A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Knowing Your Own Weaknesses

For those of us who have never had a loving relationship (aside from our children or friends), it can be extremely hard to discern where our own problems lie. I am struggling with this because I have heard so often that everyone has sin areas of their life, and that it will create problems in a marriage, and so therefore I am always picking through my history and trying to analyze my own flaws. I can get obsessed with this and maybe it’s not healthy.

The difficulty is in knowing what is really a personal sin or weakness, and what was just a lie or accusation from my Abuser. For instance — am I really a highly critical person with a forked tongue? He said that I was. (And that was one excuse for abusing me.) I could never say anything right. Ever.

But is that the truth? Am I highly critical? Is this something in my personality that would destroy any future relationship?

This results in a Merry-Go-Round in my head, of constant analyzing and not getting anywhere. The trouble with only having been with abusive men in my past is that I have no clear picture of what my sins truly are (in the context of a relationship). I am surrounded by critical people in my family as well, so maybe it’s part of my “makeup”? But on the other hand, I manage to maintain long-term friendships with others without driving them away.

I often sit and fuss over the past in an effort to figure out “what is wrong with me”, and when I can’t figure it out with certainty then I throw up my hands and say: “I must remain single for the rest of my life because there is a good probability that I cannot have a good relationship anyway”.

Do any of you do this?

75 Comments

  1. Jeff S

    Yes, I do this. In fact, I wonder often if I should just not date so I can prevent myself from hurting someone else. And I HAVE had a loving relationship with my parents (though not a perfect one). I spend a lot of time wondering just how much drama I would bring to any new relationship.

    The flip side of this is I also struggle to know what is acceptable behavior to receive. For instance, how bad is it if someone throws a pillow at me in anger (not in jest)? My head tells me that really isn’t a big deal, but I’ve had people I respect tell me that is a really big deal. I still struggle to feel that it is.

    What I have to keep reminding myself as I contemplate entering into a new relationship is that the issue with my marriage wasn’t my ability to sin or even her ability to sin. We are all going to take flaws into our intimate relationships and we will hurt and be hurt by one another. The real issue is how we address these hurts when they happen.

    We are accustom to relationships where there is no working out the issues or making things better. Where sin can happen with impunity and we just have to deal with it. That’s the skew we have to get beyond, because in a healthy relationship, not only will we be able to communicate and work together when our intimate partner causes us pain, but when we do as well.

    So if we are too critical, or too selfish, or too lazy, or too (fill in the blank)- that’s OK as long as we are willing to listen and work on it- we CAN change by the power of the Holy Spirit. And this is one reason I think it’s important not to rush into a new relationship- I’ve certainly been at the point where I WASN’T willing to work on it because that would leave me too vulnerable. But when we ARE capable of trust and vulnerability again, I think this is how God displays his power in our lives. We can trust him for that.

    • Brenda R

      Well said, Jeff S. I think the problem with the pillow is that it could become something a little more heavy eventually, like a vase or paper weight. Or that would be the problem with it for me. I would be looking into the future having lived it before.

      I agree whole heartedly. It is not that we will never do something that gets under our partners skin, it is if we can work through it calmly without throwing something or sulking for a week and never working on it. Marriage is work on both sides if you want it to last.

      • Child of the One True King

        My therapist helped me understand why the “throwing things” is so threatening.. even if they’re light, or not at you. The message when your partner throws something (even if it’s as light as a pillow) is “See what I can do to this pillow? I can do it to you too.” That kind of physical intimidation is really scary for someone in an abusive relationship. It leaves you tip-toeing.. scared of what’s coming next.

      • Brenda R

        Exactly. I was walking on eggshells waiting for when something was going to connect. Waiting for the time that he would really cross over the line and I wouldn’t be getting back up. Saying “I will never hurt you” meant absolutely nothing to me. What he did do hurt.

    • For me, throwing a pillow in anger could be a sign of contempt. The more contempt it was done with, the more concerning it would be.

