Every relationship has its ups and downs, but the scars from a toxic relationship run deep and take time to heal. Recognizing the harmful characteristics of a toxic liasion and taking proactive steps to deal with it are the first steps towards healing.
I laughed as I sat in church and watched the familiar video clip play. A man had set up interviews for the position of ‘Director of Operations’. The clip was a compilation of all the applicant’s reaction to how demanding the job would be. Long hours including public holidays, no breaks, the occasional all nighter and all without pay! Then he confessed to the applicants that there were many fulfilling the post globally; the job of mum!
Mothering is the highest calling in the world because we all came from one. She produces Presidents who run countries, doctors who treat the sick and farmers who feed the world. She feeds confidence, gives support and is the number one fan of her offspring. Sometimes she is blessed enough to partner with a significant other who helps create this product.
The bible says ‘Her children rise up and call her blessed; . . .’ (Proverbs 31:28), not because she is perfect but because she gives her best!
Keep doing what you’re doing and remember to cut yourself some slack, you are blessed and highly favoured!
Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise . . . Proverbs 31:25-28
The septic relationship is like a never-ending emotional rollercoaster ride. You experience periods of tenacity and resignation. Feelings of contentment when you stood up for yourself, and the profound awareness of being melancholy when you were too uneasy to make a stand.
I was compliant that day when I resigned from most of my church responsibilities. I was a youth leader, education secretary and music leader. They were challenging in different ways but I enjoyed what I did. I relished the research of relevant cutting edge topics that affected the youth and that could be linked back to the bible. I must have been born singing because music has always been a part of my identity. Leading worship is such a privilege and honour! We had had countless heated feuds about the issue. He felt it was taking up too much of my time. I said that women naturally multi-task and that he just needed to be patient and allow me the time to continue doing the things I enjoyed before we met. He said that he should be my priority, I said that as my husband he was and my God given tasks were also important. He said that his love for me was sacrificial, I told him that I had sacrificed enough. He wore me down, I got tired. Compliant as a cub.
The compliant autopilot mode kicks in when the mind screams retreat. It runs to hide. It cowers. It’s frazzled. It can’t say a word or do anything to defend itself. It’s humiliated at its inability to stand boldly. It can’t refute the false allegations, it can’t defend against the character assassination. It. Just. Can’t.
I was courageous that day when I left for church. We had argued that morning. I was trying to get ready so that I could leave the chaos behind me. They say the church is a hospital for the sick, well I was in desperate need of emergency care. He demanded that I give him my house keys. I had resolved in my mind that he wasn’t going to get them. I wasn’t sure how, regardless of the rhetoric of feminism, men are physically stronger than women. He grabbed the new mustard handbag my mother had bought me as a birthday gift and searched inside. I pulled it back from him. If I didn’t prevent him from finding the key, I would be locked out of the house until he deemed me worthy to re-enter. That was not about to happen that day. I could tell I was losing the struggle, with a burst of frustration I screamed that he should let go of my bag. The neighbours probably heard my shout. I know he didn’t want to risk them overhearing anything more. At that point in time I cared less if they heard or not. I wasn’t going to be intimidated. I yanked the bag from him. It was a bittersweet moment; the keys were safe but the bag handle was torn, my new birthday gift was ruined. I glared at him, turned then left. Courageous as a lion!
The courageous buzz is akin to the fact that in that particular moment in time, you burn with a desire to make your voice heard no matter what. You will not be walked on or intimidated. Not this time. An unwavering fortitude arises within and there is no turning back, no backing down. Not this time.
We’ve been surrounded and battled by troubles, but we’re not demoralised; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side, we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. 2 Corinthians 4: 8
No one will ever forget his handsome face. No one will forget his name.
I kept flicking through the news channels because I wanted to know the very second that the jury had reached a verdict. I hoped and prayed that justice would be served with a guilty verdict. Like the lawyer said to the jurors, “what you saw is exactly what happened.” Abuse of power. Once Sky News announced that the jury was ready, I was glued to the sofa. If the door had knocked or my phone had rung, they’d have to wait.
