Why It’s Normal for Emotional Abuse Targets to be Angry
“You are an ANGRY woman.”
A statement commonly used against a Christian abuse survivor when she finally comes forward (often in excruciating pain and anger) in order to neutralize her.
It looks like a cat in a corner with a big, scary dog staring her down. The dog barks a lot. Toys with her now and then. But when the cat snarls, the lookers-on gasp and point. “Look at how ANGRY she is. She’s got an ANGER problem. Oof da! She’d better take care of that. Maybe if she wasn’t so ANGRY, the dog would be nice.”
All sorts and kinds of pity and love and forgiveness and grace for the abuser, but that angry woman? Shame on her.
You know, it kind of makes me angry.
Anger is just a vibration in our bodies caused by the thoughts we have in our heads.
Let me give you an example. When we hear about injustice—children being molested, babies being murdered, women being beaten, men being used as slaves—we should be angry. Why? Because we should have thoughts about how those kinds of things are destructive to human lives made in the image of God.
If we belong to the Righteous, Just, Living, True God, our thoughts will be aligned with His, and those thoughts will cause our bodies to experience the emotion of anger.
For me, I WANT Injustice to inspire this particular emotion, and if it didn’t, I would believe there was something seriously broken or dead inside. (For mercy lovers, the justice of God IS merciful. It is merciful to the innocent.)
Anger provides the energy necessary to fight for life sometimes. It can be the fuel that inspires courage and initiative to right wrongs, stand up for the weak, and defend the helpless. Everyone gets angry when there is an injustice, either real or perceived.
“Be angry, and do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26
This is possible. Jesus was angry and didn’t sin. Does that mean it’s easy to keep on top of our anger and not cross those lines into sin? No. This is difficult for human beings. We are weak. We are dust. We sin. We don’t always understand our own hearts.
But I think it is also wrong to err on the other side and make blanket judgments about all of anger being bad.
One Way to Alleviate Sinful Anger
When you live with someone who is never wrong, never sorry, and never emotionally connected to you in any way, it is easy to have thoughts that cause you to feel angry.
When you try to fix the problem, and you hit the same wall over and over again, it is easy to have thoughts that cause you to feel angry.
When you feel that nobody listens, believes you, or cares, yet expects you to be perfect, it is easy to have thoughts that cause you to feel angry.
When half-truths and accusations and injustice and neglect and hypocrisy swirl around you day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, it is easy to have thoughts that cause you to feel angry.
When you see your kids suffer, it is easy to have thoughts that cause you to feel angry.
So I did.
I had lots of thoughts, and I felt lots of anger about all those things.
And the more time went by, the angrier I felt.
I was angry because it was my belief at the time that I could do nothing about my situation. I’m a proactive, type-A problem solver.
God knows I tried to fix it in a thousand different ways, but I was as stuck as the earth’s core miles beneath the surface.
In my anger, I spoke angrily. A lot.
When the spin started, I felt dizzy, and in my panic and desperation to be heard, I raised my voice. Okay, I yelled.
The conversations got so convoluted and nonsensical at times, that I felt like I was going insane.
When I was done driving myself into yet another wall, I would beg God, with snot, tears, and blood-shot eyes while rocking on my bathroom floor, to help me. Help me not be angry at the insanity I lived with. Help me be forgiving. Help me forget. Help me be good.
I wanted so badly to be a good girl and just take it, but I couldn’t hold it together when the spin started and the blame-shifting kicked in. I am a fighter, and I argued with deep indignation and passion. A sprinkle of sarcasm here and there.
But it was pointless. It got me nowhere. And I lost my dignity and self-respect, I believe. I was a cornered child who needed to put my big girl pants on and make some grown-up decisions.
