Spouse Abuse

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Spouse Abuse – What is It?
Spousal Abuse is a difficult behavior to define because it encompasses a set of symptoms that involve both physical and/or emotional abuse. When it takes the form of emotional abuse, it is characterized by verbal ridicule and/or putdowns that demean and patterns of neglect. Physical abuse involves the threat of physical violence and may include slapping, shoving, and deliberate physical assault.

Spousal abuse is a pattern of behavior that may be the result of a number of different factors. It may be a learned behavior that a child observes occurring between parents and later repeats in his or her adult relationships. Studies show that abusers are often motivated by feelings of powerlessness and insecurity. Spouse abuse inflates the ego and provides a false sense of control. It may be the result of a misguided sense of love that results in unhealthy possessiveness and/or jealousy.

Society is now becoming more aware of spouse abuse than it has been in the past. Previously, even if gross abuse was reported to the authorities, the law was reluctant to get involved. It was assumed that the man was ruler in his own castle and the authorities had no business there. At best it was viewed as a misdemeanor. That view has changed. If a man or woman feels abused, there are now many organizations ready to help. There are also many websites that offer information, help, and advice.

Spouse Abuse – Just How Serious is it?
Spouse abuse is a very serious form of exploitation that will escalate when left untreated. There is a cycle of violence that often begins with a pattern of verbal denigration and emotional abuse and intensifies until it manifests itself as a form of physical abuse. Verbal abuse is perhaps more sinister than overt physical abuse. Long after the black and blue bruises and broken bones from physical abuse heal, verbal abuse continues to silently erode its victim's self-worth.

The classic abuser conveys a message to his victim that she is responsible for his negative behaviors; that she is a failure in most or all of the roles that she is fulfilling; and that, apart from him, she is helpless. Victims of abuse eventually come to believe that they are powerless and objects of shame. Statistically, reports of women being abuse are more common than that of men.

Spouse Abuse – What does the Bible say?
Nowhere in scripture do we find God sanctioning any form of spousal abuse. In Colossians 3:18-19, men are instructed to pattern their love for their wives after Jesus' love for His church. This is described as a sacrificial kind of love; the kind of love that seeks the very best for the one who is loved. Emotional and physical forms of abuse are diametrically opposed to the concept of sacrifice; such behaviors are selfish and self-seeking. 1 Corinthians 13 teaches what genuine love is all about and has much to say about what love is not. According to this passage, love is not self-seeking, is not easily stirred up, and does not behave hatefully. Clearly, abuse is not a demonstration of genuine love.

Misinterpretation of Ephesians 5:22 has led some to believe that the role of submission permits abuse of power and/or mistreatment of a spouse. The true meaning of this passage is a demonstration of a husband's role as initiator of unconditional love, which results in the wife's role as responder, willingly placing herself under his headship. Submission is not something to be taken, but rather something to be given.

Jane had been a victim of spousal abuse for a number of years. Until her husband began to punch and shove her, she had no visible scars of her injuries. After being shoved down a flight of stairs, she sought help at a local shelter for abused women. Her counselor encouraged her to not return home until her husband agreed to seek help for his abusive behaviors. After learning that he was risking his marriage, David agreed to get help. Eventually he was able to learn to express his feelings and find meaningful ways of developing self-worth. Jane and David later came for Christian marital counseling to work on developing a genuine, loving relationship.

If you are currently in an abusive relationship, we encourage you to get help immediately.

Learn More About Dealing With Marriage Conflict.


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