When a Dream Becomes a NightmareFeb 09, 2024
Sometimes the man of our dreams ends up being a nightmare, even if he professes to be a Christian. This can be confusing for a Christian woman. She has entered into a relationship with expectations of their life together – of love, building a life, being treasured. But, sometimes she ends up living something very different. She takes her marriage seriously; she wants to do the right thing and so she submits, she obeys, she forgives. And yet, it is never enough – the dream dies, the nightmare continues.
Statistically, 1 in 4 Christian women will find herself in a domestic abuse situation but she might not even aware she is being abused. Because domestic abuse is not talked about in many churches, a wife might think her reality is normal and she just needs to keep trying to do her best. And, regrettably, many churches are not equipped to support domestic abuse victims, so even if she does come forward seeking help, her church might cause further harm to her through their lack of knowledge about domestic abuse and how to support victims.
While fixing an abusive marriage is a hard and long journey, it is much easier to fix a lack of knowledge about domestic abuse in our churches. Raising awareness along with getting educated are a key components for effective support as well as prevention! When church leadership and support people are educated about domestic abuse they are then able to do 3 very important things:
- Learn – become educated about domestic abuse. What it is. What it looks like. How to help. What are the resources a victim needs?
- Listen – education enables listening with a wisdom to assess whether someone coming to them is in a domestic abuse situation or if it is normal marital conflict. Learn what key words mean and how to interpret them.
- Love – a domestic abuse victim or survivor wants to be loved where they are and according to what they need. Each person and abuse situation is different. Patience is key.
So, what is domestic abuse?
Domestic Abuse is defined as: a pattern of behavior used to gain and maintain power and control over another.
This pattern is very different than biblical oneness which is a coming together in a mutually beneficial relationship moving forward according to your desires as a couple, working together. Whereas in an abusive relationship, the woman is working hard to make the marriage work while the man is working to keep her oppressed – perhaps twisting Scripture to keep her under control.
The Power and Control Wheel provides an easy overview of tactics an abusive man.
It is important to understand the different varieties of abuse. Not all types of abuse are experienced by all women. Even so, abuse is abuse at any level!
- Property Damage
Colossians 3:8-9 “…put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices…”.
This verse (as well as others that refer to the old self or things to lay aside,) provides a good description of an abusive man. It is easy to see that God hates abuse – it is rebellion against Him.
The Cycle of Abuse provides a quick glimpse inside an abusive relationship. It is important to know that over time this cycle becomes more frequent until a woman is constantly walking on egg shells and living in fear.
When working with domestic abuse victims and survivors, it is good to be familiar with certain terms, such as:
Crazy Making/Gaslighting: References how a man tries to change a woman’s perception of reality by denial of something happening.
Confusion/Mental Fog: The relationship is confusing. She isn’t sure what to trust. He says he loves her but doesn’t treat her that way.
Narcissism (Sociopath, Psychopath): definition – Characterized by selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration. The lack of empathy keeps him from understanding the feelings of his wife. Often narcissistic men marry empathetic women.
This narcissistic mentality asks the wife to give herself up for the man when the Christian model for marriage is for the man to give himself up for his wife as Christ gave Himself up for the Church (Eph 5:25)
When church leadership and lay people are educated on domestic abuse, they can bring a light to this darkness. By talking about domestic abuse in churches, women suffering in silence can see that their church is a safe place for them to talk about what is going on at home. This may give them the courage to come forward for help and begin to find hope, healing, restoration of their identity in Christ.
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