIM but we shared common struggles, concerns for our kids, and we prayed together. One friend who was especially helpful chatted with me almost daily for a while during the worst of it even though she was on the other side of the world.  She would say “Good night” and I would say “Have a good day” or vice versa.

Having a support system is so important when we’re going through a crisis and even in the day to day stress and pain of an abusive marriage. I feel so sad for the women out there (and men) who are much more isolated than I was and are not permitted to reach out to friends or family.

This leads to my next thought: We should all be much more aware and perceptive in our interactions with acquaintances and friends. What a gift we could give them if we ask them to meet us for coffee and let them pour their hearts out! We don’t have to have answers, we only need to listen and be with them.  We can’t fix it for them but we can help them feel the courage to do what they know they need to do. It may take a while to get to that point for them, but I hate to think of going through what I did without the love and support of a few close friends.

So let’s be that friend to someone who needs it.

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Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

I, like so many others in the U.S. have been stranded at home due to the snow this winter. For most of us it means less income because of lost work hours, but the flip side is that we get some extra time at home with our family and time to catch up on projects.  This extra time also provides us with time to reflect and search a little more deeply into ourselves and listen to our hearts.

As I looked out at the snow covered yard, I remembered several areas of the garden that needed some work before the winter, but somehow I never got around to taking care of them. There’s a hole that needs to be filled, there are weeds that should have been pulled, and some rocks to pick up. The wonderful thing about a good snow is that it extends this pure blanket of white on everything, covering up all the imperfections of the landscape.  It dawned on me that that’s what God does for us when he covers us with His amazing love.  When He looks at us, he doesn’t see the holes, the rocks and the weeds. Pure white covers our hearts, our lives, our past, our present, and our future. Our sins are covered in His blanket of love!

I think of this also as it relates to an abusive past.  Love DOES cover a multitude of sins, as I Peter 4:8 says. It not only covers our sin, but it covers the pain we have experienced from the sins of others. It wraps us up in loving warmth and soothes our wounds and scars.

I don’t think I’ll ever see snow in the same way again!

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The Difference of Willing Participation

As I thought about my first marriage, I remembered that there was a period when our sex life was fulfilling and did not feel abusive, as it did later on.  I asked myself “what was the difference?”  I thought about this question for a long time. Why was that good period not abusive and why did the last few years definitely feel like abuse to me?

The answer I came up with is this: I was a willing participant during the good times.  What we did in the bedroom was spontaneous and sought out by both of us.  I didn’t feel pressure, I wasn’t manipulated into doing things that I didn’t want, and I had a voice.

Somehow and for some reason, that all changed, very gradually.  I believe that the more we experimented, the more he wanted things that were out of my comfort zone. Perhaps pornography had something to do with it.  When a man sees all sorts of things going on in porn, he may decide that he is entitled to that as well with his wife.  The problem is that 1) I wasn’t watching porn and didn’t have any desire to, 2) what happens in porn films is always pushing the envelope, always more risky, more aggressive, more everything. It isn’t a true depiction of normal, loving sex between two people who are committed to each other for life.

So the more he wanted, as far as frequency and what he actually wanted to carry out, the less comfortable I became. It no longer felt like the outcome of a loving relationship. It felt more like an expectation to always be better, do more, be more…and when I had the slightest hesitation to do what he wanted, he set in to convince me that this was something I wanted.  THAT is where it became abuse.

I recently say the movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and like it. One aspect of the movie though was fantastic-I almost jumped up and down in the theater! When Moses’ wife asks him several questions that affirmed his love for her, she then said “you may proceed”.  Then later in the movie, he asked her “May I proceed?” to which she responded “proceed”.  THAT is what consent is all about!

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It’s Been a While!

Here I find myself embarrassed that I haven’t posted on my blog for 2 months. What’s up with that, I ask myself.  Yes, I’ve been busy, but I think there’s more to it than that.

Healing from sexual abuse is a long journey, with many ups and downs.  Sometimes we feel as though we’re doing pretty well, and other times we feel like we haven’t made any progress at all.  We think we’re right back where we started.  And if’ we’re not doing much to help ourselves, how can we be of any help to others?

My goal has always been to help those who may find themselves in an abusive marriage, abuse of any kind.  Do I have anything at all to contribute to the healing journey of others? Or am I simply kidding myself into thinking that I made it through to the other side, so I have something good to contribute to others?

Here’s what I think: I don’t have all the answers, nor will I ever.  But I do know what it feels like to be trapped in a marriage that was sucking the life out of me, to the point that I didn’t know if I would ever have the strength to get out.  But I did. And I learned a few things along the way.

Whether I have all the answers or not, I’m here, ready to lend a hand, be a shoulder to cry on, be an objective listener, and a cheerleader for anyone who is ready to face the abuse and make some important decisions.

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Is This Normal?

Countless women are suffering in silence as they endure sexual abuse within their own home, at the hands of their own husband, who pledged to love and cherish them “from this day forward”. What many have experienced is much different from the pretty promises made years earlier. Some women question if what they are experiencing is abuse or not and they doubt their own instincts, convincing themselves that “this is normal”, or hoping things will get better.

 

I was one of those women, at first thinking that what my husband expected of me and did to me was normal. After all, most men are “hot blooded”, right? I knew that sex was important to men and that often their need for sex was greater than their wives’ need. I ignored the signs as long as I could, excusing my husband’s behavior and expectations, trying to please him, and then trying harder. As the years passed, I very slowly realized that I was in an abusive relationship. It was the kind of abuse that wasn’t visible to anyone-there were no bruises for others to see, and the abuse was well hidden underneath the image everyone saw. I don’t know exactly what woke me up to see the abuse for what it was but I do remember feeling that it wasn’t anything like the expression of love that I thought sex was supposed to be in marriage.

