I Didn’t Know I was in an Abusive Marriage

For years I struggled with my marriage. Depression and health issues made it even harder to get through a day once I quit working to be home with my kids. To top it off, we moved and I was more isolated. Funny thing, me being trained as a counselor that I didn’t recognize the abuses that had been going on for years.

I wrote my book while blind to this and I still stand by the truths I wrote  in there. I need those truths.

I understood about verbal abuse early on and with counseling, found ways to fight it as well as recognize that it was something I also had a tendency to engage in. I worked hard to eradicate all sarcasm out of my speech.

I’m not an arguer. I hate fighting. My husband has bragged about how great our marriage is because we don’t fight.

I found out early on it wasn’t worth it. I could never win. Early on I would refer to my “know-it-all” spouse as “Dr —–” It was not meant as a compliment. I now recognize it is more likely a narcissitic personality disorder. You can’t really win a fight with someone like that because anything you say can and will be used against you in the future, or twisted to make you begin to wonder if you are sane.

I really didn’t “get it” that I was being abused though until I heard Beth Moore speak while promoting her book “So Long Insecurity.”  She talked about not giving away our dignity. Then she said this in her book: “Whether male or female, any person who enjoys and exploits another’s insecurity and sensitivity is an emotional predator.” (pg 247) Beth then goes on to cite the Apostle Paul as writing about emotional predators. Whoa! How did I ever miss THAT in Scripture?

But he does:

“For men wil be lovers of self, lovers or money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: 

holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”

(2 Timothy 3:2-5 NASB)

I’m not here to point fingers though. Only to say, I didn’t know. And not everyone in a difficult marriage struggles with abuse. And how do you avoid someone like this when you are married to them? Even if seperated or divorced, it’s hard to avoid someone you may have had children with. They will likely always be in your life.

But Beth Moore is right. We don’t have to hand them our dignity on a silver platter only to have it smashed to smithereens by neglect, financial strangleholds, emotional blackmail and verbal harangues. And then there is physical abuse too which is usually more easily identified but no less easy for a woman to cope with in a marriage. (Please, always be safe and get wise help and counsel if you decide to leave ANY kind of abusive marriage).

Coming to grips with truth about abuse though involves two main issues: 

  1. I have to own my sin. Am I pure and blameless? Have I never been abusive? Where have I failed? Sometimes confessing those sins to an abuser can make you more vulnerable to abuse. I have at times, when I’ve realized I’ve been wrong, confessed in a calm moment in the relationship (timing can be everything) and it has been something that takes my husband off guard completely. In those moments God has protected me from those moments being used to abuse me. In many ways that alone reaffirms His faithfulness to me.
  2. Knowing that your marriage is abusive is not a happy thing. The more you learn about abuse and how pervasive it is, the more you have to grieve in what you have lost, not so much in your marriage (because you probably never really had it) but what you had hoped for and deserved as a Christian wife. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Once you move past this though, and learn to walk in dignity (a good therapist who understands abuse as well as a great support system is essential), the easier it is to hold your head up and grow in your understanding God’s love and compassion for you.

I didn’t know I was abused. I do now, even though my husband denies that (yes, I have identified behaviors as such and it was not well recieved).

God never condemns us. Even when we fail, He is there with his loving arms ready and open to lavish his love. It may not change the reality of our circumstances if we are seeking to preserve our marriage until the Lord gives us permission to leave, but it grows us in ways we would never experience otherwise.

Do I wish I had never been abused? Absolutely. But I also recognize that God has and is continuing to use this as a refining fire in my life and as a platform to bless others. I’m humbled to part of His bigger plan.

He knows and sees your pain, Dear One.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

Conundrum

I’ve been working on aspects of my book, Lessons from the Trenches, which is due to be released in September of this year.

Part of getting a book to market is getting the message of the book to those who need to read it. Normally that would start with speaking engagements in my area.

But my book is about encouraging women in difficult marriages. Can you see it now? The wife goes to her husband and says, “Hey, honey, I’m going to church for a women’s speaker today.”

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hubby responds. “What’s the topic?”

“Encouraging women in difficult marriages.”

Hubby: “Why would you need to hear that talk?”

Oops.

For awhile  our church had a class called “What to know before you divorce.” Hmmm. I could just imagine going to my husband and telling him I needed him to stay home with the kids so I could attend THAT class!

See, for some women in difficult marriages, confronting the issue and even seeking help, can be dangerous. It can increase the abuse they suffer in the marriage. I can’t risk putting a woman in danger no matter how much she needs the help.

Also, my real name is not Lilly Grace Brown. I write under that name to protect my family as I share my own story. I want to be vulnerable about my struggle so that women know that they are not alone. Because of this, I cannot do speaking events close to home where someone might know me. The real me.

