Give Me Five Minutes (Things I Would Like to Say To An Abuse Victim)

Dear friend, I have no idea how long you might listen before you five minutesdecide to shut me out.  But what I have to say is important, and I hope you will give me just a few precious minutes to share what is on my heart.

What I need to say may change how you see yourself and even, perhaps, the course of your life.  Please consider my words.  My prayer in this moment is that you might give yourself permission to be completely honest with yourself.  Listen to what your heart says.  You will know if what I am saying is true.

You see, I know a lot more about you than you might imagine.  I know you think no one knows what is going on in your little corner of the world.

But I know.

I can see you shaking your head even as the tears form in your eyes.  You doubt me.  But please hear me out.

Dear one, I know that you are hurting, that you are unhappy and that you feel guilty for feeling unhappy.  I know you believe that your situation is unique, that no one could possibly understand what your home life is like.  I know that you have been told and have come to believe that your unhappiness is the result of your own failings and flaws.  You have bought into the notion that you deserve to be unhappy at this point in your life.  You have clung to the conviction that if you can just get this thing right, then your life would change.  I know that you struggle with depression and anxiety, and you feel guilty that you are imperfect.  You accept the blame and responsibility for anything and everything that goes wrong and commit to trying harder next time.

But it’s not your fault.

I know that words have been spoken that have pierced and wounded your heart.  Those words have left deep and terrible scars.  They haunt you.  You have heard them so often and in so many different ways that you have come to believe that you are truly stupid and foolish and inadequate and unworthy and pitiful and selfish.

But you’re not.

I also know your husband uses your faith to bludgeon you into submission.  I know all about the crazy-making conversations, his impossible expectations and double standards.  I have seen that hateful look in his eyes and know all about that sick feeling you get when he turns to you with that icy stare – warning you not to mess with him.  I know that you do everything in your power to try to manage it, to shield your children, to create a happy home, to override your emotions, to assume the best.

But your home is a toxic, terrifying place because, as hard as you try, your entire life revolves around his ever-changing moods and demands.

I know that you cry in secret – an ocean of broken, lonely tears.  There are times your body aches with untold sorrow and grief even when you find a way to quell your anguish and convince yourself that you are being overly sensitive, that it’s not that big of a deal.

But your pain is real, and it is a very big deal.

I know that your knees ache from the hours you have spent praying.  You have asked God to help you to be more gentle and selfless and forgiving.  You pray for your husband, that he would find peace and contentment and see how hard you are trying to earn his love.  I know that you pray that he might one day truly see you – your tender heart and your loyalty and your unwavering faith in him.  You pray that he might be wholly pleased with you, that in a singular, life-changing moment, tender words of adoration and affirmation might flow from his lips.

But that has not happened.  And it’s sad to say, it is unlikely you will ever hear those words, because that would diminish his power.

You might even have come to believe that your suffering is somehow in accordance with God’s divine will, that it is an honorable thing, your pain; that your willingness to share in His suffering somehow honors Him.  But you don’t deserve it, and your suffering in an ungodly marriage does not honor Him, but grieves Him.

I know that you believe with all your heart that one magical day all of this will turn itself around, that you will find the key that holds the power to put an end to this terrible misunderstanding and unlocks your man’s ratcheted-down heart.  You believe that your faithfulness, humility, patience, selflessness and forgiveness will yield an eventual reward of genuine, loving relationship.

But that’s not what he wants.

I know you have convinced yourself that this insane life you live is somehow normal.  Others have told you that every marriage has its ups and downs, and that this phase will pass, and your marriage will become stronger as a result.

But it’s not normal.  And it won’t pass.

I know you imagine a different life, a life free from the dark clouds of fear and confusion that overshadow your every step, every word, every dollar spent, every household endeavor and every dream and desire you have been compelled to push aside.

I know you imagine your children free to be children rather than little robots –innocent yet terrorized aliens in a home where they must tread lightly to avoid their father’s wrath.  I know you picture a home where laughter and affection reign, where confidence is sown and dreams are encouraged, where there is freedom to be imperfect, safe in the knowledge that our blemishes and limitations are simply what make us real and human.  And I know you trust that one day those all-too-human frailties will be met with grace and acceptance and comfort rather than criticism and cold, harsh words of condemnation and rejection.

But I cannot encourage you to put any stock in those cruel fantasies.

Dear friend, those things you struggle with, those emotions and doubts and fears that surround the world you live in are almost universally consistent with those of us who have been (or are) victims of abuse.

I know that such a realization may seem too much to bear, to consider the possibility that the man you say you love (and who claims to love you) is intentionally causing you harm.

I know that all this time you have believed that your pain and anxiety are a result of your insufficiencies and that you may even deserve the treatment you have received.

But you have never been inadequate or unlovable, and you have never deserved to be treated that way.

