I Can’t Stand You (Please Don’t Leave Me)

“…purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:8bangel and devil on my shoulder

An abuse victim’s thought process is a paradox as her mind waffles between extremes  – a simmering resentment toward her abuser juxtaposed against a desperate, if destructive, addiction to him.  The Scripture says that “…the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”[i]  It is a vivid picture, capturing well the tempest of confusion in which many an abuse victim finds herself as she endeavors  to make sense of the mixed messages she hears.

Oh, she can easily recount any number of the hurtful, even traumatic things her abuser has said or wrought in her life, the ratcheting down of her freedom and his list of impossible expectations.  When pressed, she can readily chronicle her abuser’s offenses and betrayals and acknowledge how very quickly he can turn on her, with terrifying results.  Even withered and wiping tears from her face, she might nevertheless gather herself together and state emphatically, “But I still love him,” undermining the very core of her own reality.

In one moment, she hears herself saying of her abuser, “I can’t stand you.”  But as the fear of rejection, abandonment and loneliness pour over her, her breaking heart whispers, “Please don’t leave me.”

It seems that the hypothetical angel and devil perched atop our shoulders may not be so far-fetched after all.  An abuse victim hears both voices and weighs the voice of one against the other; one speaking to her heart about the trauma she has endured, while the enemy leans in, spewing accusations and sowing doubt with regard to her comparative failures and love-worthiness.

There are honest, transparent moments where an abuse victim mentally says of her abuser, “I have had enough.  I don’t want to live like this anymore.”  She allows herself to imagine finding the peace and contentment she seeks, without the daily drama and heartache of surviving one hostile encounter after another, remaining in a household with a truly treacherous man.  She imagines what life might be like if she could actually find the strength and the will to remove herself from his grasp and make a new life without him.  She recognizes that her abuser lives in the half light of truth, that he dilutes and twists and corrupts through manipulation and deception, yet she will almost feel guilty for accepting that reality, begin to doubt her instincts, accept a measure of blame for his ways, and return to a belief that any good that remains in him must eventually lead to change.

Capitalizing on her doubt, the abuser and her spiritual enemy speak to those insecurities.  She finds herself contemplating whether it is better to remain with her abuser and to keep trying than to risk the possibility of being alone – perhaps for life.  At least remaining reveals her devotion and commitment and upholds her identity as a good wife, the selfless martyr in the relationship, even if home is a war zone and wounds rarely have time to heal before more are inflicted.

Hearing the echoes of those voices, the victim’s heart cries “Please don’t leave me.  I want this to work.  I need to know that I am worth loving.”  It is the fearful, insecure part of her that clings to him, hoping for change, insight or understanding, the smallest sign of genuine affection, or the remotest piece of evidence that says he really does love her and he too wants to have the kind of relationship she imagines.  Finding the truth and acting on it when crippled by such confusion and fear is not an easy thing.

One minor breakthrough in this regard that occurred in my own life took place while on the telephone one summer’s day after my separation from my abuser.  I stood on the balcony outside my bedroom to shield our children from yet another hostile conversation with their father.  John had called to harass me about who-knows-what and was throwing out whatever the put-downs of the day happened to be.  The regulars sounded something like:

If only you weren’t such a nag.

There is something seriously wrong with you.

You make too big of a deal out of everything.

Our relationship would be fine if you weren’t so selfish and unforgiving.

 And my favorite:  And you claim to be a woman of faith.  

Although I would typically take it all in and question my actions and my motives and try to reason with the man, on that day a righteous anger rose up in me.  As he spoke, without saying a word, I hung up on him.  The phone rang a few seconds later, and when I answered, John said, “You’re not allowed to hang up on me.”  But without a moment’s hesitation, I calmly replied.  “I don’t have to listen to your crap anymore.”  And I hung up again.

That time he didn’t call back.

For once I could see that his words were nothing more than a poison he had concocted to attempt to keep me weak and sick, to hold me captive.  I understood that I was no longer bound to his rules or his logic or his insanity unless I chose to be.

Many victims can go for years consoling the Please-Don’t-Leave-Me part of their psyche with the abuser’s meager offerings – the occasional good day, the buy-offs and promises he offers up when cornered.  But like cotton candy in our mouths, those little nothings quickly melt away, leaving the victim bleary-eyed and feeling lost, lonely and emotionally devastated.  What little he does to attempt to convince her of his good intentions cannot possibly diminish the ongoing anxiety that comes with her constant striving for perfection, avoiding his hate-filled stare and the haunting memories of his cruel, damning words.