In The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. Lerner writes:
If feeling angry signals a problem, venting anger does not solve it. Venting anger may serve to maintain, and even rigidify, the old rules and patterns in a relationship, thus ensuring that change does not occur. When emotional intensity is high, many of us engage in non-productive efforts to change the other person, and in so doing, fail to exercise our power to clarify and change our own selves. The old anger-in/ anger-out theory, which states that letting it all hang out offers protection from the psychological hazards of keeping it all pent up, is simply not true. Feelings of depression, low self-esteem, self-betrayal, and even self-hatred are inevitable when we fight but continue to submit to unfair circumstances, when we complain but live in a way that betrays our hopes, values and potentials, or when we find ourselves fulfilling society’s stereotype of the bitchy, nagging, bitter, or destructive woman. Those of us who are locked into ineffective expressions of anger suffer as deeply as those of us who dare not get angry at all.
That was it! I was submitting to a merry-go-round of unfair circumstances and complaining about how it wouldn’t stop—when what I really needed to do was get off.
Getting off meant I needed to stop fighting the insanity. Stop hitting my head against a brick wall. Accept that we all get to make our own choices about how we live our lives. Our spouses get to decide how they live. And we get to decide how we live.
If they choose to live destructively and don’t want to get help for themselves or change, then we get to decide if we’re going to live with that.
Was being free of anger as simple as walking away from the destructive source?
That was the beginning of the end of the old me. It was not an easy path, and at first I wasn’t sure what it would mean for me to get off. It was terrifying. The merry-go-round was all I had ever known.
But God was calling me to trust Him and strike out into the unknown. I felt a bit like Abraham. I had no idea where I was going, and I had to limp, crawl, and claw my way along, but many years later, I’m a different person.
And over time, my anger lessened because the vast majority of it was rooted in my belief that I was hopeless and helpless, and that I couldn’t make my own choices. I felt like a caged animal.
But I did have choices. I could choose to stay in the cage and hope it would be worth it someday (although trying to predict the future is not helpful), or I could open the door and leave.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here because only you know your situation. There are Christian women who will choose to stay and stay well. Because it is their choice, driven by conviction from God, there will be grace for them in the staying.
Some Christian women will choose to leave. And because it is their choice, driven by conviction from God, there will be grace for them in the leaving.
Both choices are hard, there’s no way around that. Both choices carry responsibility and consequences. You will have to manage your mind in both circumstances.
So what’s my point? I guess I wanted to encourage you in your anger. You read that right. It’s easy to hear all the pious, judgemental voices of the people living and moving and regularly breathing in fresh, clean air who don’t have even a mustard seed-sized clue of what it is to breathe poison every day and think you are unworthy of love, life, hope, and healing.
Anger is part of the grieving process, too. Underneath that anger is deep sorrow and loss. If you live with injustice, and if you are grieving the loss of a normal life, you are not alone. And you are not unworthy.
There will be justice one day. Justice that is complete. Justice that will make us dance and sing in exultant wonder and joy. All the things that are hidden, all the lies that are told, will be revealed for what they are.
And then my second point is that we do have choices. They may not be choices we like or choices others want us to have. But we do have them. And they are ours, given to us by God.
Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for our choices and being okay with making mistakes sometimes. Do you think God doesn’t get who we are? He gets us. And He loves us SO completely.
Here are some more of my favorite quotes from The Dance of Anger:
When our anger lets others off the hook:
Obviously it requires courage to know when we are angry and to let others hear about it. The problem occurs when we get stuck in a pattern of ineffective fighting, complaining, and blaming that only preserves the status quo. When this happens, we unwittingly protect others at our own expense. On the one hand, an angry woman is threatening. When we voice our anger ineffectively, however— without clarity, direction, and control— it may, in the end, be reassuring to others. We allow ourselves to be written off and we provide others with an excuse not to take us seriously and hear what we are saying. In fact, we even help others to stay calm. Have you ever watched another person get cooler, calmer, and more intellectual as you became more infuriated and “hysterical”? Here the nature of our fighting or angry accusations may actually allow the other person to get off the hook.