  2. Tammy B.

    My weakness is thinking that I can fix what is broken in other people’s lives. I see that my first husband that cheated on me constantly for 7 years was abused by his step mother. I went into that marriage thinking that I could make up for all the love he didn’t get in his childhood. My love was not enough for him because he constantly sought affection from other women, prostitutes and strippers. He eventually left me with three babies four and under. It took me six years to remarry and four of those years I dated the same man. The second marriage was another man who was abused by his alcoholic dad growing up. He was told he was worthless all his life and would never amount to anything. He even raped me before we were married but I was so wrapped up in his constant verbal abuse, hypnotized would be a better word, that I married him anyway. I barely got out of that marriage alive. I then dated a man who told me that I was lucky that he came along because I had three children and one was handicap. No one would ever want me because of that. I thought I woke up and got out of that relationship because that was the same lie my second husband told me while we dated. I then made the mistake and remarried my first husband thinking that he had changed, he hadn’t/ He moved me far away from family and abandoned me again after 5 years of being married to him. I filed for divorce and was on my road to recovery when I met the man I’m married to now. He’s another broken man. I’m struggling to love him but his verbal assaults are difficult to take. He says I’m too sensitive and that I take things to personal. He gets mad that he can’t even joke with me without me getting upset but when those “jokes” are really personal assaults then they are difficult to go along with. I should have left 4 years ago but I’m still here. I’ve seen some big changes in him but sometimes I wonder if they are enough to keep going. I could so easily turn and walk away and never look back most days. I’m still seeking the Lord on what to do because like I’ve said, I’ve seen God move in some miraculous ways during the almost 5 years we’ve been married.

    • Brenda R

      I detest the words “I was only joking”. The words before them are always hurtful.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Proverbs 26:18-19 “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!'” (ESV)

      • Brenda R

        I am very familiar with that verse. It is fitting to my situation.

      • Robin M

        ME too!!!!

      • Christine W.

        My ex husband was always saying “I’m only joking”, pick me up by the throat…I’m only joking….slap me across the face…..I’m only joking…..say some of the most horrible things….I’m only joking….then top it with….”You take everything so seriously!” I got to the point I had no idea what was a joke and what was serious…was I really ‘that sensitive’? or was he just abusive? Was I the one losing my mind? Or was he just a heartless jerk? It has left me unsure of myself at times.

      • Brenda R

        Me too. I was beginning to question if I were the one being abusive because nothing was funny. I had no sense of humor. Now that I have left I know without a doubt it was not me. He was/is abusive. He is the one with the problem. I have a sense of humor, just not his version of it. He is a dangerous foolish man.

      • Hi Christine and welcome to the blog! πŸ™‚

        I got the “Can’t you take a joke?!” line a lot with my first husband. I only realised how abusive that was after I left him.

      • bluesinaminor

        i taught my kids – would it hurt if you were not joking? then it will hurt when you are. I only ever got this when someone else was around. he must have lost his sense of humour when we were alone….

      • Brenda R

        For me it was usually the opposite, he only used them if no outsiders were around. He did it to me and the kids. My youngest would always turn to me, “did he Mom” or “does he Mom” askin of her step father. I would have to say no honey he is just being who he is. He didn’t even try to earn respect. Over the years the things he said became much more hurtful. My oldest daughter says that he treated everyone who didn’t live in the home better than those who lived there. To a point she was right. He treated his family and friends better. Waiters, sales clerks etc. were treated completely disrespectful. My kids do not jokingly or otherwise treat people with disrespect. They saw how hurtful it was first hand.

      • Hi Bluesinaminor, I love your screen name. Welcome to the blog! πŸ™‚

      • Just Me

        Lundy Bancroft has an excellent section in “Why Does He Do That?” about the joker. I hate that line too. Full of blame shifting and crazy making.

      • bluesinaminor

        “For me it was usually the opposite, he only used them if no outsiders were around.”

        what i meant was he still said the comments when no one was around. he just didn’t add the “i was only joking’ part when when there was no potentially judgemental audience.

      • That’s clear now. He threw in the ‘I was only joking’ to disguise his nastiness from bystanders, but when bystanders weren’t present he didn’t bother putting that gloss on it.
        It all sounds pretty entitled to me. Glad you are out.

    • Hi Tammy! You are the third new commenter on our blog today! This is a record πŸ™‚ We are so glad to have you.

      It sounds like you’ve been through the mill big time. ((Hugs)) to you.

  3. IamMyBeloved's

    Katy – I have not read the other comments, so if there is repetition here, forgive me. This is what I think. I think if you mess up one time with an abuser, they label you that forever. They cannot see their own sin, or deny it if they do, but if we mess up, it shines bright and clear to them and they never forget it, because they never forgive it – and they can never forgive it, because they themselves are lost and unforgiven by God. So, in light of that truth, it may be that when you sinned against the abuser, you became labeled as such, in order to give him even more entitlement to abuse you. The accuser himself uses this much to our disadvantage and keeps bringing it up. You know that is not God, because if you have asked for forgiveness, it is under the blood of Christ. Only the accuser is going to bring it up to you again. I always ask God to search my heart and know me and reveal to me any wicked way or sin that lies in me, so that I can repent. I also ask for Him to grant me the ability to repent, because the Word says that God has to grant us even our repentance – we cannot do it on our own. Knowing and doing this, helps keep me stable.

