Does the victim recognize the abusive patterns? Depending what you mean by ‘recognise’ I think that question can be answered “no”, and “yes”, and “both”.
Backstory: This post was prompted by something Darby Strickland said when explaining CCEF’s Counseling Abusive Marriages course. She said: “Until both spouses recognize the abusive patterns, counseling can actually perpetuate the problem.” I’ve already stated my concerns about this CCEF course in a three part series (click here for Part One).
Typically, victims are (kept) in the fog for a long time and do not FULLY recognize the abusive patterns while they are in the fog. But even in thick and longstanding fog, the victim in one sense does recognize the abusive patterns — and does her best to predict and prevent the most egregious and most destabilizing abusive events / incidents / outbursts. She does this by walking on eggshells. She gets to know her particular abuser’s patterns and learns to anticipate them and tries carefully to avoid doing things that will set him off. BUT BUT BUT the abuser can and does switch tactics, and add new ones, and he’s purposefully inconsistent so that she is kept on the back foot in trepidation and fear.
In this place, she recognizes the patterns as best she can predict them — and she tries hard to ‘avoid trouble’ and to mop up and repair and hold together what the abuser is destroying. Her focus is often directed to ‘helping her spouse’ but she is also, on the back foot, valiantly trying to protect her dignity and safety and personhood and the wellbeing of her kids.
As she gradually comes out of the fog, the victim begins to recognize the abuser’s patterns in another way, a more analytical way, a way which divests her of false blame and guilt and which starts to ascribe the full blame and full RESPONSIBILITY to the abuser. At some point in this process, the victim will begin, often tentatively at first, to call it “Abuse.” And we know that many victims take a very long time before they are comfortable ascribing the word “Abuser” to their partner.
It is also true to say that the victim may recognize and not recognize the abusive patterns at one and the same time. She may recognize them in her gut, subconsciously, and be creatively walking on eggshells around them, while simultaneously not recognizing or admitting the full pattern let alone the full mindset behind them — the intentionality of the abuser and the granite-like bedrock foundation of it all: the abuser’s belief in his own entitlement.
And she can fade in and out, back and forth, between having:
- the sharp-focused front-brained analytical recognition that divests her of false guilt, and
- the fog-bound but intuitive, trepidatious, eggshell-walking recognition that is hamstrung by second-guessing, doubt, confusion, self-blame and compassionately giving the abuser the benefit of the doubt.
In other words, she often comes somewhat out of the fog and then goes back in and then comes out a bit more and then falls back some…. This iterative, revolving, spiraling process is generally a good sign: it’s a characteristic indicator that the victim is — overall — on an upward path of coming out of the fog and the prognosis is good. Not that the victim is pathological or ‘diseased’; I use the term ‘prognosis’ metaphorically, not clinically.
However, the Pharisaic church can push the victim back, push her deeper back into the fog, if they mishandle the case. Which they OFTEN do. Sigh. This is a major reason why Christian victims stay in abusive relationships longer than non-believers do.
The backstitch analogy
The take home message for victims is: it’s okay if you find yourself making one step forward and one step back. In fact, it is often a sign that you are coming out of the black hole, and healing is occurring.
The Lord showed me a truth about this: one step forward and one step back is like backstitch in sewing. Backstitch makes a stronger seam than running stitch. The overall progress is forward, so don’t worry about the fact that sometimes it seems like you are going backwards. The Lord is just bringing about your healing so it is good and strong in the end and cannot be easily pulled out by the catches of life.
[June 17, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to June 17, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 17, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 17, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 17, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
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Note: by the time this post is published, Darby Strickland’s course at CCEF will have already started.
I just hate feeling like I am back at square one when some of these triggers come
73 thoughts on “Does the victim recognize the abusive patterns? Yes, and no. And then, by degrees, YES!”
I have GOT to stop reading these at school! I am crying my eyes out. You so succinctly and perfectly and exactly described the process I have been going through! Deep, deep fog for 22 years, but KNOWING something was “not quite right.” Then TENTATIVELY speaking up, with disastrous results, but knowing I was onto something. (He never hit me but he would get VERY angry and just shout me down and try every trick in the book to get me to back down. At first it didnt take much more than a look, but as I got stronger, he had to get tougher and eventually it got to where I didnt even care what he said anymore.) I slowly worked my way over the last 7 years to speaking truth. 6 months ago I moved into another room and FINALLY he seems to be showing some signs of remorse and humility. 28 years. 28 years. I was just too nice.
Debby: please, dear one~ give yourself a break, and a lot of credit. I was caught in the cycle for nearly 40 years. Sadly, that is not uncommon….and nearly ALL of us here would agree that we were “too nice”. The “church” reinforces the “niceness” at the expense of truth and clarity and repentance.
But beware of “remorse & humility”. It’s probably fake and reactive and designed as a “power grab”. Remorse is not repentance and “humility” is usually just preservation of the image, the status quo.
