“Dear ladies, any one of you, in any stage of confusion, conflicted beliefs, inundated with shame, feeling you’re between a rock and a hard place, angry, afraid, guilting yourself out of inability to forgive, memory loss issues, losing touch with what’s really going on and what’s being told you is going on… being afraid or ashamed to reach out, feeling you will not be understood or believed, for those who are afraid your theology expressly forbids divorce and that the covenant of marriage is unbreakable, short of death, infidelity ( extra- marital affair) or abandonment, here is my story. I hope it will be of some benefit to you..
I and many others were marinated in the theology that if you do leave, there is no recompense. You are not permitted to remarry unless widowed.
The beliefs I bought into and held fast in the circles I was exposed to and fellowshipped with at the time, had no answers except what wasn’t working: submit, forgive, love, pray and trust. I was passionately in love with Jesus. I was the type of woman who didn’t see much gray area in my faith walk. I easily believed and bought into this belief system. I wanted to be “ NO COMPROMISE” for Christ and willing to suffer for His cause.
I didn’t realize my abuser was privy to my zeal early on… and used it. Free of accountability, he had an easy path, living a covertly abusive lifestyle of chemicals and porn, betrayal, deception, constant lying and purposefully saying and doing things to make me unable to trust my reality. He lived a high life while I deteriorated . I wanted to be a good Christian wife. Even at his workplace, I covered his actions, his lies, with his employer. I took the blame to enable him to keep his job and his reputation.
I did this for him, our daughter, myself, and to try to reflect a Godly marriage to others. As years passed, my astute 12 yr old, who I homeschooled , had observed our interactions. She was the first one to intimate to me that there was something wrong, and he was not treating me, or her. as a believer and man of God he claimed to be. I began to notice these things. After a time, our good pastor. having only seeing a small sample of my husband’s behavior, admonished him that he was dealing with me treacherously.
As most of us do, I tried and tried, knowing his issues, and hearing him cry to me so often that no one ever stuck by him once they got to know him, and that I was his only friend in the world, and that he wanted to change but was unable to do it on his own. I stayed, read, studied, prayed, talked, prayed, loved, explained, sought help, prayed, fixed things, talked, listened, prayed, read some more, researched some more, prayed more, sought different resources for both of us. Was it me ? Strongholds? Fear? His issues, which would take a book to explain and expound upon? Or the old favorite: The Devil.
I was deteriorating mentally, spiritually and physically until I was an utter wreck. I came to realize, finally, that the things I was holding to were fallacies. Good marriages were reciprocal, the man ministering in knowledge and understanding, to his wife, treating her as his equal, his love and friend, co- heir in raising up a family for the Lord and to the inherited riches of Christ as a faithful couple. What I had was a twisted, convoluted version of a marriage, and the abuses were so covert and slowly built over timeout that I didn’t see them very well.
When I did think I saw things, they were undermined by his lies and spin on things, leaving me more foggy, confused and less trusting of my own thinking and ability to get out and make a way for myself and my daughter in the world.
I was a shell of who I had once been and totally lost, yet I ran. I believed leaving, being away from the toxicity, my mind would clear, my strength in the Lord would return, and my faith would be strong again. I would be ok!
But getting out was only a first step. The effects of the victimization were still influencing me to feel needy or unworthy. I had been treated with contempt when I spoke up. My passive ex had been happy to play the part of a victimized, silent, overwhelmed husband. Church counselors saw me as a troublesome, ungrateful and unsubmissive wife. My husband did not stand up for me.
I stood by this man with his best interest at heart. As many spouses of faith, I hoped he could be reached, we’d all be ok, in God’s will and that it just took time and perseverance. I had swallowed the assumption that marriages were a test. Until I succeeded and was able to love and complete him into joining in and trusting the healing process, I’d not have succeeded or have been good enough a wife, or Christian sister or friend to him. And I would have failed in being a good mother to my daughter where her dad was concerned, or where any of us were concerned, for that matter. It was as if, he was broken and I alone held the secret, for our reputations as believers and for my daughter to not feel less than in front of Christian friends if her father were portrayed as a loser.
I didn’t know what course to take for so long. After leaving, I carried the shame of putting my daughter and me through so much toxicity. I marinated her in a false representation of a God- ordained or God -blessed union.
The worst was discovering, at the end of our marriage, he knew he had deliberately gaslit me- clipped my wings, cut me down, ridiculed my ideas – all because he could not function and would not let me rise either. He was afraid I’d be successful, grow and wise up, then leave. Like many, I was isolated at home or surrounded by other believers who he knew. They upheld corrosive beliefs that women should stay and take abuse, pray and trust it will get better, even to the point of losing their minds, losing touch with their faith or the health of their very souls, as well as their physical bodies. When I came to the end of myself, I could not find much validation for my plan to leave to save my life.
