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Archive for June, 2011

Emotional abuse: An attitude of entitlement and disrespect that discounts the other person’s dignity.

Symptoms: The self-worth and self-confidence of the victim are completely worn down, sometimes to the point of despair and hopelessness. The victim has difficulty discerning the truth. They begin to wonder if they really are a failure. Confusion is rampant. The victim wonders who to believe or who to trust.

“Emotional abuse sets up a dynamic where the victim comes to believe that they are to blame and that they must work harder to fix the problems.”

While my husband was gone on his medical missions trip, there were so many questions in my mind. More questions than he I knew he would answer. One conversation in particular, that we had before he left, kept repeating in my mind. When the destination of his trip changed so suddenly and the decision of whether he would stay for an extended vacation was taken from his control, he told me he was “relieved.” I wanted to hope he was “relieved” because he realized just how badly he had screwed up by making these plans without telling me, but I needed to hear that from his mouth, so when he returned, this is the conversation we had:

Me: Why did you feel relieved when the trip to E. was cancelled and you went to N. instead?

Him: There were several reasons. First, I didn’t have a plan for the time I was going to be there and I didn’t know the area, so it had been difficult making a plan. Secondly, your reaction to this whole thing had become a nightmare for me and I just wanted it to be over.

Me: If the trip to E. hadn’t been cancelled, would you have still gone ahead with your vacation plans?

Him: Yes.

Me: Despite my reaction and how I felt about it?

Him: Yes.

Me: Why?!

Him: Well, there were several factors to why I wouldn’t have changed my plans. 1) there would have been a cost involved with changing my flight 2) I did not want to have to explain to anyone on the team as to why I was changing my plans.

Me: Do you realize the severity of the situation? Do you realize that if you had gone ahead with your plans, you would not have been returning to live in this home after your trip?

Him: Yes.

Me: Do you realize what you are saying? You were willing to sacrifice our family and marriage because you didn’t want to pay the cost of a flight change?! And you had told the team of your vacation plans, but not your wife?! So you didn’t want to explain to them the reason for your change of plans since it would have exposed your bad behavior. Is that what you are telling me?!

Him: It’s more complicated than that – I felt you had pushed me into a corner and my back was against a wall . . .

I have read, “There are women, who somehow in the midst of the problems and pain, have discovered a source of life that enables them to walk through the valley with peace, confidence, and wholeness.” (Lies Women Believe , Nancy DeMoss)

Matthew 11:28-30 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (the Message)

Praying for divine intervention and understanding, because my own understanding and patience are failing me right now. . .

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All was quiet as I opened the front door and walked in the house. The silence was the sound of bliss . . . the kids were out doing various summer activities and I was glad to have some time to myself. I walked through each room picking up the evidence strewn about of a home filled with 5 growing children.

When I got to my room to make the bed, I spotted a neatly folded piece of paper propped on my pillow. It was torn from a spiral notebook and the adolescent handwriting that I immediately recognized as my son’s, said this:

Dearest Mom,

I love you and Dad very much, but I must tell you something I know you won’t be proud of. I am writing this on paper because it is the best way for me to tell you without  crying.

Over the last couple of years I have experienced self discovery. I am gay. I am fine with who I am, but I wish for you and Dad to accept this as well. I really don’t want to have to lie about who I am anymore. If you wish to disown me, C. has been a great friend. An accepting friend. She has offered to let me stay with her a couple of days.

I am truly sorry if I have become a disappointment to you, but maybe I was made like this for a reason.

Your loving son, 

D.

After I read and re-read the letter, I wanted to stomp my foot like an angry toddler in protest. “It’s not fair!”, I raged. “Why is it my husband is always gone during times like this? Why do I always have to deal with these things alone?”

It didn’t take long though, before my thoughts shifted from the resentment I carried  towards my husband to the pain of my dear, 14 year old son. Also realizing the possibility that perhaps it was not a coincidence that this letter arrived while my husband was gone, but that my son might have been waiting for “Dad” to leave to share his struggle with me. And so, instead of continuing to tantrum, I responded to his letter by writing this to him:

Dearest D,

I will always be proud of you and will always love you no matter what you do, say or think. You are my beloved son and I would never consider “dis-owning” you. I am sorry you have been in pain over this and I’m not sure what you mean by saying you have experienced self discovery but we will walk down this road together – loving and supporting you always.

Your adoring mother,

Mom

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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“You are my shield, my strength, my portion, deliverer, my shelter, strong tower, my very present help in time of need . . . “

I haven’t been able to sleep and last night, these were the words I kept repeating. Hoping that if I said them enough times I would actually begin to feel their Truth – or at least fall asleep with the Word in my head/heart.

My husband is gone – but not without some last-minute drama. Less than 24 hours before the “team” was to leave, they received word that there had been an attempted coup of the government by the military of the country they would be traveling to do their medical mission. The trip was canceled out of safety concerns and within hours, an alternate country and facility were chosen, plane tickets purchased, and off they went.

Because of the rapid change of plan, my husband decided not to stay for a “vacation” at this new location after the mission is done, and will be returning with the team. I let him know that just because his vacation didn’t happen, doesn’t mean that it “didn’t happen”. The hurt he caused can not be undone just because of circumstances that were out of his control, forced him to change his plans.

He still sees my pain and anger towards him as an over reaction. A reason to portray him as a “bad guy.”

Lord, please give me peace . . . and let me feel You are

My Shield, protecting me,

My Strength when I am so drained,

My Shelter and Strong Tower that I can run to, and

My Very Present Help in this time of need!

