We all want to love and be loved; to be needed, and for women, to be the perfect fit for someone. That’s not wrong; it is the way God made us. Men know deep within that “…it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18, New Life Version). Women want to meet someone who will declare, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). No one sets out to be in an abusive relationship. Yet abuse, emotional and physical, is not uncommon, even in Christian circles.
How did things go so wrong? Because we are ‘bent ones’, twisted by sin, and we need help. Some of us need more help in this area than others do. Experts have identified signs of abuse. Below is one such checklist. If you identify with even two or three of the items on this list, talk to someone. You may be the abuser – and women can be abusers as well – or the abused. Either way, you need help.
- Quick involvement: Words like “I’ve never felt loved like this before by anyone”; “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me…” The pressure is on to be in an exclusive relationship very early on.
- Possessiveness: Your partner is excessively possessive, calls constantly, or visits unexpectedly; asks you to call him or her by the hour; gets upset if calls or texts are not returned immediately; calls when he or she knows where you are and who you are with.
- Being controlling: Checks your social media account to know who you are friends with; interrogates you intensely about who you talked to and where you were; insists on going shopping with you to help you select clothing; wants you to keep your hair a certain way etc.; keeps all the money or asks for receipts; insists you ask for permission to go anywhere or do anything.
- Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to meet his or her every need; only you can make the person happy.
- Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; deprives you of a phone or car, or tries to prevent you from holding a job.
- Blames others for his or her own mistakes: The boss, family, you – it’s always someone else’s fault if anything goes wrong.
- Makes everyone else responsible for their feelings: The abuser often says, “You make me angry” instead of “I’m angry”. “I wouldn’t get so upset if you didn’t…”
- Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted and will often rant and rave about injustices in his or her life.
- Cruel to animals and children: Uses anger or neglect of the kids to keep you at home or in your place; kills or punishes animals brutally. He or she also may expect children to do things beyond their ability, or tease them until they cry.
- ‘Playful’ use of force during sex: Intimidates, manipulates, or forces you to engage in unwanted sex acts.
- Verbal abuse: Constantly criticises you or says cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names; uses vulnerable points about your past against you.
- Rigid gender roles: Expects you to serve, obey, and remain at home.
- Sudden mood swings: Switches from loving to angry in a matter of minutes.
- A past of battering: He or she admits to hitting partners in the past, but states that they or the situation brought it on.
- Threats of violence: Towards himself or herself, or you. Whether it is “I’ll kill myself…” or “I’ll kill you …” or “I’ll hurt the kids…”
Abuse is one of the Church’s darkest secrets. No one wants to admit to being in an abusive relationship. And it is hard to spot the abuser; he or she can often be charming, especially to outsiders. Even when abuse is suspected, few are willing to check out the truth for fear of being intrusive. But abuse must be dealt with. So if you suspect abuse, speak up. “But if we walk in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Reprinted with permission from IMPACT magazine, Dec/Jan 2014, Vol. 37, No. 6.
Mary Yeo-Carpenter –
is the mother of two teenage boys. She and her husband John are involved in church planting in North Carolina.