    If you have a pattern in your life, it may be a learned thing from living in abuse and compensating in ways to deal with it. That doesn’t make it less of a sin, but it helps you to understand why you do it and how you can stop. It is still, as a Christian, about grace, but the problem isn’t in your relationship with God, the problem is in your relationship(s) with abusive people in your life, if that makes sense. IF you have a sin in your life, then like all of us, God will work it out for you and reveal it to you and heal you. God knows why we do what we do, even when we do not have any idea, and based on His knowledge of us, He graciously leads us to the knowledge that will heal us. He does not condemn us for behaviors we have learned to do, in order to survive abuse. The self-righteous pharisees of the day would and do, but God does not. Once God reveals to us the reasons why, He walks us through it and heals all of it – but it can be a very slow process – but in the end, He keeps His word to use it all for our good and His glory.

    I am still learning and I have just learned this weekend, that there is a reason why I feel the way I do and continue to do what I do in life. God sees these things differently. There is a graph that I actually photographed and put on my phone, and it is a list of how to know whether something is from God or Satan. Deep inside, I know this list and really did not need a list to tell me. But after living in such horrendous abuse, I needed to have it right there in front of my eyes. Abuse left me in great confusion and false guilt. Here are the lists: God — stills you; leads you; reassures you; enlightens you; encourages you; comforts you; calms you; convicts you. Here is Satan’s list — rushes you; pushes you; frightens you; confuses you; discourages you; worries you; obsesses you; condemns you. And I will add this one — uses your abusers to do the same! Hope that helps!

    • Katy

      Thank you, IAMB, that’s an excellent list to keep handy!

    • Brenda R

      This is a good list to keep in view. Thank you for that.

    • I’m putting that list on our GEMS page!

    • Joy V.

      That is a great list to remember. God is a gentleman. Satan is not.

    • ranthegauntlet

      This is a wonderful list. May quote your sentences applying to the list in my blog – on a page of favorite quote for the month? I can do this with or without reference, as you prefer. Please let me know. ranthegauntlet@gmail.com. I also find your assurances of healing to be very soothing, today. Thank you.

      • Yes you can quote the list, just cite the URL and the title of the post it came from. πŸ™‚

        BTW, you can find our republishing policy on our About page. (see the tab in the top menu).

    • Song

      Great list!! Thank you for sharing it!

    • Song

      Added the list to my phone. Auto-correct changed obsesses you to bosses you. Haha! I added bosses to the list, too.

  4. Christine W.

    I do this all the time. I was raised in a very dysfunctional and abusive family. Then went from one abusive marriage to another. I have remained single for 4 yrs and absolutely fearful of getting into another. I won’t even date. I basically have turned into a hermit.

    • Katy

      Oh Christine ((hugs)) Right there with you. I have become a hermit too. I fill up my time with my kids, work, and I cram any spare time with projects. And I have a cat πŸ™‚ In fact I’ve collected several strays as well. So I’m already halfway to “hermit cat lady” lol
      I’ve been struggling because I’ve had several people ask me lately (out of curiosity?) why I don’t date. Why I won’t even try. It’s too hard to explain, I feel like people don’t understand me. They don’t understand that absolute terror of having another bad relationship. They look at me like I have two heads. But there are nice people out there, I’m sure you could find one
      They say these things with confidence because they just don’t get it. 😦

      • Katy

        thanks Barb, no worries we have that expression too πŸ™‚ and Brenda — yes. I have a feeling that if we were all sitting in a room together, we would not label anyone a reclusive cat lady or crazy. I’m sure that we’re all quite “normal”. We just got the short end of the stick when it came to marriages. πŸ˜‰

      • Brenda R

        Amen, Katy, Amen.

      • Dear blog readers, I have stayed at Katy’s place and she is funny, intelligent, smart, an not at all like the proverbial cat lady (even though she does have cats). πŸ™‚ She and I got on like a house on fire. (hope that’s not an offensive expression in the US; here it means we got on famously)

      • Brenda R

        Ooooo a sleep over. FUN. There was no doubt in my mind. I don’t think there is a crazy person among us, in a negative sense. Perhaps driven to craziness, but healing. It is a process and somedays we do it well and others not so much. This morning I was a basket case, tonight–doing pretty well. I answered no emails or phone calls from X. It makes a world of difference.

      • Robin M

        Thank you Barbara for this blog! What a comfort!

