How To Spot an Abuser On the First Date

This post is in response to a question asked in the comments of one of the articles on this site.

Right up front, let me clarify that this is by no means a comprehensive answer! And as I said in my comments, I don’t think it will be possible to always spot an abuser on the first date. So the title of this piece relates to the question asked, not the answer given.

I have replied with some things that would have applied to my own situation with an abuser. I am quite sure there are more red flags which would apply with other abusers. I hope that others who read this will chime in with other red flags they have seen.

The original question was this:

If you were going on a date, now, with the same man, what would have given you a clue of your future? how would you know if it is real gold, or “gold” that doesn’t exist?

This was my response (somewhat amplified):

A single date could very likely be hard to see through. Someone can put on a perfect front for a brief period of time. With a skillful abuser, you have to put the pieces together over a period of time, though there are generally subtle clues that will peek through even on short association.

For me, with the specific man I married, there were some indications before hand that I didn’t understand.

1. He never quite managed to tell the truth. Everything he said was either over-exaggerated or under-stated, whichever would put him in the best light. I frankly suspected him of lying with all of his self-glorifying stories, but then I did find out at least one of them was true so I thought I must be wrong.

Later, this issue of him recreating reality was HUGE – he used it all the time when talking about me to others, especially pastors, counselors and his family. For many abusers, (I don’t know if it is universal but I’ve seen it in several) their reality is self-customized to their specifications – whatever meets their perceived need at the moment. So dialog becomes virtually impossible since they turn everything that actually happened around, even taking incidents that happened and recreating or even repositioning them in time/space to suit their purposes – generally to the disadvantage of the one they are abusing.

2. There was an incident where he punched a fellow student. I didn’t see it happen so all I knew was his own story, which was that the other student persistently provoked him, telling him over and over, over a period of many weeks, to punch him. So finally he did. I wish I had known to ask other students who knew both of them and would have seen these interactions, what really happened. After experiencing his violence first-hand, I know his version of this event was not true.

3. His mother asked me before we were married whether I thought I could handle his temper. Well, she never explained exactly what she meant by that or told me of any history or examples. And I had literally never seen an adult with a “temper.” In my family, everything was always handled very civilized. That didn’t mean that people didn’t disagree, but no one ever got nasty or yelled and screamed, or called names, or used profanity. And certainly, there was never any violence, not even throwing things, punching walls or furniture, slamming things, etc. So I was completely clueless about what she meant. And I thought that if we truly loved each other we could certainly work out any disagreements. After all, that was what I had seen modeled all my life.

4. I didn’t realize that he was utterly self-absorbed before well into our marriage. Before our marriage, he attempted to engage me in conversation (scripted, no less, with 3×5 cards with questions on them) to try to “find out about me” – but even these were about him. He was trying to find out whether I matched his purposes – not wanting to get to know me because of me. Years later I realized some of those question were designed to make sure I was the type of person who wouldn’t catch on to him or stand up against him – though he may not even have been consciously aware of that fact. I don’t know whether that would have been more obvious to me unless/until I had a clue about abuse, however.

This is something I have seen other abusers do, to a greater or lesser degree. Their conversation, even about you, is always really about them. And they will use flattery, gifts, and constant statements of deep attraction, love, need, “you are more than life to me” yada, yada to win you over. But this is really not about adoration – it is about obsession and desire to “have” you like a possession. And that turns deadly once the “I do’s” are said (or when they feel confident they “have” you).

5. He didn’t really listen to the things about me — he recreated his understanding of me to match his desires and expectations. This was demonstrated in things like the gifts he purchased for me which were things he liked and I didn’t (after his persistent probings to find out what I liked). Also it was revealed in his choice of activities for us – which were always things he wanted to do and not things I would have enjoyed.

Later in our marriage, he went through several months of again probing to find out what I liked to do. He gave me lists to fill out and questionaires to complete. I resisted at first, because by then I knew what would happen. But, of course, he insisted under the banner that my resistance said I didn’t care about him or our marriage. So I filled out his forms.

He didn’t say anything about them at first, but then weeks later he again accused me of not liking to do anything, having no interests, etc., etc. My reply was that I like a lot of things and I had even filled out his forms telling him all of them. His response — none of those are any fun. My response — so, in other words, if I don’t like what you like, I have no interests and don’t like to do anything “fun.” He didn’t reply – but that didn’t mean he changed his mind. He said the same thing again to me and to others about me multiple times after that.