For an hour and a half before the verdict was given, I was torn between the two possible outcomes. Of course he would be found guilty, the whole world saw the slow asphyxiation of George Floyd, the expert talked us through his excruciating slow death. The officer had to be found guilty. Right?
Of course he won’t be found guilty. He’s going to walk away from this. There have been so many miscarriages of justice where people of colour are concerned. So much that we no longer believe in the justice systems of the country’s where we are the minority. Just recently in the UK was the anniversary of Stephen Lawrence, brutally murdered by his killers who walked away from court. History shows that people of colour have had more than their fair share of inequity and oppression. The Black Wall Street massacre 1921, Tuskegee Syphilis study (1932-1972) and many types of abuse have been tolerated because they are done by those in power. We have been powerless to fight back, and somehow those who can do something stand by and do nothing. Many things have changed, but here we are x amount of years later still being killed or harassed while walking dogs in a public park, being shot dead whilst jogging and for just being a living human being, for having a different skin tone.
‘I can’t breathe’ such a simple hashtag, but it will never be forgotten. And there are too many around the world who identify with this, because they are a victim of abuse. Every time your freedom of speech is violated by your perpetrator, they are cutting off your air supply. Each time you are vehemently asked about your where abouts, have to seek permission to do, when your basic human rights are taken from you, you eventually feel like you just can’t breathe. It’s no longer a hashtag but a way of life. You adjust to needing less and less ‘oxygen’ until you are just a mere shell of a person; emotionally brain dead and comatose at the hands of your ‘Chauvin’.
We are all imperfect and live in a sinful deranged world. Some things are really out of our hands and control. We all deserve the oxygen of life. The bible says that the sun shines on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). If He can resolve to do that, who is anyone to rob someone of such an essential resource? No one has the right to deprive anyone from the gift of emotional or physical air. We are all His children.
The Spirit of God made me what I am, the breath of God Almighty gave me life! Job 33:4
One lunch time whilst on Facebook, I watched an interesting video clip and decided to repost it. It was an animated illustration of an abortion. It wasn’t overly graphic, it was just a factual clip.
Mr Impatient demanded to know why I had reposted the video. Before I could answer I was bombarded by questions; Had I been pregnant before? Had I ever had an abortion? Was there something I needed to inform him regarding any past pregnancies? Whom did I know that had had an abortion? Was I still friends with them? Though I wasn’t the one speaking, I felt the need to catch my breathe!
“The answer to all your questions is no, but if I had a friend who had an abortion and you knew them, I wouldn’t tell you.”
“Because it would be their business, not yours. Furthermore I see no reason to subject any friend of mine to your constant judgement.”
“You’re not being honest with me. You’re hiding something from me. I want the truth Byooti!”
“Same answer as before nothing has changed.”
“I want to know the truth, you . . . ” and on and on he went. Well I was in a good mood that day. I simply watched the big kid have his usual tantrum. He eventually ran out of steam.
“Do you believe in abortion?”
“So why did you post it?”
“Well you must remember that I’m Facebook friends with a number of youth from church. I don’t necessarily know what they might be going through. I don’t know if any of them are struggling with deciding to have an abortion or not. Equally they may know someone who is struggling with the choice. This simply gives them a side of the story. I’m just sharing information. Ok?”
It wasn’t the first time that social media had become a topic of dispute. He had asked me once why I was always posting but never online. I explained that I had never really used Facebook’s messaging service, but if anyone dropped a message my appearing ‘invisible’ wouldn’t stop me from replying. He said I was being deceitful, that I must be hiding something if I never appear online🤷♀️. In another argument he stated that Facebook was for kids. I replied that I didn’t have any children as Facebook friends which meant that everyone I kept in contact with were adults.