    • Brenda R

      Ditto Christine, I have barely been out of this marriage, but I see myself as the cat lady that someone finds after a few weeks and the apartment stinks. I am very leery of who there will be to date and if a nice man came along I would probably think up reasons why I should not even attempt to date him. If he is that nice and wants to date me there must be something seriously wrong with him that I just don’t see. My daughters have said that they want to look him over thoroughly before that ever happens and I think they mean it.

  5. Brenda R

    Yes!! The truth is I am much more critical of myself than I am of anyone else. Either one is not healthy.The lies I heard are “I am stupid”, “I can’t do anything right”, “Your ears are too big” as he pulled on them, “You are bad at IT” and should be a whore in the bedroom. Well I am not a whore anywhere and proud of it. And much more recent, “You are the devil hiding behind a Bible so no one will know who you are.” I think that one surpassed anything I was ever told.

    Do I sin, as we all do, yes I have and recognize it right away. Do not let the sun go down on your anger comes to mind. I didn’t get to let it out or discuss it. It was hard to let it go so I cried instead. I did not keep the children in a Christian environment, I believe that to be my worst sin. I didn’t train my kids to love the Lord as I should have. I was too busy trying to protect us from the anger in the home (and I use the term loosely).

    I have a weakness for chocolate, as most of us probably do. I have a weakness for abusive men in uniform even though I don’t realize they are abusive when I meet them. I have a weakness for wanting a warm loving man in my life. I have never had one including an earthly father. I see what I want them to be and not who they are. Knowing all of this you’d think I would get it right eventually. But if I find it, will I run from it thinking it can’t be real.

    The truth is I am loved by my Heavenly Father, no matter what I do. I will not loose his love if I cannot play the piano without hitting the wrong key. I won’t loose his love if I miss a stitch while crocheting. I won’t loose his love. I am exactly what he wants me to be. He made me this way. I am not perfect nor does he expect me to be.

    • ” I have a weakness for wanting a warm loving man in my life.”
      That is NOT a weakness!
      The only thing that may be a weakness is letting our hopes and dreams billow up so high that we don’t see red flags in new relationships (if they are there to see).

      • Brenda R

        Valid point Barbara. I think I wanted it so much that I let emotion take control and common sense went out the window. I don’t think I am that same girl anymore. In fact I can’t be at 56 I am not a girl anymore. It would be nice to have someone special in my life at some point, but for now it is just me, the Lord and Buffy kitty. We will be just fine.

  6. MeganC

    Katy . . . What a beautiful and vulnerable post. Thank you. It was perfect timing for me as I spent a bit of time this morning (before the kids got up), writing out lies vs. truths to remind myself that I am not a burden, that I DO have a sound mind, etc. Number three on my list says this: “I am a good friend, wife & mother. I am worth ‘sticking with’ because of the works God has done in me and the work I have put into myself. I am not perfect . . . but that does not mean I am not worth knowing and loving.” I seriously have to speak this aloud now and then to remind myself. I prayed this morning that these truths would take root. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would place a mechanism in my heart that would “catch” the cycle before it begins. Most of my points were followed up with Scripture. It is easy to go into our past and believe the things that have been/are spoken of us by mere men. I wish it were easier for me to recognize that God’s words are MUCH more powerful than man’s words. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special possession (1 Pet 2:9). We are ALL works in progress but the grabber is that we belong to Him and we ARE works (if that makes sense). We all have strengths and weaknesses and are in the process of growing . . . that does not negate our ability to have healthy relationships. I am learning right along with you. I want to stop that crazy cycle in my head. 😦

    • Katy

      ha – Meg I call myself a burden all the time. I have 3 kids! (You have 4!) πŸ™‚ I am doing just fine on my own, but I don’t ever want to feel like a burden on someone else, and I think just the fact that we have so many kids means we WILL have those feelings.
      And I’m going to just go ahead and admit this as well:
      I don’t want to take on the additional responsibility of being a wife and stepmother. I feel like the only men who would be willing to date me will be divorced men my age with children, which means forcing a “blended” family, which means ex drama, child support, maybe alimony, devastated children, blah blah blah.
      I just can’t even imagine it. My life is too hard as it is. So …well-meaning people who think we should run out and find a new partner are not thinking past the wedding. They are not thinking about how exhausting that sort of life will be. Some of us just don’t have the energy for it.
      It’s hard enough to get out of bed each morning and take a shower. lol

      • Katy

        lol thank you Brenda you just validated all of my nightmares πŸ˜› I will be checking the “single” box for the next 15 years at least. πŸ™‚

      • Brenda R

        I hope I didn’t scare you too bad, but that was my experience. There may be a real life Mr. Brady out there just waiting for you. Just be very cautious.

