Category Archives: unsafe home

Where’s My Gumball?

Consider the gumball machine; it’s a relational analogy that works.

Practically speaking, it should be understood that in any relationship there is a give-and-take dynamic.  It should not be a matter of I’m-gonna-get-what-I’ve-got-coming-to-me sort of attitude, but rather a natural, mutual desire to meet the needs of the one we say we care most about.  Both people make investments of goodwill for the sake of the other, and both enjoy the benefits of one another’s gracious contributions.

But what happens when one person consistently, intentionally fails to demonstrate love and care toward the person they claim to love?

In an abusive relationship, the enabler-victim in the relationship is almost always in a perpetual struggle to reach the heart of her* abuser.  Although he is cold, emotionally cruel and frighteningly unpredictable, she remains committed, believing that her persistent love will reap its intended outcome – a healthy, mutually respectful, intimate partnership.  So day after day, by her practical and emotional investment, she puts a nickel into the proverbial gumball machine hoping to receive a small, reasonable return on her investment, if not today, then perhaps tomorrow – or the next day.

She reminds herself to be patient, learns to go without, and tries to dismiss his cruel words and habitual selfishness and neglect.  When he is hurtful, she tries to talk to him about her needs and longings, but rather than hearing her, embracing her and endeavoring to remind her of her worth, he instead insists that she is overly sensitive and needy.

Nevertheless, she continues to look for ways to remind him of her love, does those little extra things that she thinks will make him happy and help him to see how hard she is trying, believing that he will one day reciprocate.  Over time, she begins to wonder if or when she will receive the kindly attention and genuine affection she craves.  As hard and frustrating as it is, day after day she puts her nickels into the gumball machine and expectantly waits to hear the sweet morsel as it tumbles down the chute and falls into the cradled palm of her hand – concrete evidence of his love for her.  But as hungry as she is for the reward, it doesn’t come.

As the months or years pass, she might receive an occasional pat on the back or a sterile kind of “You know I love you” from her abuser’s lips, but those words cannot compensate for the countless coins of care she has invested with so little return.  Of course, we don’t love our spouse demanding a reward, but realistically, in a marriage, it is perfectly reasonable to expect one – healthy measures of genuine, spontaneous tenderness, affirmation and encouragement.  In a practical sense, our spouse’s presence should be the safest place to be.  But in an abusive relationship, the abuser expects his victim to keep investing in him while he offers little but endless criticism and a hostile, demanding presence.

So after so many months or years, why would anyone be surprised when the abuse victim leaves?  There is no mutual love there.  She has been emotionally bankrupted.  She has no nickels left to give.

But what happens when she finally leaves?  Typically, her abuser will suddenly chase after her.  He will offer a one-size-fits-all apology, tell her, “It will never happen again,” and expect her to unquestioningly return to him.  And what kind of fallout might she expect should she refuse to buy in?  What if she doubts his sincerity, having no reason to trust his words?  What if her instincts are telling her that nothing has really changed?  What if she feels certain that she must keep her distance?

In most instances, the abuser will soon become angry, and his weary victim will hear, “I said I’m sorry.  You need to get over it and forgive me and come back to me.”

With demanding anticipation, he will exclaim, “How dare you keep me waiting?  How dare you turn me away?  How dare you be so selfish and unfeeling?”

At this point, the truth is that he has invested nothing, so his victim owes him nothing.

Yet the abuser will almost always have the audacity to whine, moan, groan and complain, saying essentially, “Hey, I put in my nickel.  Where’s my gumball?”

###

*Although abusers can be of either gender, the overwhelming majority of abusers are male; therefore, the abuser is referenced in the masculine.  The reader’s understanding is appreciated.

Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

Three Words Every Abuse Victim Needs to Hear

It is a strange thing to invest so much energy into convincing yourselfsad2 that your relationship is normal only to one day be jolted by the reality that there is nothing normal about it, to be forced to admit that your relationship is patently unhealthy, destructive, and yes, abusive. Continue reading Three Words Every Abuse Victim Needs to Hear

Trump Cards: The Abuser’s Game-Changer

ace of spades2“Strange game.  The only winning move is not to play.”  WarGames

You may not even know he holds them, but the odds are good that, if you are in an abusive relationship, you have had these thrown at you more than once.

They are trump cards.

Abusers almost always have a trump card or two tucked into their pockets.  Just when you think that your reasoning might bring about a favorable resolution to a conflict, he pulls one of these babies out and drops it on the table.  Then what do you do?  You’ve just been undermined, shut down and dismissed.  The conversation is over, and you have lost.

 “I don’t care what you think.”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Just go away and leave me alone.”

“I’m done talking to you.”

“I have made my decision.”

“Just do as I say.”

“You will submit to me.”

Continue reading Trump Cards: The Abuser’s Game-Changer

Suffering Love:  A Redemptive Force or an Enabling One?  

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”   heart pendant

Romans 12:9

As we seek to understand God’s way for us in the midst of an abusive relationship, there are times when the Scriptures can provoke us to doubt or fear the heart of the One who loves us.  The Scriptures indeed acknowledge that there are times when enduring harsh or inappropriate treatment serves as a powerful testimony and can bring glory to God.  But too often we are inclined to believe that, if we are suffering in marriage, we are called to pray, perfect ourselves to attempt to earn our abuser’s love, and hope for change.

But what if a hostile husband’s behaviors have nothing to do with a lack of understanding, a difficult phase in his life, his struggles at work, or a traumatic childhood?  What if the one with whom you share your bed is an utterly self-absorbed, abusive – even wicked – man?  What if he knows exactly what he is doing, doesn’t care if you are hurting and uses your faith to keep you bound to him?  Does your commitment to sacrifice yourself to his will minister to him or merely enable him?  If it is the latter, you must ask yourself:  Is that what God would have me do?

Continue reading Suffering Love:  A Redemptive Force or an Enabling One?  

A Video to Share With Those Who Don’t Understand Verbal Abuse

This is a French video with subtitles, but it is well worth the time to watch and share with others to help them to understand how the dynamics of verbal and emotional abuse incrementally, insidiously destroy the victim.

It is one thing to watch this brief clip and see the pain in the woman’s eyes, but quite another to imagine living with a man like him day after day, week after week, year after year.  And he  never strikes her.

This is the kind of thing that most people do not understand.  The man is not going through a difficult time or having a bad day, nor is he merely unable to see his wife’s needs.  He doesn’t care about anything but himself and what he wants and expects.  The poor woman is his possession, not his partner.

See if you can identify the various tactics the man uses.

Trigger Warning:  This will likely churn up painful memories for the recovering abuse victim.