The roller coaster of my marriage was exhausting. The external stressors that accompanied the beginning of our marriage were gone, and I didn’t feel like our marriage should be in shambles. So, out of my denial, I pressed in. I pressed to try to have fruitful conversations. I pressed to try to resolve conflict. I pressed to try to spend more time together. The more I pressed, the more I kept running into a brick wall. So I tried to break it.
One Saturday morning almost a year after we moved to Austin, I tried to have a conversation with X about our plans for the weekend. I chose that time to try to dodge his other “responsibilities” including work, extra training for work, working out, serving at the church, preparing to serve at the church, attending Bible studies, etc. As had become his routine by this time, he ignored me, emphasizing that the other things he had to do were more important. But this particular morning, I didn’t want to be ignored.
I hid his keys and started following him around the apartment, raising my voice when he acted as though I had said nothing. I flipped over my shoe stand and sent my shoes all over the floor. I kicked his hamper over and stomped on it. I got satisfaction from the flying shoes and bending hamper because they were the only things that were responsive to me at that moment. That’s when X started talking back to me, complaining about the damage to his hamper. When I saw that X cared more about the damage to his hamper than the distress of his wife, I relented. X kept his Saturday plans and left.
I got satisfaction from the flying shoes and bending hamper because they were the only things that were responsive to me at that moment.
The severity of my actions was alarming to me. I realized that my patterns of behavior were not honoring to God, my husband, or myself. What I was doing wasn’t working, so I had to choose something different. X was unwavering in his choice to consistently disregard me. So I decided to make some choices of my own. I had to choose to respect his autonomy to make the choices he wanted, even if I didn’t think he was right. I had to decide to honor my own autonomy, even when presented with options I didn’t like.
I dove into the resources that I previously only skimmed. I started making plans that weren’t contingent on X. I joined support groups to commiserate with and learn from women in similar situations. I adjusted my expectations of X to match reality. I started to disengage from unproductive conversations earlier. I stopped arguing about my intentions when he deliberately mischaracterized them. I avoided over-communicating when it was clear that his goal wasn’t to understand me.
I’m assuming X noticed the changes I was making because he asked me about going to counseling. He had resumed seeing an individual counselor. We had previously been to Biblical counselors and participated in marriage enrichment courses at my insistence. When I started making changes, I stopped trying to pursue these types of activities. I found that they gave him more ammunition to use against me and they provided an opportunity for him to spout off his theological knowledge and get affirmation for looking like a good husband without actually being a good husband. When X asked me about counseling this time around, I agreed to go on the conditions that he set up the sessions and that we see a licensed professional counselor.
X found a counselor and set up appointments for us. The counselor asked us why we were there. I explained the dynamics in our marriage and why I suspected X had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. X resorted to his usual tactics of using theology as an excuse for his own behavior and a weapon to condemn mine. He said that he was doing his job of being faithful and providing and he wasn’t interested in doing much beyond that. He said that I needed to avoid being violent and triggering him if I wanted to have better interactions. The very skilled counselor re-directed X and suggested that he should work to understand and minimize his triggers. He recommended that X do his work before we continued joint counseling. We left that counseling session, and X became as cold as ever.
Part of my change process included examining why I had accepted harmful behavior from X and from myself for so long. I sought out a Godly husband. But I got a husband that was manipulative. Vindictive. Selfish. Controlling. Confusing. I had to walk on eggshells and bend over backward to get a glimpse of affection. I had to empty myself to experience the fullness of our relationship. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks – my relationship with X mirrored my relationship with God. My issues were rooted in my theology. The god I believed had all of those abusive characteristics. It’s no wonder that my search for a Godly spouse led to an abusive one.
My Spirit-led re-examination of scripture showed me that God cares for those who are oppressed. I deconstructed the idea that marriage was a trap that I was stuck in. I embraced divorce as a viable option – not just something I had to hold my nose, go through with, and then figure out later whether God would still love me. It was an option that I could embrace as a way of escape from suffering because God loves me and hated what was happening in my marriage.
It’s no wonder that my search for a Godly spouse led to an abusive one.
It was very clear that the only choices in front of me were to either continue to endure an abusive spouse or get a divorce. So I made the choice to leave. That was the only choice that gave me hope for the future. I was aware of the emotional cost of each day I stayed with X, but I wanted to get some things in order before moving out and starting the legal process. X had other plans.