Tag Archives: recovery

Lessons in Crazy-Making

Lessons in Crazy-Making

It was not just a bad night among many, it was an insane night.  Our four kids were all asleep in their beds when my husband and I got into an argument about something rather menial, but he quickly escalated into a rage.  Having no success in calming him, concerned for the kids and seeing the extreme manner of his response, I simply said, “I think you need to leave.” 

At that point, he exploded.

“Oh, you want me to leave, do you!?  Well, if that’s what you want, then that’s what you’ll get!”  He immediately went out into the garage and grabbed a couple of suitcases, returned and marched upstairs, tromping as he went while he continued his tirade.  I followed him up the stairs and tried to calm him down and asked him to be quiet so as not to wake the kids, but this was his moment to make a scene.  He went into the bedroom, tossed the suitcases on the bed and began grabbing his clothes from the closet and loading them up.  He grabbed his conga drums and other instruments, dragged them downstairs and began loading them and other favorite possessions into his van.

 “I’m asking you to leave until you can calm down,” I tried to explain. 

 “You said you want me to leave, so that’s what I’m going to do!”  

It wasn’t long before the kids were awakened.  When they came out of their rooms rubbing their eyes and asking about all the commotion, their father loudly told them that I was making him leave.  They all gathered together on the eldest daughter’s bed, held one another and cried, while I working to convince the man that he was being irrational (which didn’t go over too well) while simultaneously trying to assure the kids that everything would be okay. 

 After about 45 minutes of loading up his van, he came in and told me he was tired and was going to go to bed and would finish up in the morning.

 “Fine,” I conceded.  He went to bed, I was able to get our somewhat traumatized kids back to their beds, and I slept in the sofa-bed downstairs, where I had been sleeping for months. 

The next morning, I woke early and called my supervisor at work to let him know I would not be in, as my husband was moving out, and I needed to make some arrangements for the kids.  I got the kids off to school, returned home and was drinking a cup of coffee at the kitchen table when my husband slowly trudged downstairs.  Seeing me in the kitchen, he said calmly, “What are you doing home?”

“I stayed home to take care of the kids,” I reminded him, “since you’re leaving.”

He gave me an incredulous look and shook his head as though I had lost my mind.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I’m not going anywhere,” he said, and retreated back upstairs to take a shower.

I would like to say that I was surprised by the absurdity of it all at that moment, but I wasn’t.  My former husband had obtained pro status when it came to responding severely and irrationally.  By the final year of our marriage, the word I mentally used to describe our relationship was “insane.”  It was. Continue reading Lessons in Crazy-Making

The Sympathy Bond

It is a strange thing to comprehend:  most of us as abuse victims actually feel sorry for the person abusing us.  Why is that?  How can it be that, after all he* has put us through, we choose to see this person who treats us contemptuously as a fragile, hapless creature worthy of our patience and understanding?

In my own experience and having had the opportunity to work directly with many victims, there are several things that may keep us feeling sorry for the guy – and subsequently bound to him. Continue reading The Sympathy Bond

Say the Words

“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.

“Okay, Mom.”

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.

Continue reading Say the Words

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.