And it doesn’t matter that he didn’t hit you! Emotional, psychological & spiritual abuse are often the “trade craft” of abusers. It’s still abuse, in all it’s ugly, humiliating, demoralizing, denigrating, marginalizing madness.
Here is a post that helped me, and continues to help me:
How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.
Please be safe, and work on an “exit strategy”, quietly and carefully. Identify a shelter that can harbor you, and be prepared to go. You deserve better than “living in a room”. Even THAT is abusive. HE should be the one willing to get out.
It’s time to be nice to YOU.
My husband (abuser) is filing for divorce as well. I thought it odd, but I guess he truly believes this is making him look like the victim? He even told me he would NEVER divorce me! hmmm… He has already spread lies that I am the one who abused him, so I guess filing for divorce only proves it?? I’m not quite yet there where you are in the rejoicing, but I’m sure I will get there some day. As a friend said to me earlier today ‘we are going to have a BIG party!’ 🙂 I don’t know about that but I guess the celebrating will begin!
Thank you Jesus for saving me from this man!!
OKAY, I really need to know if I am replying in the right section when I want to respond to someone’s comment. Is the reply above the name or after the comment? Sorry!! 🙂
When replying to a comment use the “reply” that is after the comment.
And no apology needed. 🙂
She had threatened divorce for years. In fact that threat was one of her abuse / control tactics. Family means everything to Joe…so when control is slipping just threaten his family…
I am not sure what she expected in the final divorce threat. I don’t know if she truly was ready for divorce, or if she expected me to beg her not to…I suspect the latter…
I do know God orchestrated that moment. In that moment I saw with full clarity that it truly was over…that I truly had honored my vows in every way…that I truly was released from that covenant.
Yes, Round-Two! I am rejoicing with you!
Thank you, Jesus, for saving this courageous woman from her abuser. Thank you for redeeming her from that covenant with evil! Thank you for the deliverance You have already begun in her life and through which You will continue to walk with her!
There will still be sorrow and grief. Letting go of a dream with deep emotional investment is still a sorrow to be grieved. But thru the grief is an abiding joy that continues long after the sorrow is forgotten.
Thanks for that, Joe. I’ve noticed that some abusers threaten divorce, and others don’t. You’ve helped me understand this better — I’m guessing that when an abuser knows his target will really be hurt and scared by that threat, the abuser uses it. If the abuser senses that it won’t really hurt his target all that much, but on the contrary, will give the target a smidgeon of hope or relief, the abuser won’t use it.
Although I hadn’t thought of it quite that way, it makes sense, Barbara.
I do know, in my case, it was a major power play. When one partner is completely committed to the relationship and the other partner makes it known they have no commitment to the relationship…guess what that does to balance of power…
He threatened to leave, showed me divorce papers then burned them, more threatenings to leave, all to get me to ask him to stay, be grateful that he hadn’t followed through. Then one day, he actually walked out on us. Imagine his shock when I took him seriously and have not allowed him back. Of course, ignoring how many times he said he was leaving (lost count long ago), he now keeps track of how many times he has asked to come back and I refuse to let him.
My husband filed for divorce as well, which I thought was extraordinarily rare given many of the testimonies about abuse that I read. Although when our child asked him directly why he left us, one of the reasons he gave was, “Mom was filing for divorce.” (So I still get blamed even though I was the one served papers by the sheriff for his move to divorce me.) I had indeed consulted an attorney and was in the process, but not so much for the divorce as to file a motion for temporary relief (which could come in the process of divorcing) to get him out of the home. Turns out he left before that ever happened anyway.
I praise God for it all working out the way it is, in spite of its difficulty. Like you, I thank the Lord Jesus for saving me – and you – from these men. It is a GREAT deliverance. The weird thing these days is going from tears to praise like a roller coaster throughout the day – and never knowing what the next day will bring, but it does bring me (perhaps you too?) into a real heartfelt dependence on the Lord, which I should be every single day no matter my circumstances.
My husband is also the one who left and filed proceedings against me. I think it’s because he sees himself as THE victim. I’m controlling and abusive and don’t have a sense of reality-at least that’s what everyone’s been told. (What he considers control is when someone says no to him or attempts to hold him responsible for something he’s done).
TWBTC, can you please put that on our Gems page? Thanks 🙂 And thanks KayE for putting it so well 🙂
It is encouraging to find others whose spouses chose to leave. Most of what I read is that he rarely leaves, so when mine left, I wondered why. What was so different about us or him. Now it makes a little more sense. And, like Still Reforming, even though he abandoned us, and he left separation papers, its my fault because I am proceeding with pursuing the separation.
I really find it helpful to read all the comments! I would say ‘you all don’t know how much this site means to me!’ But I know ‘you all know how much it means to me!’ Thank you Joe for that encouragement! thank you Twbtc for showing me how to reply! But from my heart to all of you Thank you for being there for me during this emotional roller coaster ride!