So how does one in such a struggle come to terms with her double-mindedness?  The Word encourages the double-minded one to “purify” her heart.  Purification entails drawing out the toxins, the dross and impurities to reveal that which is uncorrupted, pure and virtuous.  It comes from attuning her heart to hear the voice of God and allowing Him to infuse her with the wisdom she needs to strain out those impurities and remove them, to dispel the lies and half-truths for what they are, and to refuse to allow the fear of being rejected or misunderstood to keep her from doing the right thing. In allowing this process to do its work, she may begin to see the truth in Jesus’ words, that a tree is known by its fruit.

“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.”  Matthew 12:34b-35

As the victim’s thoughts settle into certainty, it will become easier to acknowledge the I-Can’t-Stand-You voice without guilt or shame.  She can cease rationalizing away his demoralizing behavior, the name-calling and raging, the tortuous silent treatment, the sarcasm and lies.  The validity of that voice grows into a clarity of conscience and conviction.

There is no doubt that the terrified Please-Don’t-Leave-Me part of her will still wonder if she is unlovable or unworthy.  Yet the I-Can’t-Stand-You voice can no longer be silenced, but can be clearly heard saying, “I know the truth.  He is intentionally harming me, and I will not live this way any longer.”

The little angel and devil we imagine perched on our shoulders, whispering into our hearts and minds may seem humorous, but the analogy is fairly sound.  Those voices are powerful and can affect the very course of our lives.  The conflicting messages the abuse victim hears need to be identified and rectified – tested against the truth – not what other people tell her or what others might think of her, but against what she knows to be true about her own experience when no one else sees.  It’s about finding the courage to discern the truth from the lies, standing up for the one and wholeheartedly rejecting the other, moving from double-mindedness to a powerful and life-changing certainty that allows her to declare, “I can’t stand you, and I’m not going to live this way anymore.”

…for our God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.”  (I Corinthians 14:33)

[i] James 1:6

Cindy Burrell

Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved

15 thoughts on “I Can’t Stand You (Please Don’t Leave Me)”

  1. Wonderful post!

    And yes, the only way to truly silence the voice which tells us we are not worthy or lovable is through God’s truth.

    I lived this paradoxical thinking for far too long. I grew to hate him for what he did, not only to me but our two sons, yet there was that part of me who didn’t feel good enough or lovable enough to make it on my own. I was convinced that if I left I’d be alone for the rest of my life. And yet I dreamed of freedom and life without him, just me and my two sons.

    Part of what finally helped me was allowing myself to be angry. I’d been told by my ex for years how I shouldn’t be angry or how I was the one with the anger problem, and I really came to believe anger was wrongful emotion. But once I allowed myself to be angry over the wrongdoing in my life, the evil and toxicity that was present, I started standing against it. That anger gave me courage to stand strong.

    Whereas not allowing myself righteous anger only diminished the wrongfulness in my marriage. There is a time and place for us to be angry and stand against evil.

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post — I will be reposting this on my blog today.
    Blessings!

    1. Hello, Amy, and thank you for taking the time to share your experience with regard to this very common mindset that holds abuse victims hostage. The Scripture also says, “Be angry and do not sin…” So anger is not a sin, it is what we do with it that matters. There is a time for righteous anger.

      Thank you for re-posting. Anything to spread the word!

      With you in the fight,

      Cindy

  2. Cindy – this was another powerful post. There is so much truth about discerning and listening to the various voices. What has been most grievous is it has been the ‘c’hurch voices; abusive in that they burdened me with just loving my husband more; winning him with a meek and quiet spirit, etc.
    For years I condoned righteous anger concerning other sins, however for some reason I was blinded into believing that I had no reason to be righteously angry over the sin within our marriage which poisoned other relationships.

    1. Hello there, “Healing.”

      You make an important point. You, and many others like you, have experienced the same pressures imposed on us by our believing brothers and sisters, pastors, and Christian counselors. Not only are they bound to the legalistic church script on this issue, but they have a tendency minimize the effects of abuse in the body. I think it is mostly ignorance that holds them there, having not experienced the horror of it for themselves.

