After decades of dealing with your husband’s covert control, silent treatment, criticism, passive aggressive behavior, lies, and refusal to take responsibility for anything, you have made the terrifying decision to get out, and now you are on your own. Either your husband has left (and told everyone you abusively kicked him out) or he has forced you to leave (and told everyone that you have abusively abandoned him.) The smear campaign begins even while you begin the life-long process of picking up all the pieces. You have eight kids living at home. You get to pick up their pieces too.
- Get up and get older kids ready for school. Deal with three melt-downs, a bowl of Cheerios on the floor, and missing shoes. Also missing homework. Also missing brain.
- On the way to school deal with child who is screaming and throwing her shoes at your head. One hits the mark. When you get to school, she gets out and smiles at the teacher holding the door open. Your heart is racing, your skin is perspiring, and your head hurts.
- Get home and clean up the breakfast mess while also feeding your youngest child who has autism.
- Get dressed – skip shower and make up because you don’t have time today.
- You make an orthodontist appointment for one child and another Dr. appointment for a child with chronic stomach pain (you find out later from her counselor that stomach pain is a sign of anxiety in children). You also make an appointment to have your oil changed in the car.
- Fill out a stack of paperwork from the clinic that is evaluating one of your older special needs kids.
- You work out of the home – so you answer emails, pack orders, and replenish your product stock.
- Make lunch for yourself and your youngest child.
- Take him to his therapy appointment. While you are there, a church “friend” calls you on your cell phone to ask you why you’ve “kicked your husband out” (because that’s the kind of person you are) and to tell you that they love you so much that they need to let you know you aren’t obeying Christ, forgiving, or loving as you ought to. You haven’t tried hard enough. Your life will go to hell in a hand basket, and again, if they didn’t love you so, so, SO much, they wouldn’t say so. You fumble around trying to defend yourself, but your words fall short, and the conversation ends. It will be the last time this friend who just loves you to pieces will ever talk to you. You fight tears waiting for your son to get done with his appointment. Your heart is pounding again, and you feel sick in your stomach. You think if you didn’t have kids who needed you so much, you’d like to just die.
- When your child is done, you go get your other kids from school.
- You drop them off at home and take one to get his tooth filled at the dentist.
- You get home and make a quick dinner. The kids don’t like it and complain. You clean up.
- You help three of your kids with their homework and deal with two melt-downs. Your special needs older child puts another hole in the wall and screams for 75 minutes.
- The shower drain is clogged. You make a run to Menards to get some drainer, and you pick up some groceries at Target too.
- You get back and get your kids ready for bed. Four more melt downs.
- You stay up late getting the drain unclogged before morning showers and you work at your home business.
- You go to bed exhausted, but you can’t sleep because you have an appointment with your attorney the next day, and you don’t want to be here doing this. You don’t want your kids to be going through this. If only your husband would tell the truth. Would get help. Would love you. Would care. Would meet you half-way. Would see what he has done over the years.
- Speaking of him, he texts you and lectures you about how you are ruining your kids’ lives with your ungodly choices. How you don’t trust God. How you won’t forgive and just move on. Also how much he loves you and has miraculously changed in the last five days, and what is your freaking problem that you can’t see that and give him a “second” chance?
The week will continue like this as you do the laundry, plan the meals, make the meals, clean up after the meals, run errands, fill out school forms, go to an IEP meeting, go to three parent-teacher conferences, take your kids to therapy, answer scathing emails full of judgmental hate, take your anti-anxiety meds, get your car oil changed, work 40 hours, have dozens of emotional conversations with hurting kids, and deal with their normal kid stuff like sibling rivalry, school issues, homework, boundaries, discipline, etc., deal with texts from your husband telling you how you’ve victimized him, you scare him, you don’t care about him, you don’t care about your family, and you don’t do anything right.
And it goes on and on and on.
You won’t get any meals from the meal committee at church. You won’t get a pastor coming over to pray with you and your kids. You won’t get your small group from church coming over to love on you and your kids. You won’t even get an encouraging phone call.
BUT. Your husband will get free Bible counseling from church, phone calls, and invitations to homes for meals and empathetic ears itching to hear the scoop on what a scary, abusive woman you’ve been to him all those years.
He will get the kids on Saturdays and take them to go swimming and to the park and to an outdoor concert in the city. He will cry in front of them and tell them how he would love to be with them more, but mommy won’t let him. She’s so mean, plus a liar, plus she kicked him out, and he’s so confused. He doesn’t know why she would act that way when all he’s ever done is love her and put up with her abuse. They will cry with him, and he’ll feel better. (You’ll pick up more pieces of their shattered and confused hearts when they get home.)