Good stuff, Barbara. As I read this I was reminded of how the Bible describes evil as darkness. Satan is the god of this world, the lord of a kingdom of darkness that always works to obscure the light of God’s truth. It cannot overcome the light, try all it might. But it does blind us for a time and for a degree until the Spirit of Christ shines on us and shows us the truth. Evil is cunning, and those who serve this diabolic kingdom are subtle and crafty like their father the devil. They are Wormtongues. No one need apologize or feel shamed for having been in a dark fog that was cast by an abuser. It took me over 20 years to sort it out and be able to see what the methods and motives of these servants of darkness had been up to all those years, destroying, tearing down, enslaving, and guilting.
Thank you, Jeff, for stating how long it took you to sort out the methods and motives. It took me well more than a decade or longer of living with the abuser to do the same.
I used to wonder, “Why did it take me so long?” I know now that it’s the abuser-accuser’s tactics that by design kept me – like so many other targets – in the dark.
It is precisely for this reason – the length of time it takes to “catch on” – that I gave my church leadership the benefit of the doubt because I would think, well, if I didn’t see it and I live with the guy, how in the world can I expect them to “get it”? I have no possible chance of being understood or overcoming in this dynamic. And with the continual church message of trying more, being more, forgiving more, reconciling more, well…. it doesn’t encourage the real child of God that s/he has any chance of justice or hope.
And yet…. the church needs to “catch on” or how else can she, the Bride of Christ, expect to ever be lamp stand on a hill? It is all the more reason for those of us who DO get it to speak up in spite of the great difficulty. It is fighting the good fight, carrying the cross, and illuminating a path in the great darkness for the feet of those carrying forward His Word in truth.
I like your backstitch analogy!
And, yes, it is often a two-steps-forward-one-step-back process.
I think, for me, the hardest thing to overcome was the hoping that this time would be different…that this time the repentance would be real…that deep change would take place…that our children would have a stable healthy family life with both parents living together in one peaceful happy home.
Even after the cycles had been recognized and the abuse named for what it was…it was still hard to let go of that hope for a healed marriage. And so much in our Christian church culture encourages us to keep hoping no matter what…
As you know, in my case it was the abusive spouse who ultimately asked for divorce…which I now know is very unusual. Today, I see that as God’s extreme love and grace extended toward me.
Thank you, Jesus!
But…but…Joe. You are saying that, could it be….God does not hate divorce?? (tongue in cheek here of course)
Yep! That is exactly what I am saying.
God, my Redeemer and Deliverer, loves nothing more than liberating His children from relationships of bondage and abuse.
Thank God for just divorce!
Excellent description of what it’s like!!!
37 years before I left. The abuser was passive aggressive which is difficult as the abuse is done in ‘ordinary’ ways that seem very reasonable- ‘forgetting’ (as we all do), being too busy (although not to go fishing) and especially listening to me very sincerely and then not one iota of change. Great post, thank you.
Hi paescapee, nice screen name! Welcome to the blog, and thanks for sharing.
You might like to know that we believe the term ‘covert aggression’ is more appropriated to describe the methods of abusers than the term ‘passive aggression’. We have leart this from Dr George Simon Jr’s books. He is a Christian and a very experienced psychologist who has worked with many abusive and manipulative clients in prisons and in the community. We have his books listed in our Resources section. 🙂
And you might also like to read this post: Covert Aggression is not the same as Passive Aggression.
Thank you for that link. Having read that post, I shall strive to change my language from passive- to covert-aggression. Indeed that’s what it is.
In a like manner, I’m not fond of seeing the term “narcissist” used when describing the casual selfish acts of which many of us are guilty. I think it can have the effect of watering down the term to the point where the true narcissist behind closed doors gets kind of thrown in with the bunch, whereas his (or her) actions and behaviors fit a very specific pattern of self-serving, manipulative abuse.
I too am a little uncomfortable about the way some people use the term ‘narcissist’. For one thing, I know that mental health professionals who are licensed to diagnose mental health disorders use the label “Narcissist Personality Disorder” (NPD) in a very precise way, the way it is described in the DSM. And I also know that some people have narcissistic traits without having enough of those traits to qualify for a diagnosis of NPD. And I also know, from having read Dr George Simon Jr’s book Character Disturbance [Affiliate link], that some people who have narcissistic traits are not abusive to others. Their narcissism takes the form of self-focus and self-absorption, but it does not have the malignant character that we find in abusers (using the definition of abuser that we have in our sidebar at this blog.)
George Simon distinguishes between narcissism and malignant narcissism. I find that distinction helpful.
But I agree that the N (narcissist) word is bandied around a lot by people who don’t seem to appreciate these distinctions, and I think that can lower the tone / maturity / sophistication of the collective discussion.
