Due to a series of posts I once wrote and then collected into a longer piece, entitled Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them, I get a fair number of emails from women relating the terrible story of their abusive relationships. The letter below came in last week. I'm sad to say it's typical -- especially the part about how this woman's church "family" responded to her suffering.
Needless to say, I wouldn't run something like this without first clearing it with its author. The woman who wrote me the following hopes her story might help others.
I just read your article on women in abusive relationships, and I think it is one of the best things I have ever read on the subject! I am going to send it to others that need it.
I wish I had your advice fifteen years ago. I was in an abusive relationship for thirteen years. My husband was verbally abusive and very controlling. We were very involved in our church, so I had long been indoctrinated into believing that getting divorced is a sin. I was told by the people at my church that the reason I was unhappy in my marriage was that I didn't submit enough to my husband. That wasn't the problem. My husband also called me unsubmissive because I didn't willingly put up with his abuse.
The church would tell me that I should be a good wife and just pray for him to get better. I prayed until my face was blue. He didn't want to change. I dragged him to counseling four times, and he just sat there with his arms crossed, and would not cooperate. After about thirteen years of it, I couldn't live like that anymore. One of my dear friends told me one day that God would forgive me if I left my husband. She was tired of me being miserable. I made plans to leave in three months. I went through all the reasons in my head why I shouldn't leave, just as you stated. But at that point, I didn't care what the church, my family, or my so-called friends thought. I wanted out.
Two weeks before I'd planned to move out, I lost my job. I had to leave in secret and be deceptive. My best friend let me stay with her family for three months until I got a new job.
Sure, after I left, my husband wanted to go to counseling, and change. I went to two new sessions of counseling with him, but we didn't get anywhere. I told him the divorce was going to go through. I gave him everything, and took just my belongings. And yes, a lot of our church leaders won't have anything to do with me now, for "walking out" on my husband.
It was a tough couple of years financially. I lost my job again, and ran up all of my credit cards to survive. I will have to file bankruptcy in order to get out of debt after finally getting another job. I did go through the dating scene out there, and met a slew of men that seemed just like my ex-husband. No, thank you. I'd rather be single the rest of my life.
I did finally meet a wonderful man during Thanksgiving, when neither of us were looking. He is everything I have been looking for in a person. I had been miserable so long that I almost thought that it was normal to feel that way. We got married two weeks ago, and we are very happy. I am thankful that I got out of my first marriage and have a second chance for a happy life.
To other women who are in the same situation I was in, I can only plead with you to get out. Seek help. There are people who will assist you, but you have to make the choice to leave. It is worth the effort.
A related (short) post of mine is "Christian Leaders: For God's Sake, Stop Empowering Wife Abusers."