If this blog has been helpful. If you know someone who is hurting. Please pass the information along. I’m going to do everything I can to promote my book to reach the women who need it most, but it will be hard to do a speaking platform to accomplish that.

Having said that, I am in North Carolina (Ashville) in a few weeks and I would gladly meet with women while I’m in the area. I’ll be in Denver in May as well. Wheaton in June.

If you don’t feel comforable commenting here, I get that too. Social media can be an open book in many cases. I want women to be safe, emotionally and physically. But if you know someone who is hurting, please pass this information along to them. I would love to be able to encourage them.

Having said all that. I can do messages on Sanctification and how that impacts marriage, on the Attributes of God, on Submission (I know, a dirty word!) and other topics surrounding the issue. As a married friend of mine said, “Your book could probably help everyone – not just those who are struggling most.” That may be true, but I want the weary wife who is holding on by her fingernails and wondering if it’s worth it, to know she is not alone and there are people out there willing to listen and help.

“Godly Men” who Fail at Home

I’ve hesitated for months to write on this topic. I got ticked off because I found out that A.W.Tozer, whose writing I admire, was not a very good husband. We don’t know for sure but suffice it to say his wife said she never experienced happiness until she was married to her second husband (after Tozer’s death). She was forced to live in poverty because he would give most of their income back to the church. He poured all his time and energy into “ministry” but missed the ministry he was most responsible for: loving his wife and children.

Do I sound judgmental? Maybe so. Even today many men can be involved in ministry and put on a posture that belies the truth of their failing marriages or even abuses and neglect of their wives and children.

It breaks my heart to discover one acquaintance has filed for divorce from his wife. Online he acts like life is great and he wants to pursue Christian publishing.  Writing doesn’t have the same kind of condemnation associated with it as music or up front preachers have when they fall. Heck, he hasn’t even really begun. So he can pretend blissfully to be a wonderful man and a Christian while his wife is abandoned for the sake of him pursuing the god of publishing.

My spouse is no different. Pursuing whatever ministry opportunities that will make him look good, rarely working, but when he does giving money away (but won’t tithe to the church). He’s rarely home, belittles my dreams, and make ultimatums for the children without being around to follow through on the consequences of those.

But wives are supposed to praise their husbands. We are not to be talking bad about them. So how do we get help when our “godly” appearing spouse is fooling the world and wooing them, maybe with some exceptional gifts, while at the same time violating the promises made before God to honor and love his wife?

Sometimes these men do great things for God. Will it be credited to them as righteousness? God says he won’t answer the prayers of a man who does not treat his wife well.

How are we to think? I get ticked off. It’s not that I don’t want people to be touched by ministries that do well, but where is the accountability in these men’s lives? Where are those with the courage to confront and ask the tough  questions. My husband won’t interact with people who do that so he basically runs away from any kind of accountability. I’m sure that writer acquaintance has done the same.

I loved Andy Stanley who once said that God made him head of the home. His job was to love and serve his wife and God’s job was to be the head of the church.  I just wish more men in ministry understood this and that the rest of them held them accountable. The sad thing is, the one person those “godly men” will refuse to listen to, are their wives.

Any thoughts?

Blessings,
Lilly Grace

What do you mean by “Difficult”?

My book, Lessons from the Trenches, is due out in January of 2014, through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I wrote it to help women in difficult marriages.

But what do I mean by that word: difficult?

I’m not writing to the woman whose husband snores or drops the clothes on the floor in the bathroom for visitors to see when they stop by. I’m not talking about a man who has bad breath or perhaps can’t balance a checkbook to save his life.

I’m talking about men who may have a mental illness, including but not limited to personality disorders. I’m talking about men who might even be emotionally, verbally, and financially abusive. I’m talking about men who are controlling. Maybe they have a physical disability that interferes with their ability to be a husband. Maybe they are just he victims of bad family relationships but refuse to get help? Maybe they are not believers. Maybe they charmed you into thinking they were a Christian but now that you’re married you find that there is no evidence (fruit) to testify to their faith. Maybe they charm the pants off of everyone else and neglects and ignores you (another form of verbal/emotional abuse). Maybe they struggle with addictions: alcohol, drugs, pornography, or perhaps gambling.  Maybe they have even had an affair.

Now we could go round and around about which of these justifies seeking a divorce. But Jesus said that permission to divorce was due to hardened hearts.

I want to encourage you not to harden your heart towards God, no matter how much you just long to be free of the pain you are experiencing in your marriage. All relationships can be hard. Difficult conversations can leave scars. Trust has to be earned.