I read the descriptions of both PA and covert aggression, and I am not quite clear on the distinction. If for example I asked my husband to do a load of laundry for me, and he kind of shakes his head and then says with a forced grin, “SURE! I’ll do yet another load of laundry!” and repeats it with [the] same grin, is that PA or covert aggression? I don’t like it no matter which it is. It makes me feel like he is trying to make me feel guilty, like I am putting him out. (This is a hypothetical but example of the kind of thing that happens in my house.)
We would call that kind of thing covert aggression. We believe that the term ‘passive aggression’ is much misused and much misunderstood, and that abusers do not use passive aggression they use covert aggression. And we also believe abusers sometimes use overt aggression when they think they can get away with it and when they think it will help them maintain control over their targets.
Oh, Paescapee, how I can relate! The biggest, biggest issue that I could point to in my first stages of awareness with real problems in the marriage was the passive-aggressive “forgetfulness,” which I could never really point to or identify to anyone else. As you said, we all “forget,” right? I think our problems started really intensifying when I started asking him to write notes for himself about what he’d forget. When I told someone about the extent of his forgetfulness, she said, “Sounds like Alzheimer’s,” but he wasn’t yet 50 years old. Then she added, “At least you have a husband who loves you.” When I told another lady at church that account, the latter said, “Sounds like the Holy Spirit speaking to you there.” Boy, am I glad to be delivered from that church!
You know, I have a lot less financially these days now that abuser has left, but if I think back to 10 years ago – all the strife, forgetfulness, anger, confusion, lies, manipulation, rage, and so forth – and I ask myself, “Which would you rather have, that along with more financial security – or peace with perhaps a greater (sensed) dependence on God for your finances?” I’ll take the latter any day of the week.
And I qualify it with the word “sensed” because whether or not I recognized it, I was ALWAYS dependent on God for my financial security. I just felt more secure with money in the bank. But… ’tis a far better thing to know my dependence on God and trust Him for the provision than to rest in a false sense of security in myself. Money in the bank is not a bad thing, but I feel better knowing that like Paul said – “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.…”
Thank you- this way of behaving really does drive you crazy. I have learned a lot from reading these forums, and thankfully, my rage is now abating since my divorce. Definitely feeling calmer and happier- with less money but who cares!
I saw a pattern of sorts for a long time. I didn’t even think to call it abuse until about 10 years ago but that was shot down by a Christian counselor who told me I wasn’t forgiving and was in danger of being bitter. I shut down after that, for almost another 10 years, until just a few years ago.
So now I’m at a point where I do call some things abuse, but I still second guess a lot. Barbara, you described me perfectly. This is exactly what has been happening. My moments of clarity where I look at it and can say “Yes, this is abuse.” are getting longer and more resolute. Other things I still question whether or not it’s really abuse. Some days I’m sure it is abuse, but other days I think maybe not.
Thank you for this post. It is one I needed right now.
SJR….This is exactly why I would never recommend an abuse victim see a Christian counselor, or, a pastor for counseling or advise. No one knows one’s problems as well as the one who’s having to deal with and live through them.
It’s sad that one of the most shocking things I had to learn when coming out of the abuse fog was: “DON’T GO TO A CHRISTIAN COUNSELOR.” (a bit too late for me) Wow. That was so antithetical to everything I had ever been taught or come to understand about the church. I was bitter at first (the response I received) but have come to accept that ignorance and arrogance can be found in the most unlikely places and that knowledge and empowerment can come from unexpected sources. It has humbled me in many ways, and where I would have been sort of “elitist” in my Christian walk, I see God working from a lot of angles.
I came to that conclusion as well…….stick to the local abuse center for counseling. And, it’s free!
Yes, sadly the track record of most Christian counselors is (from our observations) that they don’t understand how to respond to domestic abuse. However, some do. You might like to read my two part interview with a Christian counselor we respect:
Interview with Catherine DeLoach Lewis
Debby – That is such a sad truth, isn’t it? That we should trust secular counselors over Christian counselors.
I know that’s not an absolute, by any means. I have had some excellent Christian counselors. Two of my sisters are counselors who specialize in helping abuse targets and both are very dedicated Christians.
Yet, when giving advice to an abuse target, I find myself cautioning them to be careful of Christian counselors.
Oh man, that is so true! I intentionally looked for a secular counselor. They are too invested in keeping people together. I don’t trust their opinions as being unbiased.
I think that sometimes the victim purposely stops herself from seeing any patterns, because it’s not safe. If she knows that she won’t get any support, that she will be demonized for leaving, that he can / will take away whatever friends she has, that he will put superhuman effort into alienating their kids from her, or that she doesn’t have any place to go, she would likely decide to just put up with it.
This was me, I think. About a year before we were discarded and abandoned, we were living abroad. I knew in my gut that what anti-husband was doing was wrong, but I was so isolated from every trusted family member and friend and had no resources. It was quite a scary situation looking back. No wonder my mind allowed me to compartmentalize and live in denial. I was still in a super vulnerable situation even after we moved back to home country; I did not know that what he was doing was so abusive until after he left.
The disclaimer about being in an abusive relationship on various websites wasn’t helpful to me because I did not know the signs of abuse that weren’t physical. He was a very covert abuser and his tactics were invisibly vicious.
What you wrote is so true, Harlequin Tabby!
Welcome to the blog too, Harlequin Tabby 🙂
This backstitch analogy is really good. The most grieving for me is that at the point I was ready to leave, I hesitated for 2 more years. Those 2 years drilled the shame into my teen daughter. It breaks my heart and I am trying desperately to learn and pray our way out. Just recently I started reading lots about shame and codependence. Ugh. Yukky. Feeling so much regret. The kids are such innocent bystanders. I remember my first counselor commenting, “You can’t even protect yourself. How are you protecting your daughter?” The comment shocked me into reality. Eventually I heard the Lord tell me, “If you don’t leave he will do to her what he did to you. He will have to go to jail. Break the generational curse.” So, I filed and divorced because my Gracious Heavenly Father told me to do so.
Thank you for this post Barbara. It was very edifying.God spoke to me especially in regards to that Backstitching Analogy. When I came to the Lord 12 years ago, I had a vivid dream. This nice lady was stitching up a very large open wound that I had. She gently told me that it would heal. I knew God was speaking to me then and now. Xoxox
Your comment on “he couldn’t fathom why it had gone on so long”: I just have to recommend an article on hurtbylove.com (on the blog roll at ACFJ so it is safe) called Why the Abuse Victim Doesn’t leave (In 6 Words) [Internet Archive link] It made me stop blaming myself for staying and realize the real reasons were out of a loving and hopeful heart.
I will not “advise” you as my situation I am not in physical danger, and my children are grown or in high school, so I am hoping others who have a more similar situation will chime in as I can see you feel alone and afraid. But I do want to address a couple of things as I am VERY familiar with fear and having what feels like “everyone against me” and not strong enough (or at the time knowledgable enough, but now I am thanks to ACFJ, et al!). In any type of abuse, Satan’s first ploy is to institute a “gag order.” The bible talks a lot about bringing things out into the open and that God will reveal the hidden things. Truth is the first, and most powerful step to healing and change so know that you have done exactly what God wants you to do! Trust in His love and faithfulness. He hates the oppressor. Your pastor, husband, friends, etc may very well not agree with you (the Pharisees were pretty ticked when Jesus called a spade a spade, or rather, a snake a snake!), reject you, use every manipulative trick in the book to get you to back down but truth is truth. I encourage you to read as much as you can on this site and on joejpote.com and hurtbylove.com. When I gained knowledge, my fear disappeared and my confidence and strength were multiplied a thousand-fold. You are precious and worthy to be treated with respect and real love. You are NOT alone!
Great post!! When I came out of denial after 45 years, I was so broken. I felt like God told me I had ” what the world calls PTSD” and another day HE said I had been living with ” what the world calls Stockholm Syndrome”. I was surprised that HE used those terms but when I got into counseling, they told me the same thing. I had wonderful and compassionate Biblical counselors who knew my soul was shattered and they told me that I was so fragile that I could not go back to the marriage. My husband was in different ministries over the years and I was living a lie as people praised my husband’s ministry.
It has been two years since my divorce and GOD has completely restored my soul.
All of these articles have helped me so much and I am so grateful for your ministry to the Body of Christ. I know that the Head of the Church wants abuse exposed and purged. We do not need these hidden reefs in our love feast!!!!
This explains my experience completely. The circular thinking at times can make me feel crazy. I would often feel like something is wrong in the relationship and when I would discuss it with my husband he would rationalize / minimize / blame / discount my perceptions and then I would feel confused and question myself. Round and round we go until I felt completely paralyzed to ever trust my intuition and would question myself wondering if I was deceived by Satan.
When others learned about the abuse (because I got a restraining order) They jumped on the “your wife is crazy bandwagon” and couldn’t believe that someone as holy as my husband could be guilty of such crimes that I accused him of, this only deepened my confusion.
This cycle of feeling like something is wrong and then feeling discounted and not believed has been very damaging and eventually even crippled my ability to hear Gods voice. I remember one time when I was in a shelter while we were separated, I heard God’s voice faintly “if you go back, you’re going back to a lie” I did go back to him, but each time I’m becoming stronger to trust my own perceptions. Slowly coming out of the fog. Thank you for this post!
The Lord showed me a truth about this: one step forward and one step back is like backstitch in sewing. Backstitch makes a stronger seam than running stitch. The overall progress is forward, so don’t worry about the fact that sometimes it seems like you are going backwards. The Lord is just bringing about your healing so it is good and strong in the end and cannot be easily pulled out by the catches of life.
Oh Barbara, this is excellent!!!!
The problem going into counseling is that you don’t know with any degree of certainty whether you are going to receive godly and biblical counseling…or, someones personal agenda or belief system thrust upon you at a very vulnerable time in your life. At least an abused woman should seek out a counselor very carefully by recommendation from a number of sources. Otherwise, it’s like a pig in a poke…you don’t know what your getting.
So true Scarlett. And, the fear of not getting counseling from a God centered perspective kept me from going to our county’s women’s resource center. But, finally I did. In retrospect, it would have been more helpful to go there sooner because abuse is what they do. In my case I found that I was free to speak and be spiritual in the way that I am and I was never told to stop. The counselors did not counsel me from a spiritual perspective, but they let me talk freely. Nor did they tell me things that seemed anti. They were very respectful. They did tell me that they have had a very difficult time trying to get any type of clergy to “get it.” Anyway, I am happy to say that the center I go to has been putting together some information to help guide the clients in the spiritual path of decision making and will be including Barbara’s book, “Not Under Bondage.” Yahoo!
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
That makes me SO happy! Thank you for passing it on. I long for more secular DV centres to know about and recommend my book (and Jeff C’s book too).
I’ve had some difficulty breaking down the wall of suspicion in secular DV circles to my work. When I’ve patiently persisted, some of the secular workers have accepted and come to respect my work. But the typical reaction I get here in Oz from secular workers, when they first find out I am a Christian, is the cold shoulder and the sense they are bristling against me — I assume this is because they think I’m one of those Christians who coerce and pressure victims back into the bondage and fog. . .
Maybe I’m paranoid about the responses of secular workers. It’s hard to be fully objective when one has poured so much of ones life into this thing. I always remind myself that all the secular services are underfunded and overstretched, so I mustn’t take their response to me too personally. . .
And the secular services in the USA may be less suspicious of Christians than they are in Oz. The USA has a lot more nominal Christians per capita than Australia does, so Christianity is more part of the society.
I can’t speak much about other countries on this issue, I mostly only know the landscape in Australia and in the USA (from my visits there and from what I hear from so many USA survivors). Oh, I do know a bit about New Zealand. And very small amount about the DV sectors in the UK and Canada. But not much of the details of how secular workers respond to victim-advocates who are Christian.
Sooooo, “Christian” counselors are leery of your work because it goes against their entrenched beliefs (ie-“not Christian enough?”) and the secular DVs are leery because you are “too Christian?” Oy! I appreciate you and Jeff more every day…
Thank you Scarlett for mentioning this. We look at the wrong things in counselors, their education and professional affiliations rather than the fruit of the spirit. I have intense inside knowledge about counselors, having worked in the profession in a regulatory manner. I’m horrified at the personal lives of absolute debauchery in one clinic that was investigated. The immorality covered up by church attendance and saying the right Christian words is appalling. I watched pastor after pastor refer victims to a man I knew was abusing his wife. There is no transparency about the quality of their Christian life, hence we get the lifeless legalists are the secular’s drawing people away from the source of living water. Psychology overturns its theories completely every few years and what they think they know about domestic violence will be proven wrong a few years later.
Hi Prodigal Daughter, I didn’t quite understand this sentence.
Can you please clarify? Thanks.
Sorry for the confusion on this post. The meaning is not clear. I meant to say, that wolves in sheep clothing can hide anywhere. Working in complaint management for mental health systems I’ve seen the predators that can hide there. The church is not the only place where vulnerable people are exploited. Those claiming to be Christian counselors should have transparency about the quality of their Christian walk. Do they have a good reputation with their own family? Because of the confidentiality rules of mental health often accountability is circumvented. Hope that explains what I meant.
Ah, I’ve got it now 🙂
I will try not to give too many details as I know there is concern about posters revealing their identity. My H knows nothing about the computer so I have no worries about him seeing this and there is really no one else aware of my struggles, yet.
After knowing for a very long time that there was something seriously wrong with my marriage have I been able to identify the problem and start using the word “abuse”. Coming in and out of a fog and backstitching has resonated with me. I have been seeing a very knowledgeable Christian counselor for the past several years. Looking back at the notes I’ve taken over that period of time she alluded to the fact that I was the target of abuse many, many times and I just was blind to the fact. So for me, that counseling has been very, very helpful. I continue to see her bi-weekly, which really is not nearly enough. I am so glad that I found this site recently. In the past several months I have drastically changed the way I relate to my H. I am no longer riding in a car with him, going out to dinner, engaging emotionally or having s-x. When he asks me why I tell him “I don’t want to.” His usual response to that is that I am trying to get even or continue to hold a grudge for behavior he long ago apologized for. He has literally strung me along for years promising to get help. He promised me a month ago that he would make an appt for us to see our pastor. We went once together in the fall and then I went once alone and pastor doesn’t get it. Since then I’ve read that couples’ counseling is not at all helpful so even if H ever agreed to go I would refuse. I told my counselor the last time I saw her if it meant me having to sew my mouth shut I will NEVER ask H again about getting help or remind him of his promise.
