Enemy. What a harsh and horrible word. It brings up images of war or the movies, or in faith circles, of Satan. It probably does not bring up pictures in your mind of actual people in your life. At least, we’re sort of trained that it shouldn’t.
How many of us women haven’t read a Christian book or been at a church event or a retreat or a Bible study and heard something like this from the author or speaker, “If you are in a relationship that is toxic, cut the ties, walk away. Unless, of course, it’s your husband. Then, work it through.”
If I had to guess, I have heard a variation on that statement maybe a hundred times during my adulthood, during my difficult marriage.
It was this interesting paradox. If there were a person in my life who treated me terribly and was sucking the life out of me in pretty much every way, set boundaries or even move on; letting yourself be bullied isn’t what Jesus meant when he said to turn the other cheek. Unless, you know, it’s your husband. Because, since there was a vow, working it through is your only option.
Or how about this one? “Your husband isn’t your enemy, ladies…” Huh.
Dictionary.com defines enemy as: a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another.
So, because your last name is the same or because you both signed a marriage license or because you stood before God and promised to cherish each other yet your husband feels hatred for you, fosters harmful designs against you, and engages in antagonistic activities against you, he’s not your enemy..…just because he’s your husband?
I one hundred percent disagree.
I know enemy is an awful word. And I know that nobody wants an enemy. Who would want an enemy? But we talk about it as if it’s a culturally made-up concept.
The Old Testament mentions the word enemy over one hundred times. And I don’t think each reference was talking about Satan. In fact, David talks specifically about Saul hunting him down and being his enemy.
And Jesus tells us to love and pray for our enemies. Which must mean that we can actually have them. He wouldn’t have told us to love and pray for a non-existent people group.
Now, I get it. I really do. It can feel dangerous for a wife to claim her husband is her enemy. But acting like it’s not her reality does not help anyone. If she is being beaten or raped or called names or controlled or manipulated or lied to or put in danger by her husband, then friends, her husband is her enemy.
She is called to pray for him, absolutely. She can and should do that. And she is called to love him, yes. And the way she can love him best is to get help for herself, for her children and for him; and sometimes the way to love him best is to leave so that he wakes up and gets the help he needs; and if he never wakes up, for her protection and her children’s, to go.
Yes, Satan is our enemy. But yes, we can at times have actual human enemies in our lives. And yes, very, very sadly, your enemy may be your husband. And yes, we need to work it through, but staying indefinitely no matter what, no matter how you’re treated, isn’t always the best way.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.
I 100% fully agree with you. This has been a difficult topic for many women. I, myself, left an abusive marriage that had gotten so bad, he was arrested for threatening to kill me and physically hurting me. My family got involved. It was ugly. Yet, every divorce book I read gave way to, “You should not divorce”. Well, I did. I improved the situation for my children and I by leaps and bounds. God did bless me. Everything got better. I always encourage people to work out their problems but I DO not encourage anyone to remain in an abusive relationship.
I so agree with this. How I wish that I had had this information years ago-before I stayed 42 years in an abusive marriage.
I finally left and have only been gone for 1 1/2 weeks. It is so frightening though because I feel like I am being pulled back to him. Certainly by him, but also by me. I need to remember that any one who would treat me like he did for so many years was an enemy and he did not change in such a short amount of time even though he tries to convince me that he has.
Thank you for your faithfulness to the Lord in writing what He puts in your heart. I know there are many women like me who are benefiting enormously.
Thank you, Beth. I wish I didn’t relate. 100% agree.
That is just completely eerie, Elisabeth that this is the EXACT thought that has occurred to me in the past few days. It gave me chills to read your post! When you are talking about creating a loving, peaceful and supportive home … yes, my husband’s continual constant criticisms and bullying ways where he uses fear, anger and yelling to again and again and again tell me the myriad amount of ways that what I do is wrong and try to control me. Yes, he is my enemy.
I set my boundaries. I remove myself when he continues to be abusive and mean.
And I wonder why in the world I thought this was ‘normal’ – a relationship where I am not allowed to be myself, to have my own opinions … he is capable of love, patience and kindness, as he is to our daughters! But he does not see nor accept how he is towards me! He goes as far as saying he hopes they find a man like him for a husband when they grow up.
I pray every night they do not. And I pray that my sons do not follow in his or their father’s footsteps.
Somehow, someway, I got on the wrong track, that I did not feel worthy of a man who cherishes me. This is my second marriage … to the same man, not literally but figuratively.
And my husband learned these awful ways from his childhood and has not owned up to them.
I know I cannot change him. It is up to him to realize how he is. It is up to me to, and this is a continual, daily, exhausting chore, to tell him when his behavior has crossed the line.
I agree 100%. One of the hardest things about my divorce was realizing and coming to terms with the fact that my husband did not wish me well…in fact, he wished me harm. Once I accepted this and started to protect myself emotionally, physically and financially, I was able to begin to heal.
Nicole, I agree that healing can only come when we see our situation accurately. So true. -Elisabeth
Spot on unfortunately. Sad
Yes. I wish it weren’t the case for anyone, Cindy. -Elisabeth
I 100% agree, too. Such a true and accurate post, Beth. I’m going to share it.
Thank you for sharing, Amy! -Elisabeth
Brilliant. Simply brilliant.
Thank you, Maureen. So kind. -Elisabeth
So true! I remember that right before I left my husband he reminded me The Enemy. The things he would say to shatter me. I guess to have control. It was like he pitted me as his enemy even though I did nothing intentionally to harm him. Small incidences were made huge. Motives misread. Misunderstandings were made into intentional attacks. I thought I was crazy at first and doubted myself but when it got bad enough I saw it for what it was and left.
My husband seemed repentant for a while but the pattern would still show up every few weeks even in moderate communication. I’m very sorry that my marriage will end soon in divorce but I’m very thankful for the safety and peace The Lord has provided me with. He showed up and rescued me from mine.
So true and maybe if we all face this truth then we could save more marriages. Home should a refuge not a battlefield. Keep educating because I’m sure it’s the first time some people are hearing this.