About me

cindy webNo woman walking down the aisle believes they will one day wake up lying next to an abusive spouse.  Vows are spoken with sincerity and forethought, colored by shared dreams of happily ever after.  I similarly promised myself – and God – that I would do all that I could to see that the marriage I had entered into would not only survive, but thrive.  Yet, one sad day, after a million little incremental abuses, I woke up battered and scarred, utterly confounded as to how my life had become such a nightmare.  What I did not realize was that the seeds had been planted long before.

I grew up in a broken home in Northern California with my mother and two sisters.   My mother was a determined provider.  She always made certain we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs.  Affection and communication, however, were virtually non-existent.  I did my best not to cause trouble, as it seemed that was what was expected of me.  But, I had no sense that I was in any way special, unique, attractive or otherwise extraordinary but I felt altogether empty and worthless.

When I was 19 or 20, I met John at church.  He was immediately smitten with me, and we began dating.  After a few short months, I broke off the relationship because he was constantly trying to “fix” me.  Almost a year later, after his expressed willingness to accept me as I was, we began dating again.  I took his obsession with me for love, and I believe I loved him too.  Two years later we were married.

John had some serious health issues, and together with his emotional stress of coping, John’s life quickly became the focal point of our relationship.  In my mind, this was my time to shine, so to speak.  I could dote on him, take care of him and encourage him without a care for my own needs.  That’s what love does, doesn’t it?  Looking back, I can see how John needed someone to take care of him, and I needed to be needed.  Both of us made it all about him.  Ours was a match made in hell.

Five years into our marriage, I became pregnant with our firstborn:  a daughter.  John was an awesome daddy to Charla, but it was during her early years that he began to drink and self-medicate.  Both of our families had a history of alcoholism, so I protested loudly and often for fear of what might follow.  He would assure me that he was in control, try to hide his issues and, if discovered, would condemn me for my lack of sensitivity and support.

Over time, our marriage saw an ever-changing number or type of lapses of integrity which included the use of pornography, stealing, lying, questionable relationships and drug and alcohol abuse – whatever seemed necessary to try to fill the ever-growing hole in John’s life.  It was no longer even remotely concealed that John’s needs and desires came first.  Trying to gain my husband’s love and appreciation became my objective – to give, love, encourage and support John to the extent that he would want to love me and care about what was best for our family.

As the years passed, we were blessed with three more children, two sons and another daughter, yet more children, less time and money also meant more self-sacrifice.  So John looked for ways to satiate his own appetites.  John’s drinking increased, as did his prescription drug abuse, and with it the deception.  He became a spend-aholic, and our finances began to suffer.  Any criticism or concerns I voiced were met with anger, and John’s passionate insistence that he should not be deprived whatever he pursued.  To his way of thinking, any objections I had were because of my blatant selfishness.

Without emotional support, together with my twisted understanding of what it meant to be a God-honoring wife, I kept our family secrets and prayed fervently that things would turn around.  I naively believed that, if I maintained my loyalty and became even more encouraging, sensitive and giving, one day  our family would be made whole.  That day never came.

Even more insidious, although threatening or intimidating, John never hit me.  He knew all of my sensitivities, such as my desire to be a godly wife, woman and mother and could disarm me by insulting my faith, disparaging my character or simply demanding submissive silence of me.  He would openly refuse to help me with household tasks when I asked just to throw his weight around, and would periodically lock me out of our bedroom as a form of punishment.

My husband became a tactical expert, using his words like a weapon.  He could twist my words and confound me to the point of sheer exasperation and confusion.  In the end, whatever was wrong in our relationship could be traced to my failure.  John’s will and domination controlled our world.

There were many times I wanted help, wanted to leave.  But, he had never hit me.  Nor, to my knowledge, had he ever been unfaithful.  So I felt as though I had no biblical justification for leaving and none of my Christian friends ever gave me permission to do so.

By the time I was forced to leave with our children, I was little more than a shell.  I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the children lived in fear and anxiety, and John ruled his world with an iron fist.

 

Eighteen years earlier, I could not have foreseen that I would end up in an abusive marriage – that I would go to such extreme and unrealistic lengths – even sacrificing my common sense, dignity and even the emotional security of my own children — to try to earn love and respect.  John may have been abusive, but I enabled his destructive behavior.  Our divorce was final in 2003.

