We all get tired and hungry and cranky at times, so it’s not always easy to know if we are being abusive. The good news is, we can repent and correct our habits.
Abuse in a marriage inevitably leads to terrible sex. Mark Gungor teaches that the formula for the best sex possible is a turned-on man and a turned-on woman.[i] Abuse can come in many forms, but always retards the trust and arousal capability of the offended spouse.
But when is abuse not really abuse?
I’d like to share with you what my Neuro-Linguistic Programming professor David Glenn teaches about how to identify an abuser. I invite you to ask yourself “Is this me? Am I behaving like this?” Then make the appropriate course corrections. This isn’t gender-specific. A husband or wife can be abusive and not even be aware of it.
To identify the patterns of abuse Professor Glenn taught,
“…an abuser can easily be identified by simple warning signs.
- An abuser makes alterations to the victim’s environment.
- They intend to bring about a change in a victim’s mental condition by changing his or her external circumstances.
- The abuser is always defensive, and has a tendency to blame every mistake, failure, or mishap of theirs on others. They also may blame them on the world at large.
- They never assume personal responsibility, never admit their faults or miscalculations, and always blame the victim or others. For example, they say “You provoked me”, or “Look what you made me do.”
- They are hypersensitive, picking fights by arguing unnecessarily.
- They treat animals, children and mostly the opposite sex impatiently or cruelly.
- They express negative and aggressive emotions toward the weak.
- They may have a history of violent behavior coupled with vile bad language, threats, and hostility.
- Sex with an abuser is almost like rape, as they want to control. They are forceful in and out of sexual intercourse.
- They like physically hurting others, or find it amusing.
- They do not respect people’s wishes.
- They treat the victim as an object, or an instrument of gratification.
- The abuser always has to be in control of any situation and interrogates the victim if they have not seen them for a few hours.
- They make insulting jokes or remarks.
- Permission is needed if the victim wishes to go out, or do new things, even if it is simply meeting a friend or family member.
- They are patronizing, condescending, and criticize people often.
- They are wildly unrealistic in their expectations from others, and life in general.
- In short, they have a low opinion of themselves and take it out on others. It makes them feel better when the victim feels worse than they do. It gives them a sense of pleasure feeling that someone else is weaker than they are.…They need a sense of control over others to give them a sense of power, which is delusional.”
Our habits of abuse come from many sources within our culture or subculture and are many times a trained reaction to a given situation…TV, our parents’ examples, how we interacted with our friends, etc... All of these can train our subconscious mind. However, we can change these patterns into patterns of love, humility, patience, forgiveness, and charity.
As I mentioned in the beginning, some abuse isn’t necessarily due to an individual’s lack of self-esteem, and unhealthy desires to be in control. Abuse can arise for many different reasons. One can arise from a couple’s inability to communicate.
What may appear as abuse may actually be a couple’s ignorance in knowing how to communicate with each other. Every word or action seems to be misinterpreted by the other.
To illustrate, Professor Glenn goes on to share an example of one of the clients who visited him:
“I had a young male client who would shout at his [wife], and this caused them both great concerns. This was an anger management session.They truly loved one another, but this shouting from the [husband] was slowly breaking up the relationship. My client knew the reason he was shouting, but did not know why he could not control his anger towards his beloved [wife]. Let me explain.They were [newlyweds]. Before they were [married], they had travelled together for four years. For them it was bliss travelling together several weeks a year, and loving each other’s company.The shouting from the [husband] only started once they [married] and moved in together. He would clean the house, make the dinner and perform other household jobs before his [wife] arrived home from work.He would even run a bath for her, and have all her clothes washed, ironed and a warmed towel waiting for her.He was a nice guy with highly respectable morals. By seeking my help to save his relationship, he demonstrated even more that he was a nice and caring guy.However, this was the start of his problem. He assumed that his [wife] would have the same relationship expectations that he did, and would act accordingly once they moved in together.At times, when he was home from work later than his [wife], he expected her to have done the same housework as he had done. However, he would get home and she would be sitting in front of the T.V. with no meal ready, no bath prepared, and the clothes unwashed and not ironed. He would shout at her for not doing the work, but at no point had he communicated with her beforehand what he would like done prior to his arrival home.Also, he had not considered what sort of day she’d had. She could have had an extremely stressful day and just needed to relax. He was only considering himself; not the woman that he loved.However, he genuinely did not know this. In his mind he had created a