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I’ve been dating someone for five years now, and he used to be married before, but his wife cheated on him, and he is divorced. He’s an amazing, God-fearing, caring, smart, and handsome man.
But he has problems with anger…
…even when we have small arguments, he’d always scream and then apologize. He has even raised his hands on me a few times, too. Just this week we had an argument in the car and he got really mad and hit me and screamed at me. He did apologize in a text he sent me and said he doesn’t want to be with me anymore because I always trigger him to react this way. I feel like he’s getting back with his ex; he always said I was being too judgmental in that area. Maybe I am, but I don’t know how to go about this, Joy. I knew him when he was married too, and he was never like this. Is it because of his past? He wouldn’t even speak to me.
I want you to think of your best friend in the whole world. Can you picture her?
Now reread your e-mail, but pretend she is telling you this about herself.
What would you tell her to do?
Recently my father said to me, “Abused women don’t stay in unhealthy relationships because they like the abuse. They stay because they have hope the person will change.” This is a wonderful characteristic on one hand because it is what allows us to show grace. But it’s a dangerous characteristic if you are in an unsafe situation and are remaining in harm’s way.
Abusive men promise they will change—every time.
And while I have hope for all people, I also have hope for you to make a wise decision and REMOVE YOURSELF.
You don’t “trigger” your boyfriend to scream and hit; you simply reveal who he is allowing himself to be. People who say that “you” cause them to be the way they are behaving are unhealthy and manipulative. We all are only responsible for our own actions.
As my father says, “You don’t cause me to be the way I am; you reveal the way I am.”
So what is being revealed about you in this situation? Are you listening to the wise people in your life who know about your relationship? Do you have people in your life who know about these details? What is being revealed about your boyfriend? Pretend you have a daughter. Is this how you would want him to treat her?
Please wake up, my dear woman.
I don’t want you writing my parents 15 years from now, saying, “Why didn’t anyone tell me this was unwise?”
So hear me clearly: THIS RELATIONSHIP IS UNWISE. I truly hope you will get professional help immediately. Your investment in this relationship and love of this man are causing you not to see clearly.
From my heart,
p.s. You mentioned he was a “God-Fearing” man. Look up what that means. He’s not. A man who has reverence and respect for God almighty, wouldn’t be hitting women and telling them it’s their fault. He has messed with your head and twisted your definition of a Godly man. I’m sorry.
What are some ways you can communicate to a friend who is in an abusive relationship, and blinded by love?
What “checks and balances” can someone have in place to prevent themselves from going back to an abusive relationship?
Can you recommend any resources on this topic?
Don't leave just yet. Besides these articles, sometimes I send out extra special stuff. Don't miss out. Sign up here.
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.
CCEF has a good booklet on this topic: ( http://astore.amazon.com/cceforg-20/detail/087552687X )
Blinded by love? Please, dear friend, I know you desire an intimate and fulfilling relationship that will last a lifetime. I recognize that it’s difficult to restart the journey. There are fears that go along with mourning the hopes unrealized in this relationship. Please don’t waste another day in this relationship, but take positive steps towards the relationship we both want you to have.
Wow- I guess it was only a matter of time before someone bought this question up. Thanks for being so honest and clear with your response, Joy. I can’t emphasize enough how URGENT it is for women in abusive relationship to get help NOW- these men will only go on to struggle with their anger in their NEXT relationship. The cycle doesn’t end with just one person triggering their anger; they will almost definitely hit again.
Scary business. Thanks for your response- hopefully the comments section will blow up with resources for the victims of these relationships.
@JOY, So do you think the abuser is feeling like this is what love looks like? I understand the victim getting a warped mentality on what her expectations are in “love,” but for the abuser, is this what love LOOKS like? To hit his spouse? I think he’s probably thinking, “Well, my last girl didn’t make a stink when I smacked her. This one won’t either.”
@Val, Sadly, I doubt the abuser ever thinks anything about it. He (in this situation / She (some others I know of) sadly “Don’t know any better.” I am not attempting to give an excuse and I assure I do not advocate this kind of behavior, but some don’t know any better. The depravity of man (as race) isn’t really getting any better. Just as a spoiled child doesn’t know how to behave and typically throws a fit when they don’t get their way, abusive people when they either can’t communicate or get what “They want” do what they know, which is way too often abuse.
Got it. I think Joy was talking about why it’s so urgent for the victim to get out; because she’ll get trapped in false thought patterns. I thought maybe she was thinking about the abuser’s thought processes.
Here’s a ministry that I know is easy access in Chicago: http://www.focusministries1.org. Or you can call 630 595 7023 for free counsel and encouragement.
