Fighting the Victim Mentality

Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is challenging when beset by any chronic issue, whether it be health, family stuff that never changes, or, a difficult marriage, to not feel like a victim.

I’ve had all three and fight so often from falling into that “woe is me” type of thinking. As if I am stuck.

But it sure feels that way in the moment.

That’s where I have to remind myself that I have choices.  For now, in my marriage, I chose to stay for a variety of compelling reasons. I would struggle whether I stay or go, but I covered that in another post.

So here’s the deal. I have to remind myself and soak up affirmation from others since I won’t get it from my husband. Affirmation on my personhood, my mothering, my work and ministry I engage in. No one friend can handle and provide all I need. I still need to be willing to listen, care and pray about their struggles and pain. There are also wonderful words of Scripture that I got to for comfort and affirmation too. God delights and loves me even if my husband doesn’t.

I also set boundaries. Sometimes establishing some guidelines for decisions helps when the time comes to use them. They provide a shield to hide behind and minimize some of the situations where I feel helpless.

  • I don’t email my friends every day with the latest in my saga. After awhile if feels like just more of the same. I bore myself with the same ol’ same ol’.   Most of the time God is the only one who needs to hear my struggle. I have a private journal for that. 
  • I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” boundary because of my husband’s verbal abuse. I kept offering to share my life with him and kept getting abused. So now I don’t share anything personal without being asked. The sad thing is, he never asks. Thankfully I have friends to share my joys and sorrows with as my husband is not interested in hearing about them . 
  • I also determine how much I can do. Do I have to bend to every autocratic demand he makes. No. I don’t, and neither do the kids. See, sometimes his demands are not for “family time” like he says, but for boosting his image in the eyes of others. So there are times I say no, but in a respectful manner. He can go do whatever he wants and we will abstain. 
  • Because he regularly fails to show up when I need him, I’ve learned to live my life without him. I plan for events when it will least inconvenience my children. Like when they are in school. Or hire a sitter if I need to go out. They are getting older now and  need that less. If he’s able to do it, I let him, but I don’t count on him and it saves me a ton of disappointment. 
  • When I was teaching, I used to have a boundary on when I would be a substitute on a  worship team. It could never been on the same weekend because I knew I couldn’t count on my husband for that much and didn’t want to relegate my children to the background of ministry. 
  • Another boundary I have is physical. He alienated me years ago so bedtime isn’t the issue. (It is hard to be aroused when you are told how fat you are, like really?) Being in the same bathroom or kitchen together is a problem. It sets me up for attack if he perceives I am in his way. Sometimes that means the dishes don’t get done or the dishwasher unloaded when I would like, but I prefer the peace, that avoiding being in close proximity to him, provides. 
  • We finally established a more livable routine for Sunday mornings, too. He takes a separate car because he is often late and the kids and I despise that. So we go on by ourselves. Quite often he never shows, but my car is filled with other kids from the neighborhood. I shake off any shame of being abandoned by him knowing he’s the one making himself look bad. Not me.

By taking even the smallest steps to do things that are good and healthy for me, I do better against succumbing to the victim mentality. I’m not saying my thinking never goes there. It does. I had lived there for so long it is a habit that is hard to break. I’m not doing these things to be selfish either. He has made choices to abuse and I have, in response, made choices to protect myself. Some abuses have escalated the more I thrive apart from him, but that’s understandable. I am not reacting the way he wants or expects.

Too bad. So sad.

Do I feel bad that he is losing out on life with me and the kids? Absolutely. But he’s made his choices too and I just got off the crazy train and forged my own, healthier path.

How about you? What boundaries can you set to be emotionally healthier as you stay married?

Blessings, Lilly Grace

Gratitude in the Midst of Suffering

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my part of the world, it is Thanksgiving Day. A day when we stop and celebrate the good things that God has done. For some it means nothing more than gorging on food and planning their black Friday or even Thursday shopping. For the record, I’m not in that camp. I hate shopping in crowds. Used to work retail over the holidays and hated it. The pressure put on those employees to move fast and efficiently all while being nice to crabby people. Well, let’s just say the speed thing wasn’t my forte. That was well over  32 years ago not and I’m beyond glad to be out of it. Bless all of you who have to work today to support your families, because taking off could mean losing your job. Oh, and then there’s football. Or hunting. The day has so lost it’s original sacred meaning.

I digress though. Holidays can be emotional minefields for those in a difficult marriage. The combination of expectations with a relationship already broken and extended time in each other’s presence, can be stressful.

So how do you manage this? I’m preparing my heart as I write this. Here are my own feeble tips.