I pray that you can open your eyes to the truth about the world you live in, to acknowledge the pain you have so long denied.  I beg you to find a way to crack open that little shell in which you have learned to survive and let someone in – someone who will help you.  I pray that you can draw upon the last ounce of strength you possess to tell your secrets, to reach out to those who have always loved you and long to see you whole and happy.

How do I know these things?

I have been where you are.  You see, for 20 years I believed all of the same deceptions, bought into all of the same lies, suffered the same kinds of depression and fear and confusion and anxiety under which you now suffer.

Now I can see clearly the terrible web of deception my abuser wove.  But in one shining moment, someone helped me to see through the lies.  With the help of people who care, I escaped and fought my way to a new life grounded in truth and love and restoration and newfound confidence.

You don’t have to believe the lies anymore.  You don’t have to live that way for one more day.  And you shouldn’t.

Please hear me, dear one.  Please, please hear me.

I pray that you will allow the words I have shared to reach deep, that these few minutes will be the beginning of a new understanding.  Let them be the precious moments that set the stage for the next phase of your life – a life that no longer includes abuse.

Thank you for taking these few minutes to consider what I have offered and know that I want only God’s best for you.

Copyright 2014

Cindy Burrell

All Rights Reserved




17 thoughts on “Give Me Five Minutes (Things I Would Like to Say To An Abuse Victim)”

  1. Thank you so much for this. What a gift. I sobbed and sobbed.
    Sometimes it feels like we wait for months, even years for a confirmation that what we are going through, the way we are treated, is not right. We feel like we need to do everything in our power to make it work before we let go. Sometimes we are so used to shutting down that it becomes a knee-jerk reaction to push away the pain. Sometimes we get confused by messages from our families and our churches–all who encourage us to hang on because they see only a fragment of what we are living. Sometimes our spouses make improvements and we cling onto that hope that this time it will stick, delude ourselves into believing that they have changed for good. What you wrote reached deeper than all of those rationalizations. Your compassionate voice touched a chord of truth in me that I was too afraid to admit on my own. Thank you for what you are doing. It makes a difference to me.

    1. Hello, Bellabee.

      I am so sorry that you are in pain, but I am thankful that I you are searching for the truth – and that I could provide the validation you need. As you know, many people will never understand and will not encourage you to leave your abuser or support you if you do.

      But you and I, and many others like us, get it.

      You are welcome to e-mail me with questions and concerns. I’ll do what I can to help or direct you.


  2. Beautifully written, Cindy. I pray that those who find themselves here will take what you said and allow themselves to break free of the destructiveness which has ruled their lives for far too many years.
    I’m so grateful to be free after 25 years…and I have no regrets except that I didn’t get out sooner.

  3. Cindy, you convey the thoughts and feelings I have had for eighteen years. The main reason I’m separating for the final time is because I’m afraid I’m becoming like him and have totally lost who I am. I’ve been done with him in my heart for years but now I want to be free from his influence and find me. Thank you.

    1. Hello, Katherine.

      I am sorry that you have endured so much, but I want to assure you that you are not like him, and the “you” you want to be is not so far off as you imagine. She is there, just below the hurt and the protective shell you have had to grow to protect yourself for all these years. I know it may not be easy to cast off all the gunk and grime. It will take time to heal, but oh, how sweet it will be to discover that your tender heart is still in there somewhere, waiting to be resurrected, ready to learn to live again.

  4. He doesn’t hit me. He doesn’t say abusive words. He doesn’t cheat. He works hard. He says he loves me.

    I don’t know why I feel so bad. It has to be me. Just because he doesn’t speak to me or encourage me or take me out doesn’t mean he’s abusive.


    1. Hello, Dana.

      I am so sorry that you are hurting. I think I need a little more information from you.

      He doesn’t talk to you? He doesn’t encourage you or spend quality time with you? If you can elaborate some on your relationship, I’ll try to give you some feedback. You can also e-mail me at my private e-mail if that would work better for you. Go to the “Contact Cindy” link and respond from there if you’d prefer.

      I look forward to hearing from you.


  5. Thanks so much! I feel everything you said. I have been married for 15 years. The only difference is I had an emotional affair with my boss last year. It only lasted a couple of months and my husband caught me texting. His abuse has been 2x worse since. Only verbal and emotional with lots of destruction of property. Not physical toward me yet. I want out so bad! I quit my job that I loved. I now have no income and am totally dependent on him. I think the relationship with my boss was my way out of the marriage?

    1. Hello, Robyn.

      I am sorry about where you find yourself. While I certainly cannot condone the relationship you were having with your boss, I can, nevertheless, understand it. When we are so unhappy and lonely and hurting, and someone with whom we spend a lot of time comes along and “sees” us, it is certainly tempting. I fell into a similar situation, so I can relate completely. I too broke moved out of the situation and nothing ever happened between us…

      I don’t think the emotional affair was because you want a divorce, but because you are in an abusive marriage.

