I spent years in silence while I suffered in an abusive marriage. I couldn't bear the thought of sharing what I was going through with others; I genuinely believed all the while that my husband would change and I would regret having opened up about our problems.
After nearly a decade of this silent suffering, I started to wondering if speaking out wouldn't be a better way to find help. Obviously I was out of my league when it came to handling our issues and so I would confide in a handful of friends, and eventually my parents.
The support I received was immense. I was encouraged to seek professional help and it was only after beginning therapy that I was able to put the correct word to the way I was being treated: ABUSE.
After five years of speaking up and learning everything I could about emotional abuse, I felt somewhat better about being able to handle myself despite his outbursts. However, I didn't feel much further along in my quest to end the cycle.
Boy, we victims can stay in denial for a LOOOOOOONG time.
But without warning, my "ah ha" moment finally came. In the midst of a conversation I was having with my mother about yet another abusive episode, she looked at me puzzled and said, "Doesn't it scare you when he says that?"
I panicked a little when my obvious answer was no. This was my normal.
I explained to Mother that I knew he would come back around so I wasn’t worried. He always did. Then she said something that changed my perspective forever.
"I would be afraid if your father ever did anything like that to me."
In an instant, I realized what she was telling me. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Healthy men don't do this. Healthy men don't rely on a woman to be the best version of themselves. Healthy men seek to protect their wives, rather than exploiting them.
Whether or not we had great examples of male headship in our youth, abuse victims often normalize what is happening to them. We often think that our abuser will figure it out because we know at his core, he's not a bad guy. And maybe he's not. Maybe he just does bad things. Over. And over. And over.
But I did have that healthy male role model. I have a great dad who has always shown me that his whole reason for existing on this planet is to serve the Lord. In all that had happened to me, I couldn't believe I never asked myself, "Would my dad do this?"
1 Peter 3:7 says "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (ESV)
That phrase for "in an understanding way" really could be translated "with wisdom." A healthy man uses wisdom, not emotions, to connect with the needs of his wife. He then uses this wisdom to SHOW her honor. Not demand honor. Not promise her he will honor her if she capitulates. He actively demonstrates honor, even when the chips are down.
And that’s because healthy men are men of ACTION.
And while I'm not suggesting healthy men get it right 100% of the time, the truth is a man who is truly striving after Jesus doesn't change the way he treats you just because he's stressed or has a hard time coping with circumstances. He knows he's called to bless you IN SPITE of them.
I'm so thankful that despite the fact I spent years in an unhealthy situation, I have a dad who, just by the way he lives, showed me what biblical masculinity is really about. But if you didn't, don't worry, your heavenly Papa has penned out everything you need to know.
We recommend abused women seek out a community of believers in which there are devoted men and women who can teach you what it means to be in a healthy spiritual family. You may not have had what you needed before this point in time, but you can find support and comfort in the fellowship of the Body of Christ.
Who were your healthiest male role models? What do (did) they do to show you what male headship should look like?
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