This post is part 1 in an ongoing series by a survivor of domestic and family violence who has committed her story to writing for her own healing and to encourage yours.
What do you do when your life and love come crumbling down? What do you do when you see what you thought was a firmly established home crumble? What do you do with the helplessness you experience in the face of it all? Here I was thinking that the vow I took on my wedding day, “Till death us do part”, would in reality be just that: “Till death us do part.” But it wasn’t to be. For at least fourteen of the twenty years we were married I lived in a fool’s paradise, thinking all was well. But soon, it would dawn on me, all was not well.
As a Christian, divorce was not an option. It was the last thing ever that would cross my mind. I took seriously all my vows made on that beautiful day. So, when my husband got sick and had to be hospitalized, I made sure that I slept on a chair by his bedside. I made sure I was there to attend to all his needs: “In sickness and in health” I would be there. It was what a loving wife should have done. It was what I was happy to do because of the love we shared. He had always given me the impression that I was the love of his life. In fact, he spoke those very words to me and I believed him.
One day he asked me to retire so that we could spend time together and see the world. During this time, he complained more than once that I was a workaholic. He criticized me for prioritizing my job and my children. It’s true, I did spend long hours at work. My job was very demanding and provided little room for error. I was committed, meticulous, and loyal to my respective bosses and did not want to fail, as my failure could have serious implications also for them. I remained vigilant and hardworking, often bringing home work after an extended work day. This I don’t ever recommend. Hindsight is fifty/fifty.
After much protest from my husband, I drastically adjusted my schedule to enable me to come home earlier and be present in my marriage. Yet my presence did not change the now toxic environment of my marriage. Even after a year of being home early, my husband continued to complain that I had no time for him as my priority was, that of my job and “my” children.
Now I realized that something was radically wrong with my marriage. It had to be fixed. I prayed for wisdom and guidance from God. After all, I did not enter this marriage foolishly and hurriedly. I had prayed for a Christian husband, who would accept me and my two children. One who was loving, kind, compassionate and accepted me as a “packaged deal,” since my children meant the world to me. It had to be unconditional love, for us all to survive. But was it?
As the weeks became months, and the months became years, I recognized that without the intervention of counselling we were on a slippery slope towards disaster. Counselling! Yes, that’s what we needed. So, I suggested that we seek counselling from a neutral party – a professional, and objective Christian person who could guide us to the right path. “Oh no!” said he. “There is nothing wrong with me. You are the problem. I am going nowhere!”
To his accusations I responded with painful curiosity-questions about how I was the problem. If I were the problem, then I needed to know what was specifically wrong, so I could address it. Nothing was forthcoming. I drew a blank. The problem-whatever it truly was-seemed to grow larger and more formidable in my eyes.
I prayed and prayed and prayed for a breakthrough. Nothing! Yet, I knew that God was always there in my distress and so I clung to God’s promise: “Be strong and courageous...[I] will never leave you nor forsake you”, hoping that I would soon feel His presence and see His intervention. (Deuteronomy 31: 6, NIV [I] substituted for [He] for clarity). More anon...
1. All writings in the Survivors' Corner are written by survivors of domestic and family violence.