Hey dear ones 🙂
I just wanted to share a chapter of my new book on domestic abuse with you. The book, Am I Being Abused? A Woman’s Guide to Domestic Abuse is available through Amazon as a Kindle book. If you or someone you know think that you might be being abused but aren’t quite sure, this book can help you. This is chapter 6.
Psalms 18: 48, He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
When you are married to an abuser life is anything but simple. Every step forward is met by someone intent on forcing you twenty steps back. Making it through each day is an incredibly difficult task. Just handling the ordinary and necessary parts of living can feel nearly impossible. Trying to survive yet another pain-filled day becomes your main focus.
I know you’re so very tired. I know that the lies your abuser has told you have wormed their way down into your heart. I know the pain that comes from looking at the future and seeing nothing but darkness and destruction. I know how painful it is just trying to get through yet another day.
I know. I’ve lived there. For so long, I thought that was all there was. But it isn’t. The Lord is never on the side of an abuser. And with our Lord, all things are possible.
Here are some things you need to know or might consider doing:
Document every incidence of abuse. If you haven’t been keeping a written record of his abuse, start now. Write down everything. If he hurts you physically or does damage to your property, take pictures. This can come in handy in legal proceedings.
Don’t accept his excuses. Abusers are good at making excuses. They will blame anyone except themselves for the things they say and do. His bad day, angry boss, evil father, or his own insecurities and fears are no reason to take out his pain on you. There is no excuse for the things he says and does.
Admit that you can’t heal your husband, nor can you change him. He is who he is, he is what he is because he has chosen to be that. No matter what he has told you, no matter what pain he’s lived through, no matter who he blames, he does what he does because he has chosen to. If he wants to heal, if he wants to change, he has to be the one to make that call. If he wanted to do better, he would. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make him.
Take care of yourself physically. Your situation is so difficult that some days it feels as if the only thing you have the energy for is just to keep on breathing. Sometimes even that feels too hard. But even in the fires of abuse, there’s always something you can do to start taking care of yourself. Drink some water. Stay away from junk food. Eat as healthy as you can and if you can’t afford to, make the best choices you can make. If you can afford vitamins, take them. Take a walk, jump rope, dance, or stretch. Try to get enough sleep. Take a nap.
Your body is under tremendous stress from your husband’s abuse. The stress is endless, isn’t it? But somebody needs to be kind to you; in this case, it’s probably up to you to be kind to yourself. Do whatever you can to strengthen your body and take care of it. Make sure your children do the same.
Stand up for yourself when you can. Abusers are different. Some will kill you. Standing up for yourself might not be possible if your husband beats you, or threatens to kill you. If that’s the situation you are in, do whatever you have to to get away from him and get to safety. Call the police on him. Go to a shelter. Flee to a friend. But, if you aren’t afraid for your safety, remember that with some abusers, at least during the honeymoon stage, it is safe to stand up for yourself, at least a little. If that’s true for you, do it. Call him on his double standards. Tell him “no”. Don’t give in to selfish or cruel demands. Let him know that you deserve to be treated better.
If it is safe to fight for yourself even a little, you just might win back some ground that you’ve lost. Remember that at heart, abusers are emotionally weak men. Whatever you do—or don’t do—the first and most important thing is to keep yourself and your children safe. Do not push things, even a little bit, if it isn’t safe for you to do so.
Understand that you can’t do everything. You are married to a man who is doing his best to destroy you. You cannot be on top of your game at all times. You are going to fall behind on things that need to be done. You are going to overlook things. There are times that you are going to be too exhausted, too overwhelmed, or in too much physical or emotional pain to function. This is not your fault; it is the nature of being in an abusive relationship. Do what you can and let everything else go until you can handle it. Show grace to yourself.
Understand that there’s nothing you can do to make your husband love you. Absolutely nothing. Enduring his abuse won’t make him love you. Giving in to his demands won’t make him love you. Sacrificing yourself for him won’t make him love you.
Let your dreams of a happy marriage with him go. Don’t spend time focusing on what might have been. The life you were dreaming of could never happen with an abuser. You can never force him to be the man you thought he was when you married him. He will never be the man you hoped he would want to be. He doesn’t want to be the man you thought he was. You cannot save your marriage when you are the only one trying. You do not have the power to change your husband.
