For Domestic Violence Awareness Month (every October), I decided to focus mainly on abuse recovery here on the blog and to keep most of the abuse education over on my YouTube channel. (More videos, including my interview with Shannon Thomas, LCSW-S, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse, now available. Watch it now or save it for later.)
One of the best things I did for myself and my healing journey was to find an abuse recovery therapist and start seeing her on a regular basis. Our family licensed counselor told me I really needed to learn to establish and reinforce boundaries with my current family and friends (that was 5 years ago). But it wasn’t until I started to learn what my rights were and what healthy relationships look like, that I really started to feel the changes happening.
I think others didn’t like it either. Most abusers would really rather you stay the same.
Side note: We often seek therapy because we can no longer deal with the crazy people who need therapy! Go for you, as an act of self-love and self-care, knowing you’ll also learn how to deal with those crazy, dysfunctional people in your life.
Did you know there are healthy families having healthy relationships right now in this world?
Did you know there are families who handle their issues (even conflict) in a healthy, positive way for everyone involved?
Did you know there are families (even divorced families) that are kind and respectful to each other? Not looking for ways to hurt each other?
For a long time, I didn’t!
(Well, I did but I had rarely seen it! And I certainly had never lived in one of these families.)
I can even remember being told by an uncle that “all families are dysfunctional.” I’ve since learned differently.
I talk a lot about how I thought my family (and his family) were “normal” until I started working through my divorce healing. After I was discarded by my abusers, I started to look back to all of the times I saw… and even participated in family dysfunction. (Yes, I said participated because we all play our part and need to learn better.)
While processing the past, digging deeper into why I thought certain behaviors were “normal,” I was able to work on my healing, disengage from all dysfunction, and decide how I’d proceed in the future. Like I’ve stated before, I knew I didn’t want to go backward because I was ready for a new healthier life, but I needed to start there before I’d be able to leave it all behind.
Sometimes looking back can help us move forward… to a more emotionally healthy life.
Picture this. You walk into a holiday family gathering. You hug your aunt and say hello to grandma. After you place your things down, your cousin pulls you aside to tell you Grandma and Aunt So-and-so are not talking to each other and you’re to side with the aunt too… “Don’t even think about talking to Grandma!”
What? Really? <confused face>
Yes, this is family dysfunction. Constant strife, habitual intoxication, lies and secrets that no one is allowed to share, someone’s always mad at someone else and the whole family is brought in the middle, and that one person is always to blame for all that is going on.
The scapegoat or the golden child?
Growing up (and after marriage) the person everyone blamed, was me. No matter what I did or what I said, it was always my fault. If I tried to help (because that’s just my character – a peacemaker and sometimes a peacekeeper – but always just wanting to help), then I was blamed by the parties. When I stayed out of the drama, far away from the problem and the people, I was blamed and then it was said that I didn’t care about anyone but myself.
Can’t win that dysfunctional game, can we?
No rules. Just blame, shame, and constant confusion. So that’s why I stopped playing. I just don’t participate and I let people say what they’re going to say. Blame me! I know it’s not the truth. And I know it’s just their dysfunction.
[You May Also Enjoy: 5 Emotionally Healthy Things I Learned After Divorce]
Learning our rights in order to find our new healthy life.
I recently had a family situation that brought up the past and had the possibility of involving my past abusers. After some introspection, processing, and lots of prayers, I decided that I just wasn’t in a place that I wanted to be involved that much in the situation.
Maybe I’ll never be able to be around my past abusers, who still choose to look for ways to retaliate against me and hurt me, but I have that right to continue to live in peace (after going no contact).
I know some people might call me immature and say that I’m living in the past because I don’t want to be around certain people. But I beg to differ.
Not subjecting ourselves to those who have proven themselves toxic and abusive is the safest and healthiest thing we can do for ourselves. Remember, self-care is not selfish, it’s necessary for continued healing.
No one would tell a murder survivor to go hang around a murderer. A kidnapping survivor to go visit their kidnapper. A rape victim to go out with their rapist. Why is it any different for an abuse survivor (victim/target), especially if there has never been any repentance or remorse?
[You might also like: The Difference Between Victim and Survivor]
Where are our rights?
We have assertive rights… as human beings.
- We have an assertive right to live in a space (and stay in that space) where no one is causing us harm – emotional or physical.
- We have an assertive right to create and maintain safety.
- We have an assertive right to feel at peace every single day.
- We have an assertive right to be emotionally and physically supported by members of our family.
