No where to go

Dear Renea,

I have been a Christian for over 40 years and have served the Lord for most of those years (I was also a missionary). I love teaching the Word of God but have held back on some dreams I have had because of the ongoing verbal abusive of my husband.

I have been married for 33 years. We have both been faithful. I have a chronic illness and it is incurable and I battle fatigue everyday. I have told my husband that I appreciate that he has supported us, etc. And he has done some good things in our marriage to help me sometimes after surgeries, etc.

But the good times only last for a little while and then he is back to yelling and saying belittling things. I have tried to reason with him and even pray with him. But he still does not get it. In essence if things are not done exactly how he wants them done or I disagree he has a fit. This has affected our whole family in a very negative way. People outside our family do not really know about this. Only 2 of my dearest friends know about this. He has also devastated our fianances by continuing to do a business that was not creating enough income for many years and would not listen to me. Now we are going through bankruptcy and foreclosure.

I believe in the covenant of marriage and have no where to go. There is no money for me to move anywhere and I am too ill to support myself.

When I went to church for free counseling (I cannot afford to go to a licensed professional) they told me that it was just the hard fianancial times that we are going through that has caused this and that I was to be submissive and bear it and keep praying about it!

I have suggested all through the years to go to counseling and he has refused to go. There are times that I wish God would just take me home because the pain is unbearable. Especially, when I see that this a Christian man that reads and knows the Word of God and yet continually excuses his verbal abuse and tells me that I am the cause of it or that I am being too sensitive. A couple of weeks ago I again told him with tears how much his verbal abuse was hurting me and was even vulnerable and he still did NOT get it. I told him that from then on I would not be able to trust my heart to him because I knew that unless he decided that what he was doing was wrong and that he would repent and do something to change this behavior that he was going to do it again.

Soon after he blew up again. Later on when I discussed with him what he said he trivialized it again. And this time I told him that I could not put up with this behavior anymore. But where do I go with this? I feel like my hands are tied: I cannot get away from being battered emotionally and how can I get help that I cannot afford? How do I heal from this in the midst of being battered verbally?? PLEASE give me some suggestions.

M

Dear M,

I’m so glad you wrote. I can certainly give some suggestions that can hopefully point you in the right direction and give you a good start. I’m terribly sorry for the situation you’re in, for all that you’ve endured. And I’m sorry you got such flat advice from your church. That really is frustrating. I’m glad to hear that you have been and are standing up for yourself. I know it’s a difficult thing to do because it never works immediately; in fact, it can sometimes only make things worse at first because your husband is, based upon your description, a controlling person. And when you stand up for yourself, that threatens his sense of control over you. This doesn’t necessarily make your husband an evil person, or even a bad person overall, because of course, all of our issues and unhealthy coping mechanisms come out of a deeper hurt: there’s more than likely some injury or insecurity buried way down deep that has caused your husband to be the controlling person that he has become. That certainly doesn’t mean he is without fault or responsibility, but remembering this helps us do the thing we must do: love him.

But again, love and submission doesn’t mean always rolling over, so I applaud you for sticking up for yourself in what seems like, from what you write, respectful ways. So where do you go from here? I have two recommendations. One: get the church involved. Your pastor should know what’s going on, and he or she should be involved in some way in confronting and disciplining your husband in love so that he might repent and live (fully and freely in Christ); as Scripture instructs:

If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. (Mt 18:15-17, The Message)

If your church will not do this, it is not a church. For what body, seeing that it has a cancer in one of it’s parts, would not deal with that cancer?

Secondly, I assume that when you write that you believe in the covenant of marriage that you mean divorce is an unthinkable option. I agree with you, and affirm you for holding onto convictions much of Western Christianity has abandoned. Separation, therefore, may be your next step. Is there anyone you could move in with for what could be months, even years? Relatives? What about the two friends you mentioned? Again, this is what Church is about. Christianity is a communal affair. We do not lose our individuality, rather we practice true hospitality by creating safe places for one another where we can shine light in each other’s darkness. A scary and difficult way of living, but the only way that leads to the rich, full, abundant life Christ came and died and rose again to give us. I recommend separation because you’re right. You cannot put up with this behavior any longer, and this just might be the only way to save yourself from his abuse and potentially help him save himself from the controlling issues that keep him from living as a renewed human — the way we were all meant to live in the beginning — and from there, who knows, maybe even reconciliation.

For more affirmation and exhortation in what is biblical regarding these kinds of relationships, I recommend Townsend and Cloud’s book Boundaries (they also have Boundaries in Marriage, but I am not as familiar with that one; I assume it is also very helpful); much of what I have written here comes from this book. And finally, I recommend contacting a counselor at Hope the Heart. It’s free I believe; though not professional, certainly biblical.

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4 Responses to No where to go

  1. I agree with your advice, Renea. Though, recommending such action is difficult, I can see no better alternative. Perhaps the marriage can be healed, but it’s obvious that it cannot get better while things at home are not changing. Some further steps are necessary. It’s unfortunate when a husband forgets his place.

  2. Rhett & Valerie says:

    Hey Renea!

    What a painful situation. I would consider advising the asker to go to a well-reputed couples’ counselor first—by herself since her husband won’t go with her–before moving out, but of course, if that’s impossible, she may have to separate for a time.

    Separating always has the greater goal of reconciliation and safety. I pray this woman is able to find peace in a chaotic situation.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Val

  3. reneamac says:

    Both of you have such beautiful hearts. I really appreciate your feedback and encouragement, especially in cases such as this one. Thanks for sharing the burdens of this world in Christ as my brothers and sisters (you and your spouses).

  4. 18hermit says:

    thanks

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