This is a guest post by our friends, Mike and Gayle Tucker, at Mad About Marriage
This might be uncomfortable but we need to bring it up because it’s so damaging to relationships.
What is it?
Would you recognize it if you saw it?
Would you know it if you were doing it?
How can you know if you’re in a spiritually abusive relationship?
First of all, spiritual abuse is a form of emotional abuse that can be perpetrated by men or women.
All abuse (including emotional abuse), is based on power and control as opposed to love and respect.
*** That’s so important let’s read it again:
All abuse (including emotional abuse), is based on power and control not love and respect.
Spiritual abuse occurs when a leader, or a spouse, attempts to control, manipulate, or dominate another person.
Fear is used by the spiritually abusive because it’s one of the most effective ways to control people’s minds. If you control their mind you control their behavior.
Additionally, guilt and shame are effective weapons the abusive party uses to victimize and establish control.
Spiritual abuse occurs in marriage when the husband or wife uses religion to “rule over” their spouse.
Spiritual abuse makes its victims dependent upon the will of the perpetrator.
The abusive person may succeed in making the victim feel incapable of doing anything on his or her own without their help, permission or approval.
Victims lose confidence in themselves.
They also lose confidence and assurance in their relationship with God apart from the perpetrator.
They become emotionally enslaved to their abusive partner.
Spiritually abusive spouses are driven by the need to control.
They are jealous and try to isolate their partner from others.
They are disrespectful.
They shun privacy and personal boundaries, which is also a form of emotional abuse.
So, how do you know if you’re in a spiritually abusive marriage? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does your spouse exhibit control-oriented leadership – do they “lord” over you?
2. Does your spouse demand submission and unquestioning loyalty?
3. Does your spouse demand obedience?
4. Are questions unwelcome or perceived as challenges to their “authority?”
5. Are guilt, fear, and intimidation used to control and manipulate you?
6. Does your spouse claim that questioning him/her is akin to questioning God?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s likely you’re suffering emotional abuse and are in a spiritually abusive relationship.
What can you do if you’re being spiritually abused?
1. Remember & accept that you are a child of God and that He wants you to be free.
2. Realize that God, despite His power, doesn’t “lord” over you – and He doesn’t expect you to allow yourself to be “lorded over” by any human being. He hates any and all means of coercion.
3. Believe that God has freed you from your abuser – and gives you the right and power to stop listening to them!
4. Accept the truth that you are being led by the Holy Spirit, and that through Bible study and prayer, you have the privilege to decide what is good, bad, wrong or right for yourself.
Please listen carefully to what I’m about to say next:
You do not require the guidance or approval of a third party to encounter God or know His will.
And, finally, remember this:
Healthy spirituality elevates people, freeing them from guilt, fear and shame.
Healthy religion is based on love and respect and does not seek to control, but instead invites people to choose to connect with God willingly and become one with Him.
Healthy spirituality and religion do not seek to create fear or shame in believers.
Guilt and shame are done away with by a caring God who forgives and restores.
There is absolutely no emotional or spiritual abusiveness within an authentic relationship with Him.
Nor should there be any in your relationship with your partner or community of faith.
I admit it. I was a wimp. I made my wife take a day off of work. That’s what it took for her to get me to go to the doctor and see about some of the health issues I was dealing with. I had been struggling with extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and weight gain. This didn’t happen suddenly, but slowly, over many years. Of course, the dreaded blood test came. I HATE NEEDLES! I know my limitations and over the years lab techs have started to know to make things as easy as possible for me. They make me stay sitting until I’m no longer pale, sometimes sipping a soda.
What happened that day was that I learned I have a severely underactive thyroid. Once I began taking the proper medication, I was climbing up stairs again as if it was nothing and my outlook on life took a huge jump up. I just didn’t realize how bad things had gotten, until I saw how great things were getting once I found out what the problem was and got treatment.
My health was so important to Sharon that she was willing to use a vacation day just to be there for me, showing me how much she appreciated what I was doing for her and for our (at the time) one and only child. Knowing I was taking care of my health in order to be sure to be around for a long time was better than any life insurance policy I could have purchased. I was investing in our marriage because I was investing in my health.
One aspect of an Unashamed Marriage is the area of health. There are sometimes that things just happen that are not expected. Emergencies arise and we deal with those. But far too often, we bring the emergencies on ourselves (and thus our spouses) through our choices. Like my thyroid issues, they usually get worse and worse over time. This is not just physically. Be unashamed: eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, learn how to build healthy boundaries in your life, get counseling if needed, etc.
Is peace of mind the only benefit this Unashamed Marriage key has to offer? Hardly. Focusing on health pays off in the bedroom too!
What one thing will you do this week to improve an aspect of your health?