My regrets are too numerous to count.  They come from not demanding the respect and children and I deserved early on, not speaking the truth openly from the beginning, not getting whatever drastic form of counsel and emotional support I needed, not putting my foot down and saying no.  It has been hard for me to forgive myself for the cruelties our children witnessed and endured.  I had failed to adequately protect those most precious to me.

There is nothing noble about allowing another to wield such power and control.  It is a deadly trap and a lie.  Like so many others in similar circumstances, I didn’t want to see it, and so denied it.  My belief system led me to believe that I could, through a positive, loving example, help my husband to become the man I thought he wanted to be.   Instead of living in reality, I held out for hope, imagining our family one day standing whole and happy,  Such was the vindication I yearned for but never received.   I believe this desire lies deep in the heart of every enabler.

Individuals caught in abusive situations are seeking three primary things:  a voice, a sense of value, and validation.  While our voice may be most easily found, our sense of value must be most consciously fought for, and vindication, we must understand, may never be forthcoming.  The road to restoration and healing becomes clearer when we let go of our unrealistic expectations.

If you are living in the dreadful confusion of an abusive relationship, please waste no time in speaking out.  If it feels hurtful and wrong, it probably is.  Love is not confusing and does not diminish the value of others.  It’s okay, and sometimes imperative, that you say no.  Of course, it is vital that you use wisdom in terms of how you take action to free yourself, making personal safety of all those concerned the highest priority.

If I could take this journey, recover and thrive again, I am confident that you can do the same.  And on this website, my objective is to provide hurting women with a wealth of information and resources to help them to find their way to freedom.

34 thoughts on “About me”

    1. Hello, Sunshine.

      How very honored I am that you chose to nominate me for the Brave Heart award and share my story with your followers!

      Thank you for thinking of me. You just made my day.

      Most sincerely,

      Cindy Burrell
      Author and Owner
      hurtbylove.com

  1. Cindy,
    I received an article by Doug a couple of days ago. It was about “rapid fire talking.” I wanted to respond, but no way that I tried to do so worked. Thus, perhaps through your blog I can do so.

    To Doug’s good advice, from my experience, I would add this: This dynamic was frequent in my former marriage until two things happened. The first was that, through time and trial and error, I had learned how to overcome reacting to the rapid fire accusations, twists and turns of topic, and put-downs.

    Secondly, I finally decided to take notes so that I could address each point he made, one at a time, and not be jerked back and forth by not only his twists and turns but by my own reaction of trying to keep up with them. When he had run out of steam, my pen still poised over paper, I would then go back to the beginning and start with point #1, going down as far on the list as he would last, being very careful and prayerful to avoid anger and to maintain an attitude of respect. If I had no immediate answer, similar to what Doug suggests, I would simply say, “Hmm…I have to think about that. I’m not sure I know how to answer just yet, but I will get back to you.” Or something to that effect.

    This approach, although very difficult at first, emotionally, was very successful and became easier over time. Soon, my ex husband, realizing I was not falling emotionally or intellectually, anymore, to the rapid fire tactic, stopped using it.

    Here is the down side: it only worked for a period of time. Although he stopped the direct verbal assaults, the put-downs, accusations, criticisms and so on took other, more subtle forms. That is, when he was being “Mr. Hyde,” the malignant “other” of the Jeckyll/Hyde persona. The Jeckyll periods were very good. Trouble is, there was often no warning when the change would/could occur. At least that I could consistently discern.
    And of course it increased my “on guard” mechanism whenever he was around. Which is never a good dynamic in a relationship.

    Sadly, the rage and contempt beneath all of that sort of behavior re-surfaced in his one, last, outrageous, drunken tirade during which I left. For good. The angst toward me and life and who knows what else had finally come to a head for him, it seems. His rage was completely out of the blue in the midst of an otherwise peaceful evening at home. Or so I thought.

    Maybe it was the allure of his old girlfriend, a factor in our marriage for about its final fifteen years (out of 42), albeit peripherally. As far as I know. Maybe it was my increasing pull-back from his unpredictable criticisms and put downs. Maybe what with my mother’s accident and end-of life needs and my sister’s near murder in her high risk workplace that both took some energy and re-focus away from our regular routine for the last six months or so of our marriage. Or maybe it was something else entirely.