That was when I realised that he was trying to control my social media life. The toxic / narcissist always seeks to control the circle of family and friends. I set up my Facebook account while I was doing my teaching degree years before we met. I was unwilling to deactivate it because it was the only way to keep in touch with all my friends who live all over the globe.
I defied him. I often wish I had defied him over many other things, but firstly, you learn to pick your battles very early on and secondly, I’m not built or wired to fight everyday which it often feels like when you are married to a narcissist.
The old testament tells the story of King Jehoshaphat who was full of fear because the Ammonites and the Moabites were about to go into battle with the children of Israel. He sought God in prayer for he couldn’t see a way out of the situation and perceived great loss of life. God spoke through Jahaziel ” . . . Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” There is absolutely nothing you can do to make a toxic relationship work. Only God can change the tide. This battle isn’t yours so just give it to God.
I had some time on my hands the other day and decided to do some tidying up . . . cyber style. Email inboxes have a sneaky habit of becoming overrun with all sorts of things. I like to organise my mails into folders so that it’s easy to find things I may later need without having to browse through thousands of emails. I found a folder named ‘Mr. Impatient’. I thought I had deleted everything to do with him. Naturally I was quite curious and took a look.
I recognised immediately the correspondence between my lawyer and I, but there were a number of emails from my ex-husband too. Seems like I was about to take a trip down memory lane!
I don’t remember what my initial response to this email was, but that I day I did just shake my head and chuckle. There was a book we were reading which encouraged a sports team like mantra “team x”. The couple are supposed to replace the x with their surname. It’s a simple reminder that spouses can use between them when things get a little rocky; “We got this, we are team Jones!” “Babes don’t give up. We are team Thomas. Don’t let this setback stop us.” You get the idea? So I laughed at his reminder that we were a team because he wasn’t behaving like a team player.
Notice that the email was supposed to be a prayer on behalf of our marriage. He acknowledges the sovereignty of God and His capability to lead and restore. Also notice that he never recognizes his own toxicity and destructive role in our marriage. Can God help us if we don’t submit our will to His? Oh well, that’s water under the bridge now.
I also found this one amusing. Now that I had left, he recognized me as a child of God, however there were many times when he accused me of not being a Christian or worthy wife. Mr. Impatient often accused me of having a ‘hard and unforgiving heart’. The reality was that I was protecting myself. When someone asks for forgiveness, and if they are genuinely contrite, there will be a change in behaviour. Now it may not be straight away and it may not even be a complete turnaround, but you will see an effort to do and be better. Well evidence of his remorse was bountifully lacking. When he did apologize I accepted it in good faith but never placed any value in it, after a while you stop caring because the apology is inconsequential. I was surprised that he admitted to having a problem ‘anxiety attacks’ but this didn’t go far enough.
The toxic individual will say and do almost absolutely anything to win you back. The display of rueful acts is actually quite surprising . . . well until you decipher the pattern! Rest assured that it is totally short-lived and so phony that they should be recipients for The Oscars! Preserve and protect your heart from the fraudulent performances. These are put on so that you will be drawn in time and time again. Every time you fall for the apology you develop unfounded hope that things will change and get better. The fact is it rarely does. The cycle merely repeats and becomes more frequent and intense. Toxicity has a tendency to rub of on its victims in one way or another. If you are stuck in such and unfortunate relationship, don’t allow the situation to change who you truly are. Embrace the Almighty Father. Always. Allow Him to keep you true.
Bring us back to you, God—we’re ready to come back. Give us a fresh start.Lamentations 5:21
A few folks have posed the question of why I never said anything to anyone about my abusive husband. I only had one reason; when you’re married you naturally want to guard the boundaries of your marriage. It is a sacred circle where ONLY you, your spouse and God dwell. That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to a trusted objective friend about certain things, and this can be positive or negative stuff. However, there are some things which should remain within the circle of three (you, your spouse and God). What happens in the marriage, stays in the marriage . . . sometimes.
