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
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
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,
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.
ENCOURAGEMENT TO MOVE ON
I want to encourage those who feel that their marriages are
really destroying them.
Know that you can change your mind. That’s the true
meaning of love.
Believe in yourself. Do not let your spouse’s systematic
belittling rob you of a positive self-concept.
Seek professional help. A trained therapist can help you
and/or a willing spouse to find individual and/or couple
Be truthful with yourself and others. Do not rob
yourself of personal growth and development by lying to
yourself about your pain and misery.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.