Don’t tolerate abuse or disrespect

It is not okay for your husband (or anyone) to treat you disrespectfully.  Let me just say that again.  It is not okay.  I know far too many beautiful, kind Christian women who, for some reason, allow themselves to be verbally, emotionally, or physically abused by their husbands or boyfriends.  It’s heartbreaking.  I heard yet another story from a highly-intelligent, gorgeous woman recently.  She came to me in despair, wringing her hands over her abusive situation.  Yet, she didn’t clearly see that she needed to draw a firm boundary and impose consequences on such behavior.  In her case, she needed to leave until he showed serious, sustained repentance.

Ladies, do you think God winks at a man who is abusing his wife or girlfriend?  Absolutely not.  In fact, God tells husbands they are to lay down their lives for their wives.  Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  If your husband or boyfriend is emotionally, verbally, or physically abusing you, you need to take a stand.  If you don’t take action, you’re basically enabling his destructive behavior to continue.  Read Matthew 18:15-17 and ask God to reveal His plan for you to take a stand when someone is sinning against you. 

Handling disrespect by husband

I keep bumping into beautiful, intelligent women who, for some bizarre reason, allow their husband or boyfriend to treat them horribly.  One gorgeous young woman had her boyfriend spit in her face and she still stayed with him!  What’s up with that?  Do women no longer have any dignity and self-respect?

A wife’s dignity is actually a quality that is highly valued in the Bible.  When describing the wife of “noble character” in Proverbs 31, the Bible says in verse 25 “she is clothed with strength and dignity“.  So, what does the word “dignity” really mean?  The dictionary defines dignity as displaying poise and self-respect.  In other words, a woman of dignity respects herself enough to refuse to be treated disrespectfully!

Don’t believe the lies of the enemy.  Don’t believe that you need to tolerate disrespectful treatment, verbal abuse, or emotional abuse by your man.  That’s a lie!  A dignified woman doesn’t tolerate that.  She confidently, but lovingly, puts boundaries in place and refuses to allow herself to be treated in a dishonoring manner.  A confident woman of dignity trusts God to take care of her even if she has to take drastic steps to protect herself such as breaking up with a disrespectful boyfriend or separating from a verbally-abusive husband.  Be courageous. Choose to carry yourself with dignity and self-respect. 

Emotional abuse defined

Yesterday, we examined what constitutes physical abuse within a marriage.  Today, let’s explore something much more subtle and overlooked…verbal and/or emotional abuse.  Once again, I strongly urge women to take a stand against abuse of any kind.  Keep in mind, you are showing your children (especially your daughters) that either women are supposed to be weak, helpless, perpetual victims or that women can be confident and strong while still displaying love and kindness.

After doing much research, here’s a fairly comprehensive list of behavior that constitutes verbal, emotional or psychological abuse:  Frequently calling you obscene names, often yelling in rage, a pattern of constantly criticizing you and putting you down, prolonged periods of refusing to talk to you at all, pattern of ridiculing or making fun of you, pattern of mocking you or mean-spirited sarcasm, verbal threats of violence, intimidation through displaying knives or guns, constantly accusing you of wrongdoing, forbidding you to talk to parents or siblings, preventing you from leaving the house, refusing to allow you to talk on the phone, forbidding you from speaking to friends or neighbors, gas-lighting you by causing you to question your memory of what happened.

Again, I urge you to take a stand against this kind of abuse.  You are a valuable woman.  You are God’s daughter and precious in His sight.  Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally pummeled.  You will slowly be destroyed.  That is NOT God’s plan for you.  In fact, God instructs us to guard our hearts in Proverbs 4:23….”Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life“.  If you are suffering this kind of abuse, please talk to your pastor, pastor’s wife, or a certified counselor.  Your husband may be upset, but you must protect your heart.  By the way, if you fear for your physical safety as a result of revealing the emotional abuse, then take protective measures such as moving to a friend’s home or a domestic violence shelter while you work through the issues with your husband.

Defining abuse in relationships

I will always remember the time I was talking with a wife who has endured physical abuse from her husband for years.  It began so slowly that she didn’t actually realize she was the victim of domestic violence until her injuries had become pretty serious.  I was reminded that wives, especially Christian wives, need to be alerted to what constitutes physical abuse. 

These things are definitely physical abuse:  Punching, slapping, shoving aggressively, kicking, trapping physically (as against a wall), twisting arm painfully, throwing objects at you aggressively, biting, pulling your hair painfully, a pattern of refusing to allow you to sleep, regularly requiring you to work until exhaustion or while sick, tying you up against your will, forcing you to perform sex acts against your will, forcing himself on you sexually against your will, forcing you to use alcohol or drugs, denying you medical care.

If your husband or boyfriend is currently doing any of those above things, call 911 and seek immediate protection at your local domestic violence shelter.  If these behaviors are not currently occurring but have occurred fairly recently, you still need help.  I strongly urge you to call your local, confidential domestic violence hotline.  It’s time for Christian wives to stand up against abuse!  The Bible makes it clear that husbands are to treat their wives kindly.  1 Peter 3:7 instructs husbands to be considerate of their wives and to treat them with honor as the weaker vessel.  Furthermore, Ephesians 5:11 says “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”.  So, don’t cover up your husband’s or boyfriend’s abuse.  He is not your enemy, but he needs to be stopped, both for his own good and for your welfare.

