Tag Archives: Marriage

But He Doesn’t Raise His Voice: How to Know Verbal Abuse When You Hear It

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

It can be confusing trying to understand the definitive characteristics of verbal abuse. When does yelling in anger become abusive? Is emotional abuse the same thing? This excerpt from Berit “Brit” Brogaard, author of On Romantic Love, reveals some of it.

“A verbal abuser will define your reality, decide what you can or cannot do, and treat you as an (in-their-eyes) ugly part of themselves, a part that they have to undermine in order to keep up their own sense of self.”

Abuse is always about power and control. An abuser will follow a pattern whether that pattern covers an hour, day, months, or even years. I used to think of screaming, cussing, and insulting as verbal abuse. But what if the abuser does not raise his or her voice? Insults can be more subtle and without swear words.

Picture a woman smiling and clapping at her child’s school play. She greets other parents and thanks the teacher.  Once home, her words to her son or daughter are soft-spoken. “You should have practiced more. You never try hard,” or with a disappointed sigh, “I guess you did your best.”

This type of  insulting is not what I think most people mean when using the terms verbal assault or verbal beat-down.  In a way, what the mother is doing is scarier because of its subtlety. If this child should try to tell a trusted adult how mommy makes him or her feel, will the story be believed? More often than not, people tend to dismiss children unless evidence of abuse is obvious.

Meanwhile, the life lesson is clear and taken to heart. I am not good enough. I am incapable.  I am unlovable.  Schoolwork and relationships are negatively affected. Trust, love, and self-worth remain evasive. Behaviors such as seeking perfection in everything, or underachievment may result. The list goes on because humans are complicated.

Eric* has a favorite joke. His verbal abuse is rarely public.  With a smile he says to his wife, “You’re my californ I A.”  It sounds unusual and harmless unless you know what he means. “California is a big beach [bee-itch],” he first explained.  This is not the only way he repeatedly reminds his wife she is less-than and undeserving. 

She buys the rhetoric early in their marriage. Her full attention turns to pleasing Eric and trying to gain his approval. She ceases to know joy and a vibrant spirit of life outside of this longing. 

Both the mother and Eric are prone to ignore their family members’ achievements. Eric especially will respond with jealousy if his wife shares good news. In families, emotional abuse is the absence or irregularity of acceptance, love, appreciation, time, investment, and positive feelings for another person. It is neglectful or disinterested, manipulative, untruthful, and gives the abuser a temporary sense of power.

Emotional abuse does not have to come with words, whereas verbal abuse by definition does. Both reach the same ends that Brogaard wrote about.  The abuse will define your reality (who  I am, my perception of the world), and decide what you can or cannot do (I am afraid, I have to stay home, I cannot try anything without asking, etc.).

Brogaard added a piece of advice.

“There [are only two ways] to end verbal abuse. Call it to the abuser’s attention. If that doesn’t work, the only way out is to leave, as fast as you can.”

While true, this is not easy or possible in some cases. Where is a child to go? How are believers of lies supposed to understand they are abused? Some women are taught in certain forms of religion that they have to stay in their marriage, submissive, and supportive of their husbands no matter what. To defy this is to defy their understanding of God. 

Personally, I hurt for those who cannot escape. It took me decades.  If you know someone who is abused, or you suspect it, ask a professional how to proceed. On the Truth About Abuse  page of this website are many helpful call numbers and references applicable to various circumstances. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Ephesians 4:29 (from the “An Understandable Version”)

“Do not allow unwholesome [Note: The Greek word for “unwholesome” is “rotten, diseased”] language to come from your mouth, but only what is helpful for building up those who need it, so that you can impart favor [i.e., benefit] to those who listen [to you].”

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.

*not his real name

*picture from qualitystockphotos.com

An Open Letter About Porn to Christian Husbands, Pastors, and Husbands-To-Be

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Note TakingDear Christian Husbands, Pastors, and Husbands-to-Be:

The topic of porn use is not often the subject of sermons. That is my point.

As a twice weekly church goer most of my life, in different churches over a span of 55 years, what I have predominantly witnessed is an hypocritical united stand against behaviors in the LGBTQ community, while the use of pornography, sex outside of marriage, and serial marriage go largely unaddressed. It’s the negligent or deliberate excusing of supposedly “lesser sins” that stinks.

