I know the church frowns on divorce, but what if you are in an abusive marriage? My husband of six years frequently beats me even in front of our young children. He has promised me numerous times that he will not do it again but he keeps breaking this promise. Tell me, would you rather I died in this marriage or walk away from this loveless marriage and keep my life?
I may not be able to speak for other religions or churches since this issue of divorce and remarriage has been on the discussion table for a long time.
However, let me start by stating the foundation upon which a Christian marriage is built. First, it is a marriage between a man and woman, as stated in the Bible. Most religions and cultures seem to believe that too. Secondly, it is meant to be a long-term love commitment where spouses practise the element of love.
These elements include, endurance, perseverance, selflessness, treating your spouse better than yourself, patience, empathy, and many more.
Being the creator of marriage, God expected each spouse to embrace the idea of being their ‘brother’s keeper’, however, with sin and self-centred living, we cared more for self that others.
The purpose of marriage was to show the likeness of God on this earthly life by practising true care and nurturing godliness. With self-centeredness came marrying for selfish reasons. This is when marriage started its downhill journey towards separation or divorce. Did God intend this to be the case? No.
Several years ago, I attended a wedding in Nairobi. It was an elegant wedding. The gentleman had been an acquaintance of mine for years.
It was a joyous time, but as soon as the wedding was over, the abuse began, both verbal and physical. After a month together, the woman had to leave.
She was so emotionally wounded and distraught, that she decided never to get married again. Her trust for men has never been recovered.
After 20 years of staying single, she decided to adopt a child but vowed to never remarry.
If it is not abuse, it ends up being adultery and unfaithful practices that kill trust in a marriage. Some marriages have ended day one while others have endured for the sake of the children and extended family. Many spouses, particularly women, have suffered greatly at the hands of cruel husbands.
Others have lost their lives and even those of their children due to such abuses. Neither the word of God nor the laws of the land tolerate such abuse. Abuse of any kind must be confronted and stopped. The question you ask is being asked by many women, and men — should abuse be tolerated for the sake of keeping a marriage?
Many men these days are being abused by their wives too. In addition, many church ministers’ marriages endure silent abuse to which they must stand and say no to.
I have met many pastors (men and women) in abusive marriages. I have talked to some Bishops facing the same dilemma, so, really, if we are to be honest, we are talking about a problem that has become a cancer in our society, affecting all regardless of race or religion.
Many marriages have ended badly, and yet this was not intended to be so. God created marriage to be the institution that practised love at its very best.
Here are my thoughts on this subject
Confront abusive behaviour of whatever kind firmly, don’t hide it:
The Bible teaches about speaking the truth in love. What you should avoid is to use language and tone that could trigger further violence. Those who capture and confront abuse in its early stages have a high chance of giving their relationship the help it needs. Hiding or assuming that you have the power to manage and change the abuser is both naive and ill-informed. Many people hide such abusive behaviour due to cultural reasons, controlling behaviour from the abuser, or fear of appearing as a failure.
Seek professional help where possible: It is amazing how a change of environment and having another person to listen to you can do for the relationship. Silence in itself has two serious effects. First, it is a signal to the abuser that it is okay for them to continue with their behaviour. Second, it allows the problem to take root and build a culture of abuse, however, a cry for help offers the opportunity for healing and another pair of eyes to look at the issue. I suggest that you seek the help of a professional counsellor. Both of you have to be willing to do this. This is not something you can force on each other. I have found out through interaction with various spouses that:
1) Creating a positive and conducive climate at home is key
2) Be deliberate in the use of affirming language. Such language must avoid accusation and blame. Fights and blame combined with an environment of unresolved issues will hinder positive feelings.
Don’t be afraid to walk away where violent behaviour becomes a norm: Many who had been in abusive relationships regret why they did not walk away sooner. Abuse must be reported to a law enforcement officer, a pastor, or lawyer who can give further guidance. There are many reasons why many women don't leave abusive relationships or why they return into the same abusive relationships, only for the cycle of abuse to start again. Some women have talked about loss of self-esteem, lack of an independent income and fear of what others will say. I am of the opinion that if professional help has totally failed to change the situation, it is better for yourself and your children to walk away from such terrible abuse and violence.
My husband’s snoring makes me want to kill him …
Thank you for your sound advice over the years. My husband and I are in our 40s and have been married for 10 years and have three children. Since we got married, we seem to fight over the same thing. His drinking. I would tolerate it if he did not snore extra loud when he drinks. Denying me sleep, which makes me cranky and in a bad mood. When this happens, which is almost every weekend, we stay for days not talking to each other. I also confess that in those moments when I am forced to sit in bed and listen to him snore, I visualise myself killing him. Is my reaction warranted? How am I supposed to withstand this for the next 10 years? Help me.
As much as your husband’s drinking problem irritates you and calls for a solution, I can see that this has revealed another serious problem with yourself.
Don’t you think the violent thoughts that go on in your mind are equally as serious? At times it is important to review how the problems we see in others are affecting us.
Someone said that relationships mature through the challenges they face. Questions like the ones you have asked are key. They should help us examine ourselves more that we do others. Get me right, I am not trivialising your husband’s drunk behaviour, but in general, we learn a lot about ourselves by looking at how we treat those who offend us.
Of course one would argue your case and particularly why you feel the way you do, “After all she is just frustrated,” they may say. My point exactly!
To gain perspective, in addition to resolving the issue, there it is need for couples to examine how they react when they face issues that frustrate them. As much as your reactions are justified, such reactions can challenge your place in the relationship. Examining yourself will be essential to the inner healing you need most.
It is clear from your email that your husband’s drinking problem has flared up your feelings in this matter. I believe that your sobriety is key to how the issue will be resolved.
“People who are married to someone struggling with alcohol use may experience fear for their safety, their future, or their family,” argues Scot Thomas, a counsellor.
Your husband’s drinking does not have to become an addiction. Try and look for what seems to pull him to alcohol. It could be a habit or maybe an opportunity to meet and have fun with friends.
Whether you know what compels him to do this or not, it is key for you to show care and uncompromising concern while remaining honest about your feelings. In the end, if the habit continues, get help for him. Don’t become his prisoner by allowing your feelings to hold you captive.
Finally, the fears you have about the future can only be resolved if you see the role you play in this case, otherwise you will leave a trail of wounds in your life.
I suggest that you interrogate your feelings, and let that knowledge help you to figure out why you react that way towards him. This will help you plant the right seeds in his life. If you don’t, the chances are that you are going to find it hard to settle in this marriage.
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