Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Did I Marry an Abusive Man?

Recently I was interviewed by a radio program called Wise People with Jim Norman. The interviewer was puzzled about why people enter more than one abusive relationship. He said something to the effect that, “I’d think they would have had enough of that and steer away from abusive people.” If only it were that easy.
I’d had enough of abuse after the very first time I was raped as a small child, but that didn’t give me the capability to avoid future abuse. In fact, it made me a likely candidate for more abuse from others. At 46 years of age, I have now reached the place where I do recognize abusers and controlling people and I do steer away from them. But it took time and healing to reach this place.

This week I re-wrestled my way through the guilt and shame that surface when I wonder why I married an abusive man when I tried so hard to avoid anyone who reminded me of my father. I saw only surface similarities and differences. My boyfriend carefully hid his abusive traits while we dated. I must have had some attraction to what seemed familiar even though I did not want more abuse. In fact, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to date anyone, but this charming older man swept right past my defenses. He liked the timidity, shyness, and compliant nature that he found in me. I liked that he was so outgoing and had such an easy time communicating about emotions.

Why did I marry him? I agreed to marriage because I didn’t know how to say no. I agreed because I was exhausted from trying to protect myself and thought a wedding ring would put an end to men flirting with me. I agreed because I was young (18 years old) and did not know the significance of the disconcerting behaviors my date sometimes exhibited. I noticed the irregularities but didn’t know what to do with them except to excuse them. I agreed because I thought my love would help him to become less insecure and wounded. I agreed because my own self-confidence was wounded and I thought this might be the only person who would want to marry me; I considered myself as worthless and soiled from the incest my father perpetrated against me. I agreed because I had never been to counseling, and in fact, didn’t even know it was an option. I agreed because loving the other person and being willing to work hard were the only requirements for marriage that I’d ever been taught. I loved him and I’d always been a hard worker. Perhaps, you Reader, have such a list yourself that led you into a second or third or fourth abusive relationship.

The fact is that we are doomed to more abusive relationships until we engage in a journey of honest looking back and seeking God’s healing of our wounds. . Until we believe that we have significance in God’s kingdom, we’ll be attracted to people who devalue us. Until we know that we don’t magically make good people into abusive people, we’ll believe that others must be better than we are and miss important clues about an individual’s character. Until we know how to say no, we are vulnerable prey to abusers. Until we learn how to accept our emotions and how to take care of our needs, we look like the fatted calf to hungry predators. Until we depend upon God’s wisdom instead of our own, we are easy targets. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is our reality.

The great news is that God can heal our pain! God can help unscramble the twisted beliefs that we carry in our minds, hearts, and souls after surviving abuse so that we can replace lies with scriptural truth
Let’s cry out to our loving God for the help that we need. His help is good, ready and available. We can trust Him even if we haven’t in the past. We can trust Him even if we’ve learned to never trust anyone. We can give God a try and see what He can do with our wounded selves.

P.S. I apologize for the long silence. I have been ill with a transformed migraine.


Michelle K said...

This was so very well written and incredibly true. I know that it's true because I experienced things that were very, very similar. While I had years and years of therapy, I remained hopelessly broken until I found God and invited Him into my life. While I still have my moments, I know that my life will never be the same. Thanks so much for your thoughts and well-chosen words.

Jan Parrish said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your vulnerability is refreshing and so helpful to others. I'm linking this to my Bold & Free Ministries page.

Barbara said...

If your parents were abusive - you tend to repeat the pattern due to Repetition Compulsion.

You also, with abusive parents, become a magnet for abusive people.

Been there.

kevin blumer said...

Hi thanks for sharing your story i was in a relationship and it was doomed form the start soon the probem with me was that i was allready in love with person and it did fail and it hurt loads and loads but yes i did eventualy ask god and he did help me the thing is with god he allways seems to awnser me back with questions

Becky said...

I think entering into multiple abusive relationship is typical of most women who have already experienced abuse, but hopefully most eventually figure it out and are able to stay clear of abusive people. I admire those who can walk away, it has got to be extremely difficult.

I recently read a great memoir titled, "Major Dream: From Immigrant Housemaid to Harvard Ph.D." by Jin Kyu Robertson Ph.D., which tells a true story of how a Korean women overcame the odds and left her abusive husband. She ended up graduating from Harvard, becoming a Major in the Army, and is now Korea's top motivational speaker. I think women need to realize that they don't need a man to survive, they can still be very successful without them- sometimes better off LOL!

Tanya T. Warrington said...

Kevin Blumer,

Thanks for leaving a comment. Love can tie us to the wrong person. Fairy tales always have a happy ending, but in real life we can be sucked into a negative or abusive relationship without realizing what is happening.

It really does hurt to realize that the person you love is unkind, manipulative, abusive...It isn't what we want. It is a very poor return for the effort and care we've poured out. But God does care. He can help us to heal.

It can be frustrating when God answers us with a question. As the Bible records, Jesus answered with questions that allowed the seeker an opportunity to see their own heart more clearly. He helped the honest to see their need clearly and challenged them to greater faith. He shut down the Pharisees with questions that exposed the hidden motives of their hearts. By doing our best to honestly answer God's questions we grow in transparency, trust and faith. God cares and is eager to act on our behalf. He heals with compassion.

Tanya T. Warrington said...

Hi Becky,

You are right it is very difficult to walk away from abuse. The dependency and huge sense of helplessness that abuse fosters make it seem impossible. How can someone whose self-image has been harshly battered find the strength to leave? Desperation and faith are powerful motivators. With God anything, including breaking free from an abusive relationship and then healing from the wounds.

Women and men do not need an abuser. In fact, an abuser is extremely toxic. People blossom once they are free from abuse. They find new strength and courage as they take each step toward a new and better life.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft