“Why am I so confused? Why does it seem like I am the only one to blame for everything? Am I really that bad of a person?” she asked herself.
She tried to do better; tried to please him as much as possible in every detail. She forced herself to submit to every demand, however unjust, so she could be a “good Christian wife”.
But nothing helped. He got more demanding, more implacable as time went on. The usual cold shoulder silent treatment with which he punished her was so hostile, she could feel the lightning bolts strike her heart with deadly intensity.
By the time she had been married three years, she was sure of her mistake. But she was a Christian, and didn’t believe in divorce…
Her child was born with a medical problem that put it immediately into NICU. The postpartum depression (baby blues) had hit her pretty hard, and having the baby an hour away in NICU was very difficult, emotionally and physically. The daily drive to see him was dreadfully tiring, but when the nurses offered her a room so she could stay with her baby, her husband denied it to her; he “needed her at home”, etc., etc.
What was even worse, was that for some unknown reason — again — that hostile silence had been for days brooding over her head. She suspected it was because she didn’t “feel like it” after just giving birth, but, as usual, he wouldn’t say. She just suffered…
At this time, they were expecting company, and the hour of visitors approached. She knew what would happen, and sure enough, about the time they drove up the drive, he had switched into what she called his “sickeningly sweet mode”. He became — as is common for abusers — a most attentive, loving husband, always ready to serve her. It sickened her, because she knew that if she tried to say even one word about how he treated her up to two minutes before their arrival, she would look like an ungrateful, whiny complainer. After all, “look how GOOD he treats her! Wish MY husband was that nice! What a loser!!”
And, true to form, the minute their visit was over, he returned to his hostile silent treatment.
There was no fight, no screaming. There was some attempt by her to try to figure out what she had done. There was a plea to attend that marriage seminar coming up, which they had mentioned as being helpful to relationships. But he claimed HE had no need of that conference, and if there was a problem, it was HER who had the problem, shutting her down again.
She couldn’t see what was wrong; she could only feel it. And how do you describe a feeling of indefinable oppression, when at every turn he looked so good to others? After all, he was a good provider; and he didn’t physically beat her…
So, WHAT WAS WRONG?? It really did appear that she was just a bad person, and her temper outbursts didn’t help that appearance. But an indescribable something was provoking her, and try as she might, she couldn’t stop having outbursts. In fact, they kept getting worse…
This is one look at abuse that can’t be seen with the untrained eye. There are no bruises, at least not outward ones. There is really nothing to SEE, therefore those suffering from this type of abuse can be the most confused and self-blaming of all. The abuser’s secret manipulation of emotions and mental faculties creates incredible insecurity and self-doubt.
This happens in the churches as surely as out. The marriage counselling they offer — IF the abuser will even attend — is not capable of dealing with abuse, simply because an abuser (male or female) is a master at looking good, while making the other party look bad. (Not that it’s very hard to make an emotional basket case look bad…!)
And one thing being taught in many churches is that the wife is to submit to her husband, no matter what. This contributes to the incidence of hidden abuse. Another teaching contributing to this ugly fact is that many believers are taught that God hates and condemns ALL divorce, regardless of circumstances. Both these teachings permit abuse to continue. Both are half truths, which are pernicious and dangerous.
My husband and I have addressed this issue in a book, which we hope will help both men and women understand what true biblical submission is. If you are interested, please contact me via this blog, and we can arrange how to get a book to you.