Tag Archives: emotional abuse

Did He Apologize or Not?

Apology:  [uh-pol-uh-jee]:  a written or spoken expression of one’sregret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, or wronged another.

One evening several years ago,  a woman with whom I had been corresponding sent me an urgent message.  Only minutes earlier, her estranged husband had shown up unexpectedly on her doorstep with a bouquet of flowers in hand.  The man tearfully professed his love for her, promised her that he would never harm her again and begged her to take him back.  The woman was stunned.  She wanted to believe his words and rush into his arms and receive him back into her life, but something cautioned her to hold back.  She accepted the flowers and calmly told him she needed to think about what he had shared and watched him go. Continue reading Did He Apologize or Not?

Neglect Is Abuse

neglect“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”  Ephesians 5:28-30

There is no way to justify neglect in marriage from a biblical standpoint.  It is an oxymoron; it is hypocrisy.  We cannot profess to love someone and consistently neglect their most basic needs and desires and expect the relationship to thrive.  I am not talking about the occasional oversight or an inadvertent failure to love perfectly.  There are times we all fall short even when our hearts are right.  However, the perpetual and deliberate refusal to acknowledge or meet the needs of our spouse represents emotional, material and perhaps social neglect.

In a one-flesh union, it is not a burden but rather a privilege to tend to the heart, mind and soul of our beloved, for our spouse is an extension of our self.  We stand before the marriage altar confident that we will traverse this life alongside this person who is more than merely a mate or a lover, but a co-laborer, a teammate, a companion, a confidante and our most trustworthy friend.  Therefore, to neglect a spouse emotionally, physically or materially is to dishonor and, yes, to break our solemn vows to love, honor and cherish; vows which reflect not merely intent but active and evidenced devotion.

Quite simply, these vows entail identifying our spouse’s needs and desires, taking the initiative to meet those needs, and investing in one another’s well-being with a design to contribute to – and enjoy – long-term intimacy.  So the mutual and ongoing demonstrations of affection, respect, admiration and attentive care should be common hallmarks of a healthy marriage.

Yet I have read and heard countless stories of victims who have suffered profound, deliberate manifestations of neglect.  Some neglectful husbands* refuse to allow their wives to pursue an education or a job, while simultaneously hoarding or controlling the income to the point of their families’ desperate need.  There have been occasions where the stay-at-home mom must beg permission to take her children to the doctor or dentist for necessary treatment only to be told by her husband that he doesn’t want to cover the expense, and if she wishes to seek medical care she will have to find some other source of money to pay for it.  This same kind of neglect can also be felt in a refusal to purchase shoes, clothing, school supplies, or provide transportation and even food.

Then there are the husbands who arrive home from work expecting a hearty meal and the freedom to sit speechless in front of the television for hours night after night without lifting a finger to assist with clean-up or household needs or offering to help the kids with their homework.  These same men expect their taken-for-granted wives to eagerly spring into lover mode at bedtime, and then roll over and fall asleep without so much as an “I love you,” while she resorts to holding herself to stem the flow of tears.

And there was the shocking account of a woman whose husband agreed to take care of their infant son for a couple of hours several evenings a week so that she could attend yoga classes.  The first evening after class she returned home to find her husband stoically watching television, his tiny son in his lap screaming for attention without receiving any comfort whatsoever from his father, who offered no explanation or apology.  He had fulfilled his expressed obligation, but nothing more.  It was a devastating moment as the mother realized she could not leave her son with his father for any length of time, and she had to surrender any thought of attending yoga class.  Neither the man’s wife’s needs, nor his son’s, were a priority to him.

Depriving a spouse or children of basic, material and emotional attention is wholly inconsistent with what we know to be love.   It is neglect – the practical abandonment and emotional betrayal of those who should naturally be the recipients of our most gracious measures of attention and nurture.

What Are Some of the Things We Need?

We need relationship, both the intimacy of a one-on-one relationship with our spouse as well as the freedom and opportunity to enjoy outside relationships and socialize in a variety of settings with friends and family, which may include work, volunteer opportunities, classes, hobbies, meet-ups with friends and recreational outings.

We need shared responsibility, a sense of teamwork and cooperation where needed, whether paying bills, running errands, maintaining the household or caring for children.  It should be understood that, if we need help; if we are ill or incapacitated, or involved in a project that requires teamwork, our spouse is willing to do what he can to help out – without whining or complaining or hurrying us along or inferring that we owe them something.

We need to feel understood, respected and accepted, as well as to be encouraged and supported as we walk through the daily challenges that come with everyday life.  We need to know that our spouse will provide us with a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on and a heart that does not shame or belittle us, but sees our strengths, loves us in spite of our weaknesses and always seeks our good.  Of course, there may be seasons where we must each give and take, depending on the need, and similarly, we also bear a responsibility to vocalize our needs and desires at times when our spouse is simply unaware.