- We have an assertive right to have a healthy, kind, and respectful conversation even in (especially in) a conflict situation. (Conflict should be kept between those involved, only, and others should never be pulled in like an army against another. That would be dysfunctional!)
- We have an assertive right to feel any and all feelings that we feel, deal with our past hurt and pain, working through it however we need to for our own healing. (An abuser should not be telling someone they harmed how to heal from that hurt! They get no say in the matter!)
- We have an assertive right to keep anyone we don’t feel we can trust (because they’re untrustworthy), at arms-length, even if we still want them in our lives. We get to decide how much we’re involved with or when and where we can be around certain people.
- We have an assertive right to keep anyone out of our lives (physically or emotionally) that have proven themselves to be abusive, deceptive, or harmful. (Not because we’re trying to hurt or punish them but because it’s what’s best for our own healthy lives.)
Doing what is best for us, at any given time, is our right!
[socialrocket-tweet quote=”I have an assertive right to separate from anyone who harms more than they love.” tweet=”I have an assertive right to separate from anyone who harms more than they love.”]
Looking in the mirror.
After a divorce is a great time to examine your entire life, look at how it shaped your current life, deal with any mistakes that you’ve may have made (because we all have), devoting time and energy to discovering who you are (your purpose and who you were created to be), rewiring your brain and patterns to learn to be emotionally healthy, and then decide how you will live this next chapter of your life. You’ll grow as you learn your rights, establish and maintain healthy boundaries (with everyone – past and present), and then be assertive in how you’re going to live now, with lots of practicing along the way.
This new life is no longer just about being a wife, or even a mother. It’s about being you and doing what is best for you! Those who put in the work are able to put their past and divorce behind them and go on to experience healthy, peaceful lives.
And that’s what I’m all about here on my blog! 🙂
[You May Also Enjoy: 5 Things You Need to Thrive After Divorce]
Have you had to look back in order to move forward? I know it’s a lot of work but we’re in this together. Keep up the great work!
May God bless your healing journey,
Looking for a divorce or abuse healing book to read? Check out this ultimate list of Christian resources to help you in your recovery.
Jen yet again an incredible informative true piece 🙂 I am so grateful for your blog. I can identify with so many points that you have stated especially the point that many abusers would like a person to stay the same. To God be the Glory as He has led me to enforce boundaries between myself, dysfunctional family members and my soon to be ex husband. I have to keep reminding myself I am a New Creation because of God and reminding them of that fact also when they think they are interacting with the old me. How Awesome is our God! As always God Bless you x
Jen Grice says
Thank you, Dawn, for your kind words. I’m so happy to hear of other women, like yourself, learning to enforce boundaries and finding their healthy life. Yes, you are a new creation, free to be everything God created you to be. And people won’t like that because they realize they can no longer control you. Walking with you! God bless you too!
I can completely “get” this piece. I’m married to a narcissistic bully! I fly under the radar as much as possible, avoid physical contact, keep conversation to a minimum (because it’s all about him and his drama), don’t ask or expect anything from him. I have family and a very close friend living in another state where I’m looking for a job so I can MOVE AWAY, FAR, FAR AWAY! Of course everyone thinks he’s just the best and most helpful guy. Well, I know the real deal. I’m finally at the point where I no longer care what they think, or what he thinks. I’m doing what I’m doing for ME! My animals don’t like him either, what’s that saying – small children and animals know the real person? I’m sure you’ve heard and seen it all with the background above so what I’m saying isn’t anything new. Our pastor told me I needed to respect him as a Godly women…..Seriously? After I came clean about his abusive anger and how he torments me? I asked how I was supposed to respect someone I didn’t trust and trust someone I had no respect for? I received no reply. Why am I not surprised? Good Ole Boys Club. I no longer attend church there. This man is financially irresponsible (yes, I read your blog where that is also a type of infidelity), he has no communication skills ( I pay the cell bill so I know how much he talks to others), etc. etc. etc. In a nutshell, he creeps me out. I try to find something positive but it’s just not there. I recently was gone for a week, we talked once; he didn’t get the response he wanted so he began to pick, my answer wasn’t going to change so he hung up. I didn’t miss him AT ALL! I’m so thankful I came across you, your information and genuine caring for those of us that seem to be stuck. I’m crawling out of the mud pit into another life. It can’t happen fast enough. Please pray I can find a job in the other state, I can’t afford to move unless I do.
Jen Grice says
Praying for you, Kim! It does take some time to physically, and especially financially, separate from a spouse and family. But it sounds like you are definitely working on your healing. Good for you! Keep up the great work! May God bless your moving forward.