It was out of desperation and self- preservation that I left. I had been led to believe my will to survive was not faithful. I ran, believing I would be fine, once gone. I was working. I came back to my hometown. It was a bad choice because I was victim- shamed by my original abusers, my father and stepmother, and soon began faltering: splintered, in pain, afraid and feeling less than human. I fell apart. In this state, I ran to a friend for solace. I was already weak and emotionally shut down. I could not function, think , work. Guided by past teaching, I married my friend so I would not live in sin, have a roof over my head, and help. I needed emotional and physical support to continue my career goal of portrait photography.
I learned later I was having severe CPTSD symptoms. When my friend showed the slightest kindness, I folded. Other than a few kindnesses from my paternal grandparents, I had not known what it was like to be treated with care and affirmation or the milk of kindness. The needy toddler inside had learned to settle, losing her grip on reality around trust, honesty or fidelity. My new husband was not one to understand the need for fidelity. He seemed clueless around relationships, or how to make amends or when they may be called for . Mutual respect and communication were outside his skills. My frustration and anger grew and my new husband lashed out violently as a habitual reaction to any situation. I had run from a frying pan into a fire.
We did not last long. But I had nowhere to go or money of my own, so we remained cordial by living separately, as I learned, and grew, in knowledge and understanding of what God truly thinks of such marriages. I saw the blatant, even if covert, abuses toward his precious daughters, and what fidelity, unity, walking together looks like. This was the work I hadn’t done before. It can’t work if one-sided. Each one must lookout for one another, in truth, before the Lord with communication, healthy compromise, commitment, consistency, confession and amends, tenderness, trust, love and laughter together…peace. Caring for one another’s hearts, all the things I had only a counterfeit of. All the things I tried to give, but learned the other has to desire the same, accept your gifts, appreciate your contributions, not exploit them and your tenderness of heart and your vulnerability, using what you trusted of your inner self, your hearts secrets, against you.
I began to see a different picture of God. I sought out others who had much the same experiences and began to heal. However I was healing from my present relationship, the one I had run to, the one that was more covertly damaging, but also dealing with my mind fog, my shame and confusion, trying to grasp my reality , sort out truth and rebuild my relationship to this Jesus who loved me more than a mere, mortal and abusive man. He cares for my soul and my relationship with Him so I began to let my soul be reprogrammed.
However I still wasn’t able to grasp the trauma of the 20 years with my ex who was my first love and the father of my beautiful daughter, who we still shared. I had begun marriage with the dream: with trust and hopes of all the things I believed were a part of a loving Christian marriage.
I still believe the same, but my ex-husband could not share in that. He could not give what he never truly had. All the devotion and desire for him to change would not change him, if he could not face his need or what it would take for him to face in order to desire change. This I realized, finally, more fully than just intellectually. And that change came as my head and my heart connected concerning those twenty years. I began to read the workbook I had found after reaching out for help from the author. For me, it had more depth. I need hard facts. It’s how I am, and I need explanations, clear and solid, no nonsense unadulterated truths, no matter how hard. It was God’s timing that I read Shirley’s book. It had more straightforward facts and not conjecture. It had more citations with it as well as a clearer explanation of the things that had gone on in my marriage. It helped me see the reality and the depth of damage caused me and my faith and the way the faith community had re-traumatized and re-victimized me and thereby, my daughter as well. I had looked to them, seeking validation and answers that were never forthcoming.
I began to be able to wrap my head and heart around the ways their non- help had caused me to doubt my own thinking and stay in the torment for way too long, until it was almost too late. Sometimes we need to hear a fresh voice that speaks to us, in our individual ways of comprehension and at the right time to really hear. For me, it was a journey that came full circle and landed at the point of more fully understanding, allowing me to work on my issues, with clarity and not hide from them.
I can only now seek to continue to heal and be a gentle example, empathize, speak truthfully and keep boundaries as the Lord leads from here on. Hopefully I can walk in peace and communion with Him and others in a more balanced life of love, caring and truth with a real centering that I had only postured, believing it was genuine because I so badly wanted it to be.
Now, I sojourn through my remaining years. I embrace my journey through continued healing and being used in the lives of others, seeking to learn how to love others and loving my Lord. I have a genuine purpose beyond what I ever thought I had, not based on fixing another and wishful thinking and desperate pleas and inability to grasp reality. I see more and more clearly every day and I am thankful, at peace and can pray and praise my Lord freely, finally. I am assured in my heart and steady in my belief that the best is yet to come!”