I should update and say that I have corresponded with “Kate” multiple times now and she is out of the relationship. Please pray for her to stay strong and not repeat the pattern. I chose to post a response because I know she is not alone and I want our community to talk this through together.
@JOY, this is wonderful news. In my professional experience with domestic violence, however, “getting out” doesn’t always end the violence. Men who can manipulate an individual get used to the power, and they often believe that a breakup can be easily remedied with flowers and apologies and “I love you and miss yous”. When I worked at a domestic assault shelter, the average return rate was FIVE VISITS before the abusive relationships ended. Fortunately for Kate, she isn’t married to this man, have kids with him, or is economically dependent on him, but still: he’ll try to get her back, and she needs to maintain strength. Unfriend on Facebook. Change his name on her cell phone to “The Man Who Hit Me” or “Don’t Answer”. These guys don’t just go away. I wish her all the best.
@Terry Brock, Whatever you’ve mentioned is absolutely true. I was never the person i used to be after i was with him. Completely manipulated, unconfident, weak, scared of what he might do or how he might react to things.. always relying him of everything. he even hated me working and even asked me to stay away from my grandparents and extended family who I am very close to. He should get an award for manipulation, truly I’ve never seen anyone like him. Yes, he has come back with all the I love you’s and I miss you’s and thinks its so easy. Sometimes it reminds me of all the good times we’ve had but taken back to the horrid ones, they terrify me! I will make sure I change his name to the one’d you’ve mentioned above to always remind me. I am praying for strength myself and that God would completely erase him out of my mind. thankyou
@Aron, Thanks. I really do hope it sheds some light on why we do what we do. It’s very easy, especially for women to get attracted to abusive relationships because many women are attracted to strong men. Abuse can be a sick and perverted form of strength that can mess with a woman’s perception of true Godly strength.
There’s also the feelings aspect which I touched on in my response to Val.
@Aron and @JOY: women stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. Attraction to strong men could be one, but there are many others. Physical violence is often a symptom of an overarching system of control that permeates all aspects of a relationship. Abused women are often left powerless: they are cut off from friends and family. They are economically dependent on the man. They have children who are also financially dependent on the abusive male, and feel that they have to stay in the relationship “for the children”. Abusive men can be incredibly manipulative, not just physically violent, so it often is as simple as that.
I’m so glad she’s out of that relationship!
Kate, you are definitely not alone. I’ve had a very close friend who was in a verbally abusive relationship. I didn’t understand why she would stay with him. It didn’t make sense to me, but it was very hard for her. She believed he would change and that somehow it was her fault. She’s out now, but not without a lot of hurt. I learned a lot about the struggle of abused women through her situation. I still don’t understand because I haven’t been there, but I can see now that it’s a very real struggle. I’ve also learned that it takes bravery for women to break through the vicious cycle of abuse. But it can be done!
Thanks for speaking to the hard topics, Joy!
A bit more to share on this issue:
I come from an alcoholic and abusive family (GrandPa & GGrandPa; go figure, the sins of the fathers); I do deal with some anger issues from time to time, but I never channel it. Typically I have to stop what I am doing and process what “I am thinking and what is bringing this out of me.” Typically from past memories of my marriage it was pink/blue lack of communications with me and my Ex-Wife. When we would have an argument, it would always boil down to pink/blue communications. I would most of the time go over and sit on the couch and want to discuss it with her as I could see it was a “communications breakdown” but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was we were “miss-communicating on.” She was at times very persistent in that I agree with her — which I often buckled and did — just to nullify the situation, but that didn’t really help anything, it just “made her happy” but left me still trying to figure out “what we were not communicating with each other.”
Alcohol is typically a trigger point for me — and many others who deal with anger issues — which is why I avoid it at all costs. I had a margarita a few months ago when it was offered to me, never having one I was not aware of what was in it, but as soon as the “hard liquor” hit my brain cells I knew what it was and totally had the “Old Self” pop right back in as I scanned the selection of other drinks that were available. As a mature Man I immediately started drinking water like usual and am quite glad I had that little “Eye Opening” experience to how quickly those temptations will come back. It had been 16+ years since having a “hard liquor” drink and the temptation was only one drink away, good to know and I will continue to avoid it at all costs.
After seeing how the communication and intimacy you should have as a family was destroyed from this kind of behavior, I refuse to tolerate it or to pass it onto those who come after me. I have no “External Resources” to offer except God, the Love of friends (both the love they have for you, and the love we claim to have for them and would not want to hurt them) to help you through these terrible times.
This is a fear I deal with in all I do, I often pray to God I am nothing like the Horrible examples I have had.