      • MeganC

        Not to be the lone wolf here . . . and hesitating to comment . . . but, it does not have to be that way. David and I did have a lot of drama to overcome in the first year from both sides of the family . . . but, it has been overcome. I think we both decided that our marriage was very much worth it and that we would not be allowing drama / abuse in our lives, no matter what other people tried to do. It is rare, I know. But, I would not want someone to believe that it is impossible. Big hugs.

      • Brenda R

        That is so true. You are wise for putting off that kind of commitment. That is what I did, I had 3 and he had 2. As soon as I signed on the dotted line I had 6 kids including him. Him the worst. No one was happy and he wanted all of his traditions and none of ours. I felt like we were intruders, but I got all of the work raising the kids. His kids came to me when they wanted something I ran them all to their sports and music events. I don’t mean to complain I loved the kids. It just didn’t take long before I didn’t really want him even though it lasted for 22 years. I feel like I am always complaining since coming to this blog. I hope that goes away at some point.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Megan-Thank you so much for sharing that. Here is where we need a “like” button on ACFJ! We all need the hope your comment gives us, and we all need to make the decision not to accept or allow drama and/or abuse into our lives, period, whether in marriage or any other relationships. God will bring all of us to that place, it just takes time and effort and work on our part and that is why ACFJ is here, to help us heal.

  7. Amy

    I think it is very common to have negative comments running through our heads. My ex used to tell me I was stupid, not good with money, ugly, not sexually competent, unhuggable, and controlling to name a few.
    After he left those comments ran through my head repeatedly and especially after I remarried almost two years ago. I still find myself worried that maybe I’m not good with money even though my husband thinks I’m great with our finances, I worry that I’m not pretty enough even though he tells me daily how beautiful I am, I have to stop from telling myself I’m stupid for some silly mistake that happened and I wonder if maybe I am controlling although my husband does not think so.

    And it isn’t just me that struggles with this. My two sons who are 21 and 18 will still on occasion say something about how stupid they are and they still feel the effects of those things their dad said to them during their younger years.

    That’s why when people say verbal and mental abuse is not nearly as damaging as physical abuse, I just don’t buy it. When you are mentally abused for decades of your life it is hard to reset your mind and thinking to what is true.

    I read through the Psalms after my ex left so that I could try to turn my mind around to who i really am…a daughter of the King, made wonderfully and fearfully in His image. Whenever those untrue thoughts would start racing through my mind I told myself how I am God’s daughter and I am perfect in His sight which is all that matters.

  8. Robin M

    I haven’t read the comments yet, will do so when I can, but this is SOOOO MEEEE!!!! It’s as if I wrote it!!!

  9. Robin M

    OK, I have read half the posts and I can’t read anymore. It hurts. It hurts and I find myself sinking into oblivion again because I know every word you all say, I believe you all, I live these ALL these thoughts as well, I am still in this marriage, and still I foresee a life of solitude. I think what if even the nicest of men would see the same things he accuses me of and it sends me into a horrible spiral of self condemnation. A second marriage like this would send me over the edge.
    I was just in this conversation yesterday with my adult sons. They were referring to the Dr. Phil show, and the well known Youtube video case of the teen age girl who rails about her family on social media, how he accused the father – who shot his daughter’s laptop as punishment for her act – of emotional abuse. I am defending the victim against all the levels of fear and intimidation, while they all were trying to convince me that “all this is just worldly, made up, psychobabble brought about by a world that just needs Jesus.” – all the while my husband (who walked into the room) sits there with his (no need to intervene this time, they’re all against her, so I’ll just sit here and let her hang herself with her own words) staring straight ahead and grinning.

    Part of the problem with me leaving is wanting my children to understand what this is. I want them to know that there is right and wrong ways to handle and behave. That the world isn’t just made up of a huge gray area. I want them to learn and know, as I have, that there really are thousands upon thousands of posts from victims who ALL say the same thing. To learn as I have (but still struggle to convince myself) that this is REAL!

    Sorry if I sound crazy or futile. Sometimes, reading posts are so hard because they put into words what I am living, feeling, and thinking better than I can, and it forces me to stare my life straight in the face.