When H asks me to do things around the house that he is capable of doing and I say “no” he will start naming things he’s done for me like getting a flat tire on my car fixed or doing for elderly family members. H has several doctor appts in the next few weeks and I don’t want to go with him and am not sure how to answer him when he asks why. It would be so easy to bring up his refusal to do what I’ve asked but then I will stir up something I’ve promised myself I would not bring up.
NoNamePlease, I think your strategy of saying “Because I don’t want to” is a good one. By not giving any more reason or explanation than that, you are not giving him material and details that he can reshape and pack with dynamite to make into a grenade to throw back at you. 🙂
Glad your are finding the blog helpful.
Noname: I have recently gotten to the point where my motto is: “I am not doing ANYTHING that I don’t want to do. Period.” Will I get out of that stage eventually? Probably. But right now, it is healthy for me to do that. I have spent 28 years doing everything he told me to do, in his eyes, never to his specifications.
I have had sex to keep the peace in my home even after he has yelled at me over something stupid (like wrong sour cream from store?) and if I refuse or act NORMAL, which would be to cringe when he touches me (mind you this is after no apology or a luke-warm, half-hearted “I wanna have sex so I better say sorry” sorry) then he just gets angry and does the old “Look what I do for you, for us, for our family, you’re not perfect, you make mistakes, too (although remember he has admitted to no mistake!) you’re not being forgiving, etc” which is all manipulation tricks which I had no clue about at the time.
I finally had to get to the point where I was not willing to listen to anyone else. Just my own heart, my own needs. I needed to get healthy and healed and that was NOT going to happen if I continued to do everything he wanted me to so I just stopped. I cook, I clean, I go to work, I am pleasant, but the moment he starts in on anything, complaining, trying to win me over, I just get busy in another part of the house. It is working for me. It may not work for everyone as he is respecting my boundaries (not coming into my room without permission,etc) and I have NO deadline. I dont know what is going to happen. I only know that for now, this is working for me and healthy for me. I had to stop pleasing other people.
I also had to understand the difference between forgiveness and reconcilitaion and to accept that I will have anger, righteous anger! over his mistreatment over the years and not to feel guilty over it, that I have to FEEL it and it will eventually dissipate. But not while I am living with abuse!
“I finally had to get to the point where I was not willing to listen to anyone else”.
Cheering for you, Debby. I was tearing up reading your post, b/c of your resolve and courage and strength and honesty in the path of truth. I too wearied of the bad advice from everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. I especially wearied of hearing “he/she will never change”–as tho THAT was an excuse for ongoing abuse!
That was the “a ha!” moment. “They may not change, but I can. I can change. I CAN change my response to the abuse.” It was no longer okay to say ‘yes’ to being abused. No more. That’s what I hear you saying, and I cheer you for it.
You have a voice. You FOUND your voice, and that voice matters!
It MATTERS. YOU matter. Your life counts & is precious to Him.
Ditto, ditto, ditto!
I would like to add to my post that my Christian Counselors did not tell me to be nicer and submit. They see the abuser as needing to hear the real Gospel, even though the abuser claims to be a man of GOD.
I believe the ministry of Christ that I received from them is rare in today’s Churches. Many believers in my life do not believe in divorce for abuse and let me know how they felt and for that reason I would not recommend finding help in most churches.
The best counsel an abused spouse can get is right here on
A Cry for Justice and the others they are linked with. The articles and comments found here are a life line offering hope.
“The best counsel an abused spouse can get is right here on A Cry For Justice and the others they are linked with. The articles and comments found here are a life line offering hope.”
Now…..that is the truth!
When the victim begins to be more analytical, and begins to talk about it with her counselor, she may well be chided for being “too analytical”. So instead of marching on in understanding, she may well begin to retreat into confusion.
So it seems to be that the victim-blaming game is at work again. If the victim remains ignorant, she carries some blame for not recognizing the patterns of abuse. But if she makes strides, she is often chastised, by the same group of people (Christian counselors) for being too analytical and not trusting God! And by the way, being analytical is often a sign of having been emotionally abused. Abuse victims spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s going on and how to fix the problem.
Wow! That’s it.
My husband accuses me of being too analytical all the time. I’ve stopped letting him twist my words on me and instead repeat back what I actually said and point out that he said the opposite. I also repeat back to him the real meaning of what he says to me, which makes him angry. I tell him “Words have meaning.”
I am so much more analytical than I used to be and struggle with believing what H says about me being critical by analyzing everything he says. I go back and forth wondering if I’m critical or trying to stay sane by pointing out what he really says and every time he twists my words on the fly. If I can keep in my head that what he does is some kind of abuse, except I can’t hang on to what it is, then I can keep analyzing even though he says I’m being critical and he can’t say anything right because I analyze it and pick it apart.
Thank you for connecting emotional abuse and being analytical!
Great analogy! I can certainly relate to this ‘backstitching!’
Thank you for posting this article. How disgraceful that we must bring attention to the fact that many churches insist on keeping the victim in the fog.
