The statistics are staggering. If you aren’t in an abusive relationship, you know several people who are, even if they haven’t shared about the abuse with you. Have you had enough? Do you know when to leave an abusive relationship? Karen DeArmond Gardner shares helpful information and resources for those in an abusive relationship.
On a recent episode of Your Hope Filled Perspective podcast, I spoke with Karen about the hope that’s available when healing after domestic abuse. If you missed that episode, you can listen here Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse – Episode 119.
Have You Done Enough? When to Leave an Abusive Relationship
By Karen DeArmond Gardner
You’ve prayed… on your knees, on the bathroom floor, in your shower, on the toilet, in your closet. You’ve petitioned, bargained, worshipped, praised, cried, begged, screamed, whispered, and repented.
Yet he didn’t change.
You read your Bible, believed for a miracle, sought wise counsel only to be told you should try harder, to submit more, to respect him, to forgive him, have more sex, and maybe lose a few pounds. It’s implied that if only you were better then he would be better.
Yet he didn’t change.
You’ve done all you can to improve yourself, seeking counseling for your brokenness, becoming more godly, gentle, and trusting so he’d repent and change back to the man you married.
He changed… he’s more merciless and relentless.
You may struggle to put words together about how he’s caused you to doubt the very things you never questioned. How he sends fear coursing through your body from one look. How you’re a prisoner in your own home, intimidating you into submission making resistance futile. He always wins, and you apologize for your failings.
How you once believed he was a godly man, until you said, ‘I do’ and your entire world changed. How you live in a nightmare you can’t wake up from. How you’ve kept his secret of treachery and if I dare say—evil.
You may wonder how a once confident and strong woman transformed into a woman who is in a constant state of confusion and fog. You long to take a deep breath, for fear to subside. Sleep evades you, shame dogs you, and you can’t figure out what you missed.
You may wonder…
Who will believe me?
Most of my friends envy me, they think it’s romantic that he checks up on me and is protective of me. His charisma, charm, and eloquence captivate them. Our friends think they know him, but they don’t. They don’t see the man hiding beneath the veneer of respectability. They only see what he allows them to see.
How do I explain the evil hidden behind closed doors, the pornography, the demand for perfection? We look like the perfect family; he like the doting husband and me the submissive wife. I’m tired of the constant guilt of never living up to his unreasonable expectations.
How do I explain the veiled threats, the anxiety, the control of every aspect of my life, the compliance he requires, his insatiable lust for sex? His threat to ruin me and take our children, his reminder that no one will believe me, people will sympathize with him having to put up with someone as unbalanced as I am?
I feel like I’m living in hell and that God must be angry with me for even considering leaving.
I tried getting help from church leadership, but they made it clear I shouldn’t complain about my husband. Suggesting that I pray more because God is the God of miracles, I should forgive him. They said, “be a better wife, then he would be a better man,” be more submissive, have more sex, and maybe lose some weight. And to consider marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling only made him worse. The counselor swayed by his charm and calm as he explained how I was the problem. Implying if only you could fix her, then our marriage would be better as he leans over and whispers threats in my ear, but to the counselor looks like affection and concern. When I react to his threats, it convinced the counselor I am the problem, as my husband says, “see what I put up with?”
He created the scenario where I lose, and he wins since I can’t put words to what he does to me. I don’t have visible bruises or scars; I’ve never had a black eye or broken bones. Is it even abuse if he doesn’t hit you?
For too long I’ve struggled to admit he’s abusive, that his rages are on purpose. I want to believe he couldn’t help himself, that he would never hurt me on purpose, but what if I’m wrong? I defend him, support him, keep his secrets, take the blame for everything. I hang on to the belief that God could change him back to the man I married.
Yet dawning comes slowly as I realize he is the man I married: a con artist who had tricked and duped me. Living under the constant drip of his lies and deception, which became my truth and reality.
I feel like a shell of myself, wondering how I missed the signs, knowing I was beyond done. This man was no longer worth my time or effort. I could never be enough or do enough for him. He consumed my life, sucking me dry of all that is good about me.
From the moment we said, “I do” he changed, it’s as if he took the mask off and the darkness in his soul was revealed. I don’t know why it took me so long to see him clearly. Maybe I thought it was my job to keep the marriage together. The Bible says we will suffer in this life, and I am suffering.
Some may say, “Is it bad enough for divorce? Why did you stay if he was so bad? He said he was sorry you need to forgive him.”
How do you respond? How do you explain what evil looks like to someone who has never seen evil?
What if no one believes me?
My question to you is, “Do you believe you?”
If the answer is yes, then trust that is God’s confirmation within you.
How do you know when you’ve done enough? When you realize that you’ve done everything to be better and he’s done nothing. Your defining moment is when you realize you just can’t do it one more day. It’s a ghastly yet delightful moment. Once the veil of deception is removed, you’ll see him as he truly is.
The decision to stay or go becomes your dilemma and is one only you can make. No one can or should decide for you and don’t let anyone pressure you into leaving until you’re ready.
You may wonder if God expects you to stay. He doesn’t. Abuse isn’t a tool He uses to make you a stronger Christian, He’s not teaching you a lesson, and there isn’t a reason for the abuse. You don’t disappoint Him; He isn’t angry with you.
He is angry at your spouse’s behavior, which is the opposite of godly.
God gave your husband plenty of opportunities to make different choices. Your husband believes you are the problem, not him. You may ask why God doesn’t make him change, God can’t and won’t violate your spouse’s free will. He won’t violate yours either.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you how hard life will be if you choose to leave. Your question is valid, many won’t believe you, many will blame you, they will accuse you of breaking the covenant, of not standing by your mate.
You may be more alone than you’ve ever been in your life. You may be more terrified than you’ve ever been in your life.
Leaving isn’t easy.
If you choose to go, then you plan.
Don’t tell him you’re leaving, gather important papers and money. Find someone he doesn’t know who will help you. If you do research online, clear your history. Change your passwords on your email or create a new email. Find a shelter or a safe place.
You are braver than you know. And when your strength isn’t enough, His is. There are a host of women who will stand with you, pray for you, and encourage you.
Come back for the follow-up to this piece: “Leaving Isn’t the End.”
About Karen DeArmond Gardner:
Karen DeArmond Gardner is a thirty-year survivor of domestic abuse and an advocate for women who’ve experienced abuse and divorce. She is a certified trauma advocate and facilitates Mending the Soul and inner healing through HeartSync. Karen blogs at AnotherOneFree.com. Karen and her second husband Tom are co-owners of a private security company and reside in Texas.
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse – Episode 119, Karen DeArmond Gardner is giving away a free copy of her book, Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse: Reaching for God’s Promise of Real Freedom.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you’ve learned about abusive relationships and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of her book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Wednesday, August 4, 2021. Continental United States only.