Posted by: jedwardswright | February 5, 2011

When Love is a Four-Letter Word

It was a small shove, or maybe a slap. Maybe he backed you into the wall, or maybe it was the wall that got the worst of the deal, and now there is a bashed-in hole in the drywall. Maybe it was much, much worse than that.

The next day he says how really, really sorry he is, and the florist delivers roses. Perhaps instead he merely acts as if nothing happened, which leaves you with a disoriented sense of reality. It couldn’t have been as bad as you remembered, could it?

You tell your co-workers that you fell down the stairs, your mom that you walked into a cupboard door and your sister that he had to fix some wiring in that wall. You tell yourself that he’d had too much to drink, or he’d had a bad day, or that it must have been your fault. If you could just lose weight, be a better homemaker or keep your mouth shut, everything would be okay.

Maybe sex hurts and he likes it that way. Could be he won’t let you sleep unless you do what he wants, or makes you do stuff in bed that you don’t want to do.

Thank goodness, you might be thinking, that my guy doesn’t do any of those things! He sometimes calls me nasty names and hurts my feelings, or won’t let me spend money or forbids me to go out, but that’s not so bad. Sure he checks on my every move or follows me around, but that’s because he loves me so much!

All of this, every bit of it, is abuse. Whether it is physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, he doesn’t have the right to treat you that way. What he is doing may even be criminal.

There are some things that you should know.

  1. It is not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you did or said or didn’t do, he has a problem, not you. No one should treat another person that way, especially someone that they are supposed to love.
  2. People with mental illnesses such as depression are frequently victims of abuse. Perhaps you were abused as a child, so you think this is kind of normal. It could be that he saw your vulnerability right from the start, and knew instinctively that with your condition you would be easier to dominate and control. He may even use your illness to score points against you.
  3. Sorry or presents or make-up sex won’t ever make it okay. Sorry should mean that he changes his ways, gets counseling, or gets out. It isn’t an excuse for bad behavior, and if he thinks that it is, he isn’t really sorry.
  4.  Some guys treat their marriage vows as nothing more than a way to hold on to you. They think that a marriage certificate is a license to be a bully. You may be taking your promises seriously, but it is possible that he saw the wedding as a mere formality he had to perform to get control of you.
  5. You do have choices. He may have you backed into a corner, either literally or metaphorically, but it is up to you how to respond. I strongly recommend a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend to anyone who is struggling with relationship issues, especially where there are power and control issues. Boundaries changed my life, and the feedback that I have had from others who have read it has been very positive too.
  6. Counseling can be expensive, but there are usually low-cost to no cost options in most communities. Call a shelter, United Way office, social services or the Salvation Army. If those organizations do not have an appropriate program available, they may know where you can find professional help at reasonable rates or at no charge. You may also be able to get help through your church or place of worship. If he won’t go with you, go alone. You are going to need the support and counsel.
  7. If you or your children are being physically harmed, you must go somewhere safe. There are women’s shelters in most major towns that provide counseling and support, and a temporary place to go until you can figure out what to do next. Please do not return to him until a qualified professional agrees that it is safe to do so. Remember that observing abuse can be just as devastating for a child as experiencing abuse himself/herself.

Love is not supposed to hurt. A person who truly loves you will not repeatedly harm you with violence or insults, or limit your freedom with rigid controls or oversight. Love treats you as an equal adult partner who is cherished and supported fully. Love wants you to be all that you can be, but thinks that you are wonderful just the way you are. Love involves effort from two people, not just one.

I would like to close with a passage from the Bible that is often read at weddings. 1 Corinthians 13 is often referred to as “the love chapter” because of its exquisite summation of what really constitutes love.

          Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It

          does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps

          no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It

          always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 (NIV)


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