Defusing a conversation with an abusive husband can be very difficult. In the barrage of insults, accusations, and harsh words, many women find themselves reacting. They may even wonder if they are in fact the abusive one (see our first post on the origination of abuse here).
Stopping the cycle involves disengaging your emotions from the situation to stop the abuse itself. Proverbs 26:20 says, "For lack of wood the fire goes out," (NIV) While we often want to defend ourselves and convince our abusive spouse that we have their best interests in mind, doing so only sends a signal to an argumentative man that he might be on to something.
And, it only gets you stirred up when he uses your own words and feelings against you.
If you haven't already, make sure to read our post about what respect for an abusive husband is (and what it's not) to make sure you have the proper, Christ-centered mindset. Once you have that in place, to further avoid fueling the fire of his abusive rage and leave an abusive conversation, there are three critical steps you must take.
Three Steps to Stopping An Abusive Conversation
Set a Boundary. When you feel attacked by your abuser, it is important to employ "boundary phrases" to make sure you are clear what behaviors are unacceptable to you. If he is yelling, name calling, or invalidating, you can simply say, "I won't be able to talk to you about this further if you are going to speak to me that way."
Be a Broken Record. If you set the boundary and he persists with his abusive behavior, simply repeat the phrase again. And again. Don't say anything else. He will probably get more vicious in an attempt to knock you off balance but as we said before, addressing this escalation will only enable him. Just keep repeating your boundary phrase and do not resume conversing with him.
Leave the Room. If after repeating the boundary phrase a handful of times he does not relent, then let him know calmly that you aren't comfortable with the situation and that you will need to take some space. It is likely that he will block your path or follow you, so have your route planned. Take a phone if you can. Go to a closet or bathroom you can lock. Go to a neighbor's house. If he continues to harass you, do not respond to him. It will only fuel his fire and continue the fight. Plug your ears to guard your heart against what he is saying. Pray for God's presence and protection (out loud if you have to). Call the police (don't threaten it, just do it). In a moment like this, you need help (and so does he).
By setting boundaries, sticking to them, and removing yourself from the situation, you will stand a much better chance of getting away from the abusive situation without yourself becoming abusive. In a matter of time, you will see that whether you argue back or walk away, he will not likely change his behavior, and you will feel less inclined to defend yourself to a person whom you know will not listen.
When the Abuse Doesn't Stop
While we would like to believe that enough counseling and pastoral care can change the situation, many victims of abuse will tell you that this often isn't the case. Many victims of abuse often find that separating long term is the only way to end this turmoil.
The Bible validates this course of action. The book of Proverbs repeatedly tells us that angry, foolish people are not to be reasoned with (it's a must read for women in abusive marriages). Proverbs 22:10 says "Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease." (ESV) Strife lies within the abuser himself, not the relationship. Until he takes it upon himself to change his mindset to one that is Christ-like and God-honoring, the best course of action is often to remove yourself entirely.
Have you tried any of these steps? Or have you done something else that has worked for you?
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