You are not the crazy one. Repeat this to yourself a thousand times: I am not crazy. I am sane. My abuser is the one with the problem, not me.
Don’t believe your abuser’s lies. This is not a good man. He lies to you regularly. He wants to hurt you. If he didn’t want to hurt you, he wouldn’t. He abuses you on purpose. He absolutely can help himself no matter what he tells you. He will say whatever he has to in order to control you. He will make whatever promises he has to in order to get you to stay.
When he is treating you well, he is doing so to reel you further into his trap. He wants you to believe that he cares about you. He doesn’t. He cares about no one but himself; that’s why he always goes back to abusing you. His abusive nature is his real nature. His good nature is a lie.
You deserve to be treated well. When you have been talked down to long enough, you start to believe the things you hear. Don’t. No matter what your abuser has said, you do not deserve to be abused. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be treated with gentleness and respect. You are valuable.
Set boundaries. In general, setting boundaries doesn’t work in cases of domestic abuse. But at the same time, allowing abuse to continue unimpeded isn’t an act of love. Allowing your abuser to continue doing what he’s doing and failing to hold him accountable means that you are allowing him to continue in his sin. The right thing to do before God, and the best thing to do for him, is to set boundaries when and where you can. You may be able to succeed in setting some boundaries especially when he is in the honeymoon phase of domestic abuse. If he is a dangerous man, be very careful and don’t do anything that will set him off.
Lashing out in the midst of being abused doesn’t make you an abuser. Because of your response to his abuse, has your abuser told you that you treat him just as bad as he does you? Or, that you are the real abuser, not him? Have you yelled at him when he was threatening you? Called him names when he was hurting you? Lost your temper when he was hurting your child? Even told him that you hated him? That doesn’t make you an abuser. Those are responses to his abuse, not an indicator that you are an abuser. If you’ve sinned in your response, repent. God sees what you’re going through. He’s on your side. Don’t hold your response to his abuse against yourself.
When people ask “Why don’t you just leave?” remember that they don’t really know what they are asking. They may be asking you because they care for you, but leaving an abuser is never easy, nor is it always safe. In fact, the two most dangerous times for abused women is when she’s pregnant and when she’s leaving her abuser. Even if you have the means to leave, you might have mental barriers to leaving. You might never have never lived on your own and wonder if you can manage it. If you’ve been financially abused, you aren’t likely to have any funds available. Being isolated by him means you have no one to turn to. Being verbally and emotionally abused means that his words have melded themselves to your psyche and you no longer believe in yourself. When people ask you why you haven’t already left, they usually don’t understand how difficult and dangerous leaving might actually be for you.
You are not to blame for his abuse. No matter what your abuser has told you, you are not to blame for his abuse. You did nothing to cause it. He has chosen to say the things he says to you. He has chosen to do the things he does to you. He chooses to abuse you. Does he treat his best friend the way he treats you? Or his boss? Or the pastor? If he truly couldn’t control himself with you, he also wouldn’t be able to control himself with them.
Be honest with yourself about who your abuser is. Don’t pretend your abuser loves you; he doesn’t. Don’t pretend he’s going to change; he isn’t. Don’t pretend he’s saved; he’s not. Don’t pretend he didn’t mean to do or say what he did; he meant every last bit of it. Don’t pretend he can’t help himself; he can.
Trust in God’s sovereignty. The God of Joseph, the God of David, the God of Paul and Peter, is the Great I AM that we serve today. Just as He was sovereign over their circumstances, He is sovereign over yours. Every single tear is seen, every cry heard. He cares about you and your children. He is able to bring good out of every sorrow-filled trial. There is nothing in your life that He cannot redeem.
God has promised to never leave you. Your circumstances may seem to shout that God is nowhere around, that He doesn’t care about what you’ve gone through, or that He can’t be trusted. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord has promised to never leave us, never forsake us. He’s not forsaken you as you walk through raging waters. He’s not abandoned you as you struggle through the fiery flames of abuse. He is always with His own. Always.
Your identity is found in God. The father of lies wants you to believe the lies your abuser pours out on you. He wants you to be controlled by your abuser, to believe you are worthy of being abused, to accept that you are everything your abuser says you are. It’s all a lie. Your identity can never be found in your abuser’s lies. He doesn’t have the right to tell you who you are. He cannot define you. Only God has those rights. And He has called you precious, redeemed, beloved, holy, and righteous. Because you are bought by the blood of Christ, He has called you daughter. Believe Him, obey Him, and hold onto your true identity.