(NOTE: My history is with Evangelical and Reformed churches. It is impossible for me to write knowledgeably about what goes on in mainline protestant or Catholic arenas. It is important to note the wide range of church disciplines and applications of scripture across the Evangelical and Reformed realms. I can only speak from my experience and perspective. ALSO: Wives sin too, this article is NOT intended as man-bashing. My focus is on Christian marriages and the effects on wives of porn use by husbands. )

Fanciful Grace

Christian circles tend to embrace spiritual brothers who say they are sorry,  especially if they cry. Tough truth is, Christian men who use porn may feel remorse and put on a show of regret, and stay unrepentant at the same time. (By unrepentant I mean unchanged). The harm caused to families is patched up with a swipe of the hands and an “All better!” 

Follow-up with the confessor’s wife ranges from little to none at all. An insidious mindset prevails that a Christian wife is to be patient, forgiving, and available to her man no matter what.  When she asks for counsel, a subset of ideas fuels the care she receives. This includes, if wives love their spouse well, he will not “need” porn.

This is not vastly different from the unchurched world, and that’s a problem. Christian husbands are called by Christ to a higher standard of love, a faithful love, a sacrificial love. 

Christian men are to love their wives as Christ loves the church.* That is a lifestyle of unselfishness and setting aside the instant for the worth-waiting-for.  Meanwhile, Christian men who watch porn live in make-believe, growing intolerant of the realness of their wives.

Unlike in fantasy where a man can be a totally selfish and everyone still wants him, his wife wants respect. Her heart longs for deep connection at every level. For my blogs that go into more detail on relationships, click these links:  Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse  and More on Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse.

Collateral Damage

Sadly, one Christian wife whose Christian husband chose divorce over giving up porn, said she believes there are two kinds of men in the world- those who use porn and those who admit it.  Is she wrong?

Certainly, her ability to trust has been damaged. Husbands who take their role seriously do not make it difficult for wives to trust God, other people, and their spouse.  Christian men are commanded to nurture, not destroy the inner being of the one God gave them. Love your wives as Christ loved the Church.

Matthew 5 tells us that if a man looks at a woman lustfully (obviously the foundation of porn use), he has committed adultery with her in his heart. A wife may recognize this is happening, however often is blamed, ignored, or told to be patient if she brings it up. She is held to a painful and impossible standard – be like the women in the movies. Be content with the affection an adulterous mate offers when he feels like it.

Yet still in modern times men who watch porn are excused in the church. Do you ever see the immoral brother cast out from the church until he repents? No, porn use is not considered bad enough for that. Immoral brothers include preachers, worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, church planters, missionaries, ushers, elders, and deacons. What could motivate them to say, “enough!”  

Instead, men form accountability groups, Bible studies, and write self-help books about every man’s battle. Maybe these efforts work. Yet a pastor once said, “Pornography is not sin, it is an addiction.” Where is the warrior who quakes at God’s Word and changes his ways completely? Who stands up for wives? 

 Let’s Get Real

Husbands tell their wives they struggle against pornography.

Men, no you don’t struggle against pornography. You love it. Your struggle is against righteousness. Your mind is focused on how difficult porn is to give up, how maybe if you cry out to God in sorrow and remorse he will forgive you and continue to use you in ministry.

Your love for pornography causes you to turn from the relationships you say you want. You are willing to give up right standing with God. You are willing to hurt your wife and steal from her the ability to trust. You are willing to bring sexual immorality into the home and fail to protect your children. No, you do not struggle against pornography. You struggle against righteousness.

You will drop righteous and healthy living at a moment’s notice because your eyes saw something you want, you experience body sensations, and your mind tells you lies. You don’t live the life of courage it takes to love your wife as Jesus loves the Church. Spiritual leadership over your family is easily sacrificed on the altar of fantasy and lust. You don’t struggle against porn; you struggle against righteousness.

It seems inconceivable that you could meet your wife’s need for faithfulness. It doesn’t seem fair that you have this libido and are expected to ignore billboards, scantily clad women, and TV commercials. You don’t believe you can be a man of God free of sexual immorality, so you rationalize. You beg your wife to understand, and to be patient and forgiving. “It has nothing to do with you” she is told. “I love you, pornography is a release- that’s all it is.”

You struggle against righteousness. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 97:10

You who love the LORD, hate evil!

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

– pic from qualitystockphotos

*Ephesians 5:25

 

More on ‘Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse?’

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

photo-24779815-couple-having-quarrelGoogle searches landing on my first post about this topic, Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse? include: should a wife be compassionate towards a porn addicted husband; emotional suffering from bf watching porn; and husband abuses me, watches porn.

Today’s response takes a deeper look into how this form of emotional abuse is perpetuated in a romantic relationship between a woman and a man. The reason for this specificity is simple: it is what I know.  Naming men as the porn watchers is neither a complete picture of the issues, nor meant to exclude the potential of men to be hurt in this way. I am a woman, former wife, and am coming from that perspective.

