Recently I was interviewed by a radio program called Wise People with Jim Norman. The interviewer was puzzled about why people enter more than one abusive relationship. He said something to the effect that, “I’d think they would have had enough of that and steer away from abusive people.” If only it were that easy.
I’d had enough of abuse after the very first time I was raped as a small child, but that didn’t give me the capability to avoid future abuse. In fact, it made me a likely candidate for more abuse from others. At 46 years of age, I have now reached the place where I do recognize abusers and controlling people and I do steer away from them. But it took time and healing to reach this place.
This week I re-wrestled my way through the guilt and shame that surface when I wonder why I married an abusive man when I tried so hard to avoid anyone who reminded me of my father. I saw only surface similarities and differences. My boyfriend carefully hid his abusive traits while we dated. I must have had some attraction to what seemed familiar even though I did not want more abuse. In fact, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to date anyone, but this charming older man swept right past my defenses. He liked the timidity, shyness, and compliant nature that he found in me. I liked that he was so outgoing and had such an easy time communicating about emotions.
Why did I marry him? I agreed to marriage because I didn’t know how to say no. I agreed because I was exhausted from trying to protect myself and thought a wedding ring would put an end to men flirting with me. I agreed because I was young (18 years old) and did not know the significance of the disconcerting behaviors my date sometimes exhibited. I noticed the irregularities but didn’t know what to do with them except to excuse them. I agreed because I thought my love would help him to become less insecure and wounded. I agreed because my own self-confidence was wounded and I thought this might be the only person who would want to marry me; I considered myself as worthless and soiled from the incest my father perpetrated against me. I agreed because I had never been to counseling, and in fact, didn’t even know it was an option. I agreed because loving the other person and being willing to work hard were the only requirements for marriage that I’d ever been taught. I loved him and I’d always been a hard worker. Perhaps, you Reader, have such a list yourself that led you into a second or third or fourth abusive relationship.
The fact is that we are doomed to more abusive relationships until we engage in a journey of honest looking back and seeking God’s healing of our wounds. . Until we believe that we have significance in God’s kingdom, we’ll be attracted to people who devalue us. Until we know that we don’t magically make good people into abusive people, we’ll believe that others must be better than we are and miss important clues about an individual’s character. Until we know how to say no, we are vulnerable prey to abusers. Until we learn how to accept our emotions and how to take care of our needs, we look like the fatted calf to hungry predators. Until we depend upon God’s wisdom instead of our own, we are easy targets. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is our reality.
The great news is that God can heal our pain! God can help unscramble the twisted beliefs that we carry in our minds, hearts, and souls after surviving abuse so that we can replace lies with scriptural truth
Let’s cry out to our loving God for the help that we need. His help is good, ready and available. We can trust Him even if we haven’t in the past. We can trust Him even if we’ve learned to never trust anyone. We can give God a try and see what He can do with our wounded selves.
P.S. I apologize for the long silence. I have been ill with a transformed migraine.
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