Two months ago I wrote a post called Recognizing Pervasive, Poisonous Power in Marriage which gave an analysis of the problem. I based it on concepts found in The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. At the end, I promised a follow up post with suggestions on what she can do. Now that I've had time to do a little more research, here are my ideas.
- What was happening right before the incident occurred?
- What did he say or do to hurt you?
- How did it make you feel?
- How did he react to your reaction?
- How did all of this affect your children?
- What happened in the hours and days afterward?
- Did the same thing happen again?
- Were there any witnesses?
Document it! What may have seemed less significant at the time can shock you when it is compiled together with other incidents. You may be stunned to see the recurring patterns, progression, and accumulation of abuse. It takes courage to acknowledge that you have been treated so poorly, but you don't have to succumb to denial and despair. Identifying your problems is a necessary step to solving them. You may need help with this process. Sometimes when we are in the middle of the situation, we "can't see the forest for the trees" as the saying goes. The perspective of someone else may be what you need to get a clear picture.
- "When we are talking with each other, we should choose to speak with dignity and kindness. It is not acceptable to call me that name or scream at me. If you do that, the conversation will be over and I will walk away."
- "I expect that you will listen to me when I bring up a concern. It is not right to accuse me of being a rebellious wife when I object to your poor behavior. I will no longer allow you to silence me like that."
- "If you try to coerce me with intimidation, I will not cooperate with you what you want."
- "It is not acceptable to destroy things when you are mad. If you damage any of my possessions or any part of our home, they will be repaired or replaced at your cost."
- "You must be gentle with our little boy, even when he upsets you. Shaking him like that hurts him and scares him, and could injure his spine or brain. I will report any child abuse to social services."
- much less emotional intimacy with you, since you no longer trust him with your deeper feelings, and you refuse to "throw pearls before swine"
- other key people knowing about the problems he has caused; while appropriate discretion is always advised, telling the truth to those who can help you is not slander
- on-going professional counseling, with him paying for it
- marital separation, with all of the many financial and relational costs that this entails
- a protective injunction from the court if he is threatening or harming you or your children
- an arrest record if he chooses physical violence or other illegal behavior
- a divorce in a case of severe or protracted abuse; the article God Hates Divorce? by a pastor and Bible scholar Sam Powell could enhance your understanding of the original meaning of Malachi 2:16
If you can't seem to muster up the resolve to enforce boundaries and consequences for your own well-being, please remember your children! You are morally and legally obligated to protect them, not just from physical abuse, but from intimidation and emotional harm. This includes witnessing you get hurt, even if he doesn't touch them.