The abused woman: The cycle of domestic abuse

Woman Covering Her Face With Her Hand

I never wanted to think of myself as an abused daughter or wife. It took seemingly endless pain, seeing how the relationships affected my children, a lot of prayer, and much research to come to the conclusion that serious abuse existed in our relationships. It wasn’t easy to admit it. I loved my mother (my father was deceased) and I loved my husband. I wanted to see them as I thought they were, not as they actually were. I wanted to be worthy of their love so, whatever they did I blamed myself. 

When abuse exists in a close relationship, this is normal. We might not want to admit it, we might not understand it, but denial of abuse doesn’t mean that we aren’t being abused. For the sake of ourselves, any children or others involved, and even for the sake of the abuser, truth must be recognized and acknowledged. One cannot repent from that which they refuse to acknowledge.

The woman (or, at times, the man) who is being abused often isn’t aware that they are being abused. Sometimes it’s up to those who care about them to see the signs and alert them to their situation. The “fog” that accompanies abuse is a very real one and one that often isn’t easy to escape. The abuser has spent a great deal of time “defining reality” for the abused so that the abused sees themselves and the abuser the way the abuser wants them to see things and not as they really are.

Domestic abuse takes many faces: verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, stalking, isolation and digital abuse. All forms of abuse are destructive. As Christians, our response to being abused must still fall within biblical parameters but that doesn’t mean we have no options; it simply means we must still seek to honor the Lord in those options. 

When we’re in the midst of abuse, we frequently blame ourselves for the responses of the one abusing us. If only I were, weren’t, did, didn’t, had, hadn’t, tried harder, didn’t push so hard, and a thousand other things. Any sin on our part even in response to being abused must be repented of. Our desire must always be to honor the Lord even though our abuser doesn’t. But this doesn’t mean that our failures caused the abuse. Our abusers are fully responsible for their choice to abuse us. 

Not all discomfort or pain in marriage is due to abuse. There is a world of difference in a bad marriage–one where both partners are responsible for the difficulty and pain in the marriage–and in an abusive marriage–one in which one person willfully and knowingly chooses to control, manipulate, and hurt their spouse. In a bad marriage, there may be a world of pain but it is often pain caused by the choices and cruelties of both partners; in an abusive marriage, it’s the choices and cruelties of one partner towards the other who has no choice in the matter that makes the marriage abusive.

What are the signs of abuse? Here’s some to consider….
Are you afraid of your partner? Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around him? Do you make the choices you make in order to keep him from getting angry, to keep from “setting him off”, if you are fearful of him “blowing up”, your marriage is difficult and potentially abusive. While a wife should have a healthy reverent respect of her husband, should honor him as her head, and be obedient and submissive to him, she shouldn’t ever have to be afraid of him hurting her or her children.

Other signs to look for are these:

  • your partner belittles you, your likes, your ideas
  • you are controlled by your partner: you are expected to bend to him even when he is cruel; your time, your body, your thoughts are not your own
  • you often feel that you cannot please your partner or that you cannot do anything right
  • you feel scared, helpless, numb
  • you believe that you deserve to be hurt
  • you are gaslighted and wonder if you are crazy

Signs to look for in your partner:

  • he humiliates you (not accidentally but on purpose and to hurt you)
  • he calls you names (not in a playful way but vulgar and cruel names)
  • he has a bad or unpredictable temper (and uses it in a violent way)
  • he blames you for his abuse, his temper, his sins against you 
  • he hits you
  • he yells at you (this is a pattern of treatment, not an occasional and immature argument)
  • he gives you the silent treatment (not from a disagreement or argument–which is immature–but as a matter of control)
  • he treats you like a slave or says you are his slave
  • he treats you like a sex object (forcing you to dress or act in degrading ways, calls you vulgar names, etc.)
  • he says you have no rights
  • he says you need to be punished for being a woman
  • he is possessive or excessively jealous of you
  • he prevents you from seeing your family or friends (for control, to prevent you from asking for help, etc.)
  • he constantly checks up on you (for control, not safety or concern)
  • he prevents you from leaving the house alone (for control, not safety or concern)
  • he controls all of the money (to prevent you from getting help, having food, etc., not to establish a budget)
  • he prevents you from having proper health care
  • he rapes you (violent, inflicting harm)
  • he punishes you
  • he threatens to put you in a corner, lock you in a room, etc., or actually does so
  • he threatens to harm you or your children if you tell anyone about the abuse or if you leave
  • he threatens to kill himself if you tell anyone about the abuse or if you leave him
  • he throws things, breaks things, punches holes in walls
  • he hurts your pets
  • he prevents you from using the phone or the computer (to prevent you from getting help)
  • he forces you to perform degrading sexual acts
  • he demands that you change who you are in order to please him (forcefully, with threats of punishment)

The Abuse Cycle

  1. Abuse: Your partner abuses you (any type of abuse).
  2. Guilt: Your partner begins to feel some degree of guilt, not over abusing you but over what it might cost him (the fear of getting caught, etc.).
  3. Excuses: Your partner blames you for ‘making’ him abuse you.
  4. Honeymoon: Things are good for a while causing you to believe he may have changed.
  5. Planning: Your partner remembers how good it felt to be in control by abusing you and starts planning how to do it again.
  6. Set-up: Your partner sets you up in some way so that he can justify abusing you.

Most abusers never repent because their hearts are hardened against the Lord. His treatment of you in no way honors God. As a wife of an abusive man, it is right for you to seek help and if needed even to escape but our responses must always seek to honor the Lord. God doesn’t expect us to be abused but He does expect us to be godly wives no matter what our marriage is like. 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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1 Comment

  1. Having left an abusive marriage almost 18 years ago (was married for 12) I think your post is spot on. My ex was a verbal abuser. I think it’s worse than physical abuse because had he hit me I would have left sooner. I’m thankful you are bringing it out in the open!


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