Marriage Minute # 6 Violent People… from the book, Marriage Minutes, available from Amazon.com
The workshop about domestic violence that I mentioned in the previous minute was a great success. I recommend the work of the main presenter at the workshop, Alison Ogden, author of the book titled, When Love Turns to Fear. As we spoke to several other therapists in the workshop and heard them ask their questions, I was reminded again that there is a dark and ugly part to our world that so many of us don’t see. I want to emphasize a few things out of the many we all talked about.
First, there is the fact that so often the person who will abuse their spouse, physically or emotionally, will use the strengths of their spouse against them. The victim is likely to be a person who wants a successful marriage so badly that they will pay a very high price to get it. Knowing this, the abuser will capitalize on the hopes of the victim and will raise the price, and will use guilt to control the victim even more. Suppose the victim is a person who has a habit of hoping for change. Promises mean a lot to them, so why not trust the promises of their spouse. They tell themselves, “Maybe they will change. Perhaps just a little more waiting will pay off.” Sadly, the abuser will take advantage of this patient hope, and will drag things out further. After all, the abuser is the only one in the house who knows when they will change, and they aren’t telling. Victims may be heard saying that children need both parents. If the victim is a woman, she may fear the financial difficulties that her children and she will suffer. For the love of the children and the hope for the relationship the victim may stay, and the abuser knows this, and will use it to their advantage.
Second, the abuser often hides behind the mask of religion. Using a few strategic scriptures, taken out of context, the abuser will quote them to shame their spouse into compliance. In counseling, I ask them if they can quote any scriptures on any other subjects, and they usually can’t. When I suggest that there are more reputable interpretations of the few verses they use, they do not hear much that I say. Find a good Bible handbook or concordance and see what it says against violence. You will be reading for a long time. “For I hate divorcing [putting away], says the Lord… and him who covers his garment with violence, says the Lord… So, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)
Third, there is a prominent myth out there that sounds like this: “He is mean to me, but he is such a good father to the kids.” No, he isn’t. If he is mean to his wife, he is also not a good parent. If she is mean to her husband, she is not a good parent. Children need to see how spouses should be treated. They also need to learn the right way to treat their future spouse.
Fourth, sometimes the abuser even uses counseling to avoid the consequences of their behavior. So much has been made of Anger Management classes and groups and many do a good job. Groups have the benefit of adding to the accountability needed by the abuser. However, there is a problem to be dealt with. Sometimes anger management only serves to keep attitudes under control, whereas, real change only happens when attitudes change. Selfishness under control is still selfishness, and it won’t stay under control for long. A healthy relationship with God is not a “sin-management program”. It is a life change program.
Fifth, verbal abuse is excused by our argumentative culture. Even though there is no physical abuse in some relationships, when there is manipulation, intimidation, name-calling, rage filled disputes, and the like, it is still an abusive relationship.
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14:19)
If you are in an abusive relationship, it is time for change through professional, social, and legal help.