    • Katy

      Robin,
      You are in a horrible spot! Be kind and gentle with yourself.. Your life is full of the promise of the future – there are so many things to do and see, so many, many possibilities! Remarriage is only 1 possibility… imagine what life would be like if you could make any choices that you wanted.
      Where to live? What kind of work/ministry to do? Just those 2 choices alone are endless. Your kids will be blessed to see their mama bloom into her freedom. My kids are a witness to all the things I’ve done in the last few years, and they are learning the value and capability of a single woman without me having to say a word.
      So as Meg has said before — everyone’s path to healing is different. You may be feeling all the same things that I wrote in this post, but that doesn’t mean that the future is dark. I know that must seem like a contradiction :/

    • MeganC

      Robin . . . I am so sorry for your hurt and pain. And I think most of us can understand. Sometimes, I just have to close the computer because reading certain comments or posts are too painful . . . too reminiscent and too familiar. I don’t think that is a bad thing. I think it just shows us that there is healing to be done and that is OK. You don’t sound crazy; indeed, you sound very sane in an impossible situation. There IS hope . . . always. Big hugs to you.

    • xmeriwetherx

      Your kids are telling you it’s imagined? I hope this doesn’t cause you any guilt, because that’s not my goal.. but, your kids grew up with this, correct? This is their father? If so, this is all they’ve ever known. They don’t know a healthy relationship, so they’re certainly not someone you can listen to about what one looks like. And I agree, you do whatever you can to show it to them. You’re not crazy.. being in an abusive relationship makes EVERYONE feel crazy. It is not wrong or crazy for you to get out. Without even worrying about a “nice man seeing your flaws,” you’d be better alone than in an abusive relationship. You have to come to that in your own time- but I truly believe that. If a nice man saw your flaws (we all have flaws), and he is truly “a nice man”.. than he will deal with them in an appropriate, loving way- not an abusive one. It won’t be the end of the world. If he’s truly a nice man. it won’t be like it is now. Praying for you

    • Brenda R

      Hugs to you Robin. Your children know this is real, they are living it with you. You don’t sound crazy. You sound like a woman who is hurting. I wish I could take it all away for you. You don’t have to read every post. Everyone hear has similar stories and are in need of healing just as you are. You are in my prayers. Brenda

    • Dear Robin, welcome to the blog πŸ™‚
      You don’t sound crazy or futile, you sound like someone waking up from the fog and fast!

      Yes, it hurts to stare reality in the face.

      May I suggest to you that perhaps you will find you need to adjust to the possibility that your children will not understand what this is, no matter how much you try to educate and explain it to them. Of course you want them to know the right and wrong way to behave, but you may not be able to achieve that goal. It is sad, I know, but many of us have faced this, especially with children who are older and who’ve been acculturated to the abuse and have seen their mum and dad’s relationship as ‘normal’ for so long. And add in the fact that children are unwittingly taken in by the abuser’s deceit, manipulation and intimidation themselves. Sometimes we just have to cut out losses and run / leave, without being able to convince our kids that we are doing the right thing. Not saying I know what’s right for you: you are the best judge of your own situation and choices.

      Abuse usually creates terrible polylemmas: multiple choices and options, all of which are unpleasant. 😦

    • loves6

      Robin M my husband does exactly the same thing to me with my adult children. I feel if I leave this marriage they will all turn against me. Four of them are grown up and three of them are very abusive to me at times. I hear your pain x

  10. anewfreelife

    I do this ALL the time! It is constantly stirring in my mind. Every time someone unfriends me on Facebook or I lose a client I swear that my abusers were right and that is the secret, real reason for the unfriending or the loss. I’ve been “out” for over two years now, so I’m being asked weekly, “Do you have a boyfriend?” or, “Are you dating yet?” My pat answer is that no one is interested. But, a friend and two of my children pitched in for an early birthday night out with two girlfriends, and the next day the one asked me if I’d noticed all of the men staring at us. I had. It was uncomfortable, exciting, and reassuring all at the same time. So, I’m not so sure now that I couldn’t find someone if I really wanted to. It forced me to do more analyzing over the last few days. Truth is, I don’t want to. It’s easier to keep my head down and run around like a slob, avoiding the opposite sex, because I know that I will screw up any relationship (since my mother, my brother, my ex, and a couple of my older children have all pounded into me that I am just inherently horrible). and I just don’t want to put my younger children through that. They’ve been through enough.

    • Brenda R

      Oh NewLife, I am sure you aren’t horrible at all. You have a friend and kids that cared enough about you to get you out into life for your birthday. People don’t do those things unless they love you. I have people who think I am a stuck up snob. That is because I don’t drink or party and read my Bible and pray on a regular basis. They don’t understand. I have a son who thinks I am the worst person ever, but I have daughters who love and respect me. You need to remember who you are in Christ–He loves you just as you are. It takes time, but don’t allow the voices you have heard to tell you who you are. Their eyes are blind and can’t see. Define who you are in Christ and in your own eyes. See the beautiful woman that you are. I will be praying for you. Hugs Brenda

  11. Robin M

    Thank you everyone. It is just SO amazing to have others who understand. I will take your words and ask God once more to show me clearly the path I am to take! Thank you for your prayers!!!