Don’t have a sinful response to your husband’s abuse. When we hurt so bad, we might want to go to bed and stay there. Or we might turn to something to help ease the pain (shopping, alcohol, music, fun, etc.). Or we might find ourselves lashing out in anger. None of those responses are honoring to the Lord. But, do you know what? I’ve done them all. I gave in for a while and wouldn’t do anything, didn’t want to do anything, except rest. I used music, reading, food, and busyness as a crutch. And I’ve railed against my husband’s abuse. I’ve told him and God that I hate him. His abuse was wrong but my response to it was wrong also. I have learned to do a heart-check every single day.
If we’re going to be pleasing to the Lord, we can’t give up and give in. We can’t hold onto bitterness or hatred. We can’t give ourselves over to addictions of any kind. And we can’t make excuses or say that we can’t help ourselves, or that we can’t stop ourselves from doing these things. Gauge your reactions, your thoughts, and your actions by the Word of God. We’re told in Psalms 130: 7 to put our hope in the Lord. With His help, we can move from “Lord, I hurt so bad that I want to give in, sleep forever, quit altogether, rely on this or that thing to make me feel better, or even die” or “Father, I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anyone” to “I trust you, Lord; help me.” With His help, our reactions can be honest, and still be yielded to Him.
If you don’t already have marketable skills, develop some. If you ever leave your abuser, you’re going to need some way to bring in money. If you already have that down, that’s great for you. But if not, it’s time to figure things out. If you’ve been financially abused, you may have no money, no credit, no nothing so you may be starting from scratch. That’s okay. There are still things you can do. Just don’t quit, and don’t give up. If you’ve had the strength to endure your husband’s cruelties, you have the strength to do this. And you are smart enough to handle it.
Remember that you most likely will be able to get some help from the government. I hate that. I don’t like having my hand out waiting for it to be filled. I don’t like expecting the government to help me. But in this case, their help is a good thing. So with your head held high, when the time comes, go apply for food stamps if you need them.
If you have children, you might consider ways to make money that keeps you at home with them. You will save a lot of money by not having to put them in daycare and, truly, children need their moms. Having lived through the fallout from their father’s abuse, or maybe from being abused themselves, they especially need you. But the good news is, it’s easier than ever to make a living from home.
Think through things you are good at, the knowledge you have, and any physical or child-related limitations. With that in mind, ask yourself what the best time of day is for you, whether you need something you can do in the home or simply a business you can run from home (they are different—a writer works in the home, a house cleaner works from the home), and whether you have any money to put into your efforts.
Here are a few ideas: Write your own eBooks. Start a house cleaning business. If you are good at sales, find a company and sign up to get started. Clean up for landlords when tenants have left. Sell things on Etsy, Amazon, or eBay. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of ways you can make money from home. It may not make you all of the money you need at first, but it gives you the freedom to work towards that. One thing to keep in mind, if you have the skills that they need, many companies will let you work from home.
All that aside, if you have to go out to work, do so. Keep your options open and do what is best for you and your children. When my mother left my father, she hired a babysitter and she went and got a job. Several years later, she started a home sewing business and was able to stay home with me. Just do what you have to do. Nobody knows your situation like you do.
Get familiar with the free educational resources available on the internet. You can learn almost anything via videos, free classes, free seminars, websites, and blogs. From budgeting to crocheting, from cooking to writing a business plan, from repairing computers to building bookcases, from learning a foreign language to finishing up high school, from how to start a business to how to clean, decorate, or organize just about anything, the knowledge you seek is often right there at the click of a mouse. Many of the skills you can learn online can be turned into a business.
Be frugal. Frugality is always a good thing to pursue. However, if your husband is financially abusive, or doesn’t manage money well, being frugal is going to be a real help to you. If you ever leave him, being frugal can make the difference between surviving or not. Being frugal doesn’t necessarily mean doing without; it means managing what you have wisely. Making wise decisions about what you spend money on, and what you choose to do without is part of that. Learn to distinguish between true needs and wants, if you haven’t already. No matter what your situation, if you manage your resources well, you can do much more with much less.
