Ben and I watched a limited series on Netflix last weekend. Maid chronicles the true story of a woman (Alex) in an abusive relationship who struggles to make a life for herself and her daughter apart from her abuser.
It is thrilling when she gets away and finds a safe place. It’s heartbreaking to see the women she befriends in the domestic violence shelter go back to men who may eventually kill them. And absolutely maddening when she does it herself.
As a woman who has been there, it was a hard show to watch. Ben didn’t know it, but it took me right back to the desperation and utter helplessness I felt when I was stuck in the middle of it. I know the cycle all too well. You just want so badly to believe this person you love truly loves you. And they’ll manipulate you into trusting them every chance they get. But holding onto jagged pieces of a broken person will cut you every time. I praise God I got out with body and soul intact. Many women don’t.
I have friends (beautiful, smart, kind friends!) who have clung to men who treat them like garbage. These men are not healthy enough to love themselves, let alone anyone else! Maybe the women are not being physically harmed, but emotionally? They’re on the floor in the fetal position. I’ve been there, too. Several times. Emotional abuse isn’t ever acceptable, but we tell ourselves (and past experience backs us up) we probably deserve it. We don’t. Ever.
I am so thankful that as I’ve grown in God’s love for me, I’ve also grown to see what is acceptable in a relationship and what is not. It’s not that the abusers and manipulators themselves are below grace and redemption. God can redeem anyone and give them a new and beautiful life! It’s just that as a woman who knows she is loved and valuable, I refuse to accept abuse and manipulation in my close relationships. Thanks, but no thanks!
When you’re as intimately familiar with manipulative behavior as I’ve been, one positive skill emerges: My B.S. meter is off the charts. I can see through the charm straight to the slimy center. And I have little- to-no tolerance for it. Not in my life, and not in the lives of people I love. But that’s where the hard part comes in.
If someone isn’t ready to face reality, they will stay right where they are. They might logically know the person won’t change, but some coping mechanism deep within kicks in and softens the edges enough to make leaving seem worse than staying where they are. The devil you know, right?
I think learning to stand up for myself has also stoked a fire inside me to stand up for other people. I think that’s part of the reason why I voice my concerns when I see manipulation and abuse in other areas. There are things happening today where I’m sorry, but I call B.S., and I don’t think it’s “kind” to keep quiet for the sake of keeping the peace or not stepping on peoples’ toes.
Until people are ready to honestly assess what is true and what is not, they will not get uncomfortable enough to change. But staying in an abusive or manipulative situation never ends well.
There is life on the other side of abuse. I had friends and family to lean on, and after awhile, God blessed me with the kindest and gentlest man I’ve ever met. But it took me being willing to stand on my own first. With God, it was possible. It is possible.
God, I pray you would open eyes today, right now, to the cycles of paralyzing fear and destruction. I pray for anyone stuck in a cycle of abuse and denial, that you would give them the courage to walk into freedom and healing, God. I pray they would grab hold and not let go of the new life you have for them.. Give them wise counsel and support every step of the way, God. Let truth guide and love hold as they step away from the wreckage and into a new chapter full of grace and redemption. Give them courage to fight for themselves, God. Cover them.
P.S. If you are in an abusive relationship of any kind, there is help! Please don’t stay there, sweet friend. There are resources and help available! Your life matters.