“My husband had a hard day at work, and he came home and yelled at me because I didn’t empty the kitchen trash can before he got home. He said I was always doing things wrong and that I was making his life hard. He didn’t stop until I burst out in tears. He apologized and asked for forgiveness, but how can this be okay?”
I’ve heard many versions of this same story, and I have lived in a version myself, even though I am a Christ-follower. Many of their husbands also claimed to love Jesus, but their words and actions do not match the example we see of Jesus in God’s word. Many Christian’s disrespectful, dishonoring, hurtful, manipulative, and controlling words and behaviors are excused as “just venting, a bad day, or just the way they are.” All of these excuses are a cover for the misdiagnosis of abuse.
Facts of Our Old-Self
We are all born sinners. Although our spirits are saved by grace through the loving sacrifice of Jesus, we are not instantly filled with the knowledge and love design of Jesus. Many of us were also not taught that we are responsible for learning and living in the ways and love design of Christ. Unfortunately, without knowing that we need to work with Jesus and someone to teach us, we will automatically use what we know by default.
We can only love our spouse and receive their love according to the definition and design we formed growing up. Our love design was formed from our experiences, the messages we heard and believed, and from the beliefs we formed about love, ourselves, others, God, and Jesus. Each spouse comes to their marriage with two sets of definitions and designs of love. They each have their understanding of what is okay and normal, which can be unhealthy, toxic, and abusive.
Misdiagnosis of Abuse
The world and especially the “church” shy’s away from using the word abuse. We all inherently know all abuse is wrong whether you are a believer or not. To think that “Christians” can be abusive and love Jesus is a hard dynamic to understand on the surface. However, when you look below the surface, you must acknowledge that we can only do what we know how to do.
This statement doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility to learn to love and act like Jesus; it is a fact. Until we learn the ways of Christ and how to implement them in our lives as we work with him, we can continue to be abusive or be the victim of abuse in our relationships and our marriage. It’s time to stop pretending abuse is not going on in Christian marriages and start helping them find Christ’s solution.
Unawareness of Abuse
I believe many couples who are disciples of Jesus are doing their best to make their marriage work. However, many are frustrated, confused, and unsure of where to go for answers. I know their pain from living in my abusive marriages spanning thirty years.
When you get a splinter in your finger, sometimes you won’t know it’s there until it begins to hurt and fester. Your pain will continue and may even get worse with an infection until you decide to get to the root of the problem. The same is true for our marriages that have unhealthy and even toxic or abusive words and actions. You must get to the root of the problem by learning what it is.
If you grew up in a home where yelling, disrespecting, and dishonoring were allowed as long as there was an apology, you may believe this is a normal or healthy pattern. If you were told that you have to forgive and forget when someone hurts you and then go on like nothing is wrong, you have learned to be a victim, which is normal for you.
Although you may have heard that you are “a new creation in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV), you need someone to show you how to work with Jesus and eliminate your old ways as he helps you love and live in his ways. As Jesus teaches you the characteristics and aspects of his love, you can see the unhealthy, toxic, and abusive ways you thought were normal. You will identify the problem and let Christ help you with his solution of love.
You Can Only Change Yourself with Jesus
Each spouse is responsible and accountable to work with Jesus and become the best loving spouse they can be in Christ. With Christ as our example and compass for our thoughts, attitudes, values, beliefs, morals, boundaries, and love, we will discern when unhealthiness is creeping into our marriage.
The only one you can change is yourself with the help of Jesus. You are one half of your marriage, and you are responsible for being Christ’s healthy disciple. Each of you may need to work with your own counselor to work through past issues BEFORE you work together. You also need to learn and live in Christ’s love design to change your old unhealthy patterns.
To have a happy, healthy, and thriving marriage, learn to live in the love of Christ. As Jesus transforms your mind, heart, words, and actions, your marriage will fill with his love. Stop wondering what is wrong and go to Jesus. Study his heart, characteristics, words, and actions as he walked the earth in God’s word. When you love like Christ, everything changes in your heart, mind, and relationships!
For more information about Christ’s love design, click this link now! Quest for Exceptional Love Book and Workbook on Amazon.