Today's post is part one in a two part series by counselor Allison Stevens.
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees he won’t abuse you again. If your husband has physically harmed you, and/or had a pattern of verbal, emotional, or mental abuse, you are not obligated to stay with him as his wife. Physical and emotional safety are foundational in marriage; without it you don’t have a marriage, you’re in a prison and you’re the prisoner. No one should judge you if you can’t continue in this earthly hell and end your marriage.
But if you’ve decided, for your own reasons, to try and make the marriage work, and you’re safe from your abusive husband and he’s getting help from a therapist who’s trained in domestic violence issues, and you are making this decision on your own (no one has pressured you to stay in this marriage), then there is an important clue you should look for to know that your husband is making progress and is less likely to hurt you again in those ways.
You will see that he supports your decision to be safe. He won’t burden you with guilt to come back home to “get the family back together” before you’re ready or before he’s ready to have you back. Some husbands make it difficult for their wives to stick it out because they beg, plead, argue, and demand them to come home too early. They call the pastor and tell him that his wife is out of the “will of God” by not submitting to his “authority” by coming back to him. After all, the husband reasons, he’s remorseful, he’s come before the church, and now he’s ready to be a better husband. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pastors and therapists fall for this manipulative strategy and join the abuser to put more weight on the wife to get back home before it’s time. Rushing the process of growth and healing is a sure sign that the abusive husband is indeed not interested in true growth or healing.
Any manipulation to get you back home or to let him come home too soon is a serious warning that he is remaining in a place of power and control over you. He’s operating out of inequality instead of mutual equality, love and respect for you. He is nowhere near ready to restore your marriage. And if you are extremely tempted by his cries for help, you are not ready to put your marriage together again. You also have more work to do on yourself.
The decision to stay in and work on an abusive marriage is a serious one and shouldn’t be taken lightly. One must realize that it is a long road to recovery; it will take a significant amount of time for the abuser to address his issues that cause him to relate to you from a place of power instead of love. And one of the best markers that he’s on the road to wholeness is that he is supportive of your decision to separate until you’ve both experienced a level of health and healing that will ensure the greatest level of safety in your relationship.