Question: “I consider myself to be a strong woman in every other area of my life, so why am I such a doormat in my abusive marriage?”
Years ago I gave myself a title that only my closest friends knew I thought about myself.  Pardon my language, but in my opinion I was the Christian bitch at my church.  I had rough edges.  I’d been in more conflict resolution meetings than anyone else I knew at my church; heck, than anyone else I knew, period.  I’d always been the common denominator.  I’d even turned Matthew 18 into a verb; as in, Lucky me, I’m getting Matthew 18’d again.
And I’d never ever known why.  I chalked it up to my spiritual gift of leadership, to the fact that I’d put myself out there in the first place, to my stubbornness, to my outspokenness, to my not just lying down when I thought something was wrong. 
But then I read this regarding the ironic perception of an abusive marriage: “It may seem to outsiders that the wife wears the trousers. What outsiders do not realize is that the wife’s prominence in decision-making is a result of her husband mismanaging his headship.”
I’ve also been known for my anal retention, my hyper-organizational skills, my Type A, inflexible personality.  And then I became separated and wasn’t living in daily chaos.  And once that happened, there was less for me to try to control.  I became way more relaxed in my day-to-day little world than I had ever been in my entire life.  {I’m sure people who know me well are chuckling thinking, If this is relaxed, then I’d hate to see you wound tight…}
Also, in the midst of a deteriorating marriage, I started and lead the women’s ministry in my church for ten years, I raised two children, I wrote several books, I started a speaking ministry, I was asked to join the staff of my church, I became involved in social justice issues, went on three international missions trips and started and led the AIDS task force at my church.  I got things done.  Big things. 
And yet, I was absolutely and completely falling apart emotionally.  I was a needy train wreck who lived in utter denial of her painful reality. Perhaps that’s why I pushed back so much everywhere else; because I felt I had no voice in my own home, I was going to roar in every other area of my life. 
And then I heard someone say something at church one weekend that knocked the breath right out of me.  If my kids hadn’t been there that morning, I would’ve run right out of the church and straight to my car and sobbed all the way home.  The husband was referring to the strength he saw in his wife during a difficult part of their relationship and he said, “She was so full of the Spirit that she never would’ve let a man walk all over her soul.”  I knew he meant it simply as a compliment to his wife’s strength but it was a red flag to me of how some people view women in abusive relationships.
The entire time I was in my failing, difficult marriage, I was in love with Jesus.  I was as full of the Spirit as I knew how to be.  And yet, my soul was constantly being walked all over, battered and bruised beyond recognition. 
So, to answer the question, how can you be one person in the world and another person at home? Because you’re a victim of abuse.  Because abuse is insidious and confusing.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know. Because people twist the concept of submission and headship.  Because you start to believe all the bad things you’re being told you are. Because not everyone knows how to help.
But more importantly, how can you start to become the same person in all areas of your life? 
Start telling your truth. If you are being abused emotionally, physically, sexually, financially or spiritually, tell someone.  And keep telling someone until someone gets you the help you need to make the abuse stop.
Love your enemies but don’t let them bully or hurt you. Set some boundaries in your difficult relationship. Get some space if that’s what you need to do for your safety’s sake.  Don’t worry about rocking the boat…the boat needs to be rocked.  Status quo is not okay if status quo includes your physical or emotional danger.

Figure out who you really are.  Are you soft-spoken or outspoken? Are you flexible or a planner?  Are you melancholy or optimistic?  Who is the real you?  Then start acting that way, in each circumstance, with your friends, in your church, with your children, with your husband.  Not everyone will like the changes you’re making as you’re becoming truer to who God made you to be, but not everyone needs to.

We all have rough edges. But some, we don’t need to have.  We all have difficulties in life, but some aren’t the ones God wants us to be living through.  It’s never okay for your spouse to hurt you repeatedly. And I don’t believe that’s the life God is calling you to.

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage, found here. my three-month e-course, Marriage Methods (now pay what you can), found here; and check out my podcast, All That to Say. 


Taking a few moments to sit quietly and focus your heart and mind on Jesus is one of the best things you can do for yourself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically. Enjoy this free gift of guided meditations.

you're just moments away from calm!