6. Things always had to be done his way. Even if I had another way or another preference, he would pick at it and pick at it, and “reason” and cajole until I gave in to his way. This was vividly apparent (but I didn’t see it at the time) over our wedding plans. I planned that wedding for 18 months, during which we were separated for the most part. I had to pay for all of it, so it had to be on a very strict budget. When he came back from overseas and out of state 3 months before the wedding, he managed to get me to change almost everything. This wedding was “his” day, not the bride’s day. Boy, should that have been a clue!

7. Another indication, which seriously bothered me at the time, but I didn’t understand it’s significance, was in our physical relationship. Now, you have to understand that we were in a very strict environment. We were taught that men and women were not even to touch until after the wedding, period. We had both come to realize that was not only ridiculous, but unhealthy. Well, I thought that was we. Perhaps it was me and he was just glad to agree. But still, it was not to go beyond normal and healthy demonstrations of affection. No petting, etc.

In spite of our agreed boundaries, the first time he kissed me he attempted to french kiss me. I was appalled (understand, I had never done anything of the sort – I know most people would think I was nuts). And personally, I think I was rightly appalled. The boundaries of our physical relationship were to be completely non-sexual and french kissing is symbolic of the sex act – deliberately. But I figured I was being a ridiculous prude, so I gave in to him from the second kiss onward.

Now, here’s the serious part. Every single time he kissed me from that day until after our wedding, it had to be a french kiss. Never a simple kiss of affection. Not only that, he would hold me very tight, push my head as far back as it would go so I was overbalanced, and would prolong each kiss for minutes at a time. I literally couldn’t breathe. It took me many, many years (he still did this after we were married, just not every single time he got near me) to realize this was physical domination and control.

During our marriage, he started griping when I would push him off so I could catch a breath, and he told many, many people that I “wouldn’t let him kiss me.” In fact, this was one of his favorite gripes, along with accusing me of refusing him sex. That got the pastors, counselors and his family every time. What no one ever paused to find out was that I only refused him abusive sex – and he knew that. He also knew that he was welcome to intimacy that wasn’t abusive.

In fact, a year before our marriage ended, he got up in front of an entire church and “testified” that his life had been changed that week because his wife of 19 years had finally let him kiss her for the first time. I was completely humiliated and there was nothing I could do to defend myself. But I did wonder if anyone took a second to wonder how this man had managed to acquire 3 children without ever kissing. That would be really weird.

Going a bit off topic, this habit of humiliating me in front of others was also a consistent issue throughout our marriage. I don’t remember him ever doing that before we were married, but then we also were not together very much before we were married. Strange environment, long story.

But he did this often during our marriage, lying to people about me or telling them twisted things about me. I eventually observed that he did this, not only randomly, but also any time he felt that other people might be viewing me in a complementary way, if he felt I was getting too much attention, or if he felt that others might see him as “less” than me in some way.

But the result of this habitual behavior was that I was even more isolated than I was just by his refusal to let me do things, see family, go out with friends, etc. (And to be completely clear, he even accomplished this by manipulation and pushing, pushing, pushing me until I gave in and did what he wanted. He rarely just flat said, “No you can’t.” Instead he guilt-tripped, manipulated, etc. to get me to agree with him about me “needing” to stay at home.)

As a result, I never knew what people really thought of me because I knew he had lied about me to various people, but I never knew who, or what he had said to them. So I always kept myself reserved to a greater or lesser degree around people who knew both of us. Invariably, the things he had said about me would end up jumping out and slapping me in the face at odd times when people would accuse me of things, or decide to no longer associate with me, or whatever. This was especially true with his family, with the church, and with the pastors/counselors we saw.

Back to the issue of point 7, this behavior of pushing in the arena of physical relationship is common with abusers. They want whatever they can get, and they will flatter, cajole, manipulate, and flat-out push past boundaries to get it. Then if you feel guilty or want them to quit, it is you who are at fault, never them.

These are a few I can think of off the top. As a general rule, I think a single date would be difficult to know (though, not always; sometimes it’s really obvious if you know the signs) but over time it is not hidden.