How do you respect a man who does nothing worthy of that? How do you stay married to him? And why would you even try?

I’m raising a lot of questions here and not giving many answers. Most of the marriage books out there don’t give much help to those of use who struggle in marriages like these.  It is exactly to women in these kinds of marriages to whom I am writing this book to.

I wrote it to remind myself of the good God has done in the midst of my pain and struggle.  I was encouraged to publish it to help others who desperately need that help from someone who is walking that same path, not knowing what the future will hold.

I  can’t promise you God will fix your marriage or that if you do X, Y & Z your marriage will be changed. I can promise you that God will walk with you through the struggle and grow you and change you and use you in ways you might ever expect.

When I’m in pain that’s not always enough to comfort me. But knowing that there are others who are walking that same path, trying to honor God, is comforting.

If you want to join me o that journey. Keep coming back here and follow my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lillygracebrown.

Blessings,
Lilly Grace

Alone

I met a young mom the other day quite by accident. I had prayed and listened to her over the past few years as she struggled in her marriage. She told me how her husband had taken her out to dinner and told her he didn’t want to be married anymore. He came home and told the children that Daddy didn’t love Mommy anymore. The kids were devastated.

Then he filed for divorce.

She is struggling because hasn’t date in so long and doesn’t want to. She said she is lonely and afraid she will die alone.

She told me she would rather go back to the verbal abuse of her marriage than live this way.

He’s treating her nice now. He’s spending more time with the kids with the visitation. He grumbles but doles out his child support.

She said if only he could have been this way while they were married, then maybe. . . .

I have a couple of things to say about this.

  1. She didn’t choose the divorce. She knows she messed up in the marriage and is counseling for that. He didn’t want to do the work. He made the  choice.  My suspicion is he is not a Christ-follower. My hope is that others will give her grace and not let her divorce status, something she did not seek or want, be a negative mark to her identity.
  2. She gave up going to church. I encouraged her to come back. Worship. Be with other believers. She won’t feel quite so alone.
  3.  I gave her information on Divorce Care and another support group of women that gather socially. She hadn’t been sharing much with any one out of shame – so she was missing key resources that could benefit her.
  4. She was borrowing trouble from the future. “I’m afraid I will die alone?” That could have happened while married too. You just have to die when no one else is around. The fact is, we can’t predict the future and will she grow old and be single? Well, a lot of widowed women do it too and survive. Being single is not a death sentence.
  5. This woman’s grief is still raw. She has a long journey ahead of her.
  6. She may be alone but her kids finally get a dad who is paying attention to them and she is finally being treated with respect. It’s sad that she would trade that for the agony and abuse she had experienced, just so she wouldn’t be alone in bed at night.  She’s in a place many divorced women would envy.

I’m pro-marriage. I really am. The fact is, just because we choose to stay and work on our marriage doesn’t mean our spouse will. Sometimes the choice is taken out of our hands. Sometimes a door slams in our face and God gives us a clear way out of the marriage. As painful as it is to let go of what is familiar, my prayer for this young woman is that she can embrace the good things she will learn and gain from this time as a single mom. She’s not alone. Ever. And she doesn’t need to distance herself from her church family either.

Work hard for your marriage, but realize that it takes three. God is working with you towards reconciliation, but your spouse has a role to play in that too an if he drops the ball and walks away from the game, it’s over and no on wins.

Someday, that could be you or me. I would hope for love and compassion should that happen just as I would hope for it now by staying. Our paths are unique as we seek to obey God. There is no one way to walk this path in a difficult marriage except for this: Obey Christ and seek to honor and glorify Him in every aspect.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Abuse of Emotion

I often felt alone, even as a child, even though I had several siblings quickly added to our family.

I was a girl, three boys followed and it seemed that they were more special than me. I also have two much younger sisters that came later.

My mom didn’t  know how to cope with my frizzy mop, or my hyper-sensitive nature. I developed asthma and I think now that it wasn’t due to allergies (although there is a component of that) but that it was due to anxiety.

I was told just how much my medication cost a month and how they couldn’t afford it. What I heard was “You are an unnecessary burden to our family and we resent you for it.”

Ah, the travesties of childhood.

I would walk a mile home from school and I can remember dallying on the way. Spinning with my arms wide open and looking up at the sky hoping that maybe, just maybe, God could see me and that in spite of messages I heard, HE loved me.

I was told later by my family that NO ONE would love me. I picked scabs (probably an obsessive-compulsive behavior as a way to cope with stress). I was told no one would love me with those scars.