  1. If you are invited to someplace doesn’t mean you have to say ‘yes’ and go. You don’t even have to give an excuse. You do have a right to decide where and when and how you celebrate. It is a choice.
  2. Family is important so I get that sometimes we make that difficult choice to go. You are not obligated to share anything you don’t want to with anyone. It’s your right to say, “Thank you for asking, but that’s personal and I really would rather not talk about it.” In our culture we have become so invasive in the lives of others and privacy and boundaries of decency are crossed to often because we don’t feel we have the right to keep our thoughts and opinions to ourselves. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to.
  3. With those who are difficult, I refer you to this post I wrote a while back: Pigs and Pearls.
  4. If things are tense and you are able to, set a time limit or drive separately so you can leave if you feel the need to. I used to have asthma attacks due to the stress and my husband would ignore my distress or need to leave. With my own vehicle I have the freedom to do what his healthy for me. I know not everyone has that option.
  5. If you can spend time journalling your feelings and make a list of at least five things you are grateful for, it can help. How has God revealed Himself to you in your suffering? How has He grown you? What have you learned that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise? Sometimes reflecting on these blessings can give us back the sacredness that is too often lost in the stress.

Praying for you, that as you labor and toil to preserve your marriage that you can see those blessings and be grateful for them. God sees your pain and He knows your heart and He adores you beyond your wildest imagination.

Living in the Grey

One of my favorite books to read to my son when he was a baby was Dr. Seuss, “My Many Colored Days.” It’s a simple book that looks at colors and moods. Our copy didn’t survive three children; it was well loved and worn.

The pages that struck me the most where these: “Grey day, I look, but nothing moves today.” It had a grey owl. Amidst all these vibrant colors– there was a grey day.

I’ve had many “grey” days lately as I’ve struggled with depression and just the chronic nature of my life circumstances. Winter doesn’t help either does it? Without the sun shining much, many days truly are grey.

But as much as we like color, don’t we often wish that life were more black and white? We can read Scripture and find some clear indications on how we should live. .. but then there are the grey areas where Scripture is not so clear and doesn’t speak to an issue.

Should we move to this house?

Should we accept this job offer?

Do we continue that relationship with a toxic person?

Which diet or exercise plan do we embark on?

Should we go on an anti-depressant or gut it out?

Is this the best church for our family to attend?

How about this: Do I have grounds for divorce? How far do we have to submit to our husbands? How do we love someone who is abusive to us? Where is the line between healthy boundaries and sacrificial living? Do we have free-will or is everything for-ordained?

Grey. Cloudy. Oft-debated issues. Dr. Seuss took into account having “mixed up days” as well. . . but it was okay, because we all go back to being ourselves in the end.

But grey is a horse of a different color, isn’t it? There’s nothing definitive there. We might find some guidelines, but ultimately even prevailing wisdom isn’t always what God is calling us to.

Missionaries who sell all they have to move to a foreign land and live off sometimes unstable donations of their supporters. Wise? Only in God’s economy.

The wife who stays in a loveless marriage with a recalcitrant spouse who neglects her and doesn’t provide well. Wise? Maybe, in God’s economy.

The woman who serves and serves and serves and rarely ever takes. Is she being used and unable to say ‘no” or is she fulfilling God’s calling in her life?

Do you struggle with the grey areas? I do. Sometimes I want the line drawn more clearly, yet God calls us to lean into Him during the grey, and listen and heed HIS voice above even worldly wisdom. And then obey. Someday He will make it all clear.

Where is your grey area? Where do you struggle to hear God in the grey?  Just know – He IS there with you.

Blessings,

LGB

Out of Control

I want some control in my life. The feeling that maybe, somehow, I have choices and can make a difference in the outcome of whatever circumstances I find myself in.

But so often the control I have is superficial. I can choose what outfit to wear and even what I’m going to eat and whether or not I will “cheat” on my diet. (I don’t).

I cannot chose how another person will respond to me. I cannot force someone to call me.  I cannot make anyone care about my struggles. What value would that have anyway?

I am doing a diet where weight-loss is all but guaranteed. I’ve done it before and know that the weight will stay off. I consider it kind of like permanent liposuction, without the surgery. However, for some reason, my body does not let go of its fat easily. I follow the protocol to the letter and have days where the scale doesn’t move. I know I am losing inches. Things are happening that I cannot see. However much I try to control my diet, my body has its own methods that go totally beyond my ability to control.

I cannot stop breathing. I am unable to NOT think of something. Try it. Do not think of ice cream.  Hmm, bet an image just popped into your head!

In reality, not much in this world is in my control. On a slick road, I can drive carefully and still might end up in an accident or in the ditch due to no fault of my own. Every breath I take is determined by God—not me. Even whether I am able to really sleep tonight, is beyond my ultimate control.  I’ve even been awake with meds designed to aid sleep!

I hate the feeling of helplessness that comes with not having control. That is, until I relax and realize that another more positive word for that is surrender, or dependence. That would be scary if I didn’t know WHO I was surrendered to or dependant upon. I put my faith in Jesus Christ. He put the stars in the sky. He calms the oceans. He knows how many fat cells are dying day by day in my body. He gives me my next breath, and my ability to think, communicate, and blog!

So maybe not always being in control is an okay thing, when I relax into the arms of the One who has my sometimes seemingly out-of-control life, in His perfectly capable and wise hands.

How about you? Can you relax with the areas you cannot control and trust Jesus to be with you there?

Blessings,
LGB