What makes it most difficult, actually, is that if you have come from an abusive background (and unfortunately, a lot of people do not even realize their background was abusive since it was their “normal”) these behaviors will not seem abnormal to you. You may even feel flattered by the persistent attention and apparent adoration. So the very best way to learn to spot an abuser is to get healthy yourself first. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this is the only way to really protect yourself from an abuser.

Characteristics of a Narcissist

I found a really great post on another blog, describing the characteristics of a narcissist.

I like this piece because in addition to listing characteristics, the author gives a lot of specific examples of each one. I found this to be especially helpful.

I think this list will also be beneficial to anyone experiencing abuse. There is a lot of overlap in these characteristics.

Recognizing and Dealing with Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators and Users in Relationships

I’ve just posted another great article by Dr. Joe Carver about how to recognize and deal with Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators and Users in Relationships. This another fantastic piece in his insightful series.

The Nature of Manipulation

I found this article at rumination2.blogspot.com. Another great post from a great site.

~~~

In relationships, manipulation can be defined as:

any attempt to control, through coercion (overt or covert),another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

From this definition, manipulation would seem to have no advantages. However, if you are codependent and defined by others, there can be many advantages. When you allow others to control your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and make decisions for you,

— you do not have to think for yourself;

— you can avoid taking risks and making difficult decision;

— you can avoid taking a stand on controversial issues;

— you can avoid feeling responsible for negative outcomes;

— you get to blame others when things go wrong;

— you can believe, when others tell you how to behave, what to think, how to feel and what to decide, that you are “being loved” because they “want what is best for you”;

— you can avoid feeling separate and alone by avoiding conflict;

— you can avoid the hard work of emotional growth and development.

Appreciating the advantages of not being manipulated is to accept the hard work of living and interacting with others. It is about being willing to grow and develop emotionally.

These advantages can be that,

— you learn to know who you are, what you like, what you think, and how you feel;


— you learn to make difficult decisions;

— you get to take credit for your decisions;

— you learn to handle risks and uncertainty;

— you learn to handle differences and conflicts;

— you get to be in control of your life and know the freedom of personal self-reliance;

— you get to have an increased sense of self worth by feeling competent and capable of taking responsibility for your life and personal happiness.

Manipulation is usually attempted using power, unsolicited helping, rescuing, guilt, weakness, and/or dependence, in order to achieve a desired outcome. For example,

1) Power – physical, verbal, intellectual intimidation or threats, put-downs, belittling, withholding of things needed or wanted. The goal is to be in a “one up, I am right and you are wrong” position;

2) Unsolicited helping/rescuing – doing things for others when they do not request it, want it, or need it; helping others so they become indebted, obligated, and owe you. The goal is to be in the “after all I have done for you, and now you owe me” position;

3) Guilt – shaming, scolding, blaming others, attempting to make others responsible, trying to collect for past favors. The goal is to be in the “it is all your fault,” or “after all I have done for you and now you treat me like this” position;

4) Weakness/dependence – being (or threatening to become) helpless, needy, fearful, sick, depressed, incompetent, suicidal. The goal is to confuse want with need, with the message “if you do not take care of me, something bad is going to happen and it will be all your fault” position.

With manipulation, there is a physical and emotional response, such as a heightened level of anxiety or irritation, although it may not be perceived as such.

This is where boundaries differ from manipulation.

Boundaries (or limits) are statements about our values and where we stand on issues. True boundaries are not threats or about getting the other person to do what we want. True boundaries are not compromised by another’s response.

For example, you discover that your spouse has lied to you and has run up a large gambling debt. You discover the problem by chance, get financial and professional help and are back on track. However, there are new signs of trouble. It is time for some hard decisions.

– What is your bottom line?

– What will you tolerate?

– What manipulative tactics do you use to change your spouse’s behavior – check up on them constantly, bird-dog them, never let them be alone, hide the credit cards, lie to your creditors, parents, and children?

– How much rescuing, guilt, power plays, threats, and protection do you run on the gambler?

– At what point do you stop trying to change their behavior and let them know your bottom line?

You cannot make them do or not do anything. You can only let them know what your position is and what you are willing to do to protect yourself and those you are responsible for.

The problem with loud, threatening bottom lines, is that they keep getting louder, more threatening, and redrawn lower and lower.

We tend to determine what our position and action is by what the other person does, instead of voicing our true position and then responding accordingly. This is the time for tough decisions and actions.

In another example, a friend asks you for a ride to work because she is having car trouble. This is the time to establish ground rules, such as, how long will she need your help, pick up times, expense sharing, days off, etc. A boundary or limit is set when you clearly let your friend know what you are willing to do and not do.