Each of us belongs to larger groups or systems that have some investment in our staying exactly the same as we are now. If we begin to change our old patterns of silence or vagueness or ineffective fighting and blaming, we will inevitably meet with a strong resistance or countermove. This “Change back!” reaction will come both from inside our own selves and from significant others around us. We will see how it is those closest to us who often have the greatest investment in our staying the same, despite whatever criticisms and complaints they may openly voice. We also resist the very changes that we seek.
On making the choice:
If Barbara gives up her fantasy that she can change her husband and starts using that same anger energy to clarify her choices and take new actions on her own behalf, she will be less troubled by the “anger problems” that spring from her de-selfed or underfunctioning position: headaches, low self-esteem, and chronic bitterness and dissatisfaction, to name just a few. The price she will pay is that her marriage, at least for a while, will likely be rougher than ever. Underlying issues and conflicts will begin to surface. She may start asking herself some serious questions: “Who is responsible for making decisions about my life?” “How are power and decision-making shared in this relationship?” “What will happen in my marriage if I become stronger and more assertive?” “If my choice is either to sacrifice myself to keep the marriage calm, or to grow and risk losing the relationship, which do I want?”
On how to use anger to good purpose:
When a woman vents her anger ineffectively (like Sandra complaining to Larry about his parents, which surely wasn’t going to change anything), or expresses it in an overemotional style, she does not threaten her man. If anything, she helps him to maintain his masculine cool, while she herself is perceived as infantile or irrational. When a woman clarifies the issues and uses her anger to move toward something new and different, then change occurs. If she stops overfunctioning for others and starts acting for herself, her underfunctioning man is likely to acknowledge and deal with his own anxieties.
On the paradox of the dance:
A good way to make this break is to recognize the part we play in maintaining and provoking the other person’s behavior. Even if we are convinced that the other person is ninety-seven percent to blame, we are still in control of changing our own three percent. So the central question becomes: “How can I change my steps in the circular dance?” This is not to say that we don’t have good reason to be furious with the other person. Nor is it to say that our current sex roles and gender arrangements, which breed these sorts of dances, are not at fault— they are. Rather, it is simply to say that we don’t have the power to change another person who does not want to change, and our attempts to do so may actually protect him or her from change. This is the paradox of the circular dances in which we all participate.
On guilt and self-blame:
Why is the question “Who is responsible for what?” such a puzzle for women? Women in particular have been discouraged from taking responsibility for solving our own problems, determining our own choices, and taking control of the quality and direction of our own lives. As we learn to relinquish responsibility for the self, we are prone to blame others for failing to fill up our emptiness or provide for our happiness— which is not their job. At the same time, however, we may feel responsible for just about everything that goes on around us. We are quick to be blamed for other people’s problems and pain and quick to accept the verdict of guilty. We also, in the process, develop the belief that we can avert problems if only we try hard enough. Indeed, guilt and self-blame are a “woman’s problem” of epidemic proportion.
The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner played an important role in my journey as a survivor to understanding my anger rather than shutting down with shame about it, and then ultimately dealing with my anger by taking responsibility for the power God had rightfully given to me over my own life. Of course, this made controlling, abusive people angry, but their anger is not, and has never been, my responsibility. That’s their work. And I’ll leave them to it.
Towards the end of my marriage between my husband and leaders of the church it was determined that I had a sinful anger issue. I accepted this initially because I knew I was angry but somewhere deep inside I knew I had a reason, even though my husband kept telling me I didn’t. Finally, I went to a counselor who, when I shared that I was there to deal with sinful anger told me, “Anger usually stems from a place of hurt. We need to understand the hurt first then we can deal with the anger.” FINALLY! Somebody listened to me! Finally. Someone knew that there had to be a basis for my anger and that I wasn’t crazy! Even now, that has impacted me so positively. A cool drink on a hot day it was. Over time I have realized the source of my anger and it did have a basis in a real hurt and destructive relationship as discussed in this article.