  12. ranthegauntlet

    I do this all the time. I am 13 years out of my abusive marriage, but have encountered workplace abuse meanwhile. I am re-married to a peaceful, wonderful, man – but am still having to learnt my boundaries, as they say. Sometimes peaceful can translate to not addressing important issues, which can produce the helpless feeling of actual abuse. I am having to learn to identify what really is important to me (after years of never being AS important and always deferring), and then fight a little for it (which means learning not only what is a respectful yet firm way to do that, but also experimenting with what WORKS). This is uncomfortable – feels like conflict or control, when it is more like healthy negotiation in a healthy relationship (I hope!). Takes some getting used to. Good post…thank you! Diane

  13. Song

    Katy, Thank you for writing this. You have expressed what so many of us feel.
    Yes, I do this, too. I feel insecure in being able to express myself most of the time. I run what I will say through my head several times to see if there could be anything that would be considered offensive. The fear of being told my thoughts and feelings are sinful, wrong or bad is quite confusing and I find myself paralyzed into not communicating. When I finally do speak, I’m so nervous I end up sounding ridiculous.
    Identifying and untangling the real me from the person my husband says is the real me is exhausting and very confusing. Being accused of crimes I haven’t committed plays havoc with my sense of wanting to grow and mature and be a part of a healthy relationship, because the accusations are false and without substance. Except, to him they are real, to the people he talks with to get “counsel” from (he rattles off the names of professionals, random people, people in authoritative positions in churches he asks about my behavior, people who’ve written books, friends, etc.) who hears his version and say I am wrong. It’s overwhelming to have so many people saying and supposedly saying I’m in the wrong. It’s hard work sometimes trying to hear myself with so many of their voices having been placed in my head. Trying to find my real weaknesses can’t happen if I’m continually trying to fix something that isn’t who I am.

    I’m once again so, so thankful for this blog for being a solid, true, rich voice. When I’m searching for the words that have substance and life, so many times I can stand and rest on what has been written in this blog.

    • I love this:

      Trying to find my real weaknesses can’t happen if I’m continually trying to fix something that isn’t who I am.

    • loves6

      I totally understand this too…. I am trying to be me and not be what my husband wants me to be. I have tried for far too long to be something I’m not, my personality being totally snuffed out. It is exhausting.

  14. colleenr

    I’ve been thinking about this post for the past couple of days, Katy. I definitely struggle with the same kind of thing. But I’m beginning to see how little of that is true self awareness–more likely it is the lies about me I was told by my ex as he defined me. 2 Corinthians 7:10 comes to mind: “the For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

    I am comforted knowing that God reveals weaknesses he wants to address in his perfect timing. I am also comforted by something I read years ago in Oswald Chambers’ devotional writings, that the blood of Christ has rescued us from ALL our sins–even the ones of which we are not consciously aware. He adds that we would be in great trouble indeed if the only sins forgiven were the ones in our conscious awareness.

    How much better to be good to yourself and become more and more aware every day of your identity in Christ and his healing, redemptive presence with you every moment. That is more effort than it sounds like and definitely yields greater reward than “trying to make sure I am taking responsibility for my part in the failure of the marriage/my flaws/my mistakes.” (which is how I’ve tended to think of it.) I hope it is clear that I am NOT saying to pretend your flaws aren’t there so much as not to dwell on them, dig for them etc. as the point of diminishing returns on that is so quickly reached; yet we can mine his love and forgiveness indefinitely with great reward. Two more verses fit here: 1 John 3: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! After all: Romans 5: 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    • Katy

      Colleen thank you πŸ™‚ That was definitely a word from the Lord! Even as I spin around in my head and “dig for flaws” – I know in my heart that it is futile. That’s what leads to feeling despondent and hopeless, all over again.
      ((hugs))

      • colleenr

        Yay! Hugs are good! ❀ and prayers to you! Thanks for having the courage to share here….

  15. His Child

    I have recently discovered that many of my so-called deficiencies have been seriously exaggerated, and that my strengths have been minimized! Katy, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you are not a super-critical person with a forked tongue at all! HE thinks you are, but his thinking can’t be believed!

  16. loves6

    My husband often accuses me of doing the very thing he is guilty of…. I sit there aghast as I listen to his accusing language and his criticism of me. I often start to think I’m the guilty party.