Problems arise – she is frequently not on time morning and evening. Do you wait and be late, or do you leave her? Her car has been in the shop six weeks because she cannot afford to get it out. She has not offered to help with the expense, nor does she seem concerned about the arrangement.

Your friend is using weakness to manipulate and be dependent on you. She has transferred her problem to you and you have accepted it by rescuing and not setting boundaries or limits on your participation in her problem. If you refuse to wait when she is late and she has problems as a result, she will blame you and try to make you feel guilty. What we really want are for others to be responsible and play fair; however, when they do not, we either have to set boundaries, or feel manipulated and victimized with the accompanying advantages and disadvantages.

Lastly, often we confuse UNDERSTANDING with AGREEMENT.

This is when people confuse their decisions with wanting the recipient of a decision to like or agree with it. When we make decisions that oppose the desires of others, there is a cost. We usually attempt to minimize that cost by explaining, in exhaustive detail, our rationale for that decision, somehow thinking if they could just understand our position, they would agree.

Applying that scenario to parent and child – if a parent makes a decision based on the best interest of the child, it needs to be made separate from whether the child is going to like it.

When a child knows it is important to the parent that they be happy with a decision, then it will never be in the child’s personal interest to be happy with an unwanted decision.

If a child knows that their happiness with a parental decision is of equal importance to the decision itself, then all a child has to do is be unhappy in order to make their parent uncomfortable and doubt their decision — after all, it is always worth a try. This same dynamic can apply to interactions among adults also.

How do we manage manipulation? By becoming more aware of our interaction with others.

Is the interaction an attempt to communicate or does it feel like a contest?

Are you beginning to feel anxious or irritated?

Do you want to get out of the conversation?

Does the interaction fit into a manipulative style?

Is there an attempt to use power, service, guilt, or weakness to get your cooperation?

Are you a willing participant in your own manipulation?

Is it easier not taking responsibility?

Are you attempting to manipulate others instead of setting clear boundaries?

Are you making a distinction between a value and a preference?

Preferences can be negotiated, but values should not.

Our society does not deal well with differences in values and preference. We tend to take it as a personal affront and insult when others disagree with us. We will avoid conflicts at all costs, because it feels like rejection. What we need is to communicate to others, clearly and calmly, our values, preferences, and boundaries. We need to be respectful and dedicated to listening, hearing and appreciating, if not understanding, how we all are different.

Mary Treffert, LCSW, ACSW, is a Licensed, Clinical Social Worker, who is an individual, couple, and family therapist in Baton Rouge, LA.

www.marytreffert.com

This is one of a short series of articles from VictimBehavior.com.

You may reprint/reproduce any of these provided you include the entire copy, especially this credit.

Bruce Ware and Paige Patterson See Eye-to-Eye On Domestic Abuse

I’ve posted about Bruce Ware’s sermon blaming abuse on women for being unsubmissive. Just in case anyone is under the mistaken impression this man’s perspective is his own and not reflective of a larger trend in the Southern Baptist Church as a whole, I would like to point out an earlier piece I wrote on Paige Patterson’s teaching on the same subject. Paige Patterson is also a leader in the SBC and seminary president. Patterson has expressed the same grossly unbiblical viewpoint on domestic abuse, but did it even more graphically.

SBC Professor Bruce Ware Blames Wives for Husbands’ Abuse

This article is courtesy of Ethics Daily. My thanks to the author, Bob Allen, for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

This article is such an appalling and revealing glimpse inside the mindset of Southern Baptist Church theology. The SBC certainly doesn’t hold the corner on the market with this viewpoint, however. There is a reason why I feel this article warrants particular attention. We are in a time when domestic abuse is becoming an epidemic in the church. The average pastor is completely unequipped to address the problem. In fact, the secret horror is that the pastor’s wife, in fact, is often one of the abused wives in the church – and there’s definitely no one available to help her. Not only is the pastor unequipped to address the issue of abuse professionally, the pastor applies erroneous theology when teaching from the pulpit and in private counseling. Bruce Ware is a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is one of the men who is teaching these pastors the theology they are using to support abuse in Christian homes.

How will things in the pulpit ever change, when the pastors remain unchanged, because the seminary professors remain unchanged? When a student goes to seminary he is told he will be studying the Word to learn for himself what it teaches. However, the reality is quite different. Students are led to reach the theological conclusions of their denomination through the very deliberate slant in the teaching of their professors. I know this is true because I have seen it in action. In fact, if a student in seminary were to study the Word for himself and reach a conclusion contradictory to his professor, at the least he would receive a reduced grade and at the worst he would be expelled from school. This is the reality of seminary.

I have already written an article which thoroughly addresses the theology used by this speaker, in my article Theology of an Abusive Marriage. This article specifically addresses the misuse of the word “desire” in Genesis 3, the pattern of excusing the husband’s abuse because of his wife’s behavior (whatever happened to personal responsibility?), and the erroneous ideas that males were created before females and that females were created to complete males.