I narrowly escaped a manipulative abuser several years ago with the help of my amazing family and close friends… and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. The soul ties already made were already in place and I was experiencing a sort of “death” of this relationship. I can’t stress enough that you need community during this time and you need to allow yourself to grieve. There is light at the end of the tunnel. But you also have to cut ties and end it. I got my life back and I certainly hope that for other women (and occasionally this goes for men, too) in abusive relationships. Here’s one resource that rings true for some amount of help: http://goodwomenproject.com/boundaries/understanding-what-people-are-really-trying-to-say
Good discussion Joy! Here are some pearls that helped me.
1)Abusers typically will have cycles of abuse. Recognizing the cycle is the first and hardest part. I saw Kate’s boyfriend’s pattern: trigger, argument, scream apologize (flower stage); trigger, hitting, scream, apology (not face to face).
2)Breaking out of that cycle/pattern requires some courage. Asking for help is good. Following through on wise advice (like Joy’s) fantastic! The boyfriend is right in that we need to acknowledge sometimes there are people that reveal the worst in us. There are others that reveal the best in us. And like Dr. E and Joy say, what we do with that revelation is our responsibility. What we learn about ourselves and how we need to transform in the process is important. Otherwise, the pattern of abuse or seeking another abuser is likely to repeat.
3)Let it be said, NO ONE deserves to be abused- male or female. Walking away or letting the person walk away is respectful and safe.
4) Recognizing and learning how to be good stewards of our anger is part of the transformation God calls us to. Anger is a real and powerful emotion. God confronts anger in Cain & Jonah. Dr. E will challenge us by asking: your feelings are real, but are they right? God is revealed in Scriptures as having anger too. Asking the question, “What’s the difference between God’s anger and ours?” is a good one to explore. I have found God’s anger is righteous, never unrighteous.
So how do we learn to unpack the feelings of unrighteous anger? How do we unwrap the feelings of fear displayed in contempt? God has much to teach in this area, here are some scriptures that have helped me:
Genesis 4:6-7 “So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Proverbs 22:24-25 Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.
Proverbs 29: 22 An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression.
Romans 12 :17-21 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ”
Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
Eph. 4: 30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Joy, I am married to the man described by Kate above (right down to the opening line). I read this and it gave me an uneasy feeling that maybe Kate is seeing a man who is still married. Please make sure Kate knows for sure that this man is indeed divorced – either way, break any soul ties with him now and run for cover under the shadow of His (the Lord’s wings). If he truly is a believer in Jesus Christ he will take care of the business yet to be settled with his ex-wife the way Jesus would have it be. Send this guy back to his Pastor and ex wife now. He needs to repent.
Some more resources:
1)The Other Side of Love-Handling Anger in a Godly Way by Gary Chapman
Helping Victims of Sexual Abuse- A Sensitive, Biblical Guide for Counselors, Victims and Families by Lynn Heitritter & Jeanette Vought
When You’ve Been Wronged -Moving from Bitterness to Forgiveness by Erwin W. Lutzer
Anger by Shannon B. Rainey
I had to pray on this topic. Slept on it. Still I had to take a breath, before I could sit down and write a response.
I’ve been dealing with this topic for 34 years. It was (is) mainly verbal and emotional, though had reached physical a couple of times. 29 years ago I went to a battered women’s home. Please don’t paint a picture of despair. I was in no way injured like some of the women there. It was a very difficult time for us. ANGER got the best of both of us. Stress of unexpected twins, SURPRISE, was a lot for us. We separated for a year. We both got help. Unfortunately separately. At the time, at our first and only couples session, the focus was turned on me. Rightfully, I came from a sexually abusive, alcoholic family. To survive I buried it. As I reached adulthood I had some wonderful people influence me in a good direction. I had never told my husband of my abuse nor my rebelling behavior. It came out in therapy though. Sadly, he didn’t feel he needed any help for his anger. He was in the fix the wife, and it will fix our marriage stage. At the time I did feel like I brought out the worst in him while hiding my baggage. Fix me and my marriage would be fix sounded good to me too. We both made a commitment to God, for better, or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health, and those vows meant something. However, the more I dug into that baggage the stronger I got. I choose to get back with him because we were working on a common goal, our family. I continued in therapy for years. Hubby worked it out in his way. I mean he WORKED as in workaholic. I found it difficult to balance a marriage and the kids with the baggage alone. I would learn ways on how to bring him to God, to his senses, you know hope for change! It wasn’t going to happen without him participating though. When ever we reached that road sign, I would turn one way and he would turn another. I believe he needed to fix himself his way, just as I needed to fix me my way. We had many, many more road blocks over those years as well. I was attacked by a rapist while leaving work one night. My father abused my daughter who I thought I had been protecting. I was dealing with tumors growing. Up and down with the depression roller coaster. Our twins were diagnosed with a bone disease and one spent 26 weeks in the hospital one year. I didn’t pay attention to the anger most of the time. A few friends would dub us the Bickerson, though offended, laughed it off. By then I knew how to get around it, avoid it, calm it. Even my own anger had to be channeled. We never stopped growing though. Just a year later, I was busy with a new business. A few more years, teens and college bound children. Business problems that I would be responsible for solely began to wear on me. After a near fatal illness, the death of 3 parents in 13 months, dealing with more health issues, I found myself back in therapy. I needed someone to help me see what God has in front of me and what I am to do about it.