Yes! In my divorce coaching class, the instructor pointed out that anger is a necessary part of the grief process as well. When we try to circumvent that process and numb those emotions, we actually do more long-term damage to ourselves. It is healthier to walk through it, allow ourselves the freedom to feel those emotions, and then, when we are ready, God can give us the grace to overcome and move into forgiveness (letting go of our right to make it right). People helpers who shame and blame victims for their anger are only serving to do more damage and prolong that important process.
I got onto your site because of your post about a homeschool topic, but I have been reading your series on relationships and it is intriguing me. However, the biggest issue being raised for me isn’t with my husband; it is with one of my children, my eldest daughter (who is still relatively young–not yet 10). I don’t see how I can walk away from my parenting responsibility, and I probably am contributing to solidifying the problem by reacting in angry ways. I’m just curious if in your reading you have come across anything that addresses issues such as this? I feel like I have created my own “problem child” and have done all the wrong things by trying to convict, extract specific apology, force remorse, sweep things away and hope for the best, etc. But I can’t shake it that something is very wrong. My other children do not seem to have the same behaviour patterns as their eldest sibling but we all suffer and I identify with this post so much. We are in visible church ministry as a family. I know you are just sharing your journey and I am so glad to have my eyes opened to my situation through what you have been sharing. Any direction is appreciated.
I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to respond to this – life has been crazy. I have an ODD/ADHD child myself, and she is now in counseling and getting the help she needs. Things are still difficult, but they are definitely improving. I think the traditional parenting methods conservative Christians use are actually the opposite of what these kids need. I recommend Connected Families for more resource information. My heart goes out to you. I’m still in the thick of this with my daughter, and I feel your pain. Here is that link: http://connectedfamilies.org/
I just had a very godly pastor tell me a couple of weeks ago to let my righteous anger motivate me to take steps in my situation. I was floored. I had listened to this pastor’s sermons and gone to some of his seminars, but had never spoken with him on a personal level really. But, the morning I called him, I was desperate for some direction and to know that I was in God’s will with some of the steps I had taken a few days prior. I didn’t know what I’d get, but I think I was seriously preparing to hear that somehow, I needed to submit more or die to myself more or something along those lines. I cried in relief as he told me that boundaries were necessary and his thoughts on anger. He told me that God gave me permission to be angry. (Be angry and do not sin…) He also prepared me that my marriage might end in divorce. That was hard to hear and sobering….but he has counseled many couples and as he heard the dynamics of my situation, I think he was trying to prepare me for that as a possibility. He also said divorce wasn’t an ungodly option for someone in my situation. This is not a pastor who is concerned with what the world thinks of him, but his teaching is some of the most Spirit-filled teaching I have ever heard and God has used it to chang my life (he teaches with an emphasis on our unity in Christ – so rare and so needed for the Body of Christ).
Interestingly, on another popular forum recently, someone posted about how we aren’t to hold onto anger and when I expressed my experiences with this pastor, the person said that we weren’t supposed to hold onto our anger for more than a day. But, if you look up the original root words in that verse, you will see that the two angers are different. One is a righteous anger….(the first part of the verse), but the second anger that it talks about getting rid of is a vengeful, wrathful anger. I ended up looking at other verses talking about anger and saw that as a common theme. “God will not harbor his anger forever” shows that righteous anger is good and healthy.
For those still struggling with anger even years afterwards, I would say let that righteous anger motivate you to help and free others or to counsel when you hear things that aren’t right. Maybe redirecting anger away from one person (an ex-spouse) and using it for good. And, also checking to make sure you are leaving the revenge type of anger in God’s hands.
I also wanted to say how many lies we swallow — if the enemy can get us to believe that anger is wrong, he knows that not only will we not take action that can lead to the kingdom of God advancing, but we also take on blame, guilt and shame for that anger (that we think is wrong). It’s a win/win for him. We’re ineffective by not taking steps to right a wrong and we stay ineffective in our guilt and shame.
Great thoughts. Thank you for sharing this!
