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When Loving You is Destroying Me

Love Does Not Hurt

By Barrington H. Brennen, 2001, updated 2015



It is so sad the intimate partner abuse and domestic violence is still too prevalent in our country.   The painful truth is that the statistics reveal that Christians are abusing each other at the same rate as non-Christians.  This includes physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.  Why would someone who loves another hurt that person?  It all the use and misuse of about power and control.  Unfortunately the church far too often cultivates that spirit of control by the way it teaches its members.  “Husbands are to be in charge of their wives.”  “Wives must be subservient to their husbands.”  We hear more about headship in relationships than companionship, partnership, mutuality and oneness.”  We are actually losing our heads over this “headship” teaching.   It is my view that it was not God’s intention that husbands are to be in charge of their wives but instead equal partners.  They both are to have equal voice, vote, authority, access, opportunity and protection in the relationship and the community.  Marriage should be the place where this is best manifested. 


There is one day of the year when the pain of abuse is great—Valentine’s Day.   I know that day is far away, but the reminder is important.   On that special day of the year, Valentine’s Day, while thousands share their love in flowers, perfume, chocolate, kisses and hugs, there are many who are troubled, confused, miserable, and angry.  Far too many are not really happy on that Valentine’s Day because of the terrible pain in the relationship.  This is physical or emotional pain.

Several years ago, I met one of my college classmates, wrote a book entitled "When Loving You Is Destroying Me." Jamaican born, Dr. Alanzo Smith is a pastor, marriage and family therapist and a divorce mediation specialist.  Although Dr. Smith’s book deals with an understanding of divorce and separation, I thought this title spoke directly to the pain in many relationships.



I have observed that when church leaders teach that one must stick with an unlovable person, we have unhappy, miserable married Christians. Dr. Smith cites theologian W. J Harrington with the view that "no written or oral legal code, no document, no piece of paper, no custom, no ceasing of cohabitation between marriage partners, not even the loss of love can possible break a "one-fleshedness." Harrington contends that Christian love must continue faithful even if rejected, even if deserted, even if unrequited. In other words, "even if love you is destroying me" I should keep on loving you." This is a painful view of love and marriage. God never intended marriage to be a destroying agent of a personal life. It was never God’s idea for the church to be an instigator of pain, forcing couples to remain together even if it is life threatening. Dr. Smith refers to this concept in his book as extreme legalism.


A few weeks ago I got this letter from an abused pastor’s spouse.  It is painful to read.  Here it is. 

“My husband is one of those pastors who abuse his wife.  In the past, I have tried to get help and get away from him.   He convinced the judge and even my own lawyer that I was the one with the problem.   He has broken my health, emotionally damaged my children and played with their minds.  He has also convinced my own brothers, sister, aunts,  uncles,  nieces, nephews, cousins not to me.  To a few, he is their pastor and in our religion,  the pastor is almost higher than God and you never "question" anything he does,  right or wrong,  because you might be in danger of Hell.: He has even remarked to me many times that he is like a king.   Everyone under his command has to bow down and do what he says.  He claims this is what makes me mad and I'm "jealous" of his position.  Too many years have gone by for me to get an education and be able to support myself.  The family will also shun me if I leave.  No longer will I be able to see my lifelong friends or even my own grandchildren.  I love my family but am so trapped in this relationship.  It is slowly suffocating the life out of me. ..physically,  spiritually,  mentally, emotionally.”


Valentine’s Day should remind us that love means responsible freedom, not slavery. I am no way in support of no-fault or frivolous divorce. I am dealing with individuals who feel trapped in life-threatening relationships and cannot find a way out. Valentine’s day is not a happy occasion for those individuals. One need not be in a physically abusive relationship to be in a life-threatening one. Being treated like a child, belittled, called derogative names, can eventually cause life-threatening illnesses or circumstances. Also, infidelity is a definite destroyer of marriages. It is not always because of the affair itself, but because of the denial, cover-up, and mere manipulation of the guilty spouse, even in the face of visible evidence. Spouses who have affairs are deceptive and conniving. Nothing destroys a spouse more than when they know that the other spouse is lying.


Once again, far too many of wives, especially Christian wives, are being “required” or “pressured” to stay with an abusive husband.  They are told “That’s your burden. Stay with him.”  Or “The Lord will help you.”  “I stayed with your dad so you can do the same.”   “This is the cross you are to carry,” and much more.    The truth is even some men and being forced to stay with their abusive wives.  In some cases they are ashamed to leave because of their own concept of their role as a man.   There are many wives who high level of stress due to a painful relationship, is preventing them from achieving good health.  



I want to encourage those who feel that their marriages are really destroying them.

  1. Know that you can change your mind. That’s the true meaning of love.

  2. Believe in yourself. Do not let your spouse’s systematic belittling rob you of a positive self-concept.

  3. Seek professional help. A trained therapist can help you and/or a willing spouse to find individual and/or couple healing.

  4. Be truthful with yourself and others. Do not rob yourself of personal growth and development by lying to yourself about your pain and misery.

  5. Talk to friends who have a balanced understanding of love and marriage, and who value you as a person and allow you to think for yourself.

  6. Do not jump out of one painful relationship into another. If you do have grounds to move on with your life, take the time to heal before getting emotionally entangled in another relationship. If you do not take the time to heal, you will get hurt again.

  7. Do not hastily decide to end the relationship before seeking professional help. However, physically remaining with your lover might be not practical. Separation might be necessary. Seeking counseling for both partners first, though separated, may reduce the risk of painful guilt and further frustration.

Remember, dear reader, love does not hurt. It heals. Love does not destroy. It builds.




Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.


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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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