I read an interesting post this morning here about denial being comfy.
Sometimes it’s denial, and sometimes a kind of cognitive dissonance from receiving mixed messages and a lack of validation or support.
A woman attempts to talk to someone in her church about (abusive) behaviors of her husband. The listener looks uncomfortable, disturbed, as though being forced to look on a roadside accident, and asks, “What do you mean by abuse?”
Or perhaps the woman is told that she needs to come to church more often. Get involved more. Yeah, that will fix it.
Sometimes the woman is asked a series of questions.
“Do you pray for him?”
“Have you asked God for more faith?”
“What about the kids?”
She’s given advice.
“You need to forgive him.”
“Remember that men need to be respected.”
“Read this book about praying wives.”
“Try to show him more love.”
The breaking-in-spirit wife who has cried and prayed, the woman who has sought to be better and to love more, the mother who has agonized over the impact on her children, might hear these things and go simultaneously numb while clinging to a crumb of hope. Maybe she didn’t pray enough, love enough, hope enough, try enough. Maybe it is her fault. After all, that’s the feedback she’s getting.
Christian women are typically given more to bear when they try to get help within their church. Typically her abusive husband shows up (meets with a pastor or elder), and admits wrongdoing for some minor and vague things, “I’ve probably been working too hard and not given her as much attention as I should… Sometimes I think I’ve been tired and impatient or insensitive…”
This is typically heard with sympathy for him. The wife slides into the category of being critical. If, heaven forbid, she doubts whatever her husband says he’s sorry for (no matter how he still behaves at home), and if she doesn’t show gratitude for the love he says he feels for her to the pastor/deacon/elder/counselor, then she’s viewed suspiciously as somehow difficult to please.
Meanwhile, her husband is probably well liked by friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. No wonder abused wives cling to familiar routines, surroundings, and crumbs from their husbands.
The Church often shows a skewed abhorrence for divorce that exceeds the abhorrence that should exist for abuse, the abhorrence that should demand accountability and discipline. A distorted value for marriage can ignore whether the marriage is toxic and harmful to the wives and children, as long as the marriage is preserved. Preserving the marriage seems to drive whatever ‘help’ is offered, even if the fruit of the abusive marriage is a stumbling block rather than a testimony. Time and years of lives are wasted, gifts diminished and lost, and the innocent faith of kids eroded, while Christian pastors and leaders look away from the true reality.
I believe one of the greatest needs is a safe place to transition to independent living, a place or an organization that includes mentoring and assistance to build confidence, life skills, and job training for financial independence.
If a woman doesn’t see a choice as viable, then she might not see it as a choice at all.