What are you doing? Why were you hiding in the closet? Why were you calling your family? You shouldn’t talk to them anymore. They’re not worth your time, and you always feel bad after talking to them. They obviously don’t love you as much as I do. I thought you were done with them. You need to just cut them off already. Why are you talking to them when you could be spending time with me? I’m the one who loves you, not them.
Do any of those things sound familiar to you? This barrage of questions is particularly painful and seared into my mind because these were the questions that my former fiance hurled at me the night he ended our engagement.
This wasn’t the first time that I faced his firing squad. This wasn’t the first time I was made to feel guilty for contacting my family. This wasn’t the first time that I grovelled to try to please this person that I thought I loved and who I thought loved me. At least, he said he did. My heart hurts for the girl I was back then. Not in a “poor me” or “pity me” way, but very simply, my heart hurts because that girl was trapped in a web of emotional abuse. Alienated from family and friends, unable to make new friends without getting the third degree and then getting the third degree about NOT having any friends. Made to feel guilty every time she looked at the caller ID and had to choose between talking to her mother and receiving verbal abuse after the fact or sending the call to voicemail to try to ward of the insults. Making the choice to avoid her family’s holiday get-togethers because it wasn’t worth the emotional roller coaster that she knew would occur in the minutes after she arrived back at her apartment.
Friends, if you take ANYTHING away from this post, I want to impress upon you that emotional abuse is real, and it is rampant in today’s culture. Boys who should be men but who refuse to grow up, insecure men, men who know better, are crushing the hearts of the women who love them. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know first hand the healing that only Christ can bring to the soul who has been wounded through emotional abuse, and yet, for as common as I suspect this issue is, it is still an uncommon thing for a woman to stand up, raise her hand, and admit that she has been the victim of emotional abuse.
Why is that?
Emotional abuse doesn’t leave visible scars, and, like depression, the “pat answers” seem to be the same. Trust God more. Be more involved in His Word. Make sure that you aren’t the one in the wrong, etc…
This post isn’t intended to air my grievances. I so desperately want you, my readers, to understand that I share my story with you to show you that I KNOW what it is like to be trapped in an abusive relationship. I know the feelings of utter helplessness, despair, and depression. I have felt the hurt of words, the hurt of silence, the hurt of being controlled, the fear of being hurt, and the fear that nothing is ever going to change. And I am here today to tell you that there is hope. And that hope is found in Jesus Christ.
You know, the funny thing about emotional abuse is that it sometimes continues on long after the breakup is over, and, sadly, for a little over a year after our breakup, I allowed my ex to remain in my life. I let him continue to hurt me. Why? Simple. I was coping. See, I had been so beaten down through our years together, and I had been so effectively cut off from family and friends that when my relationship with my ex ended, I had no one. We had stopped going to church long before our breakup, and so I felt as thought I didn’t even have Christ to help me through. So, my emotional abuser was literally the only person I felt that I “had.”
Thankfully, God cleared the fog from my heart and eyes, and He restored me to close fellowship, not only with Himself, but also with my family. My story, for all its pain, has a happy ending.
But the scars remain.
I don’t like remembering what my life was like back then. But, as I shared in my previous post, I truly believe that God allows us to suffer through trials, whether it be a test or a trial of our own doing, so that we can, in turn, provide strength and comfort to others who are facing the same obstacles.
Friend, if my story resonates with you, if you can identify with me, if you know that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, I would encourage you to seek help. A pastor, a Christian counselor, a trusted friend. Seek help. I know. It can be the single most terrifying thing that you can do. Just writing this post has brought up some old anxieties for me. When you’re in the thick of it, the fear is so much greater. What finally helped me break through the web of abuse (other than Christ, of course) was the support of my family and friends. These people saw what was going on, and when I was finally ready to start opening up, they listened. I am so grateful that they didn’t push me to move home, and I really appreciate the fact that they didn’t tell me, “I told you so.” What did they do? They listened. They talked to me like I was normal. And when the time came for me to move home, they didn’t blame me for any of the hurt that they had caused. They didn’t rub my failures in my face. They didn’t beat me over the head with the Bible. They welcomed me with open arms and forgave me when I asked for their forgiveness. And as my story has come out over the past few years, they have been nothing but compassionate.
