Common since the dawn of time, have these words been recited: “Until Death Do Us Part” at the majority of wedding ceremonies. The sacredness and purity of these vows reflect a couple’s pledge of a love that can only be separated upon the death of the other. When taken from that perspective, these words commemorate the infallibility of a marriage relationship where one commits themselves eternally for the sake of oneness in love. And in the natural progression of most marriages, marital vows symbolize a healthy union. What happens, however, when an Abuser twists these sacred vows? The majority of individuals who recite these sacred vows do so from a spirit of selflessness and pledge to remain not only faithful to the one to whom they wed, but also as a metaphorical commitment of a never-ending connection so long as the two remain on this side of earth.
From an Abuser’s perspective, however, it is not merely commitment but rather a venue through which they can, what they believe, “legally,” assert power and control. Abusers, by their very nature are insecure, narcissistic people who will go through extreme measures to mask their abusive behavior. When they make these vows, “Until Death Do Us Part” takes on a whole new meaning. According to Kurt Smith, in his article, Warning Signs of an Abusive Husband ”Emotional abuse can have devastating consequences on both physical and mental health. While emotional or psychological abuse may be difficult to pinpoint, examples abound.” He goes on to enumerate the long-term effects that may result from this particular form of abuse: Results of Verbal and Emotional Abuse, from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness:
- A distrust of her spontaneity
- A loss of enthusiasm
- An uncertainty about how she is coming across
- A concern that something is wrong with her
- An inclination to reviewing incidents with the hopes of determining what went wrong
- A loss of self-confidence
- A growing self-doubt
- An internalized critical voice
- A concern that she isn’t happier and ought to be
- An anxiety or fear of being crazy
- A sense that time is passing and she’s missing something
- A desire not to be the way she is, e.g. “too sensitive,” etc.
- A hesitancy to accept her perceptions
- A reluctance to come to conclusions
- A tendency to live in the future, e.g. “Everything will be great when/after …”
- A desire to escape or run away
- A distrust of future relationships
Ergo, when an Abuser makes these vows, he or she is pledging that you belong to “them,” from a space of selfishness and not selflessness. To them, the profession of these vows means that you commit yourself “Until Death Do Us Part,” as a symbolic gesture of being indentured, property, chattel, and in their own depraved mind, the vows are more than likely related to “your” death but certainly not theirs. In the marriage covenant, many Abusers will jokingly make comments such as “I paid for you”; “You Belong to Me”; or even perhaps come right out and proclaim “You will have to die your way out of this.” This is certainly not atypical of what happens in Teen Dating Abuse when the other partner exhibits behavior that may, on the surface, be construed as playful banter but what if the Abuser is not simply being playful nor joking when professing statements of this nature. Understandably, marriage partners are endued with certain “legal” rights and when approached from that vantage, it makes perfectly good sense that “rights” are asserted particularly when it comes to the painful issue of divorce, division of property and more importantly, custodial rights to ensure parity. And while divorce, in and of itself, is one of the most traumatic events one could face in life, it is quantifiably and qualitatively more emotionally and physically taxing when trying to escape firm grips of an Abuser.
Abusers often suffer from many underlying conditions such as bi-polar disorder, drug addiction, alcoholism and/or other pyschosomatic disorders that are artfully masked since Abusers become masterful at appearing to be charming, charismatic and the last person of whom one would expect abuse. In fact, those who are the most skillful, lead their victim into believing that perhaps something has gone awry with them; and often use what is commonly referred to in Domestic Violence as “crazy-making.” According to Connection Between Abuse & Mental Illness, “When a perpetrator commits deliberate acts or manipulates to make a victim feel crazy, or to believe they are crazy, it is a form of power and control. Feelings of disbelief, confusion and shame are all a part of crazy making. Crazy making can involve verbal abuse–threats, taunts, shame, blame, humiliation or name calling. Crazy making can involve physical abuse–coercion, retaliation, deprivation or physical harm. Often crazy making involves psychological tactics such as manipulation, stalking, isolating and acts that degrade or break down the self.” The Center for Abuse Awareness also finds that verbal tactics help to keep the victim under the control of the Abuser. Moreover, many Abusers exert economic control saying things such as “You know that I am better at this than you,” or “Don’t you trust me with our finances?” to name simply a couple of manipulative tactics. After exhaustive “conditioning,” the victim actually begins to believe the Abuser, as odd as that may sound, and yields to their authoritative dominance in the marriage.