We need affection.  While this includes sex, it should not be limited to sex, but should incorporate the incidental demonstrations of care in the everyday, which might be evidenced by acts of service and words of affirmation and casual, physical touch.  In fact, if the affection demonstrated in a marriage only consists of sex, then I contend that would constitute physical neglect.  While men might be less inclined to agree with that last statement, in my experience, most women long to experience tender, non-sexual affection in addition to sex to feel truly loved, respected and appreciated.

We need some undivided attention and alone time.  Scheduling time alone together periodically out of the house, and perhaps out of town provides both partners with the opportunity to unwind and detox and connect on a deeper friendship level.  And many of us also need some time either by ourselves or with our closest friends.  This requires that each partner reasonably accommodate the other’s freedom and need for outside connection.

The consistent failure to see or accommodate our spouses’ basic needs constitutes neglect; a silent assault on the heart, mind and body.  Neglect may not be overtly hostile, but it is a betrayal nonetheless, a slow burn, a form of incremental relational starvation and among the most subtle and least identified of all forms of abuse.  It quietly whispers, “You are not important,” its voice borne of apathy, insensitivity, selfishness and pride, and its victims will ultimately find themselves living a life characterized by a sense of barrenness, loneliness and loss.

Some will say that we should find all of our needs met in God, and He will be enough.  But in marriage, our spouse has a divine calling and a role to play in the relationship, and each of us enters into that relationship with a belief that our spouse’s confessed love will translate into an appropriate measure of thoughtful devotion.

The Apostle Paul describes the obvious this way:

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church…”

In the image Paul paints here we see the tangible, proactive, love-based evidence of marital devotion.  A nourished person is healthy and satisfied, not left begging for basic sustenance.

There is no place for the sullen, sorrowful effects of neglect in marriage; nor should we be surprised when neglectful marriages fail.  As with any other living thing, the relationship that does not receive the nourishment it needs is destined to wither and eventually die.

There is no such thing as a neglectful, happy marriage.


*Although women can be abusive, as well, the majority of abusers are male.  For this reason, the abuser is referenced in the masculine. The reader’s understanding is appreciated.

The See-No-Evil Disconnect: Abandoning Victims to Protect the Status Quo

“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”  Proverbs 17:15

see no evil

It happens all the time.  A victim of abuse finds the courage to step out of the shadows of her shame and fear to reveal the truth about what has happened to her.  The trauma she has endured may be a result of molestation or rape, physical abuse, and/or verbal or emotional abuse.  She wants to believe that, once she shares her terrible secret, the people to whom she reaches out will hear her, validate her and comfort her.  But as horrible and shocking as it may seem, she may not receive what she needs.  For reasons that defy logic, many may rise to defend her perpetrator, and she may instead find herself shamed and shunned and even persecuted.  Such is the absurdity of the See-No-Evil Disconnect.     Continue reading The See-No-Evil Disconnect: Abandoning Victims to Protect the Status Quo

“No One Else Will Ever Want You” and Other Lies and Slanders

drooping flower

“No one else will ever want you.”

It is as though he has taken a branding iron and seared the words into your soul.  Rather than reject them and recognize that the one who speaks is both cruel and a liar, you find yourself teetering on the edge of self-doubt, pondering the words, allowing them to resonate and take root – undisputed.

“Why would he say something so hurtful?  He must see something that I don’t see in myself.  What if I am truly unlovable, a loser, a failure?” 

It is a heartless deception.  Should you allow those thoughts to simmer, apart from a proper understanding of the abuser’s agenda, you may begin to accept and even believe the lie, if for no other reason than the one spewing the slander also has the audacity to tell you that he loves you.  It is somehow easier to accept that he is sincere than to believe that he is deliberately trying to hurt you – and therefore doesn’t really love you at all.  That option is just too painful to entertain, and that little crack in your broken heart allows his hurtful words to seep in.

Continue reading “No One Else Will Ever Want You” and Other Lies and Slanders

Understanding the Difference Between Compliance and Change

Can the abuser change? The short answer: Yes.

Anyone can change. It’s a matter of desire, will and motive. Healthy people are generally desirous of change when they genuinely care about how their actions affect others and will accept an opportunity to contribute to their relationships in a meaningful way.

Does the abuser really want to change? In most cases, the short answer is “No.”

Abusers don’t care if you’re happy; they care if they’re happy. Their control is far more important than your happiness. Therefore, on the occasion where his enabler-victim identifies an area of dissatisfaction or conflict in the relationship, the abuser will quickly attempt to squelch any discontent through verbal jeopardizing, diminishment or yelling.

Continue reading Understanding the Difference Between Compliance and Change