Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

I’ve been pondering this part of the love chapter from Corinthians 13. It’s bothering me and maybe that’s good.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. 

In spite of how bad my marriage can be, my husband is not all bad. He can do nice things. He can be charming and witty. He is highly intelligent and can speak well on variety of subjects. He can be generous. But I used to naively think that when those nice times happened it meant a change. That things would be better. I’ve never had an apology.

So I tried to keep no record. And I was led to believe that all the reasons he was angry were my fault.

Ripper_Grunge[1]In spite of my masters degree in counseling psychology, I’d never taken a class on abusers and the psychology of emotional, verbal or physical abuse. I had never heard of gaslighting. According to Wikipedia it’s defined to “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”

So for all my education, the fact is, I was gaslighted as a kid too. So it took far longer for me to recognize this for what it was. Abuse.

My spouse is financially controlling. He refuses to give me money. He hides his money (even though I live in a marital property state).  He’s blamed his financial failures on me. Any struggles in his business are never his fault but someone else is always to blame.

There will be months of getting no money to buy simple things, like feminine products, dog food, shampoo or even a box of hair color since I’m not allowed to get my hair cut. So when he’s about to leave town and hands me a $50 bill I say thank you but am not deluded in thinking that he has suddenly become a loving and caring husband I’ve longed in my heart for.

Then there are the repeated broken promises. More like manipulations to get his way that he never fulfills. Or just another way to string me along to pull the rug out from under me and watch me crash. Again, usually around areas where he would have to spend money. “We’re broke” is his frequent excuses as he indulges in whatever his heart desires to buy.

I work hard to forgive. I leave the justice for my husband’s abuse in the hands of God. With no repentance there is no relationship between us beyond negotiating the care of our children. But when the good things come I know have to remind my romantic wishful heart of the core of who my husband is: a narcissistic abuser.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. I don’t have a physical list. I have friends who know the truth who can remind me when I get agitated about his mind games. They can remind me that he’s lied about money before. That he’s hiding money and using these concepts to abuse me. And they also remind me that God has always been faithful. God has always provided for my needs.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. There hasn’t been love in our marriage for a long time. Yes, my husband is an image-bearer of God. So I’ll work hard, with God’s help to treat him with respect even though I rarely receive that in return. But in order to stay grounded in a truth and fight the gaslighting, I have to remind myself of the harsh reality of the emotional/verbal/financial abuse. I don’t have bruises or broken bones to show.

Now because some will read this and tell me to leave – I’ll say this again. When God tells me to go, I will. In the meantime I will remind myself of the TRUTH. My husband is in name only. He does not love me as God commands. He may not even be capable of that. But God loves me and when HE says it’s time to separate, I will take that step in obedience to Him. In the meantime I will carve out a life for myself outside of that relationship. I will lean into God and seek to grow through the pain.

And I will keep a record.

 

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Mental Illness and the Difficult Marriage and yes, Robin

I haven’t posted for some time and resisted even writing this.

This week Robin Williams died. He struggled with a mental illness. Some say it was depression and other’s say bi-polar. Either way, he struggled and gave into the darkness and the light he shared with the world has been snuffed.

Robin was married three times. Three. From what I understand, all three women loved him. He had children who adored him. All of these individuals knew his struggles with addictions and depression. They all cared.

Yet I heard someone blame his wife for Robin’s suicide because she was not in the bedroom with him that night.

Wait. Excuse me? Did you have a front row seat to the pain of that marriage? Did you walk with his wife through the heights and depths of what Robin struggled with in his mind and soul?

No. You didn’t.

Especially if Robin was bi-polar, the fact that his wife was still there, married to him, says volumes about her love and devotion. They could have shared a room and he could have shot himself in the garage. When someone makes the decision to kill themselves (and yes, it is a decision even if they feel they have no other choice), it is not the fault of the people left.

When I began to realize that the pain of my marriage wasn’t all my fault, that my husband was really ill with who knows what, I was scared. As I made changes in my behavior and stopped feeding into his insanity, he grew worse in some ways. I spoke to my pastor, almost asking permission to seek to be healthy. He affirmed I needed to be healthy for my own sake, my kids and my ministry.

“So if my husband kills himself, it’s not my fault. Right?”

He nodded. If my husband reacted to my pursuit of psychological health, by killing himself, that was his deal. Not mine. I had no culpability in it whatsoever. He is an adult and responsible before God for his choices in the way he treats his wife, and in how he lives his life.

My husband is still alive. I still struggle. Should he die I wouldn’t be like Robin’s wife, claiming to have lost my best friend.

I have great admiration for spouses who stick with a husband or wife who struggles with bi-polar disorder. It can make a marriage difficult and rational thought can be hard to find during certain aspects of this illness. I’m not saying my husband is bipolar. He’s not been diagnosed. He’s mentally unhealthy though and many would agree with me on that. It’s not just a disgruntled wife’s complaint.

