Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Watch and Pray *Sensitive*

Her eyes are blank and there is a pool of blood spreading around her face on the floor.  I wake up wanting to vomit and check her Facebook page repeatedly until I see a post.  The relief is incomplete because she and I both know that one day it might not be a dream.  Her children's faces--so close in ages to mine--rise in my heart, and I pray.


Something in her voice was off.  "Well, it couldn't really be rape.  After all, they were married.  She knew when she married him that sex was part of it."  It seemed like we were discussing a newspaper case at the time.  But years later I can still remember the oddness in her voice and I wonder.


It's the kids, you see.  She can protect them just a bit right now, deflect his rages, and watch that he doesn't go too far with them.  If she left, who would be there to get between them?


"God hates divorce."  Heaviness and resignation in her voice, she asks what the church congregation would think if the pastor's wife left.  "It would be like a slap in the face to God.  I just need to be more submissive and try harder.  If I can just praise and affirm him more, and show him that I respect need that, you know..."


Everyone else at the table shifts uncomfortably at his "joke" that is yet another jab at her.  She doesn't seem to notice and gets up to refill his drink again.


Enthusiasm dies down to quiet disappointment.  "Oh, I would love to!  But I better not.  He wouldn't like it."  In her world, it is clear that activities--everything--must be planned around whether or not he likes it, even if it doesn't affect him in any way.  It's second nature to her to try to placate him, but even after all these years she doesn't seem to see that it is a constantly moving target.  He will always, always find something else to be upset about, another way to control her.  Her life revolves around trying to make him happy. 


I take a deep breath and quietly say, "This is abuse.  The way he treats you isn't right."  For a moment, her eyes flash with fear, anger, surprise, relief, uncertainty and thankfulness.  I'm not sure which will win out.  Then she smiles and brushes it off.  "You're exaggerating.  It isn't abuse.  He would never hit me.  He just...well, I think sometimes he didn't get enough nurturing as a kid and is still hurting."


He controls the money.  He controls everything.  She scrapes to find ways to stretch what he gives her to pay for the doctors visits and new shoes for the kids.  She puts off the doctor or dentist visit for herself again, forgoes the new shoes that she needs.  He goes out to eat and gets a new computer.  "Well, but the money is really his, you know.  He is the one who works.  I'm just home with the kids." (She works more in a day than he does in a week, but he is still "too tired" to help with the kids when he gets home.  He "needs to unwind", even though she hasn't had a break in weeks.  So he spends another night playing videogames.)


They tried counseling.  Well, she tried and he went along.  It didn't help.  The church counselor told her to affirm him more and build him up more.  Praise him a lot.  He said all the right things. Showed enough regret for his mistakes (although he was always a little vague on the details).  She really was a bit messed up from her family issues, you know (whispered confidentially.)  Eventually, they stop going.  The cycle hasn't really changed, but he has some new words to use against her now.  He even tries to convince her that she is the abusive one, especially if she has ever fought back.


Once your eyes are opened, it is hard to unsee things.  I watch her pain, helpless and desperate for her to wake up (but if she did, how much better would that be?  Sure, it is easy for me to yell, "Leave him!"  For her to do that, especially with children involved, is no small feat.)   I do my best to be a safe friend and pray desperately for angels to protect her.  Wincing at the telling comments she doesn't even notice about how she is trying to avoid upsetting him, I try to balance truth and love with the fear of driving her away.  I watch and pray.


I really think there is an abusers' handbook somewhere, because I have known so many women in abusive relationships, and most of these could apply to every one of them (if you know me in real life and are trying to guess who these stories are about, don't.  Just know that they could be any woman).  If you see yourself in here, please know that you matter.  You are not crazy, you are not blowing it out of proportion, it is not your fault.  Read Why Does He Do That: Inside the Mind of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.  Read my friend Hope's blog about leaving her abusive husband and finding healing.  Talk to a domestic violence counselor.  Freedom and healing really are possible. 

Related posts: Sex Ed in a Christian Home: Abusive Relationships 
A Letter to My Divorced Friends


Lelia Schott said...

could hardly read this at first because of the tears, two posts in one day that just got me crying so hard even though I thought I was healed! I asked my Love to read it out loud for me. I wanted to let you know how important the message you are delivering is. I know you know but I just want to thank and bless you. I wish I had read these messages a decade ago, but better late than never. thank you Dulce for being a voice in the dark and a shinning light. <3

Richter_DL said...

There are such manuals. Read back-to-back, Debi and Michael Pearls' Help-Meet books are, for instance.

Pamela Merritt said...

It is a terrible thing: to teach that God wants us to be miserable!

Live as though God is Love.

So many wrong teachings can then be discarded.

diana said...

Amen, Dulce. This is HUGE - and so very important.