In some ways being in an abusive relationship is reflective of the stages of grief. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial. Outsiders (family, relatives & friends) observe and warn you of the toxic traits that are so obvious to them, yet you, the victim are naively oblivious. We reason and make ‘valid’ justifications for their toxicity.

The anger is profound. There is anger towards the perpetrator. Why are they behaving this way when all you want to do is love them and build a life with them? Then there is self-directed anger which is quite brutal. You become angry with yourself because you fell for them. You gave everything and held nothing back. You loved unconditionally. You ignored the red flags and wished you had run a mile far away from them. You are angry at the circumstances that shaped the life of your violator. How could life be so cruel?

Bargaining. Maybe if you stick it out longer things will change. Maybe if you love more they will change. Maybe if you view the demands as pleas for help instead of control and manipulation you won’t feel oppressed. Maybe if you both go to counselling there will be a breakthrough in the relationship.

Then there is the stage of depression. You have developed an auto-pilot switch. It never goes off. It helps you through each and every day. There’s a button that produces the expected smile and generic responses. There’s a button that ensures you do the normal every day things like eating and looking after your appearance, you feel so invisible that it would be easy not to do those little things. There’s a switch which controls the tear ducts. It is arduous to consciously manage them. There’s a button that prevents you asking for help. You don’t want to be pitied. You are ashamed.

Acceptance is sometimes liberating. You have found a label that fits this person. You know what you are dealing with now. You are a victim and need to safeguard yourself. You know how to survive. You know how to outwit. You know how to leave, you know it is the only choice.

Being the victim of abuse is very lonely. You did defend them at first because you didn’t see the toxicity. You were angry at everyone and everything, even God. You thought that bargaining would buy you time to fix things. That depressive state comes from the realisation that you have made the biggest blunder of your life and your aggressor is probably not going to change. Accept that what’s done is done, and can’t be undone. Make peace with that. Now it’s time to think of how to move forward.

Relationships have their challenges.  It is normal. When God designed marriage He never intended it to be abusive in any way. He created it to be a beautiful institution that would be reflective of His relationship with humanity. God doesn’t abuse us. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end, Jeremiah 29:11.

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