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Abuse-proof your relationship


Published: Oct 03, 2013

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When a partner causes emotional, psychological or physical pain to his or her spouse and refuses to admit it, the marriage is on the pathway to failure.

If they refuse to admit the pain, all the kissing or the prayer in the world will not change the fact that the marriage is on the pathway to failure.  When a wife continues to kiss her abusive partner it gives him the feeling that all is well and he really does not have to change.  There should be an acknowledgment of the pain.  Avoid brushing it under the rug.  Seek professional help

One of the greatest and most prevalent destroyers of peace in a marriage is abuse.  Abuse is more lethal when: the victim keeps it a secret, the victim is not aware of the overt or covert ways he or she is being abused, and the victim is forced to stay.

Over the years, I have taken the time in this column to inform and educate on matters of abuse.  Today, I feel impressed to remind the readers about the definition of abuse, and in particular intimate partner abuse, which is far too common on our country.   Intimate partner abuse is when one person in a marital or intimate relationship tries to control the other.  The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and may threaten to use or may actually use physical violence.  There are many kinds of abuse.  Here are a few of them: physical abuse, sexual abuse (verbal, visual and physical sexual abuse), incest, verbal/emotional/psychological abuse, economic abuse, child abuse, religious abuse, sibling abuse, using children, threats, intimidation, isolation and ritualistic abuse.

One way a wife can know if her husband will be controlling is when he makes these statements or questions: “Who is wearing the pants around here?”; “I have the last say”; “I don’t have to tell you where I am going”; “I am the man around here”; “The Bible says you must never refuse your husband sex.”

Even his behavior can be giving the wife a hint that he is controlling.  When he comes home after work and sits down in the arm chair and demands from his equally tired wife that he is served his meal, that’s abuse.  Be nervous dear wives when your husband says these things.  It is time you seek help.  Too many spouses are not really spouses.  They are sex partners, not spouses and are often treated more like children and not adults.

It is imperative to understand that abuse does not start in a vacuum.  It is taught, directly or indirectly, by families, society and the church.  To explain this here are the four characteristics of abuse:

• Abuse is a learned behavior.  Children learn how to control, manipulate and intimidate others from their parents.  When they become adults it is now a normal part of their lives.  Even spiritual leaders, with their misinterpretation of scripture, set the ground for abusive behavior.

• It is selective.  Abusers usually select the most vulnerable to abuse or someone they feel they have control over.

• It is permissible.  The society has permitted abuse against women and children in our society.  What is taught about roles in relationships and the “who is in charge” mentality has ruined relationships.

• It is cyclical.  This means abuse goes in a cycle – it has three phases.  The tension-building phase, the explosion phases and the honeymoon phase.  The honeymoon phase can be the most vulnerable time.  This is when the big fight is over and they kiss and make up and the victim thinks that all is well.  As long as she “obeys” or meets his expectations, all is well.  Nothing really has changed.  His beliefs about women still remain the same.  As soon as she “misbehaves” the tension begins to rise until it reaches another explosion.

Perhaps my greatest concern about abuse is how spiritual leaders set the negative foundation for abuse by their teachings of what they call “spiritual” or “biblical” truths.  I call this spiritual abuse.  Here are a few descriptions of spiritual abuse.  It is using intimate partners’ religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them.  Spiritual abuse is also the use or misuse of scripture to control another.  “Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support of greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.”

We have spiritual abuse when a rigid, traditional approach to life and Christianity is reinforced by rigid pulpit preaching and teaching.  We also have spiritual abuse when the pastor says to a wife who was just beaten by her husband that she has to stay because that is what God wants her to do.

How to abuse-proof your marriage?

• Before marriage, seek pre-marriage counseling that includes the teachings of the dynamics of abuse.

• Have positive self-esteem.  How you feel about yourself is very important to prevent or reduce the risk of abuse.

• Dispel the myths about marriage and abuse.

• Do not use marriage to make you a better person.  Marriage will not make you happy.  Marriage only makes you married.  Happy people make happy marriages.

• Be aware of what abuse is all about.  Educate yourself.

• Manage conflicts and do not allow conflicts to manage you.

• Know the characteristics of an abused individual.

• Do not hide the abuse.

• Understand why and change your own need to control or to be in charge of your spouse.

• Tell someone.  Get out.  Call police.

Barrington H. Brennen is an ordained minister of the gospel, marriage and family therapist, and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA.  Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com, or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or call 242-327-1980.

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