Learn to cook. If you don’t know how to cook, now is the time to learn. I don’t know how the “isn’t it great that I can’t cook?” madness got started but that’s exactly what it is: madness. Everybody needs to eat. If you can’t cook, you are at a great disadvantage. If you have someone who can teach you the basics of cooking, that’s great. If you don’t, utilize a beginning cookbook or even YouTube videos. Plan simple meals such as soups and sandwiches, breakfast for supper, or one pot meals. Familiarize yourself with a variety of inexpensive, quick, and easy recipes. You’ve got enough stress in your life. Now’s not the time for gourmet cooking. If you want to learn that, that can come later. For now, just get started with the basics.
If you’ve already cut all the corners you can but your husband refuses to cut corners and still overspends, then loosen your demands on yourself a bit. I’ve walked this road. It’s not going to do you or your children any good to be the ones always doing without when he is simply going to spend what he wants to on himself. That’s not to say go overboard; I’m saying don’t get in the mindset of “I’ve got to cut more” while you’re the only one doing it. In such a situation, still strive to be as frugal as you can be; just don’t let it hurt you or your children.
Get your papers in order. My husband kept losing our children’s social security cards. And their birth certificates. And our marriage certificate. And so on. I’d get new copies, he’d say he needed them in order to try to get financial help of some sort or other. Later, I’d ask him where they were, and he’d say he’d given them back to me. But he hadn’t. He actually didn’t know where they were. Again, and again. It may not be easy for you to get your papers in order but it’s well worth the time and effort, and yes, even the money, to make sure everything is orderly.
There’s no shame in taking advantage of help if you need it. There are domestic abuse centers in all 50 states. Many towns and cities have shelters for women and children fleeing abuse. Often, they offer counseling and group sessions. There are food stamps and other government programs available to help you get back on your feet. If a friend, relative, or a church member offers you help, take it. When you are able, do for others as was done for you.
It’s completely unfair but some people will blame you for things your husband did. If your husband was careless with money, if he refused to pay his bills, if he caused problems with your children’s schooling, if he destroyed property, if he did anything that those on the outside (being anyone not you or him) see as wrong, expect to be lumped in with him when the finger of blame is pointed. I’ve been blamed so many times for things my husband did. Usually, it’s best to let it slide, and not try to defend yourself. God knows the truth, and you can trust in Him. Let the Lord be your Defense.
Remember who your true enemy is. Your husband has sinned against you. What he has done is evil. Hold him accountable for his actions. But also remember that he’s a tool of Satan. As Scripture tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”~Ephesians 6: 12
Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. When you forgive, you give up your right to vengeance. You leave your abuser in God’s hands. But forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. You can’t just put what your husband has done out of your mind. Moreover, by remembering what he’s done, you are better able to protect yourself against future attacks.
Learn to enjoy your femininity. So many of us, when trying to survive in the midst of abuse, developed an unnatural toughness. Many of us moved into positions of leadership in our homes because our husbands wouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong with being strong or tough when you need to be, but being forced to take on the role our husbands have abandoned isn’t what God had in mind for us. There’s a natural difference in men and women. Learn to enjoy who God created you to be. I’m not telling you to dress up in bows and ruffles, or even to wear dresses every day. But you’re a woman, and it’s good to enjoy feeling womanly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to want to look lovely, or with wanting to smell nice. To enjoy pretty things.
God made women different than He made men. This—despite all that feminists would have you believe—is a good thing. Developing a natural softness, a gentleness, or even a delicate femininity, doesn’t mean you can’t still be as tough as you have to be. It doesn’t mean you deny who you are, or what you want to be. It just means that you allow yourself to enjoy being a woman. Tough and tender. Beautiful and strong. A woman who does what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and still enjoys her femininity while doing it.
Work on healing emotionally. It can be hard to overcome abuse on your own. If you can afford a counselor, and feel the need of one, go. If there are support groups available and you want to, start attending one. But if these aren’t options, there are still things you can do. There’s some very good Christ-centered counseling available on YouTube. There are some excellent books on domestic abuse, on healing from abuse, that can help you start on your journey to emotional health.
You cannot save your marriage alone. There are those who will tell you it takes two to tango. These people do not know what they are talking about. Sure, it’s a cute saying and, when applied to the dance, it’s absolutely true. But when applied to an abusive marriage, it isn’t true.
