Three Words Every Abuse Victim Needs to Hear

It is a strange thing to invest so much energy into convincing yourselfsad2 that your relationship is normal only to one day be jolted by the reality that there is nothing normal about it, to be forced to admit that your relationship is patently unhealthy, destructive, and yes, abusive.

I know you started out on this journey committed to this man* who says that he loves you, and there are still those rare moments when you catch a glimpse of the person who managed to earn your love and trust.  But now he is almost exclusively cold and distant, eager to criticize, unwilling to compromise, unseeing, unfeeling and seemingly unreachable.  His words drip with sarcasm and open hostility, and his icy stare can burn a hole right through you.  Ever teetering on a precipice of rage, you inwardly cower in his presence, practicing survival skills that demand avoidance, silence and fearful compliance.  He waves off any petition for sensitivity and passes off his attitudes and actions as those consistent with conventional masculinity.  You choose to believe it to be so, for the alternative is too painful to consider:  that his cruelties are borne of intent rather than ignorance.  It cannot be possible that he knows he is hurting you and simply doesn’t care.

As you try to maintain a semblance of normalcy, life is strained and awkward, and day after day the tension builds.  Make a suggestion, make a mistake, ask for a favor, or say the wrong thing and you may find yourself being emotionally shredded by agonizingly cruel words.  You might be reduced to a trembling heap of tears by a wave of his unbridled and undeserved fury.  Any apology he offers is couched in blame.

Shocked and bewildered, you begin to wonder what happened to the man you loved, what you could have done to deserve such horrendous treatment.  The truth is that you have been trained to believe that it is always your fault, that everything would be just fine if only you were a better person, a better woman, a better wife.

As the months or years have passed, you have kept his secrets and played the wifely role well, convinced that one day you would wake up to a marriage and home life that is safe and happy.  Instead you have reached a point when you realize that his impossible standards cannot be met, that the undercurrent of anger that exudes from your abuser can neither be assuaged nor avoided.  The hope to which you have devotedly clung has withered away to nothing.

So you awaken each morning feeling broken, empty and wholly lost, doubting your sanity and contemplating how much longer you can continue living this terrible charade.  Then you decide to take a chance, to share the burden of your reality with someone you think you can trust.

You may soon discover that opening up is risky business.  You have done such a good job of covering your wounds and creating the pretense of a happy home that even as you unveil your broken heart and the tears of long-held restraint fall, your confidante expresses doubt about your terrible story.  He or she might offer advice or correction or infer that perhaps you are exaggerating or even lying.  Yes, there are probably some who will foolishly pour the salt of judgmental disbelief into your long-neglected emotional wounds.

As you seek help, support and validation, don’t be surprised if you have to walk away from some people you thought would hear you.  You may need to release them to their ignorance for a time, to avoid those who, for whatever reason, cannot help you.  It hurts that they do not understand, and their disbelief may cause you to doubt your own testimony.  Nevertheless, you must continue to reach out, to speak your truth.  Dare to believe that someone in your circle will acknowledge your pain and graciously bestow upon you the three words you so desperately need to hear:  “I believe you.”  Those three powerful words assure you that it is not your fault, you are not crazy, and you are not alone.  Those words give you permission to admit that the one who is says he loves you is a liar.  The one who should be your protector is, in truth, a predator.

If your experience is anything like mine, please know that I have a pretty good idea what you have been through, the kinds of wounds you carry and the depth of grief you bear.

I believe you.

I pray you can receive those words of validation and re-learn to trust your instincts, the inner voice that has been whispering a warning for so long.   You have every reason to speak your truth and every justification to move toward a new life of freedom and healing; the kind of life you long for, the kind of life you deserve.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  Proverbs 16:24

*Although individuals from both genders abuse, the overwhelming majority of abusers are male. The reader’s understanding is appreciated.

Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved


7 thoughts on “Three Words Every Abuse Victim Needs to Hear”

  1. Cindy, this is very powerful both in the writing and in the way you capture the blatant and–just as damaging–subtleties of abuse. I think many who read it will feel validated and encouraged.

  2. P. — I am in agreement with you. This post is powerful and I’m writing this with tears welling up; yes, now overflowing.
    When others ask, “How are you?” I discover I am replying with words that reflect I am tired, exhausted, overwhelmed with the emotions that grow with trying to constantly explain what I lived for so many years.
    The fact that extended family are included in the abuse adds to the venom.
    Thank you, Cindy for speaking the truth. I am often surprised at those who say, “I believe you.” Sadly, the ones who I thought were ‘friends’ are the ones who now avoid me or just don’t want to hear about it.
    Hmm, this is what the man I married claimed … no one cares; they don’t want to hear about it and so just keep quiet. Yeah, easy to say after 4 decades and now ‘the silence’ and me ever so slowly healing emotionally and also physically. The physical healing obviously affects my emotions as I am frustrated with my weakness and now am made to feel useless by even my own adult children as they prefer to hang out with their father who is now quite active without me in his life.
    I am feeling guilty with not wanting to even see my own children because of their emotional abuse against me … praying the young grandchildren will become wise “in the Lord’s way.”
    I apologize for rambling …

    1. You are not rambling, Healing One. You are expressing emotions and frustrations that need to be expressed. That’s a good thing!

      We all need validation, that certainty that someone understands and, yes, believes us. I know this has been a very long road for you, but you’re not done yet. I pray you can be patient with yourself and your healing situation. Little by little is still positive change. And please remember that there is a light, not only at the end of the tunnel, but in it.

