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DivorceWise Newsletter
Issue 16 - 2002 by Kari West - Garden Glories Publications
Topic: Domestic violence/abuse

Welcome Survivor!

Domestic violence and/or abuse is often described as "the death of a soul." The broken bones and bruises of physical assaults and the trauma of verbal attacks and emotional manipulation are destabilizing. If you lived in an abusive marriage, you know that the mind and heart remember forever these violations. In this newsletter, we'll meet Joyce in Illinois and Natalie in Maine who revisit the pain of past relationships to share with us what they've learned about abuse.

Here's what is new

If you write poetry, the following may be of interest:

New Leaf Works is sponsoring an annual poetry contest. The second annual Odes of March Poetry Contest 2001 is now accepting entries. The contest is for Christian poets only, offering a grand prize of $200 in cash and numerous other cash and merchandise prizes. This is an open competition. The deadline for entries is February 15, 2002. Information about the contest, rules, and entry forms can be found at http://www.snowfaux.com/odes.htm.

Personal Reflection by Joyce in Illinois

In the spring of 1977, I was a single 32-year-old mom raising my son and nephew. I met a man who I thought was the answer to a prayer. He took charge, fixed my car, did small repairs around the house, flew kites with the boys. Within six months, I married him. Quickly his trait of taking control became less than admirable. However, this was my second marriage; I was determined that it not fail, so I just tried harder.

And thus began a downward spiral of our relationship and a cycle of my rewarding my husband for his sullen moods and outrageous angry outbursts. I lived in constant fear of his rejection. I often wonder now if it was because I had been previously married and had the self image of being "used goods." Since he had never been married and I was part of a package plan that included two young boys, I'd make him happy; he'd see! But when I reached a performance level acceptable to him, he simply raised the bar. I kept hoping that one day he would wake up and see what a treasure I truly was and begin to treat me lovingly. And so I spent my life pleasing, or at least, placating him. After 24 years, I moved out. In retrospect I see that my husband was verbally abusive. Since leaving, I discovered that:

  • Verbal abuse is a form of violence and brainwashing; psychological and emotional torture; mental anguish and emotional dependence. It is not a form love. Verbal abuse is not "just the way your partner is."
  • Abuse is never warranted, deserved, or justified. You do not cause the abuse; your partner does.
  • You can never be good enough to end the abuse. You cannot change the abuser; he must do that himself.
  • Your partner is not your friend. He is not trying to help you or teach you, nor does he have your best interest at heart.
  • If you feel like you are being attacked, you probably are.

You see, from my husband's viewpoint, I failed to live up to his expectations and was deserving of punishment. Also, I discovered that I have a self-imposed philosophy of "deservedness and undeservedness." I can't help but wonder, Did that exist before I married him? Did the bumps on his head fit the holes in mine? I accepted as being "deserved" any accusation that contained a grain of truth that was levied against me. One of his most frequent complaints was my outside involvements. In retrospect, that is exactly what kept me in the relationship the last couple of years. The diversions were all in an effort to avoid and escape the rip tide of my husband's criticism, negativity, and anger.

I thought moving out would be the end of my misery. Not so. Having spent more than half of my adult life weighing every thought, decision, and action with my husband's approval in mind was a habit not easily broken. I had allowed my spouse's acceptance and approval determined my intrinsic worth; he had defined me. Now I was coloring outside those lines, and I panicked! I had much to learn, like:

  • Crumbs of decent, caring, loving, normal behavior do not make a feast. Acknowledge the famine and do something about it!
  • Exposing yourself to long-term verbal abuse puts you in jeopardy emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
  • Self respect is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
  • You are worthy of respect from others.
  • You cannot expect other people to treat you any better than you treat yourself.
  • The stronger and more independent you grow and the more accepting of yourself you become, the more likely you will choose to do what is in your best interest.

After six months, I am beginning to feel more comfortable. But I can't help but wonder, am I really coloring over those lines or are they just fading away? I am trusting the Lord to guide me into wholeness and wellness. What I have found is that my need to be loved overshadowed my need for self-respect. The Lord is counseling me through not only Kari's books, but through many other authors as well. To my amazement, there is such a thing as "the disease to please" (described in accuracy and detail in Harriet B. Braiker's book, The Disease to Please). As a people-pleaser, I often felt inadequate, disassociated from my feelings, not really sure of my thoughts and definite had no idea of what I wanted for myself. By removing myself from my husband's influence, the Lord is beginning to change these faulty thought patterns. I'm finding that there is no way that I can change myself; I must cooperate with God when He shows me what to do.

For the promise stated in Jeremiah 29:11 to become reality, I must choose to turn from the past and look forward to what God wants to do for me and through me. It is not easy. I console myself with the reality that the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert; it's only taken me 24! Sometimes I feel like a trapeze artist who has to let go of one bar in order to reach out and grab the next. I keep reminding myself that Jesus is my safety net. God's approval frees me from seeking the approval of others. He created me unique and special.

I still find myself longing for the illusion of a relationship that existed only in my imagination. The truth and the reality of my marriage was one of destruction and disease. I take comfort knowing that I am not alone. Even though leaving the old life and starting a new one is difficult, I am willing myself to go through temporary discomfort. I am learning to love myself, to be tender with myself, and to fill my days with people who care and share. With God's help, I never again will lose myself out of fear of being like. I am no longer living under the influence of an unloving mate. My past cannot control me. I deserve better. I want tenderness that doesn't bite. I want love that doesn't hurt, as Marcia Grad writes about in The Princess Who Believed in Fairy Tales: "If you're in more pain more often than you are happy, it isn't love." I want caring and sharing--and peace.