It’s a verbally and emotionally abused wife’s truth. And the fact is, mental illness can manifest itself in abuse of others. Not always and it doesn’t have to be tolerated.

So please pray for his wife and children as they move forward with his gaping hole in their lives. I’m sure that while they wished for Robin’s freedom from the pain he struggled with, this would never have been on their list of choices as to how that would come about.

And if you are struggling with a spouse with mental illness–you are not alone. Get help and support from a therapist or a support group. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone or let yourself become a victim of the illness either.

And if you’re hurting . . . maybe this song by Rich Mullins, one of my favorites, will be a blessing to you.

Blessings to you,

Lilly Grace

 

Is It Wrong to Long for “Happy?”

Marriage is not about our happiness. It is about our holiness.

I often say this, because I believe it. But the reality is this.

I would really like some “happy”. 

Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think that’s a curse handed down for generations. I was told as a kid to “follow my heart.” But Scripture says the heart is deceitful above all. So that advice isn’t really helpful. And the fact is, maybe I did follow it down a path that I thought would lead me to happiness–by marrying a man who in hindsight was not a good choice for me.

But at the time I didn’t think I had any other choices.

No one will want you. This was a message I was given as a kid. But you know what? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because even though I got married, the reality is, my husband doesn’t want me. I’m not blonde enough. I’m not thin enough. I obviously do not worship him the way he desires.

I did try three burnt offerings a day but it went unappreciated.

I’m joking, I am a good cook and he eats too much of whatever it is I make.

The fact is, I have to grieve what I don’t get. I don’t get to be treasured. I don’t get to be protected. I am barely provided for. As a person I am non-existent unless it is important, or he finds something to fault me for.

But I would still like happy.

I want happy for others too . . . and this has caused some problems. See I tried to help a friend going through a tough time in her marriage. That’s not the problem. The problem was I took the weight of her pain and added it to my own. And I wanted to try to fix it.

Fixing my difficult marriage or someone else’s is not my job.

It’s God’s responsibility.

And I have to learn to let go of happy for not only me–but for others.  I wish I could say this is easy but it’s not. See, I would love to see adulterous men held accountable. I would like to see abusive men confronted.

Not my job. And the reality is sometimes those confrontations cause even more pain for an already hurting wife (or ex-wife). I need to let God take responsibility because He can handle the consequences as well. It’s not my job to save the world.

Whew, what a relief!

My heart aches for those who are hurting in difficult marriages. My heart yearns for someone to speak God’s truth to my own husband about his behaviors or, as my pastor sometimes refers to it, put on a velvet glove and smack him upside the face. As part of a desire to be rescued from our pain, I suspect that wish is only natural.

But God is sovereign. He sees your pain. He sees mine. He knows the beginning from the end and none of this journey is wasted as we persevere in our difficult marriages. He is good. Faithful. Provider. Even when my logical mind can’t figure out the way he’ll work things out, maybe that’s even more reason for me to hide in that. So I will trust in Him.

And maybe in that place of trust and peace, I’ll find my own version of happy.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Choosing Your Battles: Speak Up or Bite Your Tongue?

I’m a talker, but have learned that with a verbally abusive spouse, sometimes silence is the best response to things. If I share even innocuous things, they could be used to belittle me later.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For instance. A few months back my kids wanted me to make macaroni and cheese. Yes, Kraft. Right out of the box. I’ve made it more times than I can number. For some odd reason, my noodles came out so mushy it was disgusting. So I tried again. I timed it and everything! Same issue. The kids and I laughed at my inability that night to boil noodles and we had pizza instead.  Remember that in 12 years time of making boxed mac, I’ve only had that one night of failure.

My husband often makes the mac ‘n cheese though and the other night he was doing so at a child’s request and I jokingly called him “Mac Daddy: King of the Macaroni and Cheese.”

His response: “That’s because I follow the directions and you don’t.”

Say what? I walked away shaking my head. What an idiotic comment though. This man has benefited for over twenty years with my ability to follow a recipe and create tasty meals that he devours. Leftovers? Rarely happens because of him. I know I can follow a recipe and what happened that night with the noodles? I have no idea. I”ve never had an issue at any other time. One night of a silly failure does not make me a bad cook.

One comment though does make him a thoughtless husband and is evidence of the subtle at times verbal abuse I struggle with.

There are times I have confronted though. I just have to pick my battles and know when to walk away. If’ I’m going to walk away, doing so before the battle begins is a better option than in the midst of it. In other words, I won’t pick a fight if I can help it. How can I do that?

Well, my husband thinks he is superior in anything he does. Let’s go back to the kitchen. From washing dishes to loading the dishwasher to filling ice-cube trays, my husband believes and has stated that he knows best how to do those things and I of course, am a failure at them.What is interesting, however, is how often I have to do them when I am, by his account, so inept. I really would not be offended if he chose to wash dishes and load and unload the dishwasher every day.

