Reject abuse… choose love!
‘Dear HopefulGirl – I’m getting married!’ said the message from one of my Facebookers. ‘He’s younger than me, but he’s persuaded me it doesn’t matter and he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I wanted to share the news because you know how long I’ve prayed for a Christian husband. I can hardly believe it’s really happening!’
This lovely lady’s engagement seemed a bit speedy to me – they’d only been seeing each other for a matter of months. But she had previously shared with me how she feared she’d never find love. She seemed thrilled, and I was happy for her.
That was, until news began trickling through, via people who knew her in real life. Her fiancé was jealous and controlling, they said. He was isolating her from her family. He pressured her to quit a Christian social group and made her delete her Facebook account. Friends expressed their concern, but she insisted everything was fine. Soon after they got married, she withdrew completely and stopped responding to calls. Everyone feared the worst.
Emotionally abusive and controlling relationships have been in the news a lot lately. The Archers storyline has kept listeners gripped, and has helped people understand the insidious nature of these dangerous relationships (which can affect both men and women). Domestic abuse doesn’t have to be physical to be extremely damaging, although it often leads to physical violence as well. In fact, it’s so serious that in December 2015, a law was passed making controlling and coersive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship illegal.
No one imagines they’ll end up in a destructive relationship, especially with another Christian. But it can happen – and if you’re desperate to find love, it’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to the warning signs. However, don’t fear – there are ways to avoid becoming embroiled in an abusive relationship, and to make your exit if someone turns out to be bad news…
1. Know your worth
You are of infinite value to God. He loves you and wants you to be in a happy, healthy relationship, not one that’s painful, scary, bewildering or controlling. Remember, you are a child of the King, and He says you deserve better.
2. Learn to be happy alone
If you’re desperate for a relationship, you’re more likely to accept or minimise bad treatment to avoid being on your own. Create a busy, fulfilled, sociable and happy life for yourself as a single person, and you won’t be prepared to settle for a relationship that diminishes your life instead of adding to it.
3. Don’t rush in
Abusive people often hurry their partners into marriage before the cracks start to show. Take your time. Give your partner plenty of opportunities to reveal different sides to their character – both good and bad – before you make a commitment.
4. Be wise to red flags
Many people who escape abusive relationships say that, in retrospect, the warning signs were there, but they didn’t want to accept them. If your gut is telling you something isn’t right – listen! Is God warning you that this isn’t a healthy or safe relationship? Red flags include the following:
- Your partner has mood swings, angry outbursts and flies off the handle.
- They humiliate, dismiss or insult you (or others).
- They’re possessive and jealous, monitor your movements and isolate you from friends and family.
- They criticise you, say you’re useless, call you names and undermine your self-esteem.
- You feel like you’re walking on eggshells, always trying not to ‘provoke’ a bad reaction.
- Everything has to be done their way – your needs come second (or not at all).
- They tell you what to wear, where to go and what to do.
- They damage your belongings or household items, punch walls or try to scare you in other ways – for instance, by driving too fast.
- They threaten to hurt you or those you love (including pets).
- They give you the silent treatment when you’ve displeased them.
- They blame you for their abusive behaviour, insisting you provoked it, or appear penitent and promise it’ll never happen again… but it does.
5. Be prepared to walk
If you spot any of these red flags, or think you may be in an unhealthy relationship, seek advice from a pastor, counsellor, trusted friend or family member who can help you see and assess the situation more clearly. It’s far better to walk away – even if it means cancelling a wedding at short notice – than to end up in an abusive marriage.
Dr James Dobson says: ‘The worst moments of singleness are better than the best moments in a bad marriage.’ God wants you to be in a happy, supportive, fulfilling, loving partnership – one that builds you up and allows you to thrive. Don’t settle for anything less!
If you think you might be experiencing abuse, visit www.refuge.org.uk for more information about warning signs and how to get help.