This article helped me remember what it was like to leave an abusive church. We quickly learned that any expression of anger would be used against us. Obviously WE were the problem and not the abusive, manipulative, paranoid pastor because we were (gasp!) angry about how he was treating us and others in the church.
This also clarified some of my thinking around my relationship with my abusive narcissist father. Yes, when I was living at home more than 20 years ago, the few times I really lost it got me nowhere. Now, after professional therapy, I finally have the tools I need to manage my interactions with him and take steps to protect myself.
That’s hard – the feeling that you have to be so, so careful about what you say and how you say it for fear of it being used against you.
Anger……it was the only thing during our marriage that gave me the courage to say things I could not usually talk about. However, that also meant that my words were discounted as just being overly emotional. His response whenever my internal volcano erupted? Nothing. The most common roadblock to real discussion was, “What can I say? Whatever I say, I can’t win.” So I would keep talking, he would calmly listen, I would cry, then we’d be finished. He would walk away, off the hook, and I usually apologized later for my behavior. It always felt like a catch-22.
Anger mixed with fear finally give me courage to follow through a
nd make the most terrible decision that a Christian wife who believes in the sanctity of marriage can make, that of divorce to keep the family safe. So anger was a good thing, otherwise I might still be where we were for over 25 years.
I am not the first born, but still have that need for truth and justice wired into me. So it was hard to know that truth did not win for a long time. But when part of the truth came out, that vindication did not feel good at all because most of our family, which includes several adult children, blamed me for the divorce rather than the one whose actions put us there. I know this particulat issue is not what this post is about, but I wondered for some future post, maybe, if there are ways to deal with the long-term damage to relationships within the family, church, and community? One can’t just go around spouting all of the sordid details as to why the divorce occurred, but there is stll that need for justificiation….silly me, I know….
Wow. You articulated this perfectly!
Sounds so familiar!! I guess even 10 years after I pulled away, it’s interesting to hear about how common some of the verbal manipulation and abuse was, in terms of the words and reactions used.
What struck me is the exact phrase “What can I say? Whatever I say, I can’t win.” – I used to hear that, TO THE LETTER… and “Why should I do anything? No matter what I do it won’t be good enough”. ARGH.
And no, stating the sordid details of ‘your side’ isn’t needed and likely not the right way. I am thankful that as our small community witnessed how his life went, and how my life went post divorce, that people no longer doubted ‘who was right’ in the end. I hope that ALL OF YOU at some point experience some of that feeling of vindication… after being judged and doubted and criticised for so long, I will admit. It feels good. I’d welcome a post on that topic as well.
Thanks for sharing. Oh, and the reference to being the oldest… the oldest is known for being rather perfectionistic, type A, etc. NOT to say AT ALL that only first born people are truth and justice oriented. NOT AT ALL.
Hang in there.
You mentioned “spin” and the crazy making it produces. I’ve been there. The word spin is so perfect for what starts to happen to the abused. I foolishly, and against all advice married my emotionally abusive, very handsome, winsome, super smart (Naval Academy now PhD with his own cooperation…) and successful, ultra popular, smooth talking highschool/college flame. Four years of hell on earth “marriage” and I finally stepped out of the cage. Hardest thing I ever did. Got major emotional scars and am STILL healing but it was worth it all. Now married 15 years to kindest, most patient man on earth with 4 sweet kiddos and one on the way. I’m 44 BTW! I praise God for making beauty from ashes and for His FORGIVENESS! I cannot imagine your pain or really what your journey has been like, but from the other side, I want to encourage you to stay in the fight and hold on to whatever you must to prevent any further abuse. The most important thing to remember is the unimaginable grace of God. If anything, grab hold of that safety net and let go of everything else. Bless you Natalie!
Great story of redemption! Thank you!
You had me at oof-da! You midwestern scandinavian you. 🙂 Just had to say how much, on top of all else you say, I loved the oof-da!
(And as the anger as proof of my wrongness has been used on me)
I almost drew attention to it for anyone who wouldn’t know what that was. 🙂 My peeps are mostly Norwegian. Fargo/Moorhead area of ND/MN. I heard that word ALL THE TIME growing up!