How do you deal with someone who looks like the perfect husband, doesn’t abuse outwardly, and yet ignores my feelings and invalidates them? If I have a negative emotion, he jumps on my case and tells me to explain myself. I try to but sometimes feelings can’t be explained. Even when I do, its not satisfactory. He lives in the analytical side of his brain and dislikes emotions. Today he left the house and I’m sobbing, again. He shames me because I don’t see life as he does in a black and white universe where things are simple. I’m bitter or unloving or mean. I tell him to please stop talking to me and he’s confused why I’m even mad at him. “You blow everything up”. Maybe I do??? I can’t even trust my own feelings or thoughts because to him, they are always wrong. I ask him to drop it and he says I need to explain myself and I say that I don’t. I tell him he’s stomping on my feelings because he’s insisting I talk when I don’t want to. He responds that I’m stomping on his. What? How is not talking about it this very second stomping on his feelings? I want to leave but I need a job. I’ve taken care of our kids, homeschooled them, everything but I have no income so I’m stuck here and some days I just wish God would strike me dead.
I’ve been there. Every issue was blamed on my monthly cycle. I was never allowed to be sick or hurt or tired. That interfered with me being subject to his needs.
I remember banging my head and fists on the bathroom wall and begging God to get him away. He was hurting me and our kids so greatly.
God doesn’t want us to hurt like that. And he loves you and your kids so much.
I was in your situation. Homeschooling mom. Not a single resource to my name.
I think God took me seriously that day. I put the whole situation in His hands, and God granted me my freedom… but not how I thought.
I’ve had many painful times these past 3 years, but it’s all coming to God’s fruition. And I’m seeing how every painful “setback” was God setting the stage for me… for my freedom, provision, custody, job… He’s been in control the entire time. He’s handled every tear.
Jen Grice says
Yes, me too Kim. We’re praying for MB and her situation.
I reread this post today and realized I commented on this! Thankfully, working with a counselor my marriage has done a 180. It’s drastically better. It took my husband having humility and showing true change. There is still work to do!
The thing I could relate to with this post is my family of origin. I’ve tried to keep them in my life to some degree but yesterday was my last straw. After being verbally attacked for wishing my brother a happy birthday (makes sense right?), I made the decision to go no contact. I’m 40 years old and that’s enough of my life that has been subjected to emotional and verbal abuse by my own siblings. The hardest part is brushing off the insults and not personalizing them as truth. So depression tends to kick in. I could relate so much to all the “rights” you listed, especially the ones where the matter gets spread around to others. I’m frankly tired of being the victim. I won’t be one anymore. So my life is one with people I hand select from now on. I will waste no more time dealing with unrepentant crazy makers. And yes, I often feel like the crazy one! My circle is tiny and limited. So my family likes to tell me I’m a judgmental B word when they don’t see the reason behind the closed door. I’m just done with it.
Thanks for prayers. My marriage is doing a ton better and I can honestly say I actually enjoy my husband. Never thought that would be the case. But it took alot of counseling which we are still doing and 2 people with humble hearts.
I relate. Like the other comments, I was miserable. I cried ALL the time! I thought something was wrong with me. He never reassured me that i WASNT crazy, so I assumed I was the problem. I participated in the dysfunction, and took the blame in the family dysfunction when he and other members were the perpetrators. And I was guilty of doing it to my kids too- that is my biggest regret. Two years since my divorce and i have spent most of this time looking back and identifying where the crazy was, how I was hurt, how I was guilty, and apologized to my children for my involvement. Counseling is necessary- it saved my sanity. My best friend saved me from my false beliefs. And after 20 years of believing I was a born again Christian, Jesus saved me. I learned what it means to say, “I thought I was a Christian until I became one”. All the years of abuse, 18 years of childhood, and 15 years of marriage, now seem like a faint memory. Im on the road to healing. My x and I are cordial, polite, and co-parents, but we are by no means “friends” or “family”. He was the “perfect” husband, kind, quiet, and gentle- and everyone believes to this day that he is good and an innocent victim of my wrath. I pay them no mind anymore. He got mad at me when I reacted to his hurtful behavior. If i stood up for myself I was the angry woman and he was an innocent bystander. I felt worthless and unloveable until he was no longer willing to live the lie he called marriage. Once he left I felt an immense weight lifted, and I was able to breathe again. My children are happy- there is peace in our home. No angry silence. We can be ourselves, speak from the heart, argue without retaliation, and live without fear of rejection. I used to mourn the loss of my marriage- now Im grateful that God rescued me from hell- an unbearble emotional prison that I will never go back to.
Jen Grice says
So true. Thanks for sharing MHMC.