Power and control is the force behind abuse of any type. An abuser has to break the spirit or coerce the will of the victim, otherwise she will leave or cease to play her part. Some of the most horrific forms of power and control take place in pornography.

When a wife (or girlfriend) is hurt by her husband’s (or boyfriend’s) porn use and confronts him about it, several common ideas tend to guide his response. Interestingly, his line of thought is hauntingly similar to that of abusers in general. He places blame elsewhere, dismisses the woman’s feelings, and uses demeaning words and actions toward her.

Pornography use is blamed on wives

Over the years I have heard all kinds of statements about porn from single men and women, spouses, partners, and teenagers. The most common of these tend to lay a man’s “need” for pornography on his wife.

Wives are accused of prudishness if they do not appreciate porn. They are too tired, too bossy, too fat, too skinny, too old, too busy, less interested, less interesting, and just don’t understand their husbands. This type of thinking affects how the issue of porn is treated in churches, families, and marriage counseling scenarios. Here are two examples:

“Porn-watching is wrong only if the wife doesn’t like it.” By automatically assuming the innocence of watching porn, a foundation is laid for excuse-making and even lies. A husband can use supposed sensitivity toward his wife’s feelings as a springboard for secretly indulging in anything. Her voice will not be heard.

“Watching porn together is one of the most intimate experiences spouses can have.”  A wife is apparently a party-pooper if she will not relax and join in the fun. Of course we are sexual beings, but that is not all we are. True intimacy develops within a framework of trust.

A wife coerced or guilted into sex involving pornography is not acting on trust but fear. She may be afraid her refusal will be misread, or that she is not enough for her husband. Perhaps she questions her judgment, worries he may leave, or she suffers any number of safety concerns.

Pornography use is blamed on society and powerlessness

“I can’t help it because of how women dress these days, and what’s on TV.”  In circles where admitting to porn use is frowned upon, this hypocricy is obvious. The idea of the helpless man, unable to stand against all the forces of suggestion and whim is a false picture of reality. 

I’m not stupid or blind, and understand that a culture can make living counter to it very difficult. You see, I am a recovering food addict.

What that means is that for most of my life I dreamed about, obsessed over, felt the cravings for, and indulged my fantasy of overeating. Like porn for some people, food was release and escape. It was also ego-centric. “Harmless fun”, I told myself, even as my health deteriorated.

My behaviors were as any addict’s, including denying, lying, hiding, and keeping secrets. I felt the shame, guilt, and disapproval.

Like ads built on the premise that sex sells, food is also everywhere. Television commercials and shows, radio and internet ads, social and print media, billboards, and more, all glorify food in full color and at the best angles.

Places considered safe for addicts of any other substance or behavior are those without many triggers, like church, 12-step meetings, and hanging out with healthy friends. As you know, each of these often involve food.  In healthy support systems, People invite me to “just have one,” and push my resolve with, “are you sure?” 

Even if I could cut off all social interaction and ignore public media, food is in my refrigerator and on my schedule.

Recovery takes all the strength I have and an avid determination to cling to my Higher Power. I have to say no to family, friends, strangers, and to my thoughts daily. Sometimes the physical or emotional urge is too much and the only power I have is to run, not walk, to God and ask for help. Human support from others in recovery is important too.

So you see, the “helpless man” concept doesn’t fly with me. We are all surrounded by triggers of our weaknesses whatever they are.

No one is helpless. That is a passive excuse or one based in lack of knowledge.

Pornography use is blamed on lack of meaning

“Porn sex doesn’t mean anything.” photo-24819926-couple-having-argument Wives troubled by their husbands’ use of porn are commonly written off as ignorant or silly.

Dave has produced, directed, and performed in over one hundred pornographic films. He claims credit as an expert in relationships. His premise is that men cheat, and so what? Women shouldn’t care because infidelity isn’t about them. Men love their partners, and sex outside the relationship is void of meaning.

“Join in the fun. Those [models] aren’t real,” I heard a prominent TV mental health specialist say to a woman wondering how to react to her husband’s porn usage. 

While Dave and the doctor are busy trying to convince women they have no reasonable cause for alarm, alarm bells are going off. That’s because the theory that porn is just for fun doesn’t translate so well into real relationships.

Pornography glorifies fantasy, whatever that may mean to a viewer. In a fake world where women do everything a man desires at his whim and demand, and where ultimate power and control provides sexual release, a man’s neuropathways are transforming to react more to fantasy than to his wife.

