This post is about what I think about saving, or even trying to save an abusive marriage. It’s my opinion. My perspective. Make of it what you will.
Can an abusive marriage be saved? I’ve heard it can happen.
I think it’s possible IF the following happen:
- The abuse is recognized in the beginning of the relationship. Early intervention ins essential. The one thing a victim can do to end domestic violence is to take a stand and to walk away. To set boundaries, and not allow the abuse to continue. By the time abuse progresses to physical violence, it has usually been happening for quite a while. Once the pattern of abuse has set in, it is much harder to break. For many abusers, that pattern is set long before they enter a romantic relationship. Education on the red flags / warning signs of abuse is essential to be able to recognize it.
- The victim is believed and supported. As a society, we must start backing up victims instead of blaming them. Church pastors need to stand behind those who have suffered instead of excusing or too quickly forgiving the abuser.
- The abuser actually wants to change. This is essential. No change will happen unless the abuser actually wants it to. The victim cannot do anything to end the abuse unless the abuser first decides they will stop.
- The abuser is held accountable. Wanting to change is the first step, making a change is going to take some work. The abuser will need to attend therapy with a counselor trained in domestic violence, and potentially a small group. When the victim speaks out about the abuse, they must be believed!
Most of the time, domestic violence rightly signifies the end of a relationship. Even if the above points occur, domestic violence is a proper and acceptable reason to end a relationship. Too often the victim is expected to single-handedly save a marriage. It’s simply not possible, no matter how dedicated they may be.
My counselor once told me that even if there had been no domestic violence in my marriage, I had every right to decide to end a relationship I was unhappy in. I know that’s a world view, and not a Christian one, but it was also a relief to hear. So many people told me I had no right to leave my marriage. I was told I should try to make it work at all costs. Who was telling him to try to make it work? Who was telling him to stop being abusive to us? All I was told was to stop being overly sensitive and to give him another chance. They wrote off his abuse because it didn’t leave marks, because I left when it first began transitioning to physical violence.
It was as if the abuse wasn’t important to the church. The only thing that mattered was that divorce is wrong. I got the feeling it would have been easier to leave the marriage (in the church’s eyes) if one of us had been involved in an extramarital affair. Sexual infidelity is an accepted reason for divorce, but apparently violence was not. I’m sure that if he was beating me or the children so we had bruises or other marks on us, or if we were hospitalized, then there might have been more support.
When both parties of a marriage are claiming abuse, you can be sure only one of them is telling the truth. It’s rarely a mutual violence situation, unless the abuse has been going so long that the victim has started defending herself and the abuser calls that abuse. That’s not reciprocal abuse, that’s self-defense; that’s a victim feeling so trapped they see no other way to break free. Sadly, it is also true that some victims also become abusers after breaking free of their abuser.
My ex accused me of abusing him. He blamed me for all of our problems. That’s one of the signs of an abuser, they typically do not take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If you know someone leaving their relationship, watch who is blaming the other person for everything and downplaying or dismissing their own actions. Be discerning, because this can be challenging in the heat of a breakup, especially to an outsider looking in. Listen carefully. An abuser won’t just blame their victim, they’ll blame everyone else too. Often, the victim is less outspoken than the abuser during the initial days and weeks following a breakup.
Here’s the thing. You are the only one who knows what is going on in your relationship. Know the warning signs of abusive relationships. Be conscious of what’s going on in your own life. Value yourself! Set healthy boundaries. Speak up. Use your voice. Don’t wait for the abuse to be visible before taking a stand against it. Speak up on behalf of someone you see being abused.
We need to stop treating abuse as a taboo subject. You won’t cause it if you speak up against it, but if you can help someone recognize it, you may even save a life! Domestic violence won’t end until we break the silence and stigma of it in conversation!!