In puberty I gained weight. Potato chips were a comfort food given early on when my mom didn’t want to deal with my emotions. No human comfort was available but food soothed. Then I got messages like: “She would be really pretty if she weren’t so fat.” I would be called “bubble-butt” and “thunder-thighs” and led to believe that my weight made me unlovable. Ah, but this wasn’t bullying in school. This was my daily home life.

As I struggled with depression as a teen I was told, when I fessed up to my feelings, that I was being manipulative, trying to get attention.

With all that rejection, there wasn’t much motivation to try hard. No one cared about my grades, or my successes. Getting a top score in solo-ensemble I was still told by my mother that I didn’t support my voice enough. Nothing I ever did around the house was good enough.

I’m a flawed human. That much was clear from early on.

Sometimes I think back to that little girl with frizzy hair and two pigtails that curled in frizzy ringlets who looked up to heaven for approval and I cry. God? Can you see me? Can you hear me? Is my picture on your refrigerator? Does anyone think I’m special?

All these years later I still struggle. It wasn’t “safe” for me to share my emotions, much less my hopes and dreams then. It’s not safe to do so now. Sharing emotions and dreams only leads to abuse from people who were “supposed” to love me.

And I struggle to be a healthy person in the midst of an unhealthy, emotionally abusive marriage. I haven’t found the balance. How do I experience my emotions in away that is safe for me? Holding them in and feeding them potato chips or sugar doesn’t make the problem better. Sharing them puts me at risk of more abuse. S0metimes I feel so needy and I”m afraid to overwhelm friends with that lest I find that they too are put off by me.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Sometimes I avoid journaling because I’m afraid of my feelings. I get discouraged at the chronic nature of my difficult circumstances. Will I ever NOT grieve the loss of a dream of a man would love and cherish me? I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how thin I get neither him or my family will love me for who I am. It’s a losing battle to even try to curry their affection.

And God? He loves me just as I am. Right here. Right now. Muddied emotions, scars and flab. HE looks beyond it all and he values my hopes and dreams because HE placed them in my heart. He values my efforts to serve because HE called me and equipped me to do it.

Now if I could only get my head and my heart to live fully in THAT reality.

How about you? Have you struggled to deal with emotions in the midst of difficulties and lack of validation?

Lilly Grace

Be Jesus to Me

Scripture tells me that God loves me. He died for me. He chose me before the beginning of time. Zephaniah 3:17 states he even delights in me.

I realized though that right now my relationship with God is a bit stale. I’ve been wounded to be sure and while those wounds were not from God they make me a bit hesitant to engage with Him. When words and actions of those who were supposed to love me have been anything but loving and kind, it’s hard to know that God is not like them.

I struggle. I know God is good. He has been very good to me. I know He loves me. He’s faithful. I struggle to grasp the depth of his delight in me. His unconditional regard and love for me even in my distance.

It’s not that I want to be distant. I don’t. Certain people who swore they loved God and said they loved me have proven to be false. It’s an unfortunate reality of life in a sinful world.  I’m amazed that God still speaks to me, uses me, works in and through me in spite of my perceived failure in drawing as close to Him as I feel I should be.

I know. I shouldn’t should myself. It’s a nasty habit.

I’m being honest. When day after day my husband abuses or ignores me, it feels like God is too. My husband is not God but in a biblical sense a husband is to be Jesus to his wife. He is to love her as Christ loved the church. That’s a tall order.

I long to be loved like that. I long to have a man love me as an extension, albeit flawed, of Jesus’ love for me. I long to be cherished as God cherishes me. I long to be sacrificed for, considered worthy of being protected and served.

Instead I get abuse and neglect. The wounds cut deep because the longing is huge.

Maybe someday God will send me a man who is worthy of that task who will be willing to bridge the hurt and help me to trust again. Maybe he won’t so I don’t make that man an idol. I long to be loved like that. I long to be led by that. I can barely fathom what it would be like to be in a relationship like that.

So maybe it’s unrealistic? I’m married to a man entrenched in his own self-importance and blames me for his own sins and failures. I become hopeless that he will ever change although  God is perfectly capable of doing it. However, if a man refuses to even admit his need for God and his need to change, God leaves him to his own devices. As a result I’m left with nothing but a shell of a marriage, in name only, and that hurts.

I wish I had an answer to my dilemma. I will continue to pray. I will be faithful to my vows and will not seek solace in another man’s arms. I will keep pursuing God with my wounded heart and pray He will continue to lovingly and gently woo me to himself in spite of the roadblocks humans have erected in my path.

God will hold those who hurt me accountable and I can take solace in that fact. The hurtful words and actions have consequences for me now but for them in eternity if they fail to bend their knee. Someday, my Prince will come and all will be made right because Jesus will be Jesus to me even if my husband refuses to.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

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