Regardless of race, creed, sex, socio-economic status, education (and the list is exhaustive), no one is immune from falling prey. During my professional career, I have met numerous women at speaking engagements who have come to me to openly share their encounter with abuse; and while tactics may vary from culture to culture, socio-economic status, race, etc., the one common denominator is that it is Domestic Violence. Many woman with whom I associate in my professional networks, happen to be Presidents of major companies, organizations and the like, yet they also, despite credentialing and/or higher education, can become victimized. I, personally, was afraid to “raise my hand” and admit abuse for fear of the public perception, embarrassment, being referred to as stupid, the impact on my children and general stigma associated with domestic violence. As a well-cultured and educated woman, now safely out of a damaged marriage and divorced, I can now reflect with a clear head where I missed it and was merely driven by emotion, confusion, fear, and one who simply wanted the pain to end at whatever cost. And it cost me a great deal – professionally and personally. Regardless of how painful and shameful my experience was, I am a far better woman today than I was then and certainly more rationale, clear and pragmatic. And I also learned that I know how to manage my personal finances just fine, thank you very much!
Society has bought into the myth that domestic violence is always about physical or violent acts of crime and often look in disbelief that you were, in fact, a victim because your bruises are not readily transparent. Yet, they are there. As subtle and unseen as they may be, the silent sufferers have an internal bruising that results in the same consequences and traumatic experience. Just ask any victim who has later become a victor. One such woman I met during a speaking engagement at a church who happened to be a victor from abuse by a man who had touted the title of District Attorney for Domestic Violence, of all things, who while polished, refined yet still fiery watched my astonishment and told me in her Southern drawl, “I fought back, honey, and I won!.” The Domestic Violence & Mental Health Policy Initiative reports ”While that may seem like common sense, there is now a growing body of evidence indicating that experiencing abuse plays a significant role in the development and exacerbation of mental disorders and substance abuse problems, increases the risk for victimization, and influences the course of recovery from a range of psychiatric illnesses. Across studies of battered women, rates of:
(1) PTSD range from 54% to 84%
(2) Depression range from 63% to 77%
(3) Anxiety range from 38% to 75%
…Linking domestic violence advocacy with mental health and substance abuse service delivery is critical for the prevention of future violence and its sequelae.”2
Such a high rate of much needed services does not come also without an economic price tag. Domestic Violence not only ruins lives but it also drains our economy and until legislation is passed to make it far more difficult to get away with Abuse, the price tag – both human and financial – will continue to overburden an already fractured healthcare agenda. Remember when your mom (or dad) would say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, he or she was correct and whilst speaking with a colleague today, I drew her attention to the “infamous” car fox that shows up in marketing advertisements for Car Max. The polite, unassuming consumer says great deal but “show me the car fax” all the while the salesman, trying to consummate the deal, insists it is a great buy. Well, yes, I now ask for “The Man Facts.” And while that disclaimer is reflective of my sense of humor, lo and behold, a website exists where one can take a free “husband rater quiz (both for wives and husbands) and can be found at the link below.3 Alas, I was not far off in my colorful allegorical comment as someone actually cared enough to create such a quiz. What may appear to be a good deal for another is fine and good but as for me, the facts are underneath the hood!
Until next time, Hope and Believe; and most importantly, BE GOOD TO YOURSELF! Remember to join us on Face Book at Healing Place and use “The Power of the Pen!”
Warning Signs of an Abusive Husband
Domestic Violence & Mental Health Policy Initiative
Take our Free Husband Rater Quiz (quizzes for
both wives and husbands). http://www.guystuffcounseling.com/counseling-men-blog/bid/28065/Warning-Signs-of-an-Abusive-Husband