An abusive marriage isn’t the same thing as an unhappy marriage. In an unhappy marriage, both partners must work together to get things back on track. In an abusive marriage, the only one trying to get things back on track is the one who is being abused.
It is unfair that those on the outside, who have no idea of the pain you live through on a regular basis, would stoop to judge you. Ignore them. Take your pain to God. Cry out to Him. Trust in Him to see and understand the truth. He knows how hard you have battled to save your marriage. That is enough.
Rest when you need to. When you’ve been under tremendous stress, your body needs to rest in order to heal. When nightmares invade your night hours, getting the rest you need can sometimes be difficult. If you can manage it, you might even need extra sleep for a while. That’s fine. Give your body what it needs. Yes, I did say that we shouldn’t give into just sleeping or resting too much—but this isn’t that. Getting the rest your body needs to heal is far different than being lazy or being addicted to sleeping. Listen to your body. If you need to sleep, if you need a nap, if you need to stop and sit down every little while to recoup, do it.
Give your anger to God. You have every right to be angry. You do not have a right to hold on to that anger endlessly. Take it to God, tell Him how angry you are. Pour out all of your rage, your hurt, and your fears. Give it all to God. Tell Him how you’ve been wronged. Don’t rage at God—give Him your rage. No matter how wrong things have gone for you, you never have a reason to be angry at God. He has done you no wrong. He is a good God, a gentle and compassionate God, your Rock, your Fortress, and your High Tower. He is willing and able to help you work through your pain and your anger.
Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you’ve suffered abuse. The sin in the abuse is your husband’s, not yours. What he did to you says something about him, not you. That he is an abuser is his shame to bear. His sin to repent of. His sin doesn’t define you. The fact that you’ve survived being abused and are trying to get your life in order says amazing things about you.
Focus on the future, not the past. One day, these days, years, decades, of shadow and pain can be past. But it won’t happen without your help. You must decide to move forward, to grow, to heal, and, if you need to, to leave. You must get up again and again, no matter how hard it is. So many women have walked the same painful road you are now walking. Run to God, and move confidently one day at a time, one tiny baby step at a time, towards the future.
Don’t rush into another romance. I’m sure you already know this so forgive me for feeling the need to say it. If you are still married, you do not have the right to find anyone else. Wait until you are no longer his wife. Jumping into a new romance after the breakup of a relationship is always a bad idea. Your children need stability. They don’t need boyfriends rushing in and out of your life. You also need stability. Wait to get into a relationship until after you have healed. Talk to your elders about your particular situation. The most important thing is to make sure that in this, as in all things, you are right with God. His Word is always supreme.
Your abuser could use any new relationship to cast doubts on your stability or on your ability to mother as you should. This is another reason, a very compelling reason, not to rush into dating.
Keep your thought life pure. Fill your mind with truth. Memorize Scripture. Pray fervently, and without ceasing. When your mind strays into dangerous territory (fear, hatred, etc.), refocus it on God. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t dwell on what you’ve lost. Be careful with what you read, watch, listen to, and where you go. Don’t fantasize about other men.
Keep your focus off of sex. Just because a relationship is abusive, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its good moments. (They aren’t really good, but they can feel good.) Dwelling on the physical side of your relationship might cause you to allow your abuser back into your life, or to keep you tied to him in the first place. Don’t think about things that will weaken your resolve. A good sex life isn’t worth the pain of being abused.
If you have the chance to love again, and you want to pursue marriage, do so. You don’t want to rush into a new romance but if God has freed you from the bonds of your marriage, He has freed you to remarry. If the chance comes, consider the opportunity a gift from God.
Don’t talk too much to too many. When you’re finally ready to open up about the abuse, there’s just so much to open up about. The temptation is strong to share each and every little thing your abuser did. Or, to run him down—after all, he’s the one who chose to abuse, not you. Or, even to endlessly recount your pain. Don’t. There are those who need to know what your abuser did, and those who are trying to help you do need to know where you are emotionally. With them, be absolutely forthcoming. But don’t spew hatred; doing so hurts you and your children—not your abuser who, in his mind, is above it all.
Be careful who you tell, and with what you share. Your checkout lady doesn’t really need to know what’s going on. Neither does your noisy neighbor, your until now nearly forgotten childhood friend, or your third cousin twice removed. You’ve already given enough of your life to this man; don’t give him another moment that you don’t have to—and talking about him does just that.
