In all the time I’ve spent with women and children, I have never found anyone who “wanted” to be abused, treated that way, or intentionally entered an abusive relationship.
Some might say, “Be God’s kind of woman and it won’t happen to you” or otherwise infer that a woman is responsible for the words and behavior of her spouse. This is what I’ve learned (and what the Bible says):
- Some men intentionally mislead others (wolf, predator, false teacher, ungodly, wicked, perverse, dreamer, grumbler, etc. (see Acts 20:29-30, Romans 16:17-18, Jude).
- Some men are foolish (can you say “175 mentions in the Bible?”)
- Some men are lazy (this word comes with a biblical warning–Proverbs 26:16)
- Some men are proud and entitled (biblically accompanied by failure, destruction, evil, lying, contempt, curses)
- Some men are hurting and fail to take personal responsibility for their healing (see “proud,” “lazy,” or “foolish” above)
It’s impossible to avoid suffering. We all suffer as we go through life, but there are some types of suffering that are unrighteous. God gives us instructions for leaving or avoiding unnecessary suffering. Being the “right kind” of woman won’t help you avoid an abusive marriage because… “Really?” Well, yes, because men. Because life. Because sin. Because we’re people.
But there are some things a woman can do to minimize the chances of ending up in an abusive marriage:
- Love God first. Many victims and survivors I know do love God first–and it only prolonged the abuse because they were trying to please God and avoid separation or divorce. They wanted to be submissive.
But start here. Ask God to help you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength–and take time to understand what that looks like. Love Him more than your happiness. Love Him more than human comfort, belonging, having, being, doing. Love, love, love, honor, cherish and treasure God above all.
- Involve others. Again, simply involving others won’t prevent a man from the above, but others may see things you don’t. They may have experiences of you, life, and human nature that will prove invaluable. Even (Especially) if you don’t like what they say, stay close. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated. The audience of the Song of Solomon is the daughters of Jerusalem. She had a watching, involved community.
If a man pressures you to choose between community and him, choose community. Choose family, friends, work. You’re not married. He’s not your husband. If that’s how he wants you to “practice” marriage, it’s a sign something is very wrong.
- Take your time. The more opportunities you have to see him interact with different groups of people and situations, the more you can observe his responses. Ask yourself, “How does he respond when people don’t give him what he wants?” “How does he treat invisible people, needy people, clingy people?” If/When you are ever invisible, needy or clingy, you want to know.
If he’s unwilling to slow the relationship down and shows irritation, frustration, anger or sadness, especially over minor or random situations, he may be hiding something. Of course that’s not what he says-! Be honest with yourself. Be honest with God. If it’s a choice of him versus time, please choose time. God is all about your best. You’re not desperate. God will provide. Wait for His best. You’re worth it–and so it He-!
- Be you. There are a lot of memes–even people in the church, predators, and groomers–that say that’s wrong. Ummm. No. God created you to be the person you are with a specific body, mind, gifts, abilities, and preferences. You are honoring God when you express your uniqueness.
If another individual–any individual–minimizes and diminishes you as a person, you as priceless, unique, different, and valid–run! In His sovereignty God created each of us to live alongside others uniquely bringing Him glory through unity with differences.
- Don’t make excuses. When he messes up, when he sins against you or others, does he take personal responsibility? Does he own his emotions? Does He make restitution?
If he’s a putz, call it. If he’s lazy, call it. If he’s a misogynist, call it. You don’t have to tell the world. You don’t have to argue, try to fix it, justify it, or cover it. If you start making excuses, that’s just the beginning. It will roll like a runaway snowball down a hill and you will find yourself rescuing him again and again.
Your willingness to take a step back, to be honest and communicate is not only important for you, it’s also important for him. God may use that to bring about change. Loving others is our second motive–and if you are faithful to see another honestly–at cost to yourself or having a relationship/feelings–God will use it.
Many wise women and men read these posts. If you’re one of them and you’d like to leave a comment, red flag, or word or caution, please do. Let’s be a community and work together to prevent unnecessary pain, heartache, loss, and sin.
(Written with a prayer that this will touch a life or two at just the right time and that God’s Spirit will intervene in a woman’s life to walk away from a lifetime of sorrow.)