“The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” Proverbs 11:3
Whenever there is something in your relationship with your abuser that needs to be fixed, undone, redone, created, accommodated, facilitated, or apologized for, just know that it’s on you to do it.
From early on, the abuser establishes a precedent that what he wants or needs is always, always the highest priority in the relationship. It doesn’t take long for you, his target-victim, to figure out that stepping out of line in any area will incur his overt disapproval, punishment or wrath. Once he succeeds in implanting a healthy measure of fear in you, the man will incrementally connect trip-wires to every aspect of your life. You will surely feel the unbreakable tether of obligation, an excessive desire to please and an increasing weight of anxiety to do everything exactly right. You will find yourself treading lightly and striving for perfection while an ungodly form of bondage takes root and begins to consume every aspect of your life.
From there, the abuser simply works to ratchet down your life further, increasingly limiting your freedom while adding to your level of responsibility, putting all of the pressure on you to keep the relationship alive, if you can call it that. If things fall apart, the responsibility for its demise will lie with you. You will have failed.
It’s not just a tall order; it’s an impossible one. By accepting his terms and conditions, you can expect your life to be built on ever-shifting sands of panic-borne hypersensitivity. Grow accustomed to sleepless nights consistent with a burgeoning undercurrent of stress that will find you battling physical and emotional exhaustion. That’s okay with him. That is merely evidence of his power over you.
For a time – years maybe – you will work to convince yourself that you can manage it. You will quickly adapt to his unspoken mantra – that it is on you to forfeit your needs to ensure that his are met. Be careful not only of what you say but how you say it. A poor turn of phrase will cost you. Your calendar is subject to his. Even though you make plans with the understanding that he will take care of the kids, when he is suddenly invited to go golfing or decides he has something better to do, you must know that your plans are disposable. His demanding, controlling, callous and demeaning ways must be accommodated at any and every expense – and by that I mean yours.
Your wants and needs don’t matter. Remember that.
To survive, you must live a hyper-sensitive, even paranoid existence to avoid stumbling into any one of a thousand trip-wires he has connected to your life, affecting your friendships and familial relationships, your job, your finances, your social life and household responsibilities. It is up to you to make sure he gets the privacy, quiet and attention he needs. And when it comes to your love life, just make sure you are ready, willing and able when he is in the mood. Make sure he is not expected to do anything he doesn’t want to and that no dust rests where he doesn’t want to see it.
Don’t get sick because he doesn’t want to take care of you. He may well resent you for slacking off and may even compel you to quit your sniffling, get out of bed and do all of the things he expects of you anyway.
Don’t miss one of his phone calls, and don’t arrive home later than expected or there will be hell to pay. Know that he probably won’t like your friends or your family members. He will not hide his disapproval, demand that you shun them, and will exude a toxic air should they come around to make sure they know they are unwelcome in your home and your life.
On the other hand, you are expected to put on a good show when people he wants to impress are around – his boss, his co-workers, his golf buddies, or church folks. Don’t do anything to make him look bad. Don’t even think about telling him or anyone else that you are unhappy, because that will reflect badly on him, and he won’t have it. You must never complain about anything in your life or infer that he isn’t doing enough, and never ask him for a favor. Whatever stress you bear in your life is yours alone to deal with – and is deserved, as far as he is concerned. In fact, he probably wishes you were suffering more than you are.
It is on you to make sure that he is not unhappy or even inconvenienced. It is on you to ensure that there is no drama. It is on you to say only what he wants to hear and nothing he doesn’t. Make sure you don’t disagree with him and God forbid that you should ever think about standing up for yourself. Should you fail in any of these areas, when he explodes, it will be because you foolishly or unintentionally tripped one of those tiny little wires.
Then you can expect to hear him spewing, “If it wasn’t for you,” “This is all your fault,” or “You made me do it!”
So, I ask you: Is it that you alone hold the power to keep him sane, or is it that he simply wields a totality of dictatorial power to make you feel that way?
The reality is that he has created an impossible scenario that keeps him at the center, compels you to conform to his will at every turn, holds you captive to constant fear, deprives you of your individuality and freedom, and then holds you responsible for his terrorizing.
Now that you know what he’s up to, cut the trip-wires – all of them – and get away from him.
In case you haven’t figured it out, that’s not love. It’s abuse.
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” Proverbs 17:15
When you get to the point where you cannot take it anymore and leave him, he will be all too happy to tell anyone who will listen that you abandoned him, you didn’t hold to your commitment, you let him down. And people will surround him and console him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault. Some people you thought you could count on will avoid you, or give you that sideways glance of disapproval, or may even come to you and tell you that he loves you, he wants you back and believes with his whole heart that your marriage can be saved. And if you try to explain to those people how unbelievably cruel your relationship has been, they will look at you quizzically and urge you to forgive him and assure you that he wants to work things out. Should you express any doubt about the legitimacy of his mindset, some will probably view you as unforgiving or downright selfish.
You may begin to wonder if you’re crazy and if you really haven’t done enough. Don’t believe it for a second. If you know in your heart that nothing has changed then, well, nothing has changed. But, it will all be on you, and some people will not support you or decide not to be friends with you anymore and will speak ill of you behind your back.
With all of that put upon you, it will pretty amazing that you will somehow find the strength to survive the insanity of it all. You will find the determination to get out in spite of the gossip and the pressure and your fears about the future because you know what is true and have decided that you are not going to live that way anymore.
And when the day finally comes that you find yourself free of the abuse, when you are breathing the free air and relishing the simple joy of contentment in your life, that’s all on you.
“For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord sustains the righteous.” Proverbs 37:17
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