Even more important, even as we try to sort out all that we’ve lived through, the most important thing to a true daughter of God is that we honor our Father. Share as you need to—you’ve been kept silenced far too long—but also check your motivation before you share. If it’s the right thing to say, and you’ve got the right person to say it to, go ahead. Otherwise, think before you speak.
Be strong for your children, and listen to them. This is immensely hard on your children, harder than you might realize. It’s very easy to be blinded by your own pain. Take the time to focus on your children. Talk to them, and let them talk to you. Ask them how they are feeling, and what they are thinking. Let them share their doubts and fears with you. Don’t stop there, though. Talk about things that they like. What they love. What they want to do. Their dreams. Their hopes. Shower them with love. Tell them again and again that you love them; even older teens and young adults need to hear it. God is your Strength. Let your children see you leaning hard on Him. The strength you find in Him is the strength that you can impart to them. Read God’s Word to your children. Pray with them. Play games with them. Cuddle them. Hold them. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Have fun together whenever you can, as often as you can. Just be there for them.
Look for ways to relax with, or to have fun with, your children. The intensity and level your husband’s abuse, whether you are still with him or have left, the level of your stress, and the health of your finances will dictate what you have the freedom or the money to do with or for your children. But you can always do something, even if it’s just telling them a story, drawing pictures together, or delving into family history.
Your children need to know that life isn’t always a dangerous affair. Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Just do what you can. Play board games. Read to them, picture books to younger ones, and novels to the older ones. Teach them to play jacks, kick the can, or pick-up-sticks. Take them to McDonald’s, buy something cheap, and let them play. Take your children to the park, or go in the backyard and toss a ball around. Play in the water (even if you don’t have access to a pool, they’ll have great fun playing in the sprinkler, with a water hose, or even with filling up jugs with water and splashing it on each other—and on you). Go to the thrift store, or the dollar store, and buy something just for fun. Make a new dessert together. Make or buy some bubble solution. Make play dough or homemade slime. Play 20 Questions, Blind Man’s Bluff, and other games from your childhood. Take a walk. Go on a picnic. Have a backyard picnic. Have lunch on a blanket in the living room. If you are financially able to do more, take them out one at a time for a “date” and just sit and talk over pizza or burgers. Or take the whole group out to dinner. Just have fun, and share your heart while encouraging them to share theirs.
Recognize what you’ve all been through. There’s little that hurts more than being betrayed. By abusing you, your husband has betrayed you. By abusing you, even if he didn’t abuse your children outright, he still betrayed and abused them because the abuse he heaped on you undermined their stability, and damaged their ability to trust—it is important to understand that.
This abusive, cruel, selfish, self-centered man has used and abused, betrayed and abandoned, his entire family—even if it was you who finally walked out the door.
You all have a right to be hurt. You have a right to be angry over what you’ve gone through. You have a right to be enraged over what your children have suffered. Go ahead and cry, journal your pain, or just sit and come to grips with it. But also pray. Take all of your pain to God, and teach your children to do the same.
You have a right to be angry, but do not sin in your anger. Do not give into bitterness. Do not let fear control you. Process your pain. Help your children process theirs. Understand that their pain may lead to some attitude problems that you will have to help them to work through. Help them to understand that they do not need to wallow in the pain or use it as an excuse for bad behavior.
You and your children have a long, sometimes lonely, and often incredibly hard, the road ahead of you. But, due to the amazing grace of our Lord, you won’t have to walk it alone. He has been there all along. He has seen every tear. He offers hope and healing to all of you.
Remember that you may see clearly who and what your abuser is, but your children may not. How your children process things depends on their ages, and their ability to comprehend what your abuser has done. Your children may not understand what’s going on. They may not know how to process the pain. They may not understand why you’re no longer together. They may still love their father, and still believe that he loves them. They may be hurting but not understand why. They may know something isn’t right, but not be able to identify what.
Because of his brainwashing, or because of their age, they may not fully comprehend what he’s done, that he’s abusive, or that you left to protect them. One day they most likely will see through him. In the meantime, remember that children tend to love their parents no matter what their parents have done. Don’t push them to understand too much too soon.