      Furthermore, I would say that there is no such thing as “only” verbal and emotional abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse and destruction of property are, from my perspective, far more insidious than physical abuse. The terror he inflicts is very real. When you’ve been struck, you know it. (You might want to read, “If Only He Would Hit Me” on the articles page of the website.)

      Even if he is not striking you, the harm is there. It’s just more difficult to identify, to defend ourselves – and to leave. Now that you have no job, and your husband has something he can hold over your head, he feels he has a right to abuse you. That’s wrong.

      Robyn, I hope you will look for employment and also look into a legal separation, which would entitle you to a portion of your husband’s income and enable you to get out. The fact that you feel everything that I have written tells me that you know the truth about the man you married. You don’t have to live that way.

      You are welcome to e-mail me at my private e-mail if you’d like.

      Please keep on reading, and keep me informed.


  6. Only been married for 10 months now and the signs started showing from the beginning. Part of me keeps saying it’s not that bad and I can handle it but I don’t want to be 15-20 years down the line and my confidence is destroyed, my self esteem low, all because I’m trying to serve an unreasonable, angry man. Here are some of the things he does and now it just becomes more often; If I try to bring up an issue that’s bothering me or if he tells me to do something and I forget to do it or don’t do it right away, he insults me, saying I don’t love him, I’m selfish, stupid, disrepectful and this has been in front of other people we know and strangers. He will never apologize for his outbursts, he says it’s my fault. But then when he wants to lay with me, it’s “you know I love you, this is part of love, you just need to learn to respect me.” I’m so shocked by his logic and thought process. He recently converted to Christianity from Islam but before we got married he never treated me like this. He says now is the time I and our daughter need to learn our role before it goes too far. And I am thinking now how do I stop it from going too far because I feel like I’m in a downward spiral. I am also 4 months pregnant with our 2nd child. I’m trying my best to be patient and kind but it seems to just make him feel like what he is doing is working in his favor. I just want be a good wife by Gods standards and perform my wifely duties but I can’t bring myself to sleep with him without feeling used but I don’t want to make things worse. I feel like my faith is waning because I’m afraid God wants me to stay in this situation. I want to trust that He wants the best for me and I know obedience is important but it’s hard for me to read “submit to your husband as you do to the Lord” how can I submit to a sinful man and I myself not be corrupted?

    1. Hello,Chi.

      I’m glad that you found our website and that you took the time to write.

      I am so sorry to read about your situation. I want to tell you from the outset that what you have described is absolutely abusive and ungodly. God does not condone abuse in marriage. The fact that you have detected this so early in your relationship is to your advantage. Although you are pregnant, I would strongly encourage you to consider how you might separate. You need to know that your efforts to accommodate him only feed his aggression and affirm that he has the right to demand ever more of you. You will ultimately find yourself emotionally exhausted and broken. As a wife, you are to be prized, honored, respected and well-loved. This is not what you are receiving.

      You are under no obligation to submit to a sinful man. That is absolutely inconsistent with God’s design as clearly delineated in Ephesians 5. In fact, the church should defend you and stand against him, although to my knowledge, few contemporary churches do so. I pray that you will seek a safe place away from him. And please educate yourself on abuse and what you can expect should you leave. Do not let your faith waver. Stand in the whole truth of God who loves you and who rises in defense of women and in opposition to treacherous, hard-hearted spouses. Some men twist and exploit the Scriptures to justify their abuse. It is unfathomable – hypocritical and completely counter to the heart of God for us as individual – and in defense of godly marriage.

      You are welcome to e-mail me at my private e-mail on the website if you need more feedback or would like to continue the “conversation.”

      You know in your heart that this is wrong. Act on what you know to be true. Get safe and leave that man. You do not have to live that way.


  7. Unbelievable, how you can hear it, see it, feeling it, experience it and not run from it! My abuser is a woman. She and I have dated for 3yrs., she keeps her hand on my forehead and her arm extended, so she won’t be pulled in be loved and cared for. She’s divorced 8yrs now, after a thirty year marriage in which her husband cheated on her,… I think I’m paying for his mistakes. im under a microscope, and we tread water in one place. Tells me we’re different, I could go on and on….. Ugh, I hate this!!!!! But I just haven’t been able server it. Darn it!

    1. Hello, Mike.

      I’m sorry you are having such a difficult time in your relationship with the woman you are dating. But you are obviously searching for information and answers, or you wouldn’t have found this website.

      So let me just validate what you probably already know: what you are living in is not healthy and, since it is has gone on for this long, you should not expect to see a reversal in your relationship dynamic.

      Why do you stay? Perhaps you might appreciate another piece on the website called, “Why An Abuse Victim Doesn’t Leave (In Six Words).” I think it might help you to see your thought process.

      You don’t have to live this way if you don’t want to.

      Let me know if I can direct you further. While the website is addressed primarily to women, the issues are the same. I’m happy to help if I can.


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