It is incredibly difficult to open up about spousal abuse in ANY of its forms. You find yourself whirling and trying to understand what’s happening to you, you can’t even begin to explain to anyone else what is going on. You barely know yourself. When people say “why doesn’t she / he leave?”, they don’t understand how painful and even judgmental that question is. Unfortunately, you really have to live the life of a victim to fully comprehend the gravity of living in an abusive hell. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. You said your vows and meant it. The other person was banking on your allegiance to “till death do us part”.
If you ever get the courage to open up about your abuse, you have to consider the repercussions of your dark confession, because once you know something about someone, you can’t unknow it. For the most part he came across as a charming and warm gentleman. People that I introduced him to were probably receptive to getting to know him because of this. Would their perception of him change? Would their interactions with him change? Would he be given a second chance if he changed? How could others genuinely ‘reconcile’ to him knowing he was a ‘Jekyll & Hyde?’ Would they believe if I relayed the unspeakable? If I had spoken to others regarding my situation I couldn’t be sure that they would be able to give him the second chance that comes from forgiveness or that they would wipe his slate spotlessly clean. While I was married, I confided in Neriah (who later came on holiday) and my other friend. Both lived abroad and therefore their paths were not likely to cross with Mr. Impatient. Breaking the silence within your own community doesn’t feel so easy though.
It is not an easy decision to make. There is always the possibility of the harsh judgemental ignorance of others telling you that you should have prayed harder, had more faith, never given up or that God hates divorce. Yes, he does actually. It’s in black and white written in His word. There is no ambiguity here. God saying he hates divorce is not the same as Him saying that He hates the divorcee. To face the callous injudicious comments of others regarding your separation or divorce from your abusive spouse is to be abused all over again. Who wants to put up with that? This is why some victims will forever remain silent.
Break the silence; such a powerful hashtag, worthy of viral coverage on social media, highlighted by celebrities. There is much to lose and much to gain by breaking the silence. Everyone will know that you are / were a victim. You might be perceived as being pathetic for putting up with ‘nonsense’, or pitied for being too weak to walk away. On the other hand, breaking a sordid secret is very liberating. It’s all out in the open, no reason to hide or make excuses anymore. Speaking out takes the domination away from the abuser and places autonomy in the hands of the victim. Starting over can be daunting but only you will determine what your reset will be. You won’t be bullied or manipulated. It will all be on your own terms. Freedom from abuse creates your new life, a metamorphosis of your former self. A new self that you owe yourself.
. . . anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! 2 Corinthians 5:17
I love music! It’s among the best gifts God has given to mankind. I enjoy listening to gospel, r’n’b, reggae, jazz, lovers and Motown. I even have a few playlists on YouTube so that I can have my favourite songs to hand. I also sing. The first time I sang in public I was about ten or eleven. My siblings and I were absolutely mortified because mum made us wear angel costumes as we sang ‘Angel Band’ by Charley Pride . . . in church! That was the start of singing gospel. My brother sang lead or tenor and my sister’s and I sang alto and soprano. Picking out the harmonies came naturally to us. We all sang but none of us played any instrument, so a cappella was our thing. I have a longstanding relationship with music and as such, many songs trigger recollections of the past.
The other day I was listening to my ‘break ups’ playlist. No I have not broken up with anyone, I just think the music is great! ☺. I listen to this playlist as much as any other. The pain of separation and divorce is long gone so its easy to sing along to these songs. Even though break up songs inevitably trigger memories, the don’t come with tears. This particular playlist contains songs by Rhianna, Adele, Beyonce, Duffy, Lemar to name a few, even Glee the tv show. I can’t say which is my favourite since they are equally sad but beautifully sung.