If you tell your children too much too soon, you will be hurting them. No matter how angry you are, no matter how frustrated you are, or how justified you feel, don’t rant against your husband, don’t make his abuse the focus of your conversations with your children, and don’t talk him down in their presence. Answer their questions honestly, but don’t offer more information than they need. Otherwise, you might end up pushing your children away.
Don’t lie to your children about what their father has done. Don’t sugar coat his abuse. But also don’t say too much, too soon. If they ask why Daddy does or says this or that, answer them as truthfully as you can. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything, and don’t be shocked if they do. Just remember that when your children ask you “Why does daddy get so mad?” they are asking one question. Don’t make the mistake of expounding on it and giving them a long litany of their father’s failings.
Your children may see right through their father. If this is the case, you have an entirely different problem on your hands. If they see what he’s doing, they may be angry at him. They may be full of pain. Let them talk to you about whatever they are thinking and feeling. Help them to see that what their father has done is his fault, not theirs.
Don’t let your children see how much pain you are in. Your children don’t need to know everything. They don’t need to see or hear everything. Do everything that you can to protect their innocence. It’s for sure your husband won’t. Don’t let them know how much you are hurting. If they see or hear things that hurt them, be there for them. Think of their pain more than you think of yours. Cry, but do so in private. Talk to your friends, to your counselor, or to God. Don’t burden your children with your pain, fear, or uncertainty. They need you to be strong for them. They don’t need to try to be strong for you.
Tell your children the truth in an age-appropriate manner. You can explain things to a 13-year old that you can’t to a five-year-old. An 18-year old can process far more than a 12-year old. And a 21-year old understand more than a 15-year old. If your children are very young, they really can’t fully understand what he’s doing or has done. If they’re older, they are probably very angry.
If a man abuses his wife, that makes him a bad father. His abuse of her affects his children even if never abuses them directly. So, regardless of what he’s done or not done to them, your abuser has affected your children. Listen to your children, and answer their questions and concerns in an age-appropriate manner. Just be careful not to give too much information too soon. When they get older and ask questions, sit them down and prayerfully, carefully, answer them. But let them hold onto their innocence as long as possible. Certainly, your abuser is not thinking about protecting his children. It’s all up to you.
Don’t put your children in the middle. Keep that in mind but whether you leave or stay, your husband will most likely have some role in your children’s life. They need as much stability as possible—and it’s likely up to you to provide that. Don’t try to pit them against their father. Be careful in what you say and how you say it. Not only does it affect your children, but your words to them about him may affect your child custody arrangements should you divorce him. Tell the truth—just don’t expound past what you have to.
Pray for your children. You can’t do anything to make your children trust in God, to force them to heal, to grow in godliness, or to cause things to turn out alright in their lives. But the power of prayer cannot be underestimated. God can do that which you yourself cannot. Remember that He loves them far more perfectly than you ever can.
Read the Bible to your children. And teach them to read it for themselves. In it and it alone is the Words of Life. Teach them to have a daily Bible reading. Teach them how to study it for themselves. Help them to memorize it. Show them Jesus in its pages.
You may be tired, broken, fearful, and at the point of giving up but you can’t give up. Never stop fighting for a better tomorrow. Never stop learning and growing. Never accept that this is it, this is all there is.
You absolutely cannot stop singing. Or writing. Or crafting. Cooking. Rafting. Climbing. Running. Sewing. Never stop reaching for whatever it is that brings you joy.
It may not be possible to leave right this moment. But if you feel you need to leave, aim towards that. And in the meantime, you have a life to make for yourself and your children. Do your best to make your lives as normal as possible. In the meanwhile, sing on. Don’t ever let your abuser silence you.
Lastly, I wish I could tell you that every child of God will treat you as Christ would but unfortunately, that isn’t the truth. The truth is that many Christians have no understanding of domestic abuse. Some Christians might think that you’re just a discontented wife who needs to learn to show grace to her struggling husband. Some might believe your abuser’s narrative and shun you. Some might have an understanding of what you’re facing but still not know how to go about helping you. Others might be afraid of getting involved.
If fellow Christians hurt you, forgive them. Most of them have no idea that they are hurting you.
There’s more, of course. These are just a few ideas to get you started. Just remember to do whatever you do for Jesus, and trust Him to do what He needs to do for you.