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The sun was shining and the air was crisp, but as I walked the dog on the trail in the foothills near my home, I could barely catch my breath. I have been in such emotional turmoil over my husband that I am thankful there is no one else on the trail this morning as I (literally) cry out to God for comfort & understanding. At times, the pain in my heart and the knot in my stomach leaving me doubled over.

The conversations I have had with my husband in person seem to last only a few minutes before he finds an excuse to retreat. I understand he tries to avoid confrontation at all cost but I still have so many questions and so much anger surrounding his upcoming trip. I feel like the only way to communicate with him is through e-mail, so here is our latest computer conversation:

Him: Could you please let me know how much money you are losing by not working while I am away.

Me: Why?

Him: So I can deposit that amount into your account.

Me: Do you really think that you can compensate me with money for what you are putting me through? I don’t want your money.

Him: I can’t ever afford to compensate you for the pain that you are feeling. I am really sorry for what you are experiencing. I definitely don’t mean to make matters worse for you.

I hope you understand that it is a very stressful time for me as well. It is clear that this will never be OK. Things are unsettled between us now and I’m not sure where things stand but again, I don’t want to make matters worse, not even by doing what seems to be the right thing. (i.e. reimbursing you financially for not working while I am gone) 

I am not sure whether you want to wake up at 4am on Friday but that is when I need to be at the airport.  I can always make other arrangements. I can understand if you’d  rather not . . .

Me: As of this morning, I can not imagine having the emotional strength to do this  . . .

Psalms 55:1,2,4a, 6-8a   Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles . . . My heart is in anguish . . . Oh, how I wish I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away to the quiet of the wilderness. how quickly I would escape – far away from this wild storm . . .

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I am so hurt. I am so angry. I cry and feel physically broken. My husband has no reasons that explain his behavior – he sees nothing wrong with planning a vacation out of the country without me & without telling me. Even when we talk, he says nothing that makes sense. He is acting so surprised by my reaction and it makes me wonder if I’m insane for feeling I have been wronged. Since I have had a difficult time speaking to him in person without letting all my negative emotions get in the way, I sent the following e-mail to him while he was at work:

Me: After some thought, I have decided to start seeing our therapist again. I am extremely hurt by your plans to vacation & I have no words to describe my pain. I am hoping our therapist can help me through yet another incident where your behavior is breaking my heart.

Him: (several hours later) This is the first opportunity I have had to respond to your e-mail and I wanted to say that I hope you get the help you need through therapy. I know that we are both in a very unhealthy place and the pain, hurt and broken heartedness is felt in our home.

The time I was planning to spend out of the country was to rent a room, near a mountain that has biking & hiking trails and spend that time in solitude. Is this plan something I am going to have to cancel because of you?

I know that I am not happy and I am considering counseling for myself from the Help Center at work. (since this is a free resource I have available to me)

I was going to call you but perhaps you’d rather not hear from me.

Me: I am not sure what you were hoping my reaction to your vacation plans would be – or it seems more likely that my reaction was something that didn’t even matter to you. Especially since it is obvious that you have had this plan for quite some time, yet only recently decided to share it with me. Whether you go or you stay, are alone or with another, there is nothing you can do or say that will make this OK. The intents of you heart are clear to me. You have acted out of selfishness and your behavior is not just inappropriate. It is wrong.

You are right not to call. Your behavior as a husband has left me with a crushed spirit. I have made you aware each time you hurt me, yet your behavior never changes. It seems you just find more ways to cause me pain.

I hope you also will be able to get the help you need to feel better and become the husband & father God intended you to be. Up to this point, my heart tells me you have failed at both.

Psalms 6:6-7a I am worn out from sobbing. Every night tears drench my bed; my pillow is wet from weeping. My vision is blurred from grief

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Ten days. Ten days before he leaves again. And even though I have known about this trip for almost a year, it doesn’t make it any easier on me. But how can I object when my husband tells me how honored he feels to have been asked to be part of the medical mission team that will be doing orthopedic surgeries on children in a developing country? It would be so selfish for me to complain . . .

One month ago

Me: I see on your calendar that you will be gone for 3 weeks . . . that is a really long time . . . doesn’t the team usually only go for a week?

Him: Yes, it is a long time.

Me: Maybe I should take time off from work. Unless you think the kids will be OK staying by themselves on the days that I am usually scheduled to work . . .

Him: No, I would feel better knowing you are home. I think you should limit your availability to work.

Me: But I don’t have any vacation time, so if I don’t go to work, I won’t get paid.

Him: Don’t worry about that, we’ll be fine.

This conversation stands out in my mind because it proves to me just how long he knew.

Yesterday

Me: Are you looking forward to the trip? You guys should be able to get a lot of surgeries done in 3 weeks.

Him: Ummm, well it’s going to be a lot of work. But you know, the team will only be there 5 days.

Me: What do you mean?

Him: The team will be coming home after 5 days. Only I will be staying 3 weeks.

Me: Doing what?!

Him: I’m not sure yet.

Me: Well, will you be working or vacationing?!

Him: I won’t be working . . .

Me: So you are planning to stay there on vacation?!

Him: . . . yes.

At this point , I completely shut down. We had just been about to walk out the door to take the kids to dinner when he dropped this on me. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I had so many questions but they were blurred by feelings that I can’t even find the words to describe here. How could he do this?! I am so hurt and angry that he planned to take a vacation without me and the kids and that he waited until a week before leaving to tell me.

Psalms 57:1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this violent storm is past.

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