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Abuse: More Than Just a Black Eye

A warning up front: today’s post is about the different kinds of abuse that happen in a marriage. Sadly, statistics show that in our Thriving Marriages community there are dozens, if not hundreds, of readers in emotionally, sexually, spiritually, or physically abusive marriages … and despite this article from Elisabeth Klein focusing on one gender, we know they’re not all women. We care too much about what God wants for ALL his children to not talk about this. Please read this: even if it doesn’t apply to your marriage, it might to a marriage you know. I (Josh) am praying for you, a member of our TM community, today and specifically that those of you in abusive marriages will find the freedom and safety God longs for you to experience.

I received a question from a reader lately: “I wish I had understood more about the other kinds of abuse. I thought the only thing truly considered abuse was if you were hit. What other kinds are there?”

I was a psych major in college.  I have half of my Master’s in Social Work.  I worked at a social service agency for eighteen months out of college as the good touch/bad touch lady.  And when someone talked about abuse in a marriage situation, I always thought of only three kinds: physical (getting hit), sexual (being raped), or emotional (being yelled at or maybe called names).

I liken it to the analogy of a frog who starts off in lukewarm water but because the water is heated so slowly, he doesn’t even realize he’s being boiled to death.  Sometimes, you’re just too close to the situation to know what you’re dealing with.  (Which is why it’s so important to get outside help.)

This is a list of some of the various kinds of abuse that can appear in a relationship.

Emotional/Psychological: Put-downs. Name-calling. Mind games. Mental coercion. Conditional affection. Dishonesty. Broken promises.

Threats: Threats to end relationship. Threats to do harm. Threats to life, to take the children, commit suicide, to report to the authorities.

Economic: Restrictions on employment. Making the abused ask for money. Giving the abused an allowance and taking any money the abused earns. Requirement to account for every penny spent while shopping.

Intimidation: Use of looks, actions, gestures, loud voice or cursing to generate fear. Continual arguing. Abused required to say what abuser wants to hear.

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Property Violence: Punching walls, throwing things, destroying property. Breaking down doors, destroying personal property of the abused. Abuse of pets.

Passive/Aggressive: Use of silence as a weapon. Refuses to engage in problem solving, communication or intimacy.

Isolation: Controls what is done, who is seen, who is talked to. Limits or listens in on calls. Sabotages car. Restriction of outside interests. Frequent moves. Restricts access to mail. Deprived of friends.

Use of Children: Use of children to give messages. Use of visitation rights as a way to harass. Use of child support as leverage. Influencing children to side with abuser and/or pressure abused.

Humiliation: Hostile humor. Public humiliation and criticism. Denigrating appearance, parenting skills, housekeeping skills, cooking, and so on.

Responsibility: Making abused responsible for everything in life (bills, parenting, and so on). Making abused responsible for abuser’s feelings and behavior.

Spiritual: Use of scripture and words like “submission” and “obey” to dominate and control.

Sexual: Demanding unwanted or bizarre sexual acts. Physical attacks to sexual parts of the body. Treatment of the abused as a sex object. Interruption of sleep for sex. Forced sex.

Use of Male Privilege: Treatment of the abused like a servant. Unilateral decision-making. Expecting more privileges and having fewer responsibilities.

Physical: Beating, biting, choking, grabbing, hitting, kicking, pinching, pulling hair, punching, restraining, scratching, shaking, shoving, slapping, spanking, smothering, tripping.

Deprivation: Denial of basic rights. Deprivation of private or personal life. Controlling food, water, sleep. Denies access to medical care.

Stalking: Spying, following to activities (store, church, work, and so on). Extreme jealousy. Frequent calling. Sending unwanted presents or notes.

If you or your children are in physical danger, you need to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible and tell someone.  And if any of these on this list sound like the relationship you’re in, it’s time you get help and figure out what to do.  This is not what God intended for anyone, including your potential abuser.  Help can be found.

Nat’l Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out my coaching options and my e-book, “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.