But it’s not worth pursuing because he only does it to try to get a rise out of me. So I don’t give him the opportunity. When he is in the kitchen, if I can at all do it, I leave. If the kids want something, they need to ask him. I will not go in and put myself in his path physically or verbally. My kitchen just isn’t big enough for the two of us.

But speaking up can also be good. My husband doesn’t hear me when I speak though. He can only hear his own wonderful thoughts and ideas. So when it is really important – I send him an email. Does that sound cowardly? It is honestly terrifying for me because I have had some come back with abuse as well. The up side to that is I have documented proof of the reality of my marriage. It has helped to give my support system a view of that so they can see the lies and twisting of truth that comes through in those messages.

A woman I talked to the other day has been keeping things very quiet about an issue with her upcoming divorce. She said if anyone finds out, her husband blames her for it. I told her that since he initiated the divorce and abandoned his family, by keeping it a secret from the world, she is enabling him to avoid the consequences of his sin. Will she speak up and be honest about it? I don’t know. There will be a negative consequence if she does, but keeping a secret is tearing her up inside too and allows him to skip along his merry way. The long shot is he would repent. But without consequences, will he? My only prayer is that someone not only prays for this man – but that someone (preferably a man) will confront him as well.

Every situation requires prayer and I believe at times when I have confronted verbally, it has been at the urging of the Holy Spirit and when that has happened, fear did not figure into it. It’s hard to pray and be ready when the time is right. It is hard to bite my tongue too when I long to hurl nasty words back at the insults tossed my way. God helps me with both of those.

Speak now or forever hold your peace. I don’t remember if those words were in our wedding ceremony or not, but sometimes they are a good rule to live by.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

 

Why a Great Marriage is a lot like Ice Dancing

I’ve been obsessed with watching Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s rise to getting the Gold at Sochi and while I haven’t been able to watch the Olympics, I have kept tabs.

As I watched videos of their performances from last month, as they prepared for Sochi, I was struck by how a great marriage is a lot like ice-dancing.

  • Life is hard. So is ice.
  • The man leads and protects his partner. He even elevates her and goes out of his way to make her look good. He may be bigger, stronger, taller, but he never flaunts that to overshadow his partner.
  • The woman follows and leans on her partner.
  • There is great respect and trust. One would have to in order to be lifted up and twirled about like that!
  • Great discipline and teamwork in private practice, impacts what is seen on the ice. So too in marriage. Good communication, regular dates all go towards a beauty seen by others.
  • The team is greater than the members. They need to be in synch regardless of what kind of day they’ve had.
  • Time makes up a good team. Concentrated time together. I’ve seen videos of Meryl and Charlie even working out together.
  • Being tuned into your partner allows you to stay in synch. Watch those twizzles!
  • When done well, a great marriage, like a beautiful ice dance, brings glory and honor to the Creator of all beauty.

I have none of this in my marriage, which is maybe why I find watching them dance on ice resonates with the deep longing in my soul for that kind of marriage.

Here is one of the dances they were to do at Sochi. Enjoy.

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.

No One to Warm Me Up.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have avoided, up to this point, talking about the more physical aspects of a broken marriage. I’ll be honest though that it has been years since I have had sex. Not that I don’t desire the intimacy or long to be touched and cherished. I do. Very much.

But my husband slammed the door on that years ago and I’ve had no desire to approach it with him. I don’t approach it with anyone else either, just to be clear.

As long as I choose to be married (or even sepearated), I am not free to pursue a relationship with another man. Even as a friend.

Ouch. Yes, I said that. Only becuase I have had male friends in the past who were closer to me emotionally than my husband. I didn’t know at the time that this was an emotional affair. The sad and tragic thing about it was that both our spouses were thrilled with our relationship. Maybe because they didn’t have to meet our needs? Can you imagine spouses encouraging such a thing? Well, the sad thing is, ours did.

That’s long ago in the past and while I sad to lose a good friend, I am glad that I was spared the opportunity to take it deeper and further. Often that is where an emotional affair ends up being physical.

Affairs are usually not about sex, but about intimacy.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to be intimate again. Would I even know how – emotionally and physically? I obviously didn’t do it well the first time around but then, it takes two, doesn’t it?

Now, I find some release of those needs through writing and reading inspirational romance novels. I have at times fasted from them. I have a dear friend who won’t read them because it highlights to her all that she does not have in her difficult marriage. These books are not  porn, but they remind me that such love does exist.

Sometimes hearing and watching couples who have intimacy and adore each other for years and years and years, is what highlights more to me what I lack than reading a novel ever does.

Marriage is not about happiness or sexual fulfillment although in a good one, those come as bonuses. Marriage is about holiness, how we let our struggles grow us in Christ. And even in this lack of physical affection, Christ is still there to walk me through. Sometimes friends around who can be Jesus with skin on, help.

I have to remember that a disease or accident or other tragedy can bring a couple to this pass and God doesn’t hand out “get out of marriage” cards willy nilly. Sometimes life is just hard.

And God walks through it with us, loving us, even when our spouse can’t.

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