Your abuser uses fouls of double standards and double binds without being called on them.
Recently the Kansas City Chiefs unexpectedly lost to the Las Vegas Raiders, who broke the Chiefs streak of 13 wins. The Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, said the Raiders were making plays that no one had seen before.
Business leaders are also on the look out for “curve balls”, to take a phrase from baseball. Sports is a perennial training ground for boys growing up and men in their professions and relationships.
Many women are not conditioned to think in terms of strategy in relationships. While love may be called a game, women stake their lives on them and sometimes lose them.
Looking at what the men in our lives do rather than say can help women understand when the relationship is a game rather than an authentic sharing. While romantic games can add to a partnership, some games can be deadly.
Survivors have explained how they believed that their abusers meant what they said. They learned through pain that an abuser can switch words and feelings off and on at will, as part of a strategy to keep a victim off balance and controlled. They can play hard ball with threats and intimidating actions. This is not a relationship you want.
For example, when a husband becomes very upset over some minor detail in their relationship, the wife may think he is genuinely upset. However, if she notices and pays attention to her inner voice, she will see whether this outburst is meant to upset her or is an issue of that magnitude. Comparing his behavior with others and in other situations can shed light on whether this is a control tactic or genuine emotion.
When church doctrine or Bible study is added into this game, it is very hard for a woman to detach and see the plays. We are not used to thinking of God as a premier coach helping a believer be MVP.
Two of the most frequent game moves are the double standard and the double bind.
In a double standard, what applies to the abuser does not apply to the victim.
In some churches, this is based on patriarchy or misogyny, the belief that men by virtue of being men have the right to control women and not be held accountable for how they treat them.
So if a victim confronts the abuser by applying the same expectations for behavior, she will be chided as being unsubmissive, disobedient, faithless or called names such as Jezebel, harlot, whore of worse. These insults are levied at any woman who dares to express herself or pursue her own individuality, which challenges control by a man.
If your partner defines being a man as controlling a woman, the game can be dangerous.
When a church leader contaminates faith to support male domination, he will enforce marriage over safety, peace, and any move that removes the wife from the control of a man. Countless women who have escaped this misuse of faith to ban divorce can attest to how the church closes ranks around the husband. This model of relationships is adversarial, upholding the boys’ team at all costs.
Unfortunately church women go along, whether because of fear or mistaken beliefs, and thus cut off one avenue of support for a victim seeking rescue. Perhaps they don’t realize that cheerleaders make minimum wage instead of the millions the players receive.
The second way men use game strategy in relationships is the double bind. In these statements, the victim is in a no-win. No matter which way she turns or what she tries to do, she will be wrong. Often called “Catch-22s”, these are contradictory conditions, instructions or situations set up by the abuser to keep the victim defeated.
Women are creatures who thrive on love and on giving love. Love is an absolute in our world. We resonate with the gospel for this reason. The church teaches it as an absolute. I Cor. 13 sets a very high standard for loving behavior.
If our partners are not loving, we don’t think that removes the expectation for us to be loving. If anything, the desire to be Christ- like intensifies our demand to meet evil with good, hatred with love. We believe the myth that it is our responsibility to save our partners through love.
This belief becomes the basis for impossible demands made by an abuser. For example, if we comply with abuse, we lose. If we try to escape abuse, the church condemns us. To escape these traps, we have to mature our understanding of love. It is not loving to allow someone to abuse us. It is not loving to them. They are not where they need to be to grow in faith. Only when I realized that I was not loving my husband by allowing him to abuse me could I see a higher standard of love.
Our abusers are not trying to live I Cor 13. Patience does not mean collusion. We can bear all things spiritually but not be unequally yoked. What does it mean to bear all things?
We who desire peace and the good are distressed when people are mistreated. We live in a world where we cannot get rid of all the evil that is done. We have to bear with it and work for justice in faith. We can avoid anger. Subjecting ourselves to mistreatment which naturally creates anger is not bearing with all things. It is cooperating with evil.
The next time you question whether you are doing enough, loving enough, or being a good Christian, remember the traits apply to everyone. A relationship is by definition a joint task. No one person can make it work by itself.
The game has rules. You were probably kept from knowing them or told you were crazy or evil if you begin to catch on.
Does your partner play by them or just expect you to? If so, the game should be called and forfeited.