Denial or cognitive dissonance

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.

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This entry was posted in abusive marriage, Christian marriage, cognitive dissonance, covert abuse, denial, passive aggressive. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Denial or cognitive dissonance

  1. paescapee says:

    It’s so difficult to define this type of abuse isn’t it. If there are bruises, gambling or infidelity, it is easy to explain to others, but PA is a repetition of more ordinary behaviours and and a repeated lack of cooperation that doesn’t’ sound like a big deal to listeners. My pah worked late on my birthday- so what? Is that abuse? But he did it for four years despite only working late three or four times a year for the rest of the year. How could I explain that? This is why I have really appreciated reading your blogs, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exodus says:

      paescapee, I would definitely believe that the birthday avoider was doing so deliberately. Even once is truly unacceptable and you and I both know that in the rare occasion that some unexpected and unavoidable circumstance occurred that we would know the difference. If you were in his position, you most likely would have made certain to let everyone at work know that you had to go, that it was your husband’s birthday and that they would have to do without you. On the other hand, if you’re called for emergency heart surgery and you’re the only surgeon then, you would call home, apologize and make it up in a special way to your husband asap.

      From the beginning, I realized that Norman would go out of his way to clear his schedule for fishing or some other Norman activity but when it came to me, he never ever tried. He always got defensive, ugly and made excuses. Every thanksgiving was hell. I did all the cooking for 3 days and the ONLY thing he was supposed to do was put the turkey in the oven that morning. He never once did that and every T’giving we had a fight. He would always say, ‘ I was going to do that. Why did you do that? I wanted to do that” … I just wanted to clobber him and by the last year ( after hearing those words for 18 years) I wanted to chop him up and serve him on a platter. It wasn’t about the turkey really- it was about how he didn’t care, didn’t feel any joy in participating or upholding any family tradition, how we would rather serve negativity and create division between us. It was about how he didn’t even appreciate all my hard work and want to contribute in some small way and it was about how once again, he made of fool of me. It hurts. It’s lonely.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paescapee says:

        Hi Exodus, I realised eventually that it must have been deliberate- whether unconscious or not, but I found it difficult to address it. He was always ‘sincerely’ apologetic, and I’m struggling with the fact that I can’t justify that as abusive. True covert aggression I guess! thank you for your support. I’ve been reading your responses but can’t find your blog, do you have one? Finding it difficult to search!

        Like

        • Exodus says:

          I don’t have a blog. Sorry! I found your blog but I have to log in and wasn’t sure what my log in name and such is. I’ll try later.
          I know that the ups and downs with these men can be confusing but hurtful, negative, undermining, destructive behaviors become abusive when they are repeated even though the perpetrator knows that the outcome will hurt or harm based on past experience. If he’s sincerely sorry but keeps repeating then perhaps he has some sort of learning disability ( dyslexia) or brain damage or maybe autism? I’m not being facetious. I’ve wondered the same thing about Norman sometimes but Norman isn’t apologetic and when he is, it’s obvious that it’s a strain for him ( actually can be associated with autism/Aspergers) The other thing is that narcissists and especially sociopaths are quite adept at manufacturing tears and apologies that look sincere but in reality they are feeling sorry for themselves.

          Liked by 1 person

      • paescapee says:

        PS I’ve remembered an event- husband resented helping with Christmas dinner and always disappeared for hours. However, one year, after the turkey had gone in, he got up and offered to do the roast potatoes so that I could have a shower. when I emerged sometime later, you’ll have already guessed that he ‘hadn’t got around to it’ and what was the rush? a very late dinner! Do you think he knows Norman?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Exodus says:

          OH MY GOSH!!!!!! Norman did the same exact thing with potatoes once. In fact, he offered to do them so I could take a shower, When I got out of the shower, he was standing right outside the bathroom and just as I stepped out of the shower he said, ” would you like me to use the red potatoes?”….Here I was rushing to get my shower and he hadn’t even started the potatoes. IF he didn’t know which to use, then why didn’t he come ask me in the shower or better yet, ask me when he offered to do them??? After all, he never feels the least bit concerned about disturbing me any other time.

          I rushed into the kitchen with a towel, dripping water, rushing to get them done because guests were going to arrive. My Narcissistic mother showed up and I had no makeup on, my hair was wet and uncombed and I had to spend the holiday looking like that. My mother even commented that I looked so run down and asked what was wrong with my hair. Then she asked why dinner was taking so long and I blew up at her! It was typical of Norman to put me under all sorts of pressure when we had holidays or guests- especially my mother. He loved making me appear to be so neurotic and unstable in front of others and then he would so arrogantly say things like, ‘ What’s wrong with you, I tried to help you but you wouldn’t let me and you wanted to do everything yourself’. I know you can imagine the thoughts and feelings raging through my mind. BUt, of course, I could never take him down in front of the guests and ruin their holiday as well, right? I suppose I could have but no one in my family is a fan of the WWW ( women’s wrestling).