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and journey.. I love your posts and as one going through the same journey, I feel so validated in my decision to leave my destructive marriage and find my voice after 35 years of indifference, crazy- making , emotional and covert verbal abuse .. The Lord has kept me and prospered me and my 2 youngest kids.. I have not filed for divorce as I don’t want to spend the money, but I told him he can file if he wants to..
Not sure of your situation, but if you remain married without even filing for a legal separation you ARE STILL FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE for any debt or contract your spouse incurs. This was a big deal to me as I got stuck holding the bag on over $250k by the time it was said and done. I don’t think we often realize the implications of the legal bond in full.
This is so spot on, once again. I filed for divorce two months ago and am just now, after 21 years of marriage, acknowledging the anger I have suppressed for so long. The anger comes and goes. But, I’m processing it and talking to God about it. I think this is far healthier than suppressing, ignoring, and feeling so bad and guilty about being so angry. The anger will diminish some day. God is patient and merciful . I no longer believe that He is angry or disappointed in me for my anger.
That’s right! I love the Psalms these days.
my comment was deleted???
I choose to moderate all comments before they are published. I had a lot on my plate this morning and couldn’t moderate comments until now. Thank you for your patience! 🙂
“That was it! I was submitting to unfair circumstances and complaining about it when what I really needed to do was just stop. Stop fighting the insanity. Accept that we all get to make our own choices about how we live our lives. Our spouses get to decide how they live. And we get to decide how we live. If they choose to live destructively and don’t want to get help for themselves or change, then we get to decide if we’re going to live with that.
Was being free of anger as simple as walking away from the destructive source?”
I totally relate to this. And NO, for me walking away has not added up to being free of anger AT ALL. In August it will be 10 years since I drew the line in the sand and started my journey of limping, crawling and clawing my way back into my own identity, as of a child of God. While I am nowhere as near as angry and disoriented as I was the day I had my Ex served, I am still a much angrier person that I EVER was before. And considering I was 30 when I married him… I thought I was pretty much ‘me’. I will never be that version of ‘me’ again. I knew that and accepted it early on after I decided to ‘reclaim myself’. But what I wonder, is how do people enter new relationships, and create healthy relationships? That anger ‘baggage’ seems like it will never be totally gone… and while I have found someone who seems genuinely accepting of ‘who I am now” I worry about that anger part of me. Words of advice? Experiences to share that I/we can grow from?
I think recovery can be a life-long process. Did you get any counseling post-divorce? I’m currently in the thick of something major in my own relationship that I can’t talk about publically yet, but once I extract myself from this situation, I will be focusing on my own recovery, including dealing with residual anger when I’m emotionally triggered by similar circumstances. I think the biggest trigger point for me is when people either ignore or disbelieve what I’m saying. I’ve always been a trustworthy, truth-telling person – even to my disadvantage. I’m an open book. My reputation in all parts of my life has been stellar. I’ve been faithful, consistent, prompt, thorough, etc. my whole life. Just my personality – ask my mom. First-born, meticulous, etc. Yet, when it comes to this issue, I am marginalized by anyone I talk to about it. (Not counting women who have experienced it first hand. I don’t have to say much before there is immediate recognition on multiple levels.) What in the hell is going on with that? Because it is straight from hell. Lies are from hell. This is a spiritual blindness. A deception and confusion surround the whole issue of abuse. And yes, that is maddening. As long as that kind of injustice exists, I think I’ll feel mad about it. But your desire to be free, for the most part, of that deep, sick type of anger, is good – and worth pursuing.
There’s probably another entire blog post here, but I believe the key to letting go is trust. Trusting God for that justice we were born to want. Letting go of our desire to make things right – and just allow God to do it in His own time, even if that means it doesn’t happen here on earth. We must do our part – setting boundaries, speaking the truth, learning to be good with who God made us, saying “no” to pathological manipulation, etc. BUT – we can only do so much. The wicked, along with their supporters, may get away with all kinds of crap before the story is over. Can we trust the Author of this story to finish it well? I think we can.
