Abby and Emily looked like this at the time of this story.
“Peter” strode into the kitchen, cornered me and announced: “You’re a fucking asshole bitch, you know that? ” He raised his hand to squeeze and rotate my face, then neatly stepped beside me and kicked me in the butt.
Abby and Emily were happily coloring at the table, several feet away. All was happy, peaceful.
My counselor had told me to use “I feel” statements. So, I said, “I feel bad when you do that. I want you to stop.”
He sneered, repeated “You’re a fucking asshole bitch,” squeezed my face, and kicked me in the butt.
I said, “I want you to stop doing that.”
He sneered, repeated “You’re a fucking asshole bitch, ” squeezed my face, and kicked me in the butt.
I said, “You know, when you act like this, you put me in a really difficult position.”
“Oh, yeah…how’s that?” he mocked.
“Yeah.” I said. “If I allow you to treat me like this, then I teach those little girls at the table to buy into the same thing for their marriages. If I divorce you to make you stop, then they are trashed by divorce.”
He didn’t say a word, but seemed to tire of the game, and left the kitchen.
The girls happily colored and chatted at the table, oblivious.
OUT OF THE BLUE. I hadn’t done anything “wrong,” there was no prelude or issue. I suddenly understood something. I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING. THIS HAD TO DO WITH HIM, NOT ME. He wasn’t being picky, he was being ABUSIVE. For five years it had been eggs overdone or underdone, toast overdone or underdone, shirts not hung correctly, using the wrong word, wrong tone of voice, wrong route on the road, sausage overdone or underdone or “consolidated.” This time….it was nothing. Just because he felt like it.
A note on denial and crazy-making: I waited a couple of days, until Peter had changed back into Dr. Jekyl, and asked him about the incident. He didn’t know what I was talking about! I described in detail what he did and said. He looked at me as though I was insane, and said, “Why do you keep making up things to get mad about?” I never knew whether he really didn’t remember, or if he was just not copping.
Over the years, he has told me how cruel I was to control him with threats of divorce (four times over 19 years – this was the second).
Now, I wonder what is going through your mind as you read.
My first guess is that you are confused about why I didn’t walk out of the kitchen, but stood there and “took it.” (He was blocking my way – it would have required a shove or physical body block to get out – which could provide an excuse for physical violence – escalate).
You wonder why I didn’t just INSIST he stop. (Because I knew that raising my voice or using what he called a “pointed tone of voice” would make him ANGRY and loud – escalate – and alert the girls of the ugliness in front of them).
You may wonder why I had seen a counselor alone. (Because, for him, it was MY problem. I guess, for me, it was my problem, too. I had to learn to cope better, because I was sinking).
Or why I hadn’t left long ago. (Didn’t want the court system to give him unsupervised partial custody, or for him to be more angry and with partial custody, hope for healing and that the “real and nice” Dr. Jekyl version of Peter would come to stay, honoring and fearing God as I understood Him, love for kids and him, no way to prove his actions, eroded confidence, financial inferiority, no one else seeing the problem – and more).
Or what did I do that might have provoked him? (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, or heck if I know).
If so, you are responding typically, by focusing on WHY THE VICTIM STAYS. Which is just a gentler way of blaming the victim. Which maintains the status quo in public opinion about domestic abuse.
Did you also wonder:
What motivates him to abuse?
What would stop him from doing that?
What is his brokenness that needs to be healed, and how can that be done?
What can she do to protect herself and her kids?
What would she need for proof in a court of law?
How are his actions affecting the kids?
What recourse does she have?
How can he be held accountable?
How can I strengthen her and widen her options?
If you were wondering these things, you are FOCUSING ON THE ABUSER ALSO, which is right. And on stopping the abuse. And on practical, proactive steps to empower the woman/children to greater safety and health. And you are one person who can nudge public opinion in the right direction.
This doesn’t seem like such a hard change in perspective, once it has been explained. A Christian, however, may experience some conflict with scripture as he/she understands it, and some challenge from other Christians for focusing on the types of questions above, rather than more scriptural options.
Wives and submission (the Bible tells me so)
No divorce (only half of the verse….)
Causing him to commit adultery (a man has needs)
Causing him to stumble (poor guy)
Not acting in faith (God is saying yes, no, or wait….wait for it…..wait for it)
Giving way to fear (God won’t be pleased)
God’s ways are not our ways (so don’t think for yourself)
God won’t test you beyond what you can bear (so you must be able to bear it)
Not everyone expressed these views. They were just out there….for consideration and confusion.
So….. I figured out it was abuse. But I still didn’t know what I was allowed to do about it. As a Christian wife, that is.