It is progressive, meaning that regardless of the fetish or titillation, the formula has to expand to include more variation to remain sexually satisfying. The pursuit of power has to move from win to win over increasingly difficult challenges. Like all addictions, pornography has to evolve for the fix to stay effective.

While a man’s wife is looking less and less satisfying to him compared to the high of pornography, he begins to resent her intrusion on his fantasy mindset. She has needs he is less inclined to want to meet. His thoughts are on the next fix instead of their conversation.

He may grow impatient with her desire for his time, attention, and affirmations. Real life doesn’t give him the instant gratification of pornography. Simply put, his drug-of-choice is masturbation and sexual fantasy. Relationships are hard work and sacrifice. 

Fetishes are also of physical and emotional concern for a wife when fantasy moves into a need for the real thing. One example, emotional abuse porn, is when the victim suffers and breaks down, and somehow the viewer has “won.”  In order to get those real tears, real abuse has to be going on. The viewer is most aroused when his conquest is begging for forgiveness, for mercy, goes from happy to sad, or is fearful. Yikes!

A wife should not care about this when it happens to her?

Physical abuse porn involves rape, beatings, torture, maiming, and murder. These fuel his desire for control. I know women who have been raped by their husbands, and whose reports have been ignored.

So, wives need not be wary?

Child pornography is the use of children for sexual pleasure. Incestual, emotional, and physical torture are about taking advantage of the powerless. Children are to be used,  not heard.

A mother should chill out and leave her husband to his meaningless habit?

Maybe she is NOT stupid or silly. Perhaps she senses his growing dismissal of her as a person, his increasing demands for her to do things she doesn’t want to do, and the loss of intimacy she thought was supposed to be marriage. A sense of alarm is ringing as her maternal instincts caution her to be watchful.

Her wisdom surpasses that of “porn sex is meaningless.”

Why porn is demeaning to women and marriage

We are sexual beings of course, and sexual fulfillment is important. However, that is not all we are! We have other needs in the physical, spiritual, and mental realms deserving  as much attention.

Whether in our sex lives we try to deny this or not, we are emotional beings. Dividing ourselves into separate parts as if they do not interconnect is folly, and dismisses some of the most meaningful aspects of being alive.

photo-24769763-mad-coupleWomen are crying out, “Cherish me. Value me. Love me above all others and things.” Interpreted by entitled and abusive men, his thoughts will likely be, I cherish you – you are the body I get to use. I don’t know what I would do without you, you make me feel good. I can use you and say I love you at the same time. I love you; don’t talk to me.  I love you, but I’m not going to change my behavior or focus.

In the context of relationship advice from people immersed for profit in the superficial, emotional needs are ignored. Women are told to sacrifice their personal identity, values, desires, marital hopes and dreams, and ability to function within a trusting partnership. All this is sacrificed on the altar of another person’s more pressing and urgent lust for instant gratification.

Women’s longings for relationship and security are worthy and deserving of respect. Women are not to blame when men take advantage of these desires to gain power and control. It is emotional abuse.

Objectification of women has been a problem for millenia. What about women who objectify men, some may ask? Well, two wrongs have never created a right.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges. 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 Kozzi.com

1)Signs to Look For In an Abusive Personality. From Safe Place: freedom from violence.  http://www.safeplaceolympia.org/signs-to-look-for-in-an-abusive-personality/

2)Dave, pornographer, in his advertisement as a featured expert

3)National Review: Getting Serious On Pornography. NPR  March 31, 2010.   http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361

4)How porn is re-wiring our brains. The Telegraph March 13, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10441027/How-porn-is-rewiring-our-brains.html

5)Porn Changes the Brain.  Fight the New Drug  August 8, 2014.   http://fightthenewdrug.org/porn-changes-the-brain/

6)Listen Up, Guys! Here’s What Women REALLY Want From You.  Your Tango  January 2016    http://www.yourtango.com/200925879/10-simple-things-women-want

Emotional Abuse in the Christian Marriage. Part 5

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

Physical (including sexual) abuse involves emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can also occur without physical assault.

In this series, emotional abuse is described and put in context. A special focus on what it can look like in a Christian marriage, leads naturally to this last discussion, can the church sanction divorce on grounds of emotional abuse alone?

Attitudes

Clearly, a woman needs to leave a situation where she is beaten, threatened, or assaulted. Divorce ia appropriate in cases of sexual activity outside the marriage. I think those are popular opinions.

