Finding the Courage to Ask for Change
Something is wrong with your relationship. You know it. Could it be emotional abuse? Maybe. Here is a blog that can help you decide this. If it is emotional abuse, what now? You could just walk out the door. Some people do that, but most make an effort to improve the relationship first. If you are with an abuser, s/he will make you think everything wrong in the relationship is your fault. Abusers are masters at the blame game. Often, their partners will begin to believe their smear campaign. Coming out of the fog of discerning what is real and what isn’t is a process.
Let’s say you have come out of the fog, and are ready to ask your partner for some changes. How can you do that? The following is adapted from my book A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom.
How Can You Find the Courage to Ask for Change?
During the twenty years of my marriage, I tried everything I could think of to help my husband see how he was hurting me. I explained what his behavior did to me more times than I could count. What I did not really understand, until I began learning about emotional abuse, is that he did know he was hurting me, and he was doing it, on purpose, to control me.
Realizing this was a major turning point. At that moment, I realized I wasn’t just in a difficult marriage, where things might eventually improve if I prayed hard enough. I began to realize that, instead of getting better, my husband’s abuse was getting worse. I changed from being unhappy in my marriage to being afraid of my husband.
Looking back, I wish I had understood he was emotionally abusing me years earlier. As I accepted this pattern of behavior, it began to feel normal to me. Perhaps if I had asked for change earlier, before his pattern of abuse was so ingrained, our marriage might have been saved. Then again, realizing this earlier may have made no difference.
Give Yourself time to Mourn
If you have realized you are being abused, and your partner is doing it on purpose to hurt you, give yourself some time to grieve the loss of the dream of a good relationship.
Suddenly, you are awake to the reality that your relationship is not going to improve; in fact, things will continue to get worse if you don’t take steps to change it. What a difficult thing to accept!
The following passage provided great comfort to me. Luke 4:19 records Jesus quoting from Isaiah 61. He points the people in his hometown to the fact that He is the anointed one, and He has come to free the captives. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners . . .
In my marriage, I did feel like I was being held captive. I saw no way out. I began counting the years until I could die and go live with the Lord. What a huge relief when I realized God didn’t want me to live in pain and fear. This is not His design for relationships. Isaiah 61:2 says:
. . . to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn . . .
I was definitely in mourning for my marriage, and for my hopes and dreams of a life built with a man I thought loved me—but these words offered me freedom, and the courage to ask for change.
You Are Worthy of Being Treated with Respect
Another thing that may be difficult for you is to ask for change in an effective way. The purpose of your partner getting power over you is to make you feel powerless. Being called names, told you are crazy, and ignored or frightened over a long period of time can make you doubt yourself, and your perception of what is happening. You may also doubt you are worthy of being treated with respect.
My husband had a way of making me feel ugly, even though others told me how beautiful I was. Isaiah 61:3 encouraged me with a description of how God sees me:
. . . and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
I pictured myself wearing a garment of praise given by Jesus, instead of the spirit of despair my husband gave me.
Please know God sees you as beautiful and spotless. You are worthy of Him sending His one and only Son to earth to die for you. As Isaiah 54:4–6 promises:
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
5 For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.
You won’t be alone when you ask for change. With His help, and with the resources I will describe below, you can find the courage to ask for the changes needed to try saving your relationship. Jesus will walk the road with you. Jesus promises,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Before beginning this process, you will want to get people around you to help you stand strong. These can be friends, family members, mentors, counselors, or fellow support group members. This will be very important for you, because asking an abuser for change is difficult, and you will want all the support you can find. Also, making a safety plan for yourself in case your partner’s abuse escalates when he sees you are no longer willing to accept his/her abuse is paramount.
For this next task, arm yourself with God’s power:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:10, 13-16).
So, you’ve discerned you are being abused. You have gathered friends and support around you, and realized your worth in God’s eyes. Now what? How do you actually begin asking for change? I have written a four-part series about how to hold your abuser accountable that can be very helpful to you now.
Question: Have you just realized you are being abused? What feelings do you have about this?
Dear Lord, please be with my friends who are going through this difficult time. Help them feel your intense, personal love for them. Give them your strength, courage and peace as they decide what to do next. Amen.
Bless you my friends,