I call it a moment of Grace that allows us to see anything. I believe the enemy is at work in abusive situations and since the god of his world blinds eyes, its the enemy’s business to keep people in the dark. In my own case I remember picking up a book in a used book store, that seemed to practically call my name on the shelf. It was called The Trauma Bond. I read that book on my knees because it was the vehicle God used to name the thing I was living in and open my eyes. They opened slowly and sometimes turning my face away from the reality of what I was seeing I’d escape back into fantasy land.
It’s like being in a cult, you have moments of “this can’t be right” combined with “it has to be right I’ve given 20 years to it” and switching back and forth we keep ourselves from embracing the whole truth. Perhaps, some of us are like the children of Israel that had to win their land back slowly because they couldn’t handle complete liberation at once.
My mind came back into my body and my faculties seem to click on, I’d shut them off a long time before because I didn’t want to admit my marriage was not a relationship at all. It was physical, mental, emotional and spiritual torture. The lie that I had a relationship was the fig leaf that covered the absolutely naked nothingness of that non-relationship. I loved the lie I could pretend to be married like everyone else.
This is a brilliant post that so accurately captures the sense of what it’s like in an abusive relationship. It reminds me of the beware of nice followed by mean followed by nice followed by mean titled post. Unless you’ve lived it, it’s very hard to accurately convey in words and have an audience truly appreciate what it means to live it for years and years, all the while trying to keep things in balance or healthy in the home, made all the more difficult when your own health falters due to the abusive tactics and confusion.
Thank you, Barbara. This is so beautifully written, and I particularly appreciate the backstitch analogy. It’s nice to know we can become stronger even though we may step backward at times. It feels that way much of the time, but the perspective can be skewed when we’re so close to the problem. Having a look at the big picture helps.
Yes, it great deliverance, but still is very hard to deal with the emotional ups and downs! I wish I could say more about what is going on with me, however, I have a gut feeling my abuser peeps in every now and then and I don’t want to give myself away!
I am happy for ALL of you (us) who have removed yourselves from any abusive relationship/marriage! And for those of you who are still in it, I pray that your time will come, and you (your family) will be saved as well!
I really thank you all for sharing your stories!
I think I really opened up my eyes fully today. My husband has been behaving better lately, which confused me a lot. So the last two days, I have been praying for clarity regarding my situation, either to help me see that there was real change or to see that it wasn’t. Well this am gave me clarity as to which it was. I am now trying to figure out how to leave sooner than later. One person asked if maybe I could get him to counseling. I said that if he wanted to go to counseling to improve his relationship with his kids, that would be great. But I am done amd frankly not holding my breath for change.
I saw change in my stbx for a very brief time. He had his agenda it all planned out. He knew exactly what he was doing. Eventually, the manipulation started, the stalking, him focusing on my behavior, and yes, he would tell me how he was always praying for me, and yes, even used scriptures against me! I told him I wanted him to pray with me and read the bible with me. He did a couple of times, abut not enough to convince me he was a changed man or even on the road to change! A
I am glad you have clarity and I pray healing will soon follow!
Thanks, Round*Two! I just want to know where my money tree will come from. I found porn and two stops to an adultery site in the history on our computer. I screenshot the stuff and have it saved somewhere. I wish I could get out now, but I have a few loose ends to tie up first. Focus is the one thing I need to remember to do. Not allow him to pull my focus (negative) from the focus on my future (positive.) I do need money, though. Sigh! Are there any pro bono lawyers? I ask that as more of a joke than anything………..
Tsungilosdi, I sugges you ask you local domestic violence women’s centre for tips about the local legal situation. Some lawyers do pro bono work, but maybe they do it only for small jobs (like volunteering at a legal aid centre one day a month)? I am not expert on that at all, so I suggest you ask around and be the polite but persistent pest to gather information. . .
Yes focus is a key thing and it’s hard to stay focused when you are an emotional mess! I believe they have a safety plan here in ACFJ. Check in the resources above. also use all the resources available to you. Check with the Legal Aide office as well. What helped me was to write things down as they came to mind so I wouldn’t forget what I needed to do, or who I needed to see! There are free agencies out there too that can point you in the right direction.
I know we get overwhelmed with the financial aspect of this and wonder how are we going to afford this or that, but we know who is our Provider, and I’ll have to say, the Lord has provided many times in my situation. Don’t loose heart!
I am sorry you ran into porn 😦 it can be very painful… Keeping you and others in prayer!
This morning I was thinking about a book I read on Lymes disease. The Lyme bacteria will sometimes be ingested by a white blood cell, as it should be, but instead of being taken care of by the white blood cell, the Lyme bug somehow manages to pick up the DNA of the white blood cell, escape its clutches, and swim around pretending it is a white blood cell and so continue to do damage without detection. I just thought that was a picture of abusers in the church, taking on the characteristics of a Christian, learning the lingo, and not being easily detected.