What I’ve noticed however,  is that when women from widely considered “christian” marriages, try to describe their husbands’ non-physical maltreatment,  a limited and judgmental viewpoint from the church may not recognize emotional abuse.

A friend of mine was reprimanded by her pastor for making her husband “look bad.”  Another pastor told a wife, “Everyone says nasty things once in a while.” Emotional abuse is often confused with disappointment in a marriage. 

Recently, I met a young pastor who proactively sent a woman to counseling for the emotional abuse she endured. Domestic abuse is less and less taboo, yet in the United States we are a long way from knowledgable with regard to emotional abuse.

Results of emotional abuse

The best write-up I have seen about domestic abuse both physical and emotional, is found on HelpGuide.org.  One line reads, “There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner.”*

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)** is not limited to extreme trauma or war. An emotionally abused wife feared entering her home, and spent much of a frozen night in her car. Eventually, her husband moved out. She felt trapped in bed, tense, and scared that the noises she heard were him coming back.

Some women are jumpy, suddenly angry, or suffer bad dreams. 

Wives say their husbands treat them like prostitutes, ignore them and choose porn, express unspoken yet very real threats, practice gross neglect, or use back-handed put-downs disguised as jokes. Love is withdrawn as punishment, and promised as reward for cooperation. Gaslighting is frequent; this happens when a person purposely tries to make another question their own judgement.

Survivors of emotional abuse have to overcome the brainwashing that systematic blame, belittling, disrespect, dishonesty, lovelessness, and gross neglect cause. Negative beliefs about herself  can become a pervasive issue and undermine her ability to function.

God’s calling on her life often is replaced with a mutated rationalization, that by keeping the peace she is doing God’s will. 

Social interaction

A posting on a survivors-related facebook page reads, “Many [women]blame themselves for the abuse and continue to feel responsible and guilty for anything bad that happens to them or to other people they know. Survivors often feel bad about themselves and different from other people. They therefore isolate themselves from other people and avoid making close friendships.” ***

We need interaction.  Kind, nurturing photo-24779100-frowning-womanrelationships are God-given needs for fulfillment, productivity, and health.

I would argue that emotional abuse is life-threatening because in many cases it leads chronic loneliness which is diectly related to poor physical health, substance use, and suicidal thinking.  One woman I met, who remained in her emotionally abusive marriage,  eventually existed in a constant state of defeat and despair. 

Religiously unaware

It is convenient for abusers of any type, to use and count on a Christian victim’s 70 x 7 forgiveness obligation, and honest desire for relationship.  Misuse of scripture while cherry-picking verses to support power and control, is a common thread in abusive “Christian” marriages. Wives taught to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, are not reminded that the Lord does not abuse his bride. 

In The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages, author Amy White writes:

Unless pastors and counselors can recognize the often subtle and always complex dynamics of emotional abuse, women will continue to be victimized first by their husbands and then by the church or the community. An abusive man who is not held accountable is indirectly supported and given license to continue his destructive patterns, and those around him become enablers. Women are not treated with dignity and respect, as God intended, and so God is not honored.****

If you still do not understand the dangers of emotional abuse, consider this: it is used as a torure device to extract information from prisoners of war. When a woman is emotionally abused, her life as intended by God is dead or dying.

Of course separation or divorce are appropriate!  Escaping the control of an abuser is a holy action. We are not showing the love of Jesus to victims, or abusers for that matter, by continuing to enable grave sin. 

Love is to be the most telling sign of our faith in Jesus. We believers are to treat others as we want to be treated. Leaders are to be servants. Justice and freeing the oppressed are tenets of our faith. 

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See  Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse  and More on Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse

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Today’s Helpful Word : 

Proverbs 10:10 

 Winking at sin leads to sorrow; bold reproof leads to peace.

**http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/index.shtml  

***https://www.facebook.com/wearesurvivors1

****”The Silent Killer of Christian Marriages” by Amy Wildman White  http://christiancounsellingcentre.ca/sitecontent/ur3P9wM1inxspbnup9fYhQ–/mfiles/the-silent-killer-of-christian-marriages.pdf

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

Emotional Abuse in the Christian Marriage. Part 2

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

photo-24769763-mad-couple

Emotional abuse can be subtle which is why so many people miss it. The damage however, is very real. Research shows that people on the receiving end of emotional abuse suffer just as much or more with the aftereffects and long-term mental health issues as those who have been physically or sexually abused.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders, and/or depression may develop from emotionally abusive relationships. Married christians are not immune. These disorders* often affect a person long after the emotionally abusive relationship is over. Once I heard that the first step toward recovery from abuse is to stop the abuse. Still, the harm done affects the victim’s relational abilities and can require years of therapy to overcome.**

If emotional abuse is so horrible, why then do churches largely ignore it? I knew an actively involved woman whose church silently watched her leave with only a couple of people asking her why she left. Vague knowledge of marital problems in the family only stirred up enough interest for gossip and misguided “prayer support.” Evidence of emotional abuse was not visible – no scars or bruises – and her behavior had probably seemed extreme in response to what others could not see. I believe churches often ignore emotional abuse because it cannot be measured and easily described.