One of the biggest helps was honestly being able to identify that I was in an abusive relationship. Like I said before, this isn’t an issue that is openly addressed in most churches (at least not in my experience), and, while I was angry at the time, I am ultimately so thankful for the godly Christian woman who shared with me a list of questions that helped me identify my ex’s behaviors towards me as abuse. If you are wondering if you are in an abusive relationship or you know of someone in an emotionally abusive relationship, I would encourage you to go through these questions or send them to the person you fear is a victim of emotional abuse. While I was angry at the sender for several months that she would send me “stuff” on emotional abuse, words cannot express my gratitude that she followed God’s leading and sent them to me even though she knew there would be the possibility that I would react in a negative way.
12 Questions to help you identify whether or not you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:
1) Do I REALLY feel safe with this person? Not just safe, as in no physical harm, but do I feel emotionally safe?
2) Does he treat me with the utmost respect? Does he really LIKE (not just love) me, and does he like me for who I REALLY am, or is he always trying to change me?
3) Do we get into arguments often, hardly ever? Does it always end the same way, where the conclusion is that he is usually right, and you’re the one who needs to do the changing? Or, the conflict seems to always be your fault? It’s easy to think that “If I just do better next time…then he won’t get so upset”. That next time where he doesn’t get upset will never happen.
4) Has he ever done anything to scare you…the way he drives, maybe raising something as if he is going to hit me with it, but then acts as if he’s just joking?
5) Does he love and respect my family? They are a part of who you are. When men don’t love the in-laws…it’s usually because they are hiding something about themselves. This will end up affecting your kids, because they won’t get to spend much time with their grandparents growing up and family get togethers will always be a fight, if he even shows up. You may think that it doesn’t matter, but it will.
6) Does he have a problem with authority/confrontation? Because someone who has an authority issue, will not listen to wisdom. Everyone else is the problem…no matter what it is.
7) Is he angry over seemingly simple or trifle things or depressed a lot? Proverbs says that we are to have nothing to do with angry people because you will learn their ways and become like them.
8) Does he ever put you down, even if in fun? You may be able to sweep it under the rug emotionally now, but over the years, it will build up. If he truly loves and respects you, you will be able to feel that honor and respect from your heart. He should never say anything that is demeaning.
9) Do you ever feel completely confused at the end of an argument? Not really sure how it got to where it ended?
10) Do you like him more and more…really like him for who he is as a person? Or do you like him less and less? Once the relationship gets physical, it is really hard to differentiate these feelings. You feel like you love him, because your heart is doing cartwheels and somersaults, but that doesn’t mean that you like him as a person, or that you like how he treats you.
11) Do you feel like you both are on the same page on most things? Like you really GET each other?
12) Do you really-honestly- enjoy being around him? Some people get their thrills off of always putting everyone else down, and hurting them emotionally or physically, so that they look good or as if they are in the right. Some people will even twist scripture to do it. These people also use pressure tactics.
As in my last post, there are a list of Bible verses that I clung to after I was able to identify that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, I would strongly encourage you to either memorize or share these verses.
Psalm 34:17-20 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Isaiah 35:3-4 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Psalm 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Identifying emotional abuse isn’t easy. I know first-hand that it is so difficult to admit that you are in an abusive relationship. But, there is great hope in Christ for escaping an abusive relationship. There is so much more that I want to talk to you about in regards to living with the knowledge that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship and how to break free, but since this post is already quite lengthy, I’ll be addressing that in my next post.
If you or someone you love is in an emotionally abusive relationship, I would love to talk to you and share with you the hope that I have found in God’s word.
Until next time,