          I’m so glad that you’re away from your husband.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Anonymous says:

            For the last 15+ years, mine had a weird thing about coming into the bathroom while I was showering or bathing. He would talk through the door, I would say I can’t hear you, he would repeat himself and finally I would say just open the door and come in and tell me. Nope, he’ll tell/ask me later and he would leave. Or if he thought it was important (usually wasn’t) he would come in and would not look at me if I was in the bathtub, bubbles or not. Of course this made me feel unattractive, not sexy, and indecent. He purposefully kept his head turned away from me, no eye contact.

            “It was typical of Norman to put me under all sorts of pressure when we had holidays or guests…” I always thought it was me. I couldn’t handle things, I planned too much, I was weak, I was crazy, etc. etc. etc. Oh how knowledge opens the mind. Hopefully, you get away soon. I’m hoping 2-3 months max and I’m outta here. 😀

            Like

            • GainingStrength says:

              The Anonymous post above is me. OOPS! 😀

              Like

              • Exodus says:

                OOPs, I hate it when that happens. Why does it happen?

                It’s very strange how Norman feels a need to interrupt me when I’m not in his personal space and like you described, has nothing to say or anything relevant to show me.

                No, you’re not out of your mind and we’re not crazy. They truly operate in a very bizarre way and it’s just so difficult to understand because it all seems so subjective and unrelated to any specific disease. I could handle a diagnosis of brain cancer or schizophrenia but these men’s behaviors go on for a lifetime without anyone ever diagnosing them.

                Like

            • WritesinPJ's says:

              Ah yes, the holiday weirdness and stress. I finally got to the point where I told him to just leave and go somewhere if being happy and celebrating was a problem for him. My stomach turns to think of all the ruined special days.

              Like

              • Exodus says:

                ..and here they come once again……fa la la la la Yes, my stomach turns as well and right now I’m panicked at the thought of being here for a holiday.

                Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Yes, it all seems so mundane and ordinary to an outsider. That’s why I wrote the post about the wrong kind of sausage!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Exodus says:

    The shelter that I’m working with does exactly what your last paragraph addresses.

    For as many abused women as there are in the US, there are few shelters that have programs that actually help women recover and hardly any if any at all for men.

    Counselors have a knee jerk response to all abuse victims who call during a crisis, ‘ the most important thing is that you take care of yourself honey’. While that is true, it’s a very frustrating thing for a desperate victim in crisis to hear. Obviously, the woman is aware of that and that’s why she called! And, what the heck is a woman supposed to do when she has no money, no job and no home to escape to. Trying to escape abuse is a horribly frustrating experience. Some shelters won’t just take you in. You have to spend hours filling out applications ( imagine that with small children hanging on your coat tails), having them reviewed and it can take weeks to get a room if they are available. My gosh, it’s easier to buy illegal drugs and a hand gun than it is to get a room at a shelter. Granted, there are some wonderful shelters available to women across the country so, I’m not bashing all of them ..I’m really bashing the very archaic sexist system.

    A lot of what the Church ‘practices’ has political and economic roots. Men, scum or not, are perceived as more economically viable than women. Men don’t have kids, women do! Men also earn more which helps regulate/stimulate the economy for those at the top. Women are perceived as the stewards of the man’s kingdom. Remember back in the 60’s when men were never given valium but housewives and working women were given unlimited prescriptions. If a man went to the doctor with chest pains, he received all sorts of medical testing. Women on the other hand were given valium and told to stay home and rest and relax, sip tea while the husband was at work and the kids were at school. No one cared if the little lady of the house was stoned as long as she was happy and looked sexy wearing her apron and bonnet 😀

    The denial that we all experience begins with ourselves. First we deny our own self worth. That denial affects all our choices in life

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Exodus, I don’t think I denied my own self worth as a child. I think self worth is something that’s a combination of a gift (love) and being taught (role model). My parents had their own struggles, so it so happened that I began life lacking a sense of self worth.

      I think it will be a lifelong working at it for me. Lots of old false tapes to work at challenging and replacing with truth.

      Like

  3. You hit the nail on the head. Yes my husband was well liked and respected and when I tried to share my situation with other missionaries they looked at me like I was either lying or was from Mars. Many people don’t know what to do with someone who shares about the abuse in her marriage. One well meaning missionary said “Honey, why don’t you try to have a date night with your husband?” I almost laughed, cried and wanted to scream, all at the same time.

    Perhaps it’s a good thing, the fact that they don’t know what to do with it implies that they haven’t had to face that kind of abuse in their own marriage. Thank God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Dee Anne, I can’t imagine the hellishness of having to be in ministry and get help, support, and validation. Ugh. I spent two years in a strict and legalistic Bible college when I was young, so I have a pretty good idea of what you might have been dealing with.

      There’s also the aspect of many who just don’t want something so… ‘unpleasant’ marring their comfy corner of safe church box life. If the cliche or platitude they offered didn’t do the trick, then well… brush skirt with manicured hands…, you must just be some kind of not quite godly woman. Wash hands… call friend to go to next women’s retreat.

      I’ve had that same thought of trying to be glad that someone had no frame of reference to understand.

      Date night… oh yes, good old date night. Did anyone ask you to read or watch Fireproof?

      Like

      • Exodus says:

        PJ’s I never saw Fireproof but Norman’s Bible thumper psycho friend told him to watch it with me a couple of years ago. Should I watch it or were you suggesting that it’s about how women should bow to their husbands?

        Like

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