All of us enter relationships with hope and expectations. We long to be loved, encouraged, accepted. We love LOVE. It is exciting, and full of possibilities. God placed that desire in us. He created us to love and long for love. It is a beautiful thing. So what happens when our love story turns out to be a story of pain, loneliness, fear and a complete loss of self? How do we move past the disappointment of what our reality is vs what we believed it would be? Does it mean that we are not deserving of love, incapable of accepting or giving love? Does is condemn us to a life of loneliness and isolation? Unfortunately this is what so many survivors of abuse accept as truth. It is understandable why we come to this conclusion. We poured our entire selves into loving and serving someone who in return used, punished, attacked, humiliated and destroyed us, all the while convincing us that is was our fault. We accepted their lies because years of conditioning changed our ability to perceive truth.
We need to rewire our brains now to recognize manipulations, lies, control. The only way to gain freedom for your soul is to step out of the prison.
For so many years I told myself that every marriage is difficult, every marriage is like mine. It requires completely dying to yourself in order to make it work. I even convinced myself that I was better at marriage than most because I was in complete submission to my husband, and isn’t that what God calls us women to be? My husband would even make comments along those lines, how we were better at this than everyone else because we spent so much time together (control and isolation tactics here…) and we had so much sex (control and addiction here…) and we didn’t fight all that much (fear, brainwashing, control here…). We were in this neat little bubble where he had the ultimate say and power. He loved his bubble. I tried to convince myself that I loved our bubble as well.
It wasn’t until I had left the bubble, sought therapy and started studying these things, that I found a profound yet unfamiliar truth.
Yes every marriage has difficulties, because we are human and have sinful natures. BUT not every marriage is destructive.
Difficulties arise mostly from external circumstances such as job loss, grief, child rearing, health issues, relocation, aging parents and so forth. Difficulties come from a lack of knowledge or ability to handle difficult situations the right way. They can usually be solved or overcome with patience, understanding and guidance. Yes everyone experiences difficulties. Doing life with someone means you will face difficulties and even disappointment. You might have to mourn the change in a relationship when you have children, loose children, loose a parent or so forth. People change as they get older, sometimes we are disappointed in the way someone changes. Your carefree, wild wife might turn into more of a safety conscience, anxious mother when you have your first child. Your calm, up for anything husband might turn into a work driven, impatient father when faced with the new responsibilities of providing for a family. These changes can be difficult and disappointing, and sadly it is often reason enough to end the relationship. But difficulties can be overcome. They can be pushed through and worked out. It takes time and effort and humility but it is doable.
Destructive marriages are different in that they usually START out that way. Destructive behaviors are character traits and are patterns. Destructive behaviors tear away the value, dignity and worth of the other person. It is not externally driven, it is internal. Name calling, blaming, gaslighting, screaming, cussing, hitting, shaming, belittling and controlling the partner is signs of a destructive relationship, not a difficult one.
I felt like the wind was knocked out of me when I heard this for the first time. YES, YES, YES! When I look back to the beginning of our relationship there were destructive patterns already in place. He was careful, calculated in how much he let me see while dating. But the control was starting, the conditioning was happening. Comments on what I should wear, weight loss suggestions and pushes, little value for my opinions, snide comments about my family or friends, trying to get me to see his point of view about all things. All in the name of love of course. The character traits of someone with personality disorders are difficult to pin down because of their keen ability to portray themselves as whoever you need them to be, but if you pay attention and know what to look for they show themselves.
The most telling sign of an abusive person is an entitled attitude and a complete refusal to take responsibility for their behaviors and actions. They fool many people with false humility and talking in way that makes it sound like they take responsibility, when in fact they are denying, minimizing, blaming or equalizing their bad behavior. Saying things like….
I know that I can be harsh, BUT you just frustrate me so much with your lack of understanding. We BOTH do this…., You always complain about….BUT what about the fact that I took the kids for an hour last week so you could get some YOU time? I never said…..you always assume the worst about me. You are way to sensitive, can’t you take a joke? You know I didn’t mean that, I was drunk, I can’t help what I say when I’ve had too much to drink! No one is perfect, you expect me to be someone I’m not!
An entitled attitude shows itself in small comments that make them out to be the best and most knowledgeable about everything. It is ridiculously obvious once you know to look for it. The judgement and criticism of everyone and everything around them, all to build themselves up. As their property we ought to recognize their ultimate authority on all matters. Any disagreement on our part, they will take as disrespect. There is no room for individual thought, feelings or emotions. Our lives must revolve around them otherwise we are being ungodly, unloving, disrespectful and selfish. This is entitlement.
Knowledge is power. Know the difference. If you are in a difficult marriage, there is hope, there is work to be done, there is still love. If you are in a destructive marriage or relationship, get out. It does not get better over time, it does not go away when external circumstances change. It will destroy you, your heart and soul. Let Jesus restore what is broken. Value yourself enough to give yourself a chance.