    • loves6, as you will have probably gathered by now, this tactic of accusing the victim of the very sins the abuser practises is pretty common in abusers. It’s akin to the psychological phenomenon of projection, I guess, but with a much more evil twist because the abuser is so intentionally heaping unfair criticism on the victim. You are not to blame. You are not at fault. You will never be able to convince him of this, but you can hang onto this truth in the privacy of your own mind. πŸ™‚

      • loves6

        Problem is I defend myself… Especially if he does this in front of the kids. I do not like being falsely accused. Why do abusers do this projection?

      • loves6, maybe I should not have used the term projection because projection is much less malicious than what abusers do. Many people who project their problems onto others do so in ignorance, maybe because they are unaware of their own unresolved issues. But abusers falsely accuse out of hatred and malice towards their victim, the target they have chosen to abuse. So it is much more horrible being at the receiving end of it.

        Why do they do it? Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book by that name Why Does He DO That? [*Affiliate link] Bancroft says that they do it because they have an attitude of entitlement and superiority and they believe they are entitled to have power and control over their victims. Period. They abuse because they can, because it works for them, and because they like having power and control. I know β€” it’s hard to wrap your head around how stony-hearted a person must be to behave like that. I gave up trying a long time ago. Trying to enter into the mindset and motivation of an abuser is like trying to follow a labyrinth. You never get to then end of it, and you just feel more bamboozled and confused and unsure the further you go into it.

        I understand you desire to defend yourself in front of your kids. If we don’t, the kids are likely to believe the abuser’s mis-characterization of us 100%. Like Meg said, it’s a matter of picking your battles, and each instance and scenario is slightly different, so you are the one who is best able to judge when to speak up and when to be silent or deflect (or laugh it off).

        One thing that helped me was Patricia Evan’s advice to say STOP IT! when the abuser started verbally abusing me. (see her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship [Affiliate link]) I also adopted her idea of when the abuser said something I disagreed with strongly, to reply with the words “So you say!” or “That’s your view.” In the right tone of voice β€” not sarcastic or biting, but quietly firm β€” this reply can be slightly arch and distancing of the abuser, while at the same time marking out your own ground. You are pointing out that you have a different opinion from him and that you are not going to try to change his opinion but you are firmly noting that you have your own opinion and you have a right to it.

        Short replies like that are often better than long explanatory replies. The longer and more verbose one’s reply to an abuser, the more ammunition he collects to re-shape into bullets to fire back at you. At least, that’s what I’ve observed as a general rule, though there are probably exceptions.

        *Amazon affiliate link β€” ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
      • MeganC

        Loves6 — I understand this, as well. And I tried to defend myself for years and years to the wrong people (why did I defend myself to people who hate me?!). But, the truth is, your abuser will always accuse — even if he knows the truth — because he has hate in his heart. I have given up defending myself to some. When I am accused of heinous and ungodly things that I would never do, I can almost hear the voice of God saying to me, “I am not pleased by that. What he/she/they did to you does NOT please me. Don’t be like him/her/them.” There ARE times when a defense is needed (fighting for custody of your child and times where you can truly discern that it will make a difference). It just takes a lot of prayer and wisdom about upon which battles you choose to expend your energy. What is worth it. Big hugs.

      • loves6

        You have described him well. I have detected for the last number of years contempt towards me. His mother left his family when he was a young teenager after she was physically, emotionally and verbally abused for years. He was an angry teenager, hating the world and everyone in it. I have felt the contempt and bitterness for his mom is vented towards me.
        I am so hurt to think a man that I have tried so hard to love and respect hates me. I have prayed that I would be a better mom and wife. I can see the hate at times, but then he is so lovely and sweet. The martyr, the server…. Most people that know us believe he loves me so much.
        He is on his best behaviour at the moment because we are staying with friends. It abit of reprieve before we go home to chaos.
        I have not read Lundys book but I’m looking to purchase it very soon. I have read Patricia Evans book but I need to reread and take notes.
        Also thanks for your advice it’s very helpful

  17. Ellie

    I know about the best behavior thing. We often had people living with us. He could be nice in front of people and I felt safer and more at ease with guests in the home.

    Have you listened to Jeff C’s sermon series on abuse? Listening to those put me on a fast-track to recovery. Bancroft’s book was helpful too.

    There were many times that he said he loved me and even seemed loving, but all it took was one misstep from me to ruin everything. He hates incompetence and any mistake reflected back onto him and made him despise me. Even when we were happy, I was uneasy because I knew how quickly it could unravel. It’s a miserable way to live.

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