Recognizing An Abusive Relationship
I sat around a table of ten young women, all beautiful, all with beautiful personalities, all with unique gifts & talents, all lovers of Jesus, all single.
It was the most refreshed & encouraged I've been in a long time in regards to the topic of singleness, and I think I can speak for Hannah, too.
Even on the drive home there was a stark difference from the drive on my way to the church where the Hard Love series is being held. I drove home excited, encouraged, refreshed, and not feeling as alone in this season as we so often do.
I dated out of hopelessness for a very long time.
I had never heard of this term before last night until the speaker, Rebekah, introduced it. She talked about five major symptoms of dating out of hopelessness and I found myself resounding with every point, but one in particular really stood out to me.
I'm not sure if the speaker meant to refer to abuse, but she touched on the fact that dating out of hopelessness causes us not to leave when we should. We are not able to pick up our "bags" & say enough is enough & I'm done.
This point is important because as we've seen lately in this #metoo trend, abuse, emotional & physical, hides in the shadows & goes unnoticed & unrecognized even by the people who are in the abusive relationships.
Singleness can be really hard. It can be really lonely. And it can cause us to lower the standard, settle, & be involved in relationships we shouldn't be, if we aren't careful.
It causes us to stay in relationships, accept things, we never thought we would. And it can also go a lot deeper, become a lot darker, than the missing checkmarks on our "list" of non-negotiables.
Abuse doesn't have to be physical. Abuse can be the slow wearing away of who you are by another person. Degradation, anger, silence, control, manipulation.
The two lies that I have believed about myself and the two lies that have caused me to stay in emotionally abusive situations are these:
- The problems that arise in relationships & the emotional abuse that follows is my fault.
- And because it's my fault they have every right to treat me that way. I've gotta get it together.
I know without a doubt some of you have either made these same excuses in the past or are currently making them now. I know, its uncomfortable to face the fact that you might be in an abusive relationship, but please, keep reading if any part of you desires freedom.
Let's be clear: every relationship has its ups and downs & every person you will ever be with has their weaknesses, but I think you know exactly what I mean when it becomes mistreatment & abuse. You always know deep down when the treatment you're receiving isn't right.
The kind of mistreatment and abuse that causes you to make excuses like:
I'll stay because I don't believe there's anyone better or I deserve anything better.
What he says about me is probably true & I need to work on those things.
I'm scared to leave because it's going to hurt.
I'm in this relationship too deep.
He has issues that stem from past relationships or childhood hurt & I've gotta be the one to stick around & love him like Jesus.
I can't give up because things will get better & it'll be this beautiful redemption love story.
He says he's a Christian.
He's my best friend.
I don't want to be alone.
He says he's sorry.
I don't want to be single.
I know because I've made every single one of these excuses. I've stayed for far too long, undergone emotional abuse, sought to change the essence of who I was to receive approval & acceptance, and began to forget the worth that God has assigned to me.
Rebekah said something very interesting:
"You will feel empowered after you have made the decision to walk away. It is not a decision that you will necessarily feel empowered to do before you do it."
That's right; there's no excuses for staying. There's no waiting till things get better. If I was face-to-face with you, I would tell you exactly what I'm going to tell you now: walk away.
When Rebekah said that, it reminded me of how I felt when I knew that I needed to walk away from my abusive relationship. I knew, lying on that cold floor, breath coming in short gasps, that I had to make the hard decision, but the best decision. And Rebekah is right; I didn't feel empowered or free before I made that decision, and I didn't even feel empowered right after. It took me awhile to see how very free I really was.
And you may wonder: how in the heck did I follow through with what I knew was best & turn it into actually making that decision to walk away? How did I pick myself up off the floor, literally, and see past the pain to do what was right?
I cried out to Jesus in those painful moments, hours, & days. He was there so vividly & He brought back to mind the promises that I had always known & enabled my hurting heart to actually believe them. The promise that Jesus is enough. The truth that His plans for me were, are, good & that He desired something so much better for me even if I couldn't see it then. The truth that I have value even though I have flaws. The truth that my heart is priceless. The truth that my body, my emotions, me as a whole, were brought with a price.
I discovered God's Fatherhood, His faithfulness, in a more real way than I ever had in my entire life & now looking back, I still don't feel empowered. I just stand in awe of God's power & redemption. The power that He wielded through me to walk away.
And He can do that for you, too.
This post is to shake you, us, from our stupor. Its to name the why behind our propensity to unhealthy and abusive relationships. It's to say girls, you are worth more & what Jesus says about you is true & you can walk away. It's to say yes you might be lonely for a little while, and it might hurt like heck, but Jesus is enough.
The biggest lesson I have learned through the mistakes I made in relationships is just that; Jesus is enough. It sounds cliche but its really really true. It's the only thing that enabled me to end bad relationships when I was literally on my hands & knees before Jesus making what felt like the hardest decision I'd ever had to make. It was the truth that healed my aching heart & answered all of my questions afterwards in the long nights and days. It's the only thing that enables me to believe, really believe, that even if I never get married & know earthly love, Jesus is enough & He is good.
I reject the belief that you have to do and be in order for you to be in a good relationship & to say I do to a good & Jesus loving man. What I mean by that is I reject the belief that you have to perform, change, or hide to have the relationship that God desires for us to have if its His will for us to marry.
Gosh, yes, there are things we need to grow in, areas we need to mature in, sinful behaviors we need to nip in the bud with Jesus' gracious help, BUT the answer to all of that is to love Jesus most with our time, our talents, our hearts & our souls. When you do that, you walk through what's called sanctification (being made holy) & you change & you grow & mature in all the best and necessary ways. The ways that Jesus wants you to.
But there is never any reason or excuse for mistreatment & abuse.
Run from and say no to any relationship or marriage that isn't a reflection of the selfless, kind, pursuing, & gentle love of our Savior shown to us.
You are God's workmanship, creation, purposed to reflect him. You are known, loved, valued. You are enough, you are whole, single or not. Your heart is precious & held by a perfect Father.
Girls, wherever you're at now, in an abusive relationship or not, cling to these truths. If you seek to see yourself the way God does, it will be easier to see what He desires for you in a relationship and marriage. It will be much easier to turn & walk the other direction when there are signs of abuse & in turn, walk away even when you're in deep.
I promise, Jesus is enough.