Personal Reflection by Natalie in Maine

After 17 years of marriage, my husband decided he wanted out--again. He had reached that point before, but never like this. He always felt that he never should have married me, was forced into it by well-meaning friends and family; and since I was a divorced person when we married, he felt the marriage was not valid; that I was not really his wife but someone else's. He said that I could not have a diamond ring because I was not a real wife nor could I have a headboard on my bed. Many times he used the passage in the Old Testament about giving your wife a writ of divorce and putting her apart from you if you find something unclean about her. The stories, excuses, lies, and accusations went on for years, during which time he slept separately from me, then slept with me; didn't talk to me, then told me that it made him sick to eat with me; refused to sit with me in church--all this while we were in pastoral counseling. I was called names like "Bugs, Nats, and Flies" and "Natty Too Tall," meaning if I were a real woman, I would be shorter. It was also common for me to hear, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

Finally one January, he announced that divorce was the only answer for our problem, because we'd learned in counseling that it's not the unpardonable sin. In fact, the counselor asked my husband in front of me if he could have an intimate relationship with some other woman since he could not with me. He said that he thought so. I stopped going to counseling, because I got real tired of being beat up every week. In March, he filed for divorce; in April, moved out; by June, I learned he had suffered abuse as a child and offered to help him work through it to and to restore our marriage, but he declined; and in July, a divorce was granted.

Through the grace of God, I kept the house. Today, there are no creditors calling me nor any worry about whether my husband will continue working. I have a wonderful job at a Christian ministry. Chapter 13 in "When He Leaves" about verbal abuse and emotional manipulation speak volumes to me. Although I want to wake up and find it is all a bad dream, I'm thankful to Noelle and Kari for showing those of us in the beginning stages that there is a tomorrow and that we do have worth apart from our former husbands.

Help for today by Kari

If an abusive relationship is part of your past, gift yourself with grace. Instead of beating yourself up for what you did not understand and could not control, look at it this way: There are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned. Remember that we don't always have the luxury to choose our response when we are struggling for our sanity. Reacting to abuse, we are one type of person--not necessarily who we truly are at the core of our being. For survival's sake, we will say and do things that we would never contemplate during normal circumstances. Abusers know this. They are experts at shifting the blame to unleash our guilt and shame so we focus on how our behavior or response hurt them. No wonder we learn to please and keep the peace.

Remember that the only one qualified to play God in your life is God. And He loves you passionately. You are of great worth. The psalmist wrote, "O, Lord, you have searched me and known me" (Ps. 139:1). Chaqar, the Hebrew word for "searched," is a mining term. It means to probe or examine and carries the connotation of God digging through you deeply, as for jewels. Don't squander the moment in front of you worrying about what you cannot change, didn't do or understand. Release your abuser to God, who judges rightly. He knows the truth of what you've been through.

You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.

--Lord Morley

Poetic Reflection by Carol in New York

Is It You, Lord?

Is it You, Lord, who covers me alone on my bed?

While I'm fighting the war, in my dreams, in my head.

When the air turns from sticky to freezing, then cold.

And there is no one in sight, not even to hold.

Is it You, Lord, who has never left me alone

To fend for myself, to shiver and groan?

I wake up at daybreak, content and aware,

That someone has covered me; someone has cared.

Maybe you believe it and maybe you don't,

I just know comfort and mercy and love.

I wake up each morning, the covers are there.

Did I do it myself? If I did, I'm not aware.

Lord, You cover me daily with kindness and strength,

Why not with covers? You love me at length!

You protect me, and cherish me and cleanse me from sin.

Of Your love and protection, how can I begin?

You warm me and satisfy from deep down within.

Why not the whole man in meeting my needs,

To cover me kindly, from head to my feet?

Is it You, Lord? I think so, but even if not,

I know that You're watching and listening intently all right.

I feel covered, and cared for, each day, and by night.

Warmed by Your love, but what can I say?

I am eager to begin each and every new day!

"Is It You, Lord?" 2001 by Carol, whose husband left her after 28 years of marriage and four children

Poetic Reflection by Natalie in Maine


You took from me and would not give

And now I only want to live

Away from the shadow of your heart

Begin again, and now to start

To be, to feel

To find the real

To once again be who I am

Not a blank, a shell, a sham

Find again a meaningness

Not living in a hellish mess

Now to have the things I can

Like flowers, wind chimes, and the sand

To feel the warmth of newborn sun

To chase the waves that shoreward run

To climb the mountains, feel the sky

And let the days go linger by

To smell the morning, feel the dew

And no longer have memory of you.

"Good-bye" 2000 by Natalie


A promise you can trust

 Submitted by Joyce:

BEING CONFIDENT OF THIS: that he who began a good work in you willcarry it on to comp letion until the day of Christ Jesus. ---Phil 1:6

In the meantime

Don't hesitate to write. I am here for you, however I can encourage or help. Please feel free to share what helped you through your divorce so others know they are not alone and that they too can and will survive. E-mail by Clicking Here or write Kari West, Garden Glories Publications, P. O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588.

Copyright 1998 - 2002 by Kari West