“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part
You will make me know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6
When my children were young, upon asking them to take a bath or clean their rooms or do their homework, there were those occasions when they would look at me with mischief in their eyes, and I knew in that moment that they were considering testing my patience. I would just gaze at them and wait for a moment. Then, before they could protest I would say, “I just need to hear two words.” Almost without fail, a few moments of tempered silence would pass, and then they would quietly say the words I wanted to hear.
There was something about just saying those two simple words that softened their will and almost miraculously set their feet in motion to accommodate my request.
Ah, the power of words.
Then there was the terrible morning when I personally discovered the shift of will that comes from verbalizing the truth. My counselor no sooner answered the phone than the words came pouring out of me. “I’m in an abusive relationship,” I blurted out as I wept. And her agreement cemented my newfound understanding of what was really going on in my life.
They were life-altering words. They constituted an admission I had never considered and could not embrace until that very day. The words were drenched in grief and trepidation, not knowing what the future held. But saying those words aloud and accepting the full weight of their truth set me on my journey toward freedom. Saying those words changed everything – how I saw myself and my husband and the long, trying years I had spent with him. In offering up those crushing – and redemptive – words, all of the craziness suddenly made sense.
It wasn’t my fault.
Unfortunately, in the years before settling on this truth, I had adopted my own carefully crafted explanations that helped me to cope in our marriage. This subtle self-indoctrination became all the more ingrained when joined with the half-truths that were offered up by ignorant friends and family members. Rather than identifying the abuse my kids and I were subject to, I convinced myself:
- He’s going through a hard time right now.
- He doesn’t know what he is doing.
- He doesn’t mean what he says.
- Every marriage has its issues.
- He just has poor communication skills.
- He tells me he loves me, so this must be normal.
- He’s not hitting me, so it can’t be that bad.
As the years dragged on, it became apparent that he wasn’t going through a hard time, he knew exactly what he was doing and saying, he created most of our issues while refusing to do anything to resolve them, and no manner of communication made any difference. Yes, he could tell me he loved me every day, but his attitudes and behaviors were in direct contradiction with those words. And there were times I wished he would hit me because then my body might have served as a more accurate reflection of the invisible wounds I carried.
I was living a lie.
Dear friend, I know how it feels when your experience conflicts with your heart’s desire. I know how it feels to be held spellbound by a determination to save your marriage and a belief that you will one day find yourself living a happy life with this person you thought would love you to the end of your days. But when the truth finally stares you in the face, you must be willing to say the words your heart and mind need to acknowledge – whatever they might be.
If you know that you are in an abusive relationship but are having a difficult time admitting it, choose your own words, or feel free to borrow the ones I finally said.
- My husband is an abuser.
- I am afraid in my own home.
- My children aren’t safe.
- I am miserable.
- I can’t fix it.
- I don’t want to live this way anymore.
- It’s time to make a change.
I know how incredibly hard it is to admit where you have been, but once you do, you will begin to see what life and love are supposed to look like.
So don’t be afraid to say the words that can free up your mind, your heart, your will – and your feet – to begin moving in a new direction. Let the words affirm your reality. In speaking the truth, you open the door to the possibility of a whole new life, a life free from abuse.
I cannot promise that the next chapter of your journey will be easy, but I have to believe that it will be worth it.
The first step toward freedom is up to you. Begin by speaking your truth. Begin by saying the words.
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