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I’ll Deal With it Later…

Sometimes we’ve seen the early warning signs but have chosen to ignore them.  It’s easier that way, at least in the beginning.  We have plans as a couple-have a baby, buy a house, another baby, get a promotion, buy the boat, buy a bigger house.  Because we want all these things, we don’t dare allow ourselves to think to deeply or too long about those warning signs.

We hope it will get better. We hope it will go away. We hope he learns. We hope we learn. We hope that little voice in our head doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Go away. Shut up. Leave me alone. Let me live my life.

We’re so busy with the stuff of life

Potty training, grocery shopping.

House painting, curtain picking.

Flower planting, cake baking.

Clothes shopping, hair styling.

And all the while, ignore, deny, ignore. It’s easier that way.

Or is it?

Posted in Abuse in Marriage, Abusive marriage, Frequency, Intimacy, Marital rape, Marriage, Sexual Abuse in marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Early Warning Signs

A friend once asked me if I had seen any warning signs early on in my relationship with my abusive husband.  My answer was “Yes, and no”.  I saw things I didn’t like, like his constant talking about things that interested him but his inability to focus on anything unrelated to himself, or his deciding what we would do without asking me my opinion or wishes, but at the same time I was naive and young.

I also was aware that when I said I didn’t want to do something anymore, usually something sexual, he agreed but a few days later would pressure me again into doing what I didn’t want to do. Little did I know that that would become a pattern and the things he pressured me to do later on would be very far out of my comfort zone.

Looking back I ask myself “why didn’t I see it?” or “why didn’t I react?”  I could have broken it off much ore easily then than years (27) and two kids later.  It would be easy to beat myself up over not seeing the signs more clearly, or not taking action.

We have to remember though that the decisions we made earlier in our lives, at a much different stage in life, were just that-decisions we made at that stage and when we were less mature, less wise, less everything.

What are some of the warning signs that we tend to ignore or minimize?

-lack of respect, criticism.

-pressure to be sexual when we don’t want it.

-rocky relationships with his friends or family.

-lack of interest in your interests or hobbies.

-making decisions for you.

-a string of ex-girlfriends (and it was all their fault).

-restricting your activities.

-trying to control your finances or what you eat.

There are many other red flags that we either don’t see or choose not to pay attention to, and years later we wish we had.

Don’t beat yourself up, learn from the experience, and keep your eyes wide open in future relationships!

Posted in Abuse in Marriage, Abusive marriage, Frequency, Intimacy, Marital rape, Marriage, Sexual Abuse in marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who do you turn to?

When the realization hit me and my awakening was complete, the next question was “Now what?” I couldn’t continue to act as if nothing was wrong in my marriage. I could no longer ignore the pain, both physically and emotionally that I felt.

As a Pastor’s wife and a missionary, I was expected to be the model wife. Our marriage was supposed to be the model marriage. We actually led marriage workshops!

I have a soft place in my heart for Pastor’s wives and missionaries because they are so completely isolated from a strong support system. The nature of their work and ministry implies that they should be strong, have it all together and be happy in their marriage.

Who do you turn to when you’re the one everyone turns to? Who can you trust with your difficult truth? You can’t turn to anyone within your church, and you don’t want to confide in others in your circle. In many instances, telling the truth about your marriage could cost you your job, your housing, your transportation and your health insurance…and your reputation and any possibility of future ministry (or so you may think).

I tried to reach out to a fellow missionary but the magnitude of my situation was beyond what she could handle, aside from raised eyebrows and a look of horror on her face.

Another sweet, well-meaning missionary wife suggested that I schedule a regular date-night with my husband. I appreciated her attempt, but the thought of spending any more time than I absolutely had to with my abusive husband was distressing.

I finally talked to a counselor, a divorced woman around my age. She was a Christian but was wise enough to refrain from applying easy, pat answers to my questions. She helped me to solidify my view of my marriage and helped me to identify what I really needed. She walked with me in my journey as I attempted to stop the abuse and she encouraged me when I was afraid to move forward.

At the time, blogs were not popular and online support groups were unheard of.  As you read this, I commend you for reaching out and looking for answers.

I’m here for you.

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The Comfy World of Denial

It has been said that “Ignorance is bliss” and I would have to agree to some extent.  When you don’t know something, you don’t have to deal with it.  Not knowing implies no responsibility or need to take action.  Life is less complicated when we don’t know.

Things quickly get more complicated and stressful once we find out something we previously were not aware of.  For example, if a woman finds out that her husband is having an affair, that is obviously very distressing but it also demands action. What will she do about it? How should she handle it? What’s the best course of action? Move out? Kick him out? Confront him? Confront the other woman? A host of new choices are begging for attention and causing tremendous confusion and chaos.

So now we are not ignorant of the facts, but we have to choose how to deal with this new information.

When a woman is in an abusive marriage, it’s often so much easier to deny its existence and keep on going.  Living with what is already familiar is so much less frightening than choosing something new and unknown.  We know how to handle this man…but we don’t know how to live alone, or how to confront, or how to stop the abuse.

Denial, sweet denial.  I ask myself if you, the reader and my companion on this journey of self-discovery, are in denial.

 

 

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