What do you do when your waking life has become a nightmare at the hand of your spouse? Worse yet, what happens when you feel like you can’t fix it? For most families, tensions at home may warrant counselling with a pastor, or a trained counsellor. These sessions are designed to bring a couple to neutral ground. For the most part, it is designed so that both parties can speak freely. Often, the couples will learn new skills that will help in areas such as communication, managing finances, and learning how to fight fair. The goal is to work through baggage and enter into forgiveness. But what if it couldn’t work?
Without the correct counsellor/pastor, it is difficult to make it work. There is a small percentage of the population who not only abuse their spouses, but lack empathy for their actions. It’s not the usual abuse case, at all.
Most abusers feel a level of remorse. I’m talking about those that don’t. They will systematically abuse their partners, manipulate them, and scheme to get their own way. They are not people that you can say no to because they will get their own way. If you tell them no, then one of two things may happen:
- They will act like a toddler. They will throw a temper tantrum, rage, stomp their feet, or give you the silent treatment. Abuse escalates. This can go on for days and over minor infractions such as forgetting to say hello when they come home.
- The will walk out. The purpose is to teach you a lesson, and they can go on indefinitely.
In these cases, there is no remorse for the pain they inflict. They believe that they are right. They justify the abuse. It is your fault. They are never wrong, and cannot take responsibility for their own actions. Everything bad that happens is another person’s fault.
But it gets worse…
This type of relationship is deceptive from the start. They appear to be the perfect person. They like everything you enjoy and are just like you. Gifts, elaborate romantic dinners, the entire nine yards quickly sweep you off of your feet. You think they are perfect and quickly fall in love.
They propose very quickly, and most people accept. After all, you would be a fool not to! They appear to be wonderful! Yet once the ring is on, it is a different story.
The Jekyll and Hyde life
Slowly, Mr/Ms Perfect begins with the criticisms. It’s just little things, but said with a mean undertone. When you question them, they tell you that they have your best interests at heart. They are trying to mold you into the person they see- help you be better. You believe it, because they seem so caring. Maybe you did over react.
Slowly, over time, the mask comes off. They control you in every way. the level of abuse increases. Your friends no longer are able to contact you. Isolation is not uncommon. The criticisms are coming more regularly. You cry out of hurt and frustration as they erode your self-worth. They manipulate you- on purpose. Everything revolves around them- their wants, needs, and expectations. But the relationship is not reciprocal.
They have a sense of entitlement, are arrogant, and believe they deserve special treatment. Everyone else is there inferior- including you. They believe that they deserve power, status, and wealth. Yet often, they don’t work hard for it. After awhile, all the stories that they have told you about their grand adventures, and accomplishments you discover are false. They were either made up or exaggerated. They lie convincingly.
After years go by, you learn that they will not change- but they expect you to. The same mistakes they made in their past, they repeat. They do not learn, nor do they modify their behaviour. Many cheat because they believe they can, and are entitled to. It’s all about the hunt and what the other person can do for them. They use people for personal gain, and feel absolutely no remorse. They will say they will change, but won’t. Why? Because it’s not their fault that you feel this way. They didn’t do anything wrong.
This person behaves one way outwardly, but at home, things are the polar opposite. They are mean, vicious and cruel at home. Often, these people appear to be the good guy/girl that everyone loves. Behind your back, they tell people that you are crazy. Why? Because if you ever came forward, no one would believe you. You would feed into their narrative.
How Can I tell?
The test? Most of the people who are like this have an agenda- a script- of how they expect things to go. Everything is plotted out in advance. They don’t want to do something, expect an argument. You are so well-conditioned, they know exactly the reaction, and how to counter it. Unless, you don’t react the way they expect.
If you don’t react, just watch the argument. They will continue to argue as if you had given the response. It appears to be non-sensical when you take a step back. At that moment you learned that it was calculated. It was designed to give them their own way.
The relationship continues to go through highs and lows. A disagreement happens, and if you try to leave, they will hover you back in. They will have you doubting your sanity. After a while, you come to learn that nothing in the relationship is real. Their responses are calculated. Vulnerabilities used against you to hurt you. Who they said they were at the beginning, they aren’t. They just got information from you and then mirrored your actions. They are master manipulators, and by now, you are in between a rock and a hard place…
You can’t stop the abuse, or the pain. It just keeps coming. They won’t change, because to do so, they need to accept responsibility.
Helen Murray uses her personal experience to discuss this type of relationship. In it, you will hear her heartbreak, yet her triumph over a bad situation. Her solution is not judgmental, and is not one that says divorce is the only option. She does emphasize that God is good, no matter what the situation, and He is always in control.
This feature and more in our October 2020 issue of Faith Filled Family Magazine coming out on September 28, 2020.