A couple of Ware’s points which I don’t address in the article above I will briefly address here. First, is his idea that woman sinned first but God held the man responsible because he was in authority. That interpretation reads into the text extensively. Adam blamed his wife. But God held the man responsible for using his wife as an excuse for his own choice. Using God’s standard for Adam, God would never accept the excuse that men abuse their wives because their wives don’t submit. God held each party responsible for their own sin and gave them each consequences in accordance with their actions. He did not buy in to their blame game.

Another misuse of Scripture in Ware’s argument is the eternal submission of Jesus to God the Father. In Philippians 2, the Word says that Jesus is equal with the Father. He voluntarily laid that equality down to become a man and interact with the Father as a man, rather than claim his rightful equality with the Father as God. In fact, using the model of the Trinity, we would have to come to the conclusion that husband and wife are equal, with differing roles, which, in fact, agrees with the Genesis record, as I explore in more depth in the Theology of an Abusive Marriage article. While Jesus was on earth living as fully man, he said he was under the authority of God the Father. This was while he was voluntarily laying aside his deity and functioning as a man. In fact, this is a HUGE theological point for us to understand. The authority Jesus had on this earth was no different than what He has given to us through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus went out of His way to make it clear this authority was his as a man in submission to God the Father, and then made it clear this same authority was passed on to his followers. As humans, we are in eternal submission to the Father.

At the same time, in the relationship of the Trinity we see modeled equal authority and equal submission – which, indeed, should be a parallel for the human relationship of marriage. Each part of the Trinity has a different role and each submits to the other in His role.

That said, I leave you to read the words of Bruce Ware, and be amazed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband’s God-given authority, a Southern Baptist scholar said Sunday in a Texas church.

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said women desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin.

“And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,” Ware said from the pulpit of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.

In North Texas for a series of sermons at the church on “Biblical Manhood & Womanhood,” Ware described his “complementarian” view as what “Southern Seminary as a whole represents.”

Commenting on selected passages from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ware said Eve’s curse in the Garden of Eden meant “her desire will be to have her way” instead of her obeying her husband, “because she’s a sinner.”

What that means to the man, Ware said, is: “He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive–and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that–but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ ‘Whatever you say dear,’ ‘Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.”

Ware said God created men and women equally in God’s image but for different roles.

“He has primary responsibility for the work and the labor and the toil that will provide for the family, that will sustain their family,” he said. “He’s the one in charge of leadership in the family, and that will become difficult, because of sin.”

Ware also touched on a verse from First Timothy saying that women “shall be saved in childbearing,” by noting that the word translated as “saved” always refers to eternal salvation.

“It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God’s ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as–for the most part, generally this is true–as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man’s position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men,” Ware said. “Rather than wanting that, she accepts and embraces who she is as woman, because she knows God and she knows his ways are right and good, so she is marked as a Christian by her submission to God and in that her acceptance of God’s design for her as a woman.”

Ware cited gender roles as one example of churches compromising and reforming doctrines to accommodate to culture.

“It really has been happening for about the past 30 years, ever since the force of the feminist movement was felt in our churches,” Ware said.

He said one place the “egalitarian” view–the notion that males and females were created equal not only in essence but also in function–crops up is in churches that allow women to be ordained and become pastors.

Ware said gender is not theologically the most important issue facing the church, but it is one where Christians are most likely to compromise, because of pressure from the culture.

“The calling to be biblically faithful will mean upholding some truths in our culture that they despise,” he said. “How are we going to respond to that? We are faced with a huge question at that point. Will we fear men and compromise our faith to be men-pleasers, or will we fear God and be faithful to his word–whatever other people think or do?”

Ware offered 10 reasons “for affirming male headship in the created order.” They include that man was created first and that woman was created “out of” Adam in order to be his “helper.” Even though the woman sinned first, Ware said, God came to Adam and held him primarily responsible for failure to exercise his God-given authority.

Ware also said male/female relationships are modeled in the Trinity, where in the Godhead the Son “eternally submits” to the Father.

“If it’s true that in the Trinity itself–in the eternal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit, there is authority and submission, and the Son eternally submits to the will of the Father–if that’s true, then this follows: It is as Godlike to submit to rightful authority with joy and gladness as it is Godlike to exert wise and beneficial rightful authority.”

I Wish I Had Known to Call the Police

I saw a news story just now that triggered a lot of emotions. Here’s the story… after it I’ll tell you why it upset me. This story is courtesy of ABC Action News.