Another reason churches may disregard emotional abuse is because it does not seem extreme enough for church leaders to become involved. One pastor told me he would not confront one of the male volunteers in his church because accusations against him may be false and the volunteer could sue the church. No discussion, no questions asked. Within marriage however, even quietly oppressive power plays build up on each other until the cumulative effect is destructive.  This is not a light matter.

I am not describing disappointing marriages. The emotionally abused person will be afraid of the abuser, and will question her perceptions. She can lose her identity and cease to thrive.

“Abuse is fundamentally a mentality…while this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.”***

Stigma, ignorance, and well-intentioned but unhelpful advice and counseling remain staunch elements in churches and elsewhere. It is our responsibility to learn the facts and react appropriately to emotional abuse. 

Church discipline is a scary idea to ill-equipped pastors and elders. If one is to pay attention to our mandate in the Bible however, the statements “expel the immoral brother from among you” and “with such people do not even eat” are about how Christians are to clean up their side of the street, so to speak.**** It is after failed attempts at encouraging one’s change of heart that the church expels a culprit. Only after significant and time-proven changes in behavior and attitude is the church to welcome this person back.

One of the sins listed in these passages is the old-fashioned term, revile which means abuse. It is sometimes translated slander. Cruel, dishonest, denigrate, run-down, and scorn are a few synonyms for revile. Yet not only do churches neglect to approach the issue of emotional abuse, perpetrators can be leaders, teachers, pastors, and the like. All the while their faces of excellence defy patterns of terrible behaviors at home. Wives are afraid to speak out for many reasons, some of which this blog will discuss on Thursday.

Mental bruises, cuts, and scars are invisible. This does not mean they matter less than wounds we can see. Part 3 of this series will describe a case of emotional abuse and what one particular victim feels.

Resources I recommend:

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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

*Psychological Disorder. (n.d.). In Alleydog.com’s online glossary. Retrieved from: http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition-cit.php?term=Psychological Disorder) (Disorders involve thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that prevent persons from functioning, meeting their own personal needs, or who become a danger to themselves or others.)

**What’s Worse: Physical Scars or Mental Scars?  A domestic violence guest post by Joseph Pittman. Retrieved from http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/whats-worse-physical-scars-or-mental-scars/

*** From A Cry for Justice, italics mine. Retrieved from http://www.cryingoutforjustice.org

**** 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:11

What Can Dissociation Look Like? Terri’s story

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

Reflected AbstractionHer typically wandering emotions halt, paralyzed in fear of the truth. Breathing had once been easier, hadn’t it? Forcing air to her lungs, she wonders why she is trying.

It’s ridiculous to let this get to me, she thinks as her mind edges back to the safety of denial. It doesn’t work this time; truth is staring her down. She’s been betrayed by the love of her life.

Rising from her chair, movement seems strained as if she is blocked somehow. Nothing hinders her physically; the surrounding haze is as thick as a brick wall and more impenetrable. This is part of her depression disorder, although anyone might feel this way under these circumstances. 

Walking toward the kitchen intending to finish washing the dishes, her eyes are captured by light streaming through a window. She stands, staring, as if waiting for a bird or perhaps a talking tree to assure her she will be okay. Honestly, she doubts she would believe even them.

He threw me away.

Her thoughts are the betrayers now as they argue. You did this. This is your fault. If you were a better wife, a more desirable woman, a stronger person…

No, he used me. I’ve been nothing to him…

You are a fool to think that matters. Your job is to smile and love ‘til death, and if you did your marriage would work!

No!  God knows I tried. He understands betrayal…

That woman on the phone is right. You are unforgiving, hard-hearted, and disobedient to God.

Finally, I think I have the courage to leave the dumpster and be who I am created to be!

You’re a fool!

I know. Her head drops and shoulders stoop as she gives in to old pangs of false guilt. Pain stabs inside her abdomen. Exhaustion leads her back to her seat and she slumps into her chair. Once again, her mind freezes as her emotions shut down. She hates feeling; it is too excruciating. Life is full of conflicting sensations and thought wars. Maybe if she would just disappear…

With that she leaves the room, her situation, and reality. If anyone asks her where she is, the question will go unanswered as she doesn’t know and doesn’t care. The haze hugs her tight, squeezing her into oblivion.