      For many years, I worked under an abusive supervisor. He seemed to have a rotating blacklist. And his target would be subject to the silent treatment and what we came to call “red notes.” The unlucky target of this guy’s hostilities would leave work for the day and would be horrified to find a note on his or her desk the next morning – always in red ink – decrying some ridiculously petty oversight or mistake. One staff member poo-poohed the whole thing and thought the rest of us were making a big deal out of nothing…until he got a red note, followed by a not-so-pleasant phone call from our scary supervisor. That staff member gave his notice a few days later. Suddenly what we shared mattered. (And to this day, if I find a red ink pen in the house, I throw it away.)

      But the reality is that some people will never understand what it’s like until they find themselves in the cross-hairs. That is why we, as survivors, need to be there for one another in this journey. We all “get it.” And although the church may let us down, God won’t.

      As always, thank you for taking the time to come and post and share.

      I wish you well.

      Cindy

  3. Wow! I was mulling this verse over in my head today and feeling guilty for being double minded, but not knowing what to do about it. God is good! Thank you!

    1. Hello, Anne.

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I’m glad this short piece gave you some food for thought.

      Feel free to let me know if there are other kinds of information you are looking for, and I will try to direct you.

      All the best,

      Cindy

  4. I live in an abusive relationship for 38 yrs enduring every abuse known to mankind ,I consider myself a a smart woman with high self esteem .in this marriage I had four children and mostly I stayed because of them and not to bring shame on my family.divorce is not acceptable in my family traditions .now that my children at all grown and happily married and I have 13 grandchildren ,i dedo trata My wifi is done and im tires Of sacrificing My self .i hace lectura My abuses and am living with My el esta son and his wife ahí y i unos is temporary ,but he won’t give up and is using every trick in the book to try to get me back,even threatening to commit suicide,which I call the authorities about.it has been a lifetime of pain and suffering and I know ther is a different battle ahead.but I can do all things through God who strengthens me I could not have made it this far without him.i am now 51 yrs old and refuse to suffer any longer.

    1. Dear friend.

      I am glad you found the website and took the time to write.

      I am very sorry to read about what you have been through, and want to assure you that you have done the right thing by leaving. Please review the articles on the website. There is a wealth of information and support for you here. I would also encourage you to consider getting my books, “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” and “God Is My Witness: Making a Case for Biblical Divorce.” Look for the newly released second editions… We provide the books for only $8.95 as an e-book.

      “Why” will help you to see the abuse dynamic clearly, and “God Is My Witness” will reveal God’s heart for godly marriage and explain the truth from a biblical perspective – that divorce is not a sin and what the traditional church has taught us about divorce is not only incorrect, but unbiblical. Marriage was never intended to provide a haven for sin.

      Don’t give up and don’t buy into your abuser’s games, manipulations and threats. Please read, “Leaving An Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded.” One woman who found that article on another site wrote to tell me that that single article helped her to get through her divorce, not knowing about the other resources we have available here.

      Be wise and be strong. You do not have to live that way any longer.

      I hope you will consider ordering my books. I am very confident they will give you the knowledge you seek.

      Cindy

  5. I’m 26 with 2 kids and my husband is violent and has been verbally and emotionally abusing me for a couple years and recently became physically violent (which he denies). I want to leave but my issue is that I don’t want to be stuck at a shelter and I don’t really have any family or friends to live with. I’m a working mother but couldn’t afford a place of my own. I feel stuck and I want out. I know I will ultimately have to make sacrifices in order to be free and try to be happy again but I want to make sure I do what’s best for my children and me. I’m desperate for advice. I feel like if I did take the kids and leave he would hurt me or find me and take them. I can’t even fathom a night away from my kids. They are one and 3.

    1. Dear friend, I am glad you found the website and apologize for the delay in responding.

      I hope that you have shared your fears with people whom you trust or with those at a local shelter. You need to get away from that man. If you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to report your husband’s physical abuse. He could be arrested for his actions, and I would encourage you to pursue a restraining order against him. If necessary, go to a shelter. No one wants to do that, but your personal safety and that of your children is the most important thing. If someone you know might be willing to take you in until you can make other living arrangements, then accept their help.

      This is serious business. Don’t assume that this will simply go away. That is highly unlikely. And if you remain with someone who is physically abusive, you are essentially telling them by your actions that what he has done is not that big of a deal, that it is an acceptable part of your relationship. He is banking on that.

      Do not try defend or rationalize away your husband’s actions or believe that if you forgive him and overlook his offenses, then he will see you as being loyal and worthy of better. Abuse doesn’t work that way. That is a lie we are all tempted to believe.

      You are welcome to e-mail me privately at the Contact Cindy page. I apologize for the delay in responding and hope you will let me know what you have decided to do.

      Cindy

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