You see, now my children are in there thirties and guess what? They have had relationship issues in their twenties as well. ANGER entered their homes.
Once again I had to dig deep. I absorbed all the blame. I should have divorced their father. I should never of had children, I just messed them up. I was on a long, long, fast moving train of guilt. My guilt brought with it doubt. Doubt led to criticizing myself, my husband, my life, which recently led him to expressing a lot of that bottled up, aged old anger! It hurt to hear it. As he yelled, I closed my eyes. I wanted to hear his anger because he needed to get it out, but his face was scary. I needed to close my eyes because that was where God would be, giving me the strength to stand there. I closed my eyes because I didn’t want to react to his expressions. I wanted to hear his heart. I have been waiting for it for a long time.
As scary as it was I was not afraid. Over the last few years all that work I was doing was trickling down. He admitted he is angry, and not just with me but with himself. For what I had gone through and alone. How the roller coaster of a marriage was not what he had planned. In fact, I even heard what abusers say all the time, he was trying to give me his anger. I stood there, strong and praised him for his insight but his work was not and is not for me to do. If you want to feel it is all your fault, go ahead. I know the work I did in the past and in the present was for the better.What work has he done. It was one thing to deal with this in our early years, but as grandparents, we must set a better example. With that, I walked out of the room. I love this man with all my heart but in order for this marriage to survive this final step, he must take a leap of faith himself. I pray daily, hourly, to sometimes every few minutes that God continues to soften that spot within him.
I was, am and still could be ready to through in the towel at anytime, but not until I don’t see any more road signs or I see one that says dead end. God joined us together 34 years ago and if it is his will we go separate ways I will embrace that direction, but He knows my heart, He knows my soul, and I believe He has us on the right road.
Thank you Joy for this post.
I heard people tell me of verbal abuse stories and such.
This is a good resource for bullet points on the topic.
I learned from this.
I have been struggling with an abusive relationship myself. Only, I am married to him, have kids with him, and am financially dependent on him. I am cut off from my family a bit – this is not directly because of him, but more indirectly as I am too embarrassed to have them find out how he has been treating me.
He has found somewhere else to live, but comes back when he has time off from work. He doesn’t want a divorce because ‘keeping’ us financially is cheaper (and, I think, because he has more control); plus he doesn’t want me to find someone else. Yet, if he gets angry he threatens to take our wifi, turn off my phone, or even not provide us with food money. Talk about controlling and manipulative…
I finally told a family member who seems to be supportive, but there’s not much in the way of action that he can do. I do have many people who are praying for us, I have found a counselor for myself, and have plans to meet with an attorney to discuss my options. I am trying to stay busy; praying, trying to make a little money for myself, and doing some outside activities.
Nights are still lonely. I find it difficult to get started in the mornings. I experience periods of fear, anxiety, and depression. I try to remind myself that ‘this too shall pass’ and that God sees the big picture & wants what’s best for me.
Thanks for posting her question and answering it both honestly and respectfully.
Thank you for this post Joy.
This really hit home for me.
I was dating this guy for almost two years and thought he was PERFECT for me except that when we would argue he would tell me that I “caused him to be angry.” He would say to me that “no one has ever caused me to act this way except YOU. You cause me to be this way!” And I believed him for the longest time. I really thought it was all my fault.
I know I’m not perfect. I get angry too but deep down inside I couldn’t believe he was blaming me! He has a role in the relationship as well and I felt he was NOT taking responsibility for himself. We were on a roller coaster ride for a while, well it felt like it, and then things finally ended when he kept telling me that I made him so “unhappy” after every fight. Of course I was devastated. I really wanted us to work out. I thought he was THE ONE but I couldn’t withstand the hurt and pain he kept verbally inflicting on me.
I’m a strong, good, and god loving person and I just wanted to be with a man that cared about my happiness just as much as I cared about his. But sadly, it didn’t happen that way.
I also just wanted a man that would go to mass with me every Sunday and he couldn’t do that for me. He said that it was “against everything he believed in, ” and he’s a “Christian man.”
He made me so confused for the longest time.
I know better now and I’m so thankful I’m out of that relationship.
great answer Joy-full. Saw you tweet on this a while back and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to read it 🙂