perfect world of what he perceives as ethically right. He would see his [wife] waiting for him in a perfectly clean home with everything prepared. This thought gave him a lot of pleasure.So, when what he imagined was not the real situation on returning home, he would shout.He knew why he was shouting, but did not know how to control it. This was due to his lack of understanding in his own mind. But, whether real or imagined, he was in a different mental reality to that of his [wife’s].What he was shouting about was actually created in his own mind. He was unknowingly angry at the real situation not being what he had imagined. He was his own worst enemy.The [husband] told me that he had expected the same nice treatment that he gave her, yet he had never told her this.Lack of communication with his [wife] just added to the problem. He needed to tell her what he would like…again the [husband’s] fault, not his [wife’s]. Knowing this was a revelation for him. It created a sense of guilt in his mind for what he had done. This was the first steps on the path for change.Now let’s look at this same situation from his [wife’s] point of view. She is sitting at home, knowing her [husband] will arrive home soon. When he enters the living room, the [wife] is expecting a nice “hello”. Instead, he starts to shout at her. This creates a startled response in the [wife’s] mind as she was not expecting a raised, angry voice.The husband had unknowingly created a fear in his [wife’s] mind of him. From that moment forward, the [wife] will associate fear with her [husband]. He was pushing the woman he loves away. This was explained to him.”[ii]
In this case, the relationship was healed through improved communication skill between the husband and wife.
However, other forms of abuse may not so easily be healed. Elder Richard G. Scott offers this advice:
“The beginning of healing requires childlike faith in the unalterable fact that Father in Heaven loves you and has supplied a way to heal. His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, laid down His life to provide that healing.
But there is no magic solution, no simple balm to provide healing, nor is there an easy path to the complete remedy. The cure requires profound faith in Jesus Christ and in His infinite capacity to heal. It is rooted in an understanding of doctrine and a resolute determination to follow it.
Healing may begin with a thoughtful bishop or stake president or a wise professional counselor. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t decide to fix it yourself. Serious abuse can also benefit from professional help.
There are many ways to begin healing, but remember that a full cure comes through the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Redeemer. Have faith that with effort His perfect, eternal, infinite Atonement can heal your suffering from the consequences of abuse.
As impossible as it may seem to you now, in time the healing you can receive from the Savior will allow you to truly forgive the abuser and even have feelings of sorrow for him or her. When you can forgive the offense, you will be relieved of the pain and heartache that Satan wants in your life by encouraging you to hate the abuser.
As a result, you will enjoy greater peace. While an important part of healing, if the thought of forgiveness causes you yet more pain, set that step aside until you have more experience with the Savior’s healing power in your own life.
If you are currently being abused or have been in the past, find the courage to seek help. You may have been severely threatened or caused to fear so that you would not reveal the abuse. Have the courage to act now. Seek the support of someone you can trust.
Your bishop or stake president can give you valuable counsel and help you with the civil authorities. Explain how you have been abused and identify who has done it. Ask for protection. Your action may help others avoid becoming innocent victims, with the consequent suffering. Get help now. Do not fear—for fear is a tool Satan will use to keep you suffering. The Lord will help you, but you must reach out for that help”[iii]
Likewise, if you are the abuser, there is hope. There is help and the Atonement applies to you as well. Find the humility and courage to get the help you need and correct the pattern of abuse. There is only sorrow down the path you are on.
Choosing to get help will put you on a path with a much brighter future.
Our goal is to create healthy happy relationships that will want to be together through all eternity. Abuse is one of the tools the Adversary uses to prevent this from happening…to separate us for eternity.
Your marriage can win. The best sex possible is still attainable.
But, like anything worth having, it requires work, patience, consideration of the other spouse, humility, good communication, and careful planning.
Most people are not born knowing how to recognize abuse or how to be great communicators. These have to be learned. Marriage is the ideal lab to perfect these. Repentance is your best tool. Be patient with each other and make it a marriage you want to keep for eternity.
[i] Gungor, Mark. Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. DVD. Crown Comedy, 12 Jan 2009.
[ii] Glenn, David, Learn beginner to advanced NLP Hypnotherapy Psychology Course Practitioner & Self Help, Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
[iii] Scott, Richard G, To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse, Apr 2014 Gen. Conf. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/to-heal-the-shattering-consequences-of-abuse?lang=eng