    But even after learning and employing many lessons through the years on how to fix me up and how to try to fix the relationship, I realized the core and abiding anger and contempt in him for me just never really got resolved. It apparently only simmered beneath. But that’s his work to do.

    In the meantime, with the help of God and many fine counselors and teachers “earth-side,” I continue to recover, safely, completely away from and outside of that very toxic relationship.

    So, though Doug’s good advice is very helpful and perhaps my two-cents’ worth added is, too, the bottom line is that all of that may still not work. At the point of that realization, I pray that, like me, the person on the receiving end of “rapid fire talking” will be able to discern it’s time to leave and will be able to do so.
    P.

    1. Hello, Phyllis.

      Thank you for coming here to share your testimony. The website is sort of under construction at the moment, and Doug’s blog may yet be added where people can comment directly.

      Nevertheless, your testimony is powerful. I actually wondered if your practical technique for trying to address an abuser’s “jeopardizing” (my term for rapid-fire talking) and even hoped that maybe you had lasting success. But I am not altogether surprised that your patient response could not help him to see his hostile ways.

      Our personal circumstances and crises always seem to elevate the abuser’s selfish behavior. They just hate it when someone else is the center of attention – even with good cause. Unbelievable – or maybe not.

      As always, I appreciate your input. You have a lot to offer in the way of understanding and you communicate it well! I know your story will resonate with many.

      Keep sharing it!

      In Him,

      Cindy

      1. Thanks for your speedy response, Cindy. I’m glad to know my trouble accessing Doug’s blog is not connected with some problem with my computer! I recently had to switch computers when my laptop died, so this is good news.

        The take-notes and respond point by point did work for a season, actually. As you know, my story covers decades, so I had opportunity to improve, at least until he caught on to what I was doing and backed off. He even used it once or twice with me when I lost patience over something or other!

        Mostly, as I was growing in my knowledge of my worth and value in Jesus Christ, my confidence increased as did my ability to be able to step back and view a crisis more calmly, while praying silently for how to respond. Raging back, which I did a few times the first few years, had certainly not helped.

        In addition to learning the practical techniques such as the one I referenced, sometimes I “heard,” in my spirit, “Say nothing and walk away.” Other times, I “heard,” tell him you will think about it and get back to him.” Once, even “That’s the alcohol ‘talking’ and you do not need to respond to that.” And of course the last time, I “heard,” “You need to leave now.” By that time, I had gained enough faith in discerning what I believe was wisdom and I was able to follow through and tough through the months since then of recovery with a sufficient store of strength. Not that any of this has been easy.

        However, ultimately, all of those lessons I learned, some individual and couples counseling in the early nineties, praying on many occasions for “God’s heart” for my ex husband when I had lost “my heart” for him and then experiencing a renewed love, albeit short-lived, and the maturity I gained in the Lord and just as a human being ( such a naive and very immature teenager was I when we married!) wasn’t enough to fix things. I, however, have grown by leaps and bounds since I left.

        I think the reason it is so hard for people caught up in relationships like mine to adequately discern what is fundamentally wrong with things while still in the relationship is that so much energy is put on avoiding the eggshells, trying to predict the down sides, dodging the verbal abuse, the contemptuous looks, the anger, that little is left to safely explore the complex reasons a relationship is so damaged. And, of course, there is the classic effects of the F.O.G. (fear, obligation, and guilt) often associated with living with a verbally abusive person that impede progress.

        But perhaps I can help someone else who might have the hope of a different outcome. As an “encourager” in the Body of Christ, that would make me happy.

        In the meantime, I can’t believe the incredible creative energy I have now, on the job as well as in other aspects of my life.

        1. Just one more thing. I know I’m taking up white space, here.

          When I was first accused of being “too sensitive” I reacted, of course, defensively because the topic was framed as a negative.

          After I calmed down and really thought it through, of course I realized the false dichotomy in the idea (bad=sensitive; good=not sensitive, defensive, or reactive to, specifically, put-downs, criticisms, and false accusations, “jokes”) and I began replying along the liens of, “You actually have no idea how very sensitive I really am. I am a LOT more sensitive than I show, which is what in part makes me a good teacher, friend, wife, mother, and writer, and it is what contributes to my compassion and kindness (two qualities he did appreciate in me).” He stopped that tactic, too.