“Oh it tears me up I try to hold on, But it hurts too much I try to forgive, But it’s not enough to make it all okay,
You can’t play on broken strings You can’t feel anything that your heart don’t want to feel I can’t tell you something that ain’t real”
‘Broken Strings’ by James Morrison
I remember hoping that every tomorrow would be better, that every prayer for a change in his narcissistic behaviour would be answered. It often felt like I had a box of forgiveness tokens that I just freely handed out, never even really bothering to listen to the end of the apology simply because I realised that the remorse wasn’t genuine. It had become a meaningless ritual with no real conviction behind it. You allow your heart to get numb because its easier than allowing it to deal with raw pain. Then you find yourself lying and replying “I love you too” when you don’t have anymore feelings. It easier to say this than to say what’s really in your heart to say, to explain all the anguish. Emotionally you have been deprived for so long and so deeply that you can’t survive. If you stop watering a plant it will die. Period.
Listen to the song here in my heart A melody I start but I will complete Oh, now I’m done believing you You don’t know what I’m feeling I’m more than what you made of me I followed the voice you think you gave to me But now I’ve gotta find my own, my own.
Listen by Beyoncé Knowles
The few times when I did sing in the house I was shut down. He made fun of me whilst trying to explain that he was only kidding and that I was too sensitive. Mr Impatient said my singing sounded like a joyful ‘noise’. Eventually he made it quite clear that he didn’t want me to sing and that he didn’t like my taste in music. I only sang or played my music when he wasn’t at home. Effectively, he silenced my voice in all the ways which were important to me. He had no time for my opinions, conversation or ideas especially as it related to our marriage and future. Being silenced makes you feel incredibly invisible, like you don’t exist. Reconnecting with your voice and using it freely again is an awesome blessing!
You know I used to paint such vibrant dreams
Now I’m colorblind, colorblind
When did my heartget so full of never mind, never mind
Did you know that you stole the only thing I needed
Always black and white in my eyes
Colourblind by Emeli Sande
When you are privileged to find someone who colours your world, it is indeed a blessing. Because of our humaness we will still have grey rainy days and sometimes those grey skies are self-inflicted, inflicted on us by our significant other or simply the curve balls of life. However, how reassuring to know that you both continue to share an umbrella when the grey rainy days come? Some have to stand alone in the deluge by themself. Sometimes the other person leaves, sometimes we leave. Perhaps, regardless of who leaves separation is a hard pill to swallow. To feel loved is to be empowered for lifes long journey. It is disorienting to be thrown from colour and thrust into black and white. We were created to receive and give colour in our lives and that of others.
Christ is the healer of broken hearts! He can and will mend any broken heart when it is brought to him. Stepping out after being hurt can feel intimidating but don’t let the past determine your future. If God has a blessing for you in the form of an umbrella holder don’t turn them away. God’s blessings are His perfect will for us. Why miss out on that?
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.
My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary today, congratulations mum and dad! They don’t read my blogs, they know that I went to hell and back in my marriage and that fact is enough for them. Reading any details would be too painful for them, but I have their support!
I remember when I said “I do!” It was supposed to be until either of us died. No one thinks about divorce on their wedding day. Nobody intentionally marries just to get divorced later down the road. Nobody. But it happens.
As I reflect back on the journey of my parent’s marriage, I reminisce hilarious, funny and great times. I recall some setbacks and challenges too. Marriage is not for the faint hearted. It is a commitment to yourself, your spouse and ultimately God.
A cousin of mine once asked me if I would do it all again. Yes, I would. I believe in the institution of marriage because the concept came from God. His ideals are perfect, but we humans keep messing up those same values which He meant for our good, health and happiness. Our imperfection doesn’t invalidate His ideals for humanity. If every husband and every wife ‘died to self’, wouldn’t we have more joyous relationships? Less dysfunctional homes? Wouldn’t Christendom then bring more glory to the Father?
I’m presently in my late 40’s so I don’t know if I will ever celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, but I will celebrate everyday of life!