I’m counting on that.
I’ve had lots of post-divorce counseling, on the addiction (co-dependent) side and ‘just regular’ post divorce. Plus I tend to read self help type books, and non-fiction as a life long habit. More than ‘recovery’ focused reading though, I study from a positive view, i.e. Boundaries from Townsend & Cloud, Sacred Search and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, etc. things I wish I knew BEFORE my detour through hell.
Thank you for clarifying that you are not at an ‘end’ of your journey on the anger, or healing… and yes, trusting God to be our avenger is a resting place. Hard to find at times, but still the place I have sought.
I too an an oldest, Type A, truth ‘above all else’ sort of person and people turn to me for advice because of it. While others marginalize my experiences… saying I must not be too wise considering all that I’ve experienced… I too bristle, but that is not one of MY biggest hot buttons. I can remember what it is like to look at people who ‘ended up’ in abusive, used, or addiction situations and think they must be a fool. I’m not so sure if was disbelief, but it was outside my ability to comprehend how a sensible, Christian person could find themselves unknowingly associating with a liar, cheat, thief, or worse and not know it. For as sheltered as I was growing up, I could still smell a bad apple when I met one. SO I THOUGHT. I think there is a lot of that going around, not just the spiritual blindness you refer to, while that is undeniably a component of their disbelief. It’s also the lack of ability to see and grasp the level of evil involved.
Mine is a very long story, and YES, I accept responsibility for marrying a sociopath and addict. I was too ‘innocent’ and honest to comprehend what this ‘being’ was standing in front of me… charming, manipulative, dishonest to a magnitude that was outside my comprehension… and I was not fully recovered from the loss of my first husband, and child, when I met him. (yes, lost to death) I was prey. And I fought so hard to keep those vows that I stayed in that hell for almost 14 years. The damage runs deep. So yes, I’ve been through a lot and tend not to hide it, my tests have turned into my testimony. People who learn things the hard way, who have been totally broken.. often learn well, and light can shine out of all those cracks. I encourage women who feel damaged and discounted to let God turn your TESTS into your Testimony. Someone out there needs to hear it, and someone out there is in a worse place, wishing they could be where you are now.
So true – and VERY encouraging. 🙂
Natalie, this is spot on! I wish I could have read this 15 years ago, when I was dealing with anger I had both nursed and suppressed for years. I felt like a walking volcano, boiling and churning, ready to explode. I felt hate and bitterness eating me alive. It took a wonderful therapist to teach me that I wasn’t responsible for someone else’s emotions or actions. I needed to set boundaries and release myself from the “responsibility” of always trying to make things right. Easier said than done, but I can finally breathe freely.
“When we voice our anger ineffectively, however— without clarity, direction, and control— it may, in the end, be reassuring to others. We allow ourselves to be written off and we provide others with an excuse not to take us seriously and hear what we are saying. In fact, we even help others to stay calm. Have you ever watched another person get cooler, calmer, and more intellectual as you became more infuriated and “hysterical”?
This!! Totally!! Drives me insane. I will be looking for this book at the library because I think, okay I know, I need to read it.
Yes! I will be calm and cool and my husband will fly off the handle, spinning circles, blame shifting, threatening, and pushing buttons until I break down and get angry, start crying, and get hysterical. Then he calms down, becomes gentle, careful in speech, all the while winning the argument because now I am the crazy one and he is the mature one and it is all my fault but he loves me anyway.
Now that I am on to his game our arguments are getting different. He calmed down really fast last time when I reached for the phone to call a church elder to moderate. Suddenly we could have a reasonable conversation.
I’m sorry. I feel your pain, I really do. 🙁
You are so, so right. I think what you describe is also known as gaslighting. As I learn to discern between toxic people and safe people, thank you for helping me mentally and spiritually navigate difficult issues.
We are in this together.