Relationship Tips for a Happy Marriage Part 88: No Place for Abuse
Domestic violence is rampant in our society and Christians are not immune from it. The only difference is that a Christian, and especially a Christian woman, in an abusive and unhappy marriage is less likely to seek help. Many tend to take the ‘submit and pray’ route which, unfortunately, is not very effective in the face of abuse.
Types of Abuse in Marriage
Physical abuse can take various forms including hitting, pinning down, chocking and kicking among others. Thankfully, society teaches us to recognize physical abuse and its effects on us from a young age.
Unfortunately, many people remain in physically abusive relationships hoping that their spouse will change for the better. This puts them at risk of both physical and psychological injury. This is because physical abuse does not only break bones, but it also destroys the victim’s self esteem.
While many people are clear on what constitutes physical abuse, not too many people can recognize emotional abuse. Like all other forms of abuse, emotional abuse arises from an inherent desire by the abuser to control their spouse. It is comprised of a variety of negative behaviors including intimidation, put-downs, negative criticism, manipulation, anger, possessiveness and extreme jealousy.
The abuser often uses words like “I will kill you/ myself/ the kids” or “I will hurt you if you…,” which leave the victim feeling confused, trapped, worthless and defenseless. More often than not, the abused succumbs to the demands of the abuser but suffers from low self esteem which can affect them in the long term.
Verbal abuse often manifests itself in the form of insults, swearing, name calling and hurtful jokes. The abuser uses hurtful words which leave the victim, once again, feeling worthless. He may even try to show the victim how worthless she is without him. Verbal abuse is usually a stepping stone to other forms of abuse and if it is not dealt with, it can turn into emotional and physical abuse.
Dealing With Abuse in Marriage
1. Acknowledge that you are in an abusive and unhappy marriage – Before you can free yourself from an abusive marriage, you need to acknowledge your situation and recognize the need for change. If your marriage fits the description of any of the above mentioned types of abuse, it’s time to seek help.
2. Assess the level of danger and develop a safety plan – Once you have acknowledged that you are in an abusive marriage, assess whether your safety is at risk. If you fear for your safety, start making plans to get out of that situation. Be very discreet with your plans since your spouse might view your leaving as a sign of rejection. This might make him even more violent.
3. Seek outside help and guidance – You will need help to get out of the abusive relationship and recover from it. Therefore, do not be ashamed or afraid to ask for help from friends, family members, counselors and your pastor. They can provide emotional, material and financial support as well as guidance and counseling.
Depending on your situation you may also want to seek legal help. Remember, the law is there to protect you. For instance, you can take out a restraining order against your abusive spouse.
4. Begin the journey to personal recovery – Being abused by a loved one can cause deep physical and psychological wounds. These will take time to heal regardless of whether the two of you stay together or not. As a Christian, your journey to personal recovery will involve rebuilding your relationship with God. In so doing, you will gain a renewed understanding of God’s love for you and his plans for your life. This will enable you to feel valued, loved, understood and respected.
5. Reconciliation – Pursuing reconciliation after an abusive marriage can be a long and tedious process. Before it can happen, the abusive spouse must recognize that he has a problem and seek professional help. He must also show a genuine desire to change and learn to exercise self control with the help of the holy spirit.
Being in a Christian marriage does not exempt you from marital problems such as abuse. If you are in an unhappy marriage with an abusive spouse, it is time for a change. Use the above tips to begin your journey to recovery.