This hymn came to mean so much to me whilst I was married. It anchored me when times were turbulent in my marriage. Consistent arguing is very draining especially when you’re unused to living in chaos. Emotional waves were bent on drowning me but because I had memorized the words long ago, I would recite it in my mind. It was my life jacket and kept me from going under many times.
It often consoled me as well. The storms came at me daily. Though I can laugh now, the words famously sung by Tammi Tyrell and Marvin Gaye, “The world is just a great big onion” often popped into my head. How can one person cry so much and so frequently? That was one serious phase of onion! It was probably just as well that the words were lodged in my mind, who can read from a page when there’s a waterfall coming from their eyes? I was comforted that one day my thorny path would actually come to a joyful end.
The child of God develops faith through the various circumstances called life. It is only through the continued experiences of adversity that we learn to depend on our Heavenly Father. It’s another level of faith to maintain a sense of peace and hope when your life is turned upside down. Remember the story in the bible when the disciples were sure they would drown because the storm was so tempestuous? Yet there was Jesus fast asleep, seemingly oblivious to the danger. Is this the faith God asks of us? That even when ‘death’ seems to be the only possible outcome we should still trust Him to deliver us? To be at peace in the face of ‘certain destruction’?
Well in the face of abuse it definitely feels like you are surrounded by destruction. Even if there seems to be no physical escape there is spiritual refuge in The Almighty. He is the strong high tower that we must always run to.
Be still, and know that I am God . . . Psalms 46:10
We were married at the beginning of the month of December and so naturally I was looking forward to our first Christmas holiday break. We couldn’t decide what or how we would celebrate but we agreed it would be with each other. In the morning he declared that he wanted to visit his mother. It took me by surprise but as he promised to return by late afternoon I wasn’t perturbed. This would give me an opportunity to visit my family for a while. He got ready and left. I immersed myself in a novel I had started reading some time ago while music played in the background.
I answered my phone as it rang. He was checking in with me, how sweet! I could hear the usual cacophony of music in the background and asked how his mother was and told him to pass on my regards to her. He said that he planned to spend another hour or so then he’d head home. I whizzed into action. It wouldn’t take me much time to get ready, but I wanted to be able to spend a decent enough time with my folks. I ate something light as we had decided that we should eat dinner somewhere then walked the short distance to my families’ home.
As I opened the door, it took all my self control not to salivate everywhere! The aroma of food was intoxicatingly delicious. My father was carving the turkey so I was just in time to gnaw on a turkey bone. They were surprised to see me but when I explained the plan for the day they nodded in acceptance. Around the time when I thought my husband should be collecting me, I gave him a ring but I didn’t get an answer. However, knowing the noisy environment in which he was, I wasn’t taken surprised that he hadn’t heard his phone.
He did eventually return my call. Three times. The first call was to say that he was going to spend an extra hour. The second call was to suggest that I just spend the day with my family. His last call was to insist that I spend the rest of the day with my family. I graciously excused myself from the family table and said that I was going to be picked up. I wanted to call him back but not where my humiliation could be overheard. I called Mr. Impatient back and tried to reason with him. The first 12 months in any marriage is about making memories of lots of ‘firsts’. I wanted to be able to reminisce on our first Christmas in years to come and smile with fondness. I reminded him that he had given his word that we would spend the day together. He wasn’t even sympathetic to my disappointment. I was angry, upset and hurt. I walked down the road and sat by the river to collect my thoughts. He rang but I ignored my phone. I needed to collect my thoughts. Was this how difficult memory making was going to be? The rain decided that this was also the best moment to put in an appearance. Now I was wet, hungry and miffed. I began the steep walk up the incline to what I called home.
This is what happens when you invest time and emotion with someone who is toxic. The things which you take an interest in or are important to you are pretty much shrunken into insignificance, but you dare not have the same attitude with the things that are of relevance to them. It is a very one-sided relationship. I am grateful that we serve a God who is interested in every aspect of our lives. He feels our hopes and shares in our despair. He is in tune with all our emotions, after all He did create them right?
Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. John 14:27