Over the past several months, I’ve listened to various women in various places talk about something disturbing. Usually, it is said in a hushed, shamed voice. Or it is put out in a private social media group, always apologetically, always with a lot of self-blame always with a lot of excuses for the offender.
In these posts or exchanges, the thing these women are describing is verbal and/or emotional abuse.
The language that these women use usually places all the blame squarely on their own shoulders. There is a deeper shame that is written between the lines that goes something like, “If only I was more spiritual or a better Christian, this wouldn’t bother me, or this must be my fault or my husband wouldn’t treat me this way.”
This bothers me on so many levels, and I want to say something.
First, let me just say that everyone says mean things to their spouses at times. We all mess up and do things that aren’t kind or in our spouse’s best interests. We are all selfish or discontent at times.
I am not talking about the normal interactions that reveal our broken humanness. I am not talking about the little hurts or upsets that pepper a long marriage.
What I am talking about are words and actions that consistently put down a woman’s mind, body, spirit or emotions.
I am talking about words and actions that consistently, daily grind away at who a woman is and manipulate her view of herself.
I am talking about a husband who regularly hurts his wife with his words, and then blames her for feeling hurt.
Wives, that isn’t okay. It is NOT what God has called men to in marriage, and it isn’t what He has called you to either.
It doesn’t make you more spiritual by NOT holding your husband accountable for his words and actions towards you.
It’s often difficult when you are in the middle of a situation to realize that what you are experiencing is actually a form of abuse. No, your husband isn’t hitting you or pushing you or physically hurting you, but he is hurting you nonetheless.
And it’s okay – healthy even – to not allow it to continue. Enabling someone to sin against you isn’t loving and it isn’t godly.
One definition of emotional abuse explains it as, “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”1
Signs of Emotional Abuse
What are the signs of emotional abuse? Any of the following can be signs if they happen frequently.
- Yelling or swearing
- Name calling or insults; mocking
- Threats and intimidation
- Ignoring and/or excluding
- Denial of the abuse and blaming the viction
I hope you caught that last one – blaming the victim. This is especially prevalent in Christian circles because men will use Scripture to try to make what they are doing seem okay and then blame their wives for their response to the abuse. After all, the wife is supposed to submit, right?
Here’s the thing, submission has nothing to do with the husband being superior to or acting in a parental fashion. The word submission in the Bible indicates one leader submitting to another. These are two equals with one voluntarily putting themselves under another’s leadership.
I am all about working at your marriage. I am not a proponent of divorce by any means, but I AM a proponent of separation with reconciliation as a goal. I am a fan of speaking to a Christian counselor or pastor with counseling experience to get some perspective on what’s happening. I am a proponent of holding your spouse accountable for destructive behavior towards you or your marriage.
Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Obviously, nobody is going to do that perfectly, and we all need to extend grace to a spouse that messes up as we’d want him to extend that same grace to us.
But if you recognize your husband in the behavior listed above and it is an ongoing, consistent thing, may I encourage you to seek Godly counsel? There’s nothing extra spiritual about being a victim.