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*Dissociation (not dissociative disorder) is a common means of taking an emotional vacation, a rest. It is similar to having your mind wander because you are bored. You can return from that daydream and actually not remember what happened during your daydreaming.  With a dissociative disorder, a person may watch real life as if outside their own body, play the actor, and/or “lose” periods of time.  It is important to remember that diagnosis follows observation of clusters of symptoms, their intensity, duration, and level of distress they cause. If this is an invasive part of your life, seek professional counsel.  Here is more information: https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-understanding-dissociative-disorders/3/

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences 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 can be yours

Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   Nancy Virden (c)2013

Sometimes I see that a certain search landed someone on this site. The title of this blog is a question asked on Google or another search engine. Hopefully, the one who asked will find this post.caught!

Is watching porn emotional abuse?

YES   How so? Emotional abuse is taking advantage of another person’s emotional vulnerability. It can be crazy-making for the abused because wounds are not visible, and the abuse is often masked by lies and a pretence all is well. Those involved may be steeped in denial, and outside supports have trouble believing what they do not see or understand.

There are five groups of people who are emotionally and/or sexually abused by the one who engages in watching porn.

1) The spouse or partner disturbed by this activity. If no means no, then taking advantage of who is hurt by our actions is abuse. Likely, a wife (it can go both ways, but most often porn use is by men) will feel embarrassed. Why am I not enough? Does he love me for me? Does he wish I were someone else? What’s wrong with me? 

As the wife grows older and the models remain young, she may doubt she is still wanted. Spiritually, she might have trouble understanding where God is in all this. Perhaps she feels used and degraded as her core needs go unmet. She may withdraw in emotional self-defense. Her husband can try to use her reaction as rationalization for porn use, but whether she accepts blame, the problem lies with the abuser. He is not protecting her heart, the one he promised to cherish forever.

Watching porn is also adultery.  I heard a pastor say, “It is not adultery, it is an addiction.” Seriously??  With all due respect, if becoming addicted to a sin makes it ultimately OK, then let’s party!  He went on to say, “It just feels like adultery to the wife.” Notice there is no acceptance of female wisdom in his patronizing comments. My translation of this pastor’s words is this: Silly women get upset over this not-so-bad habit guys have. 

The definition of adultery by Webster’s and the Bible, is seeking sexual pleasure outside of marriage even if from lust alone. I might add, if it feels like adultery to the wife, it is emotionally abusive.

2) Women.  I’ve heard men say they do not see the insult to women in most of our media. Perhaps they do not see it because it is no longer offensive to them. The repeated downgrading of women to the shape of their bodies is obvious on TV, in magazines, in songs, movies, and on social media.

Here’s a challenge to scoffers. The next time you watch a “harmless” TV show or movie, be mindful of nudity or semi-nudity which will most likely be the female actors. Look out for violence perpetrated against beautiful and often barely clad women. Listen for comments about a woman’s looks; hear a rating system of girls’ value. Notice fantasies male characters joke about, and harsh judgments. Consider that the less-than-perfect looking actors are most likely men. Just observe. That next song you hear on the radio – what are the lyrics?

Do you see the parallel decline in our society’s treatment of women? Degradation of women has always been with us. Due to its modern-day availability, porn viewing entices  more bosses, husbands, teachers, therapists, pastors, government leaders, law enforcement officers, sons, students, employees, dads, and many others a woman or girl would like to believe respect her and have her best interests at heart.

Do we actually want to believe our society is not affected by this? Even if this man is outwardly respectful, inwardly his ability to control his thoughts as he relates to women is compromised.

Perhaps you are not sure you agree. When we value a point of view, we tend to defend it, yes? This is true in our thought patterns as well. If a man values women as sex objects (and he does if porn is enticing to him, even if he is not limiting women to that) he will mentally “defend” that position in situations where he finds himself tested. Will it show up in his treatment of women? I say, ultimately it will.  

3) Children.  People too young to process what is going on around them are exposed to pornography. ALL pornography. They see orgies, human on animal sex, rape, violence, incest, and every sexual possibility. When children stumble on these things on the internet, they do not forget what they saw.  It affects them. Boys and girls see and learn their supposed roles in sexual relationships.