He will go to work and come home to his apartment where he’ll have conversations with beautiful women on Match.com. He’ll write them love letters and then jerk off to porn.
He’ll have time to go around and let everyone who ever knew you understand what a nightmare it was to live with such an abusive woman. That you’re unhinged – and he just never saw it coming. Maybe you’re in menopause? Maybe you have BPD? He’ll have time to stalk you on social media.
This will go on for as long as you share underage children. You will work and work and work and work and spend every cent you earn to protect your children and rebuild your life, and he will do everything in his power to undermine you. He will hide money and tell the kids he is as poor as a church mouse. “Ask your mother to buy you some shoes.” He will use the kids to triangulate. He will threaten and antagonize you behind the scenes, but to everyone on the outside he will present as a poor victim. He will tell them you stole everything from him. You are bitter and angry, and he is the sweet man who got the bad end of the stick. You are a rebel and he is a godly man. You are a bad mom and he is a skilled father. You are a taker and he is a giver. You are Satan and he is Jesus Christ. Okay – maybe he won’t go that far, but you get my drift. You can add your own in the comments section.
You know what the most galling thing is about this? The most horrible, disorienting, painful thing is about this? Of course you do. But I’ll write it out in black and white here:
EVERYONE BELIEVES THEM.
At least, that’s how it feels, right? Of course, this isn’t true. Discerning people with experience dealing with narcissists and manipulative liars will not believe them. Unfortunately, the percentage of the population that falls into the latter category is small. But I’m hoping you’ll know at least one person like that.
Here’s what I say: WHO CARES WHAT THEY BELIEVE ABOUT YOU. Their opinions are irrelevant to who you really are. You work on YOU. You take care of yourself, get help, heal, find hope and joy, and live your life with your eyes on Jesus. His view of you is accurate and true, and His love for you is tremendously powerful, steadfast, and eternal.
You may not know or feel this, but you are a powerful person. You are emotionally intelligent, hard working, discerning, kind, loving, forgiving, long-suffering, and generous. And people find you pleasant to be around because you genuinely care. But in your abuser’s twisted way, he both needs your light and hates your light. He is both jealous of it and desperate for it. And because you are a loving soul, you are drawn to help this poor, emotionally and spiritually sick and stunted man. The only problem is – his sickness is killing you slowly from the inside out, which is why you finally and reluctantly and sorrowfully cut it off.
Hence the smear campaign while you are in the midst of just trying to survive the next hour of your life. It’s like you’re wearing a yellow post-it note on your back that says, “Please kick me here. I’m already down, but I’d love one more kick in the back from someone I thought I could trust.”
Getting out of an emotionally and spiritual abusive relationship with a “Christian” man who is respected in your “Christian” community is hell on wheels. But women of faith do it all the time. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. You are definitely not alone. And while you may not believe me now, I can tell you that there is healing post-abuse. It just takes time and effort. And patience.
One day at a time.
O Lord, have mercy on me in my anguish. My eyes are red from weeping; my health is broken from sorrow. I am pining away with grief; my years are shortened, drained away because of sadness. My sins have sapped my strength; I stoop with sorrow and with shame. I am scorned by all my enemies and even more by my neighbors and friends. They dread meeting me and look the other way when I go by. I am forgotten like a dead man, like a broken and discarded pot. I heard the lies about me, the slanders of my enemies. Everywhere I looked I was afraid, for they were plotting against my life.
But I am trusting you, O Lord. I said, “You alone are my God; my times are in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine again upon your servant; save me just because you are so kind! Don’t disgrace me, Lord, by not replying when I call to you for aid. But let the wicked be shamed by what they trust in; let them lie silently in their graves, their lying lips quieted at last—the lips of these arrogant men who are accusing honest men (women) of evil deeds.”
Oh, how great is your goodness to those who publicly declare that you will rescue them. For you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.
Hide your loved ones in the shelter of your presence, safe beneath your hand, safe from all conspiring men. Blessed is the Lord, for he has shown me that his never-failing love protects me like the walls of a fort! I spoke too hastily when I said, “The Lord has deserted me,” for you listened to my plea and answered me. (He is answering you even now.)
Oh, love the Lord, all of you who are his people; for the Lord protects those who are loyal to him, but harshly punishes all who haughtily reject him. So cheer up! Take courage if you are depending on the Lord.”