      You are never alone. I pray for God’s renewed strength and hope in your life, and that He would bring others around you who will encourage you, and that you would sense His presence every day. Our Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.

      We’re here for you, too. You can come and ramble any time. : )



  3. I feel like you’re reading my (nonexistent) journal. I recently (August ’16) realized that I’m in an emotionally destructive marriage. I brought it up, we had what I thought was a good, long talk together & then met with our pastor, even though he felt we no longer needed to. The roller coaster started back up a few wks later. Then, this past Sunday night/wee hrs of Monday a.m., I woke up clear (unusual for this rock sleeper), and soon was being fondled at the groin. He’d move slowly and sneakily until I shifted (I was feigning sleep to test him), then he’d pause, after some seconds of stillness, he’d continue to move. Long process short, he ended up digitally penetrating vaginally. This is something I told him years ago was unacceptable and an absolute NO. Sleeping wife does not equal permission. He then finished with masturbation. After he fell asleep, I went to the bathroom where I started to get the shakes. I prayed that I wouldn’t go into shock. I have 4 kids who need me & I didn’t want him responsible for my healthcare at that moment. My dad, stepmom, and I will be confronting him asap & I’ve contacted a lawyer. He’s been extra-nice this week, and I was starting to feel crazy and over-reactive. After reading some of your spot-on posts, I don’t feel so crazy. I was going to read a checklist during our confrontation but you’ve helped me realize that’s not a great idea.

    1. Hello, Anon. I appreciate hearing from you and apologize for the delay in responding…

      I’m glad that you are beginning to see more clearly the kind of harm to which you are being subject and that you are prepared to take steps to protect yourself and your children, and I am also glad that you are taking time to educate yourself on the dynamic and see the truth about what you are living in. You are NOT crazy.

      I would like to take this opportunity to offer a couple of basic suggestions as you move forward based on my experience.

      First, do not agree to go to couples counseling. If there is any counseling to be done, it should be done individually. In this regard, I would also not recommend meeting with a pastor but rather a counselor who understands abuse. Sadly, too many pastors and/or Christian counselors do not understand abuse or how to address it. Because their mantra begins with “save the marriage,” they have a tendency to diminish the seriousness of the harm and the truth about the abuser and invoke pressure to remain no matter the situation. And, unfortunately, that “extra nice” stuff is just a part of the game to try to gloss over the problem. Don’t confuse his actions with genuine repentance.

      In that regard, you might want to check out, “Understanding the Difference Between Compliance and Change.”

      And you are welcome to write me privately through the About Cindy/Contact Cindy page and let me know what kind of information you need. I will do what I can to refer you. And, of course, you might want to consider my book, “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” and I do offer phone consultations if you are interested. There is more information on that option on the website.

      Hang in there. I’ll add you to my prayers and hope you will keep me informed.

      In Him,


  4. I am in this journey right now. After 20 years of emotional and verbal abuse, I started keeping a journal. Because when the nice times come, you doubt yourself and your reality. You start to doubt that the abusive times existed. You question your sanity. The journal helped me to remember how bad times really were — the screaming, yelling, name calling, put downs, reactive abuse, controlling abuse. Even with my journaling, I still struggle regularly with cognitive dissonance. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of hours I have spent in the past year reading and watching videos about abuse, gaslighting, projection, cognitive dissonance, narcissism, psychopath behaviors, etc. The emotions have been a rollercoaster as I have peeled back the layers of all of this stuff. My heath got so bad that I had to go see my doctor. I had high blood pressure and anxiety. She referred me to a counselor. I’ve been to four sessions so far. Although I know I’m not crazy, it was extremely affirming for a professional to look at me and tell me I’m not crazy, I’m being verbally abused, and to ask me how I have endured this for so long.

    I am trying to make plans for separation. I have been sort of stuck for about two months, just sort of frozen by all of this. It has been a process to get to this point. I feel like I am in a holding place right now as I try to figure out what my next steps should be. What do I need to do before separation? I need to make sure I am protected physically and financially. I’m not sure how to navigate this. If you have any advice or links to articles I would appreciate it.

    Thanks for your articles.

    1. Hello, Karen. I am glad you found the website and that you are working through this difficult process and learning to take care of yourself. Everything you shared is altogether familiar and wholly consistent with the abuse dynamic.

      As to your specific request, there are a couple of articles to which I can refer you, including “Leaving Abuse: A Journey Into the Great Unknown.” and “Life on the Other Side.”

      I am not sure there is any ideal way to leave an abuser. Know that it will not be easy – and your husband will almost assuredly make it more difficult than you might imagine. Physical safety is paramount, as you noted, and financial protection is also wise if you can find a way to ensure it. Is it worth the work, the struggle, the uncertainty? From my experience – absolutely.

      Should you leave, know that the dynamic changes, and abusers tend to kick into a new gear designed to get you back ASAP. I have several other articles that might be helpful at that point (“Leaving an Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded,” “Checklist Blackmail,” “Did He Apologize or Not?” among others.

      I’m also glad that you have the help of a counselor. Should the need arise, I also provide phone consultations. There is more information on that service on the website, and you are welcome to e-mail me privately from the “Contact Cindy” link on the “About Me” tab.

      I hope you will let me know how you are doing and how I might be able to help.

      Hang in there…


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