This has a name – covert sexual abuse. It may not seem so obvious, but is harmful. Sexualized children include, and are not limited to, little girls whose moms bought them padded bras, daddies telling their daughters they look sexy, children stumbling across grandpa’s porn magazine collection, little boys copying their dad as he follows women with his eyes, and adults talking  about sexual exploits in the presence of children. Each of these actions and more, sexualize and damage children. 

4) The models/actors.  This may surprise you, but not all of them want in the business. There are those actors, desperate for work, who hear porn will kick off a career. Some came to believe early in life that this is all they are worth. Children and young adults are sold into the sex trade against their will. Why is there such a world that will steal a life to momentarily please another?

We have this world because it is a thriving business. The nature of porn is dehumanization, so why not destroy a person for money? Customers decide if a trade is bustling or not. We are responsible for what we promote with our money. As a collective, porn users emotionally and sexually abuse the models and actors.

5) The viewer.  Porn warps reality for the ones who lean on it for a sexual high or release of stress. They cannot have healthy relationships to the extent possible because their brains  adjust to a make-believe world. They become wired over time to react to pretend, not relationships. Why do we have the stereotype of the man hiding out in his house alone, watching porn movies in the dark? Because porn takes the viewer out of real life.

A person lost in a fantasy world where other people exist to satisfy the viewer’s sexual desires, will have trouble relating to reality. Dissatisfaction with life grows as his or her behavior becomes more demanding, distant, or secretive. Porn viewing is progressive, too. One has to dive deeper into fetishes, and search for more variety and experiences, to feel satisfied. 

Porn is emotionally abusive to an entire world of people. Am I saying porn watchers are victims? No, I’m saying porn’s existence has hurt us all.

Just as the wind is invisible but we know it is there, pornography is stealthily setting spouses, women, children, models, and viewers up for a terrifying fall. As internet generations grow up, we will see more results of childhood exposure to uninhibited and public sexual activity via porn.

As self-respect becomes more of an illusion for our girls, and masculine power and control tempts our boys,  we will no longer be able to deny how much this emotional abuse has damaged our world.

More on ‘Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse?’

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges. 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 can be yours.

*picture from Qualitystockphotos.com

“We all prisoners, chicky baby. We all locked in.”

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2012 Nancy Virden

photo-24775881-open-hands-with-keyThe title of today’s blog is an old movie line from 1968. Do you remember Herbie? The original talking car had a personality of its own (don’t they all?), and was the leading character in The Love Bug.

Do you recall who spoke this profound sentence? Before I reveal that answer,  let me tell you about my friend’s recent adventure.

Vicky (not her real name) is a retired RPN with many years experience taking care of young and old. Her specialty however, was pediatrics. Yet even she has trouble finding work as a full-time nanny. settling instead for low-paying babysitting jobs.

At present she has a regular part-time position watching a curious two year-old girl.  Last month, the little one wanted to explore the basement in her old, Philadelphia area home.  Vicky grasped her tiny hand, and they stepped down the creaky stairs. The tour was simple until the tot spotted a door in one wall. She wanted to go in.

Vicky promptly opened what appeared to be an original closet. The door’s latch went unnoticed as the would-be explorer and her partner first peered inside, and then entered.

Click.

Before she turned for proof, Vicky knew what had happened.  For over an hour she tried to entertain the antsy child who wanted out of the dark.  A small window thankfully allowed for a brief cell-phone connection, and they waited until a friend of the little girl’s mother came to the rescue.

A woman Vicky did not know opened the door. Vicky was understandably embarrassed and apologized for the inconvenience. 

However, their liberator was enthusiastic.  “Will you watch my little girl?”

Ha! If only all the underemployed in this nation could find work by making a mistake! Everyone would have a job.

Most of us spend our lives trying not to look foolish. This keeps us behind locked doors, and sometimes in the dark. It holds us back from truly investing in anyone else.

Uncertainty, insecurity, and distrust held me in emotional shadows, while it is I who had the key. It isn’t a rescue I needed, it was instruction how to use what was already mine.

Since stepping out into the light and slowly learning to share the real me, I’ve been approached multiple times by people  who want to tell someone of their own struggles. It’s good they have found an understanding soul. It’s a shame that in many cases it has to be a stranger to whom they turn.

Where are the supports for the hurting? Are we all hiding?

In The Love Bug, Herbie has taken over control of his door locks. His driver and a female passenger are a meant-to-be romance in the making. Of course, only the car recognizes this, so he locks them in together. As the young woman tugs and pulls at the handle in an effort to leave, she hollers for help from a nearby hippie.

He peers out the window of his van and shakes his head. “We all prisoners, chicky baby. We all locked in.”

He was right.

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.