          Ironically, the very sensitivity he criticized me for (as a bad thing) is the very characteristic (as a good thing) that enabled me to eventually leave the abuse. I realized I could be, and needed to be, sensitive to my own well-being, too. As far as I have ever been able to discern, I am not called to be martyred to verbal abuse.

          1. The tools you utilized were helpful in enabling you to stand up for yourself. Unfortunately, even successfully managing an abuser’s insanity well does not necessarily translate into lasting change. Most of the time, abusers just change tactics, because it’s not about improving the relationship, it’s about winning.

            I have always wondered why abusers tell us that we’re too sensitive. What does that mean, really? I think it means that they should be allowed to say anything they want to, no matter how hurtful or cruel, and we’re supposed to take it and pretend it doesn’t hurt. Of course, the converse is also true…if we say something that they find the least bit offensive, it’s okay for them to fly off the handle because, in that case, we have been disrespectful.

            There is always, always a double standard when it comes to abuse.

            Cindy

  2. While my husband is not as abusive as your husband was, quite a few of the things you wrote about really struck me. For one, I, too, always tried to be the good wife. That is what I wanted. I wanted to give to him, to take care of him. I thought, if I a can be good enough, then he will love me and take care of me, too. Like you, I, too, hid the secret of our empty marriage, our dysfunctional family. We looked good at church, all of us sitting in a row in our nice clothes. It was an illusion. But illusions don’t last, do they? And I’ve prayed. For twenty-seven years I’ve prayed. Anyhow, I just discovered your website through a link to your post about sleeping with the abuser that one of my followers left on my blog. I look forward to reading more of what you have written.

  3. I found your website 4-5 years ago and it helped me to make the decision to get away from my abuser , mostly verbal , then it started turning physical. The straw that broke the camels back was when he shoved me violently backwards out of the motorhome , after a total of 46 years of abuse . At 67 years of age , I filed for divorce , one year later , I am divorced and starting over . I`ve got more credit card debt , medical and lawyer bills then I have ever had . I keep telling myself , I will make it , no matter how bad it gets . I am presently attempting to write a book on my 46 years of abuse in hopes , as you do , it will find its way into women and men who are in abusive relationships , and help them get out . Its very hard to write and sometimes wonder if I will ever get it written , because my tears flow freely as I remember the abuse. You have helped me understand where I am going . I still live on the same 55 acres with my abuser . I own the home on a 5 acre plot and I put up for sale a week after the divorce was finalized , September 1 , 2015 at 1:38 p.m. The male womans advocate and I meet weekly , he will be so happy when my house sells and I can get away from my abuser . So will I .

    1. Hello, Ki. I am so honored to hear from you and cannot even believe that you remember me so many years later. I am sorry that this has been a difficult journey in so many ways, but I pray that you can find peace and contentment and that your book finds an audience. I wasn’t sure mine would fly, and it took a while as a self-published author to get my work out there, but it sure is a blessing to help other women to see the abuse and break free.

      I pray your home sells soon and for a price that will make like a little easier for you.

      You are welcome to return to share anytime. You can also e-mail me privately at cindyburrell@hurtbylove.com

      All the best,

      Cindy

  4. Hi Cindy,
    I am new to your site and have read a few of your articles and your “about me.” I have been married for 28 years and I would call the past 10 of those years emotionally abusive. Of course, there have been abusive moments for the full 28 years, but the relentless patterns started about 10 years ago. I feel so much deep, deep regret for what my children have endured and witnessed that it feels like I am grieving. No one seems to understand this. They are 16 and 20 now, and so scarred. It hurts so much. I tried so hard to protect them and it didn’t work. They seem fine on the outside, but inside they are hurting. How can we find healing? Will this pain ever go away? Right now we have an “in house separation” It is brutally hard, but I am getting myself educated, and have been for awhile now, about abuse. Words mean nothing to me now, I am so completely ONLY listening to actions. So far the actions have not been good – more like compliance than a changed heart. Keeping my distance. But so worried about my children’s lives. I am just wondering if you would be willing to share how your children coped.
    Thank you.

    1. Hello, April. I’m glad you found the website and took the time to write.

      I’m so very sorry to learn about where you have been and where you are now. But I am confident that you and your children can reclaim your value and your lives.

      I would like to encourage you to e-mail me through the “About Me” page. I do not sell or give away e-mails, this just allows us to “converse” privately.

      There is hope and a new life available if you are willing to work for it. Don’t give up.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      Cindy

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