I've had three people in the last week tell me tales of someone they know being trapped in an abusive marriage. I hear the desperation in their voices, and witness first hand the water well up in the eyes. They care so deeply about the women they are referring to, and yet feel so hopeless to protect them. Time after time again, the behavior of the partner SCREAMS RUN. GET OUT! And yet, time and time again these women stay, hoping and praying for change.
I know that cycle well. I stayed in an abusive marriage for close to a decade. I haven't spoken of it in a while. In fact, sometimes it seems like it never happened. But the scars of that abuse remind me otherwise.
Years have passed, and yet I still the have scars. So deep that at times they aren't easy to even detect. I hide my true heart well. But I guess I always was able to hide because for an entire decade most people that knew me would never guess that my marriage was even abusive.
Abused individuals hide. They hide the turmoil. They hide the dysfunction. They hide the fear they face on a daily basis.
I know from my own experience that I desperately wanted to be normal, and have a "normal" marriage. I thought his behavior was a reflection of me. That his choices some how made me just as guilty as him, so it was easier to hide the truth. I also wanted nothing more to have a peaceful home, and I decided with the birth of our son that staying quiet and trying to appease him would be better for the household. I lost myself in the effort of trying to please him. My mom says now that she had lost me for ten years, my former self slowly disappearing. I walked on broken glass every day, never knowing what kind of day it would be with him. And the lie I believed was that God called me to stay in this marriage. It took a long time and a lot of counseling to realize that God does not call us to be abused under the umbrella of marriage.
There are so many reasons that women (and men) stay in abusive marriages. I stayed because I thought my husband would change. And when I did try to leave, he often promised change and yet would go right back to his habits the second he felt secure in my staying. It was exhausting to say the least. It became so bad at times, that I felt my life was always on the line. At what point would he snap? I would call my sister and say "If I'm dead, he killed me." That was my reality and she was the only person I told. And yet I stayed even though deep down I felt I may not survive it. I stayed even though she encouraged me to leave. I stayed because his brokenness caused me to broken beyond repair.
I never had an Ahah moment on my own that led me to realize that his behavior was beyond acceptable. In fact his choices eventually led him down a path where his behavior was made known to more than just my sister. And that was what ended my marriage..his choices. The second my parent's learned of the reality of it, they were the one's who pointed me back to truth. I know deep down in my heart that I might have stayed again had they not spoken up and supported me leaving him.
Abused spouses need more support than you could ever imagine. They need people to show up. They need love and grace because you know what? Abused people often take their own brokenness out on other people. Anger would often seep from heart to those closest to me. Bruised hearts bleed. I was in no shape a good version of myself during that time. I was barely surviving and any extra energy went to that....surviving the abuse and hiding the bruises on my heart.
I most likely would have excused his behavior had someone not sat me down and forced me to look at the situation without blinders on. Perfect love casts out all fear, and the love and support I found in telling the truth trumped any fear I had of leaving him. It's a journey I don't wish on anyone, but it's my journey and I tell it in hopes that someone in the same position would get the help they need to get out.
Peace and Blessings,
If you or someone you know is in an abusive marriage/relationship, the biggest thing is to please tell someone you trust. Bring the darkness to light. Have an escape plan. Start gathering money in small increments and hide it. Keep a packed bag of clothes for you and kids and give it to that someone that knows the reality of the situation. Buy a pay as you go cell phone and hide it. HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN. Begin gathering evidence for court of the abuse. Document dates. And GO TO COUNSELING ON YOUR OWN. God is near the brokenhearted and will help you! I promise. He will open doors you never thought could be opened.