Men seem to be driven by formulas: a+b=c. When they find a formula that gets good results, you can believe it will get burned on to their psyche and they will repeat it. Formulas such as: I go to work everyday + I do my job well = I get paid.
So what is one of the big results that men are looking for, something that they are willing to do a+b in order to achieve? It is simply this: to be appreciated.
Everyone likes to be appreciated, but men especially thrive on knowing that what they do and say is favorably acknowledged. Ladies – do you want the secret to appreciation for men? Everything needs to be appreciated. When he takes out the garbage, whether he remembers to put a new bag in or not; needs to be appreciated just as much as when he plans a week long getaway for your 25th wedding anniversary.
Perhaps the ladies are wondering how this works for them. Let’s put it into the favorite male vehicle of a formula. I take out the garbage + I remember to put a new bag in the can=I get a thank you from my wife. Make it a point to tell him you appreciate him remembering to put the new bag in the can and punctuate it with a kiss or a quick graze of his arm. Verbal appreciation + physical touch = a man who will do almost anything for you.
Take the time to appreciate your spouse. Ladies especially, acknowledge your husbands deeds, great or small. Show your appreciation.
It’s been said that if you keep studying and learning new things, it keeps your brain younger and active and is beneficial to your overall health. If you’re done with math and science I have a suggestion: get a degree in your spouse.
There is this phenomenon that we believe understanding our mate is seeing how we can relate to them in order that we can change them to be like us. Wrong! True understanding is becoming a student of your spouse and applying that knowledge – hold on to your seat – to your life.
So you found out your wife is a neat freak extraordinaire. Don’t buy her books about how she is OCD. Pick up after yourself. You are demonstrating that you understand your wife and are showing your love. Does your husband do everything by a list? Put away the certificate you got for that class on spontaneity and send him a list of things that are important to you. He’ll see it as his marching orders and it is something he understands – a list!
Time marches across all of our hearts, preferences and ideals. That means that your spouse may have made some modifications over the past 12 years. This is the reason studying your spouse is a lifelong quest. Never stop learning about your spouse. It keeps your brain younger and active and is beneficial to your overall marriage.
I’ve got an insider’s tip for you: someone has been going around selling a faulty idea. When they come your way – RUN! The idea that is destined to bring misery and failure into your marriage? The lie that affection stops after you say I Do, or at least after the honeymoon is over.
Remember when you were dating your spouse and just a slight grazing of the hands made you tingle? What about the first time he put his arm around you publicly so everyone knew you were “a couple?” Remember the first time she wanted to hold your hand. That affection helped to fuel your relationship. Guess what? It still does!
Now we know that some folks are a little more reserved than others. If you’re the more private type, fine, but make sure you are showing affection in the home at least. Make sure you have to brush past his arm as you reach for the canister on top of the fridge. Make sure you reach for her dangling fingers at times, and go for one of those delightful strolls hand in hand. Say the words you know your spouse wants to hear. Go all out in your efforts to get that full smile that attracted you years before.
Keep affection in your marriage and keep the flames fanned!
Most of us have heard this at least once in our lives: you can’t buy love. While this is true, you can plan for (think invest) in peace of mind. But what does this have to do with marriage? Let me break it down for you.
Some husbands express their love for their wives in purchasing them gifts. From flowers and cards to yachts and jewels, nothing expresses their love better than a gift. But if the wife senses that the $350 all day spa package you snagged on a good deal for her will get in the way of making the car payment – she’s not going to be 100% happy about the spa package.
Wives love security. They usually like the gifts too, but they first want to make sure that all bills will get paid and there will be food on the table. Budget is a word that strikes fear into many hearts, but when spouses communicate and work together in the area of economy in their marriage – it strengthens their bond.
Putting it in the most basic cause and effect: a wife that is always nervous about the mortgage payment is a distracted lover at best.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that sex makes you stupid? Well, it depends on which side you’re looking at it from. If you’re single and making the circuits then yes, sex makes you stupid. Hear me out, I’m not downing single people here. Love them. Not making a moral judgment here about sex before marriage, although I could, but it’s a simple physiological reality. Sex blinds you to the faults of your partner. Proven fact. This is why single without commitment (think wedding vows) ends up in a lot of broken hearts. Girls are giving it all to a guy thinking he’s the one and they can’t see what a jerk he is because sex covers up faults.
Looking at it from the side of a passionate unashamed marriage, sex is the glue that helps keep you together. Why? Because it does what God intended it to – minimize your spouse’s faults.
You have the commitment. You have the assurance of not being abandoned and now you have the sex (yes, you should and regularly) that helps to minimize the faults and flaws that we all have because we are all human.
So if you’re single and getting your heart broken every time things don’t pan out with your latest flame, then yes, sex makes you stupid. But if you’re married and it minimizes your faults, sex holds you together. Don’t believe me? Just try having an argument with your spouse – both of you naked.