Help for wives with past sex abuse

Unfortunately, there’s a high likelihood that many wives reading this devotional have experienced past sexual abuse, either in childhood or due to a forced sexual situation as an adult woman.  I can relate to this myself.  I was sexually abused by several men over many years of my childhood.  As you probably know, this can cause real problems for you in terms of desiring to be sexually active with your husband.  Yet, it’s so vitally important to build a vibrant sex life with your husband.  What’s a wife to do?

Here are 5 things that have helped me along my journey:

1) Determine in your heart and mind that you will not let evil steal from you yet again.  Evil stole your innocence once before, but decide that you will not cooperate with Satan’s plan to steal the sex life from your marriage.

2) Coach your soul.  The psalmist David often talked to his soul and reminded his soul of truth.  We can do the same thing.  Remind your soul that your husband cares for you….that he will not hurt you…that you are not being forced…that you will actually enjoy loving touch from your husband….that you can relax in your husband’s arms.

3) Ask your husband if he will allow you to be the one who initiates sex.  That way, you will not feel like someone is suddenly forcing himself on you.  (However, you do need to initiate then!)

4) Ask your husband to progress slowly, giving you plenty of time to truly warm to his touch.  In other words, you might need extra time before transitioning from kissing to touching of breasts, etc.  Also, ask him to stop for a moment if you say stop.  You need to know that, unlike your childhood experience where you had no control, this time you have control over your body.

5) Decide not to dwell on the past, but choose to focus on what is good and right and pure in your husband and in your marriage.  This is what Philippians 4:8 tells us:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Pray before making love?

Many of us come into marriage with broken sexuality. You may have been sexually abused as a child.  You may have slept with some prior boyfriends.  Your husband may have been sexually molested as a child or slept around before making a commitment to you.  All of that stuff from the past can cause us to be somewhat broken or scarred when it comes to our sexuality.

However, God is in the business of redeeming and restoring!    If you or your husband are haunted by the memories of former lovers or pornographic images, confess that to each other, and, prior to making love, pray together for Jesus to heal you.  Jesus can and will heal your broken sexuality.  James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

If you or your husband are sexually scarred due to past sexual abuse, pray together before making love and ask Jesus to heal you sexually.  Ask him to restore your innocence.  Ask him to allow you to totally delight in physical intimacy with your spouse.  Jesus is the great healer.  Claim Isaiah 53:5 “by his wounds, we are healed

And one additional benefit of praying together before making love is that it is one of the most intimate things you can do!  Beautiful spiritual and emotional intimacy occurs when you open your heart before your spouse and pray for God to enter into broken places.

Are you suffering outside of God’s will?

Even though you may have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you and I will still encounter trials and hardships in this life here on earth.  They are inevitable.  In fact Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33..”In this world you will have trouble.”   Sometimes, the trouble is inside our marriage, and when that’s the case, we often find the need to practice great patience, endurance and “longsuffering”.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:2 that we should act “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love…” (KJV).  Other translations use the word “patience” in the place of longsuffering.

However, the Bible doesn’t always advise us to just sit on our hands and settle into a long season of quiet endurance and longsuffering.   Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 that we’re supposed to confront someone who is sinning against us.  We always need to be respectful and loving, yet he tells us to confront that person.

So yes, there is a place for patience and longsuffering in relationships.  However, it occurs to me that perhaps the best time for longsuffering is when you’ve already confronted the person sinning against you and they are working to turn away from that pattern of sin.  I guess my question to you is this:  Have you lovingly and firmly confronted your husband if he is sinning against you or your children?    Have you drawn clear boundaries on what you will accept and have you followed through with appropriate consequences when necessary?  If you haven’t, then there’s a chance you are longsuffering outside of God’s will.  Pray about it and see what God reveals.

Does your guy have open wounds?

Whether we realize it or not, most husbands are actually very insecure.  Many of our men have suffered deep emotional wounds in childhood.  Some were teased incessantly at school.  Many were physically abused by their dad or grandpa.  Others were sexually abused by the neighbor man.  Some were basically abandoned by one or both of their parents.  The emotional wounds, though often never revealed openly, still exist.

Unintentionally, we sometimes take a knife to that open wound and rip it open a little further.  When a man’s wife constantly points out his faults, the wound becomes larger.  When a wife complains that he doesn’t make enough money, isn’t romantic enough, doesn’t play with the kids enough, doesn’t talk to her enough….his insecurity grows deeper.  He feels like a failure once again.  He feels unwanted, unappreciated.  He feels like he’s just one big disappointment.

Ladies, let’s truly become our husband’s helper (Genesis 2:18) by being the one person in his life that always sees the best in him…who truly believes in him.  Let’s consciously work to affirm anything and everything he does right.  Think of yourself as your husband’s biggest cheerleader.  He needs to know you’re on his team.  This doesn’t mean you should never confront him if he’s way out of line, but even then, you can confront him lovingly and respectfully.  Let’s become the soothing salve for the emotional wounds of our men!