Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
She stood staring at the door moments after her husband left, slamming it behind him. Beside her stood her 12 year-old daughter, watching with wide eyes.
The woman turned and silently walked back to the table where she had done paperwork. She resumed her duty as if nothing had occurred. The girl understood she was on her own again to process what she had just witnessed.
Emotional abuse can make victims retreat into shamed silence. Not only did the husband in the above scenario hurt his wife’s feelings, but he humiliated her in front of her daughter. The mother did not know what to do.
She was overwhelmed with emotion and had no more room for empathy for her girl. She had rationalized long ago that silence was the safe way to protect her children. In silence, repercussions from her husband would be deferred, she could tell herself she was sheltering her children, and could focus on urgent chores. Discussion meant more pain caused by the emotions of others, so she shut herself off and out of the family dynamic.
We know that other victims were present. The daughter for instance, learned and relearned to keep her mouth shut. She had observed her father kissing her mother on the cheek- the only “affection” she had ever seen between her parents. The kiss was followed by hatred, and a slammed door.
This was a mean man treating a woman like dirt. Since no one discussed it, the girl did know any other relationship between a husband and wife was possible. Emotional abuse kept her family segregated to an extent; her mother’s lack of friendships was reaction to fear of her situation being discovered. Both mother and daughter believed themselves to be nothings.
Sometimes we want to ask, “why didn’t the mother just leave?” Think about it financially. She had a roof over her head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. So did her children. While she may have been willing to risk her financial circumstances, she did not want her children to pay such a price.
Her work history was meager because she and her husband had agreed she would stay home with their son and daughter. He discouraged her from working because in his opinion her job was to tend to him. She earned her college degree later in life and was emotionally unfit to use it.
As she fought to promote the image of “all is well” in public, he shamed her and undermined her efforts with the children. He told them their mother was crazy and would be leaving them soon. He said he was going to die young. He told his children why he hated their mother. Eventually he divorced her declaring her an unfit parent.
Now picture this family in church. She wears a pasted smile, he acts like a peacock, the children do not behave normally. Against all the false advertising about her attitude and family life, the woman was seriously angry.
There could be no confronting her husband as he would find a way to make everything her fault. She had shut herself off from church fellowship and extended family by wearing her fake smile and never opening up. Her pent-up emotions overflowed until she was hitting her children, and there was little warmth between them.
Think about the dynamics here. The father emotionally abused his wife in her face and behind her back. He corrupted her relationship with her children and caused everyone in the household to feel unsafe. The mother retained a solitary lifestyle after he and then the grown children left because she felt worthless. The son and daughter married people like their parents and the legacy of the “Christian” home continued.
The wife had felt trapped in her situation. She lashed out at the kids. Image became her god because she couldn’t risk losing her standing in the church. Truth never made its way into the open. Imagine then if she had (and she did not but many women do) decided to leave him? The outside world would have been shocked at this poor, normal husband dumped by his senselessly angry wife.
These are some of the reasons women in emotionally abusive marriages do not leave.
Please read more at:
Unholy Charade – Jeff Crippen – Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com