~~~

By Keith Baker

TAMPA, FL — Police say Hugo Esquitia was upset with his wife, the A/C wasn’t working and his crying 6-month old daughter when his anger took over.

Esquitia faces aggravated child abuse for what police say he did to the little girl.

He is accused of grabbing the child by the head and trying to yank her out of her swing chair. When that didn’t work police say he grabbed her by the arms and tossed her to on to a couch.

The child was transported to an area hospital with serious injuries to her head.

Esquitia is held in jail without bond.

~~~

There were a couple reasons this story caught my attention.

First, notice why he got angry – he was upset with his wife, the A/C wasn’t working and the baby wouldn’t stop crying. I would bet any amount of money in the world, in his mind – and what he has told his wife – it was her fault he got angry. If only she hadn’t made him mad, if only she had taken better care of the baby so she didn’t cry — then he wouldn’t have gotten angry. It’s all her fault. Why do I know this? I lived this story!

Another thing that grabbed me was the man’s actions. I don’t remember my husband, Gary, ever attempting to pick up one of his children by their hair (though hair-pulling was well within bounds), but throw them on the couch when he was angry? Oh, yes — often. I was always terrified they would break a limb or their necks.

I wish I had known to call the police. Somehow my children were never injured, so no emergency hospital visits ever drew the attention of the authorities. And Gary denied he was abusive; he was believed every time. He never admitted to throwing the children in his rages until we were in court during our divorce. But then, even though my attorney got him to admit it, Gary assured the court he had gotten help and had not been abusive for the previous several years. So the judge didn’t believe me when I said he was still abusive.

Well, it’s a little hard to throw a teenager who’s bigger than you onto the sofa! Gary didn’t stop the physical violence until they were big enough to beat him up — and one of them did it twice. Then he magically developed the ability to walk away rather than raise his fists. It didn’t stop the verbal abuse, but that stopped the physical violence.

Why didn’t I do anything about it? Oh, I did. When I tried to get outside help, Gary’s perfect facade and pleas convinced them I was using the “abuse” hot button to try to get out of my marriage. He also threatened to take the children and leave the state, to have me charged with child abuse (it would have been funny if I weren’t completely afraid he would be believed), etc.

So I stood up to him inside our marriage. I got in the middle to stop it every time (until they were so big I would have ended up hurt!) By then I had one goal — I was not going to lose my children to the courts because of this man. My children were my responsibility until they were 18. I might not be able to fix it all, but I could try to build a strong relationship with my children so they would have something to stand on later. And I had a covenant with God for my children’s salvation by the time they were 18. With the oldest, God pulled out a squeaker about 6 months before he turned 18. 😉 The second son accepted Christ when he was much younger.

But in hindsight, I wish I had known to call the police from the beginning. If I had there would have been an established trail of reported abuse and I may have gotten better help from the system; and many years earlier. When I see a story like that, all the old pain floods back. I wish, I wish, I wish…