Do you ever wonder if your husband or wife is abusive towards you? Unless you’re an abuser yourself and trying to put that label on your partner, it’s not normal to think you’re being abused if, in fact, something hasn’t happened to make you think that. That’s not a thought that normally pops out of nowhere. Sadly, domestic abuse is more common than we want to think it is. As the power of the Gospel has diminished in our churches and then in our society, it’s really not surprising that me-centeredness has arisen. And what’s more me-centered than forcing your will, your desires, your way, on your own family while completely ignoring their needs or desires? Abuse can be emotional, spiritual, financial, verbal, or physical (and can show up in controlling/stalking behavior). All abuse–no matter what kind–begins with emotional abuse which is a pattern of behavior designed to elicit fear within the victim. Once fear is entrenched, the victim is easy to control.
So, are you being abused? There are things you can look for, patterns you can observe, to help you discern whether your relationship is an abusive one. Here’s a few of them:
Does your husband (or wife) treat you as if you are his (her) servant? As Christians we are to have a servant’s heart–that’s a good thing. However, if you are being forced to serve, being told you are a slave, being treated as if you have no choice in the matter, or are in a one-sided relationship where you are always the one to serve and never the one who is served, you are being mistreated. These are signs of an abusive or dangerous relationship.
Do you have a voice in the relationship or is he the only one who gets to make decisions such as where you will live, where or if you will attend church, what the money is spent on, where you go, what you do, who you are friends with (or even if you are “allowed” to have any), or even what movie or TV show to watch? Giving into our spouses desires because you love them and want them to be happy is one of the joys of a good marriage. Being forced to continuously give in against your will is a sign of an abusive marriage.
Do you find yourself making excuses for him to others? To yourself? Everybody fails sometimes, but if you have to make excuses for his poor attitude, his anger, his outbursts, his failures, if you find yourself being forced to explain it all away or wanting to explain it all away (in order to try to convince yourself that his attitudes or actions are normal) there is something seriously wrong in your relationship.
Does he see himself as the master of his castle? In Scripture, we are taught that the man is the head of the family, the head of the wife and she is to submit to him. In a good marriage, this is a reflection of Jesus’s submission to His Father and His loving headship of the church. A good husband will listen to his wife, she will be able to take a stand for what she believes, he will want to please her. He will make careful, well thought out decisions with her and, those times he’s forced to make the final decision, he will do so in a way that takes into consideration her hopes, fears, and desires while being careful to do what is best for his family. If a man really sees himself as the “Lord of his domain” or “the Master of his castle”, this guy is either crazy or abusive.
The most important thing to consider when deciding if you are a victim of abuse is this: Are you afraid of him? Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells when he’s around? Do you find yourself changing the way you think, act, dress, or what you believe in order to accommodate him because you are fearful of the consequences of not doing so? Do you fear his outbursts? Are you afraid he will hurt you? Are your children afraid of him? If you are constantly stressed when you are around him, if you accommodate his wishes, no matter how bizarre, in order to keep him from getting angry, if you go out of your way to meet his demands or to make him happy in order to keep him from blowing up, if you’ll do anything to keep from setting him off, the chances are very, very great that you are in an unhealthy or even a dangerous relationship.
If in reading this, you’ve come to realize that you might be being abused, please be aware that it is not God’s will for you to be abused and there is hope and help available. At the top of the page, I have a list of resources to help you and you can also find my email address there if you need to talk.
Soli Deo gloria!