Spousal abuse is a difficult behavior to define because it includes a set of symptoms that can involve both physical and emotional abuse. When it takes the form of emotional abuse, it is characterized by verbal ridicule or putdowns 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 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 home 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.
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.
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
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.
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
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 by wives permits their husbands to abuse the of power of their position in the relationship leading to the mistreatment of their spouse.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
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 spiritual leadership. Actually, when husbands abuse their wives, they have given up their role as spiritual leader of the home as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ who is a spiritual leader who sacrifices for the needs of his bride, the Church. Submission is not something to be taken, but rather something to be given.
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 possibly 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 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 abused are more common than those of men.
Often the most effective solution to making the relationship healthy and safe again is bringing in an objective third party, such as a Christian counselor, to intervene and mediate with the wife and her husband.
Written by Heather Resneder, MA, MFT-A
If you are in a relationship in which you are being abused, verbally or physically, now is the time to take action to make your life and relationships healthier and safer. To set an appointment with a Christian counselor, call at 972-960-9981 or fill out our contact form.
IF YOUR FAMILY IS EXPERIENCING AN EMERGENCY, PLEASE CONTACT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS TO ASSIST YOU DURING TIMES OF IMMEDIATE NEED.
- New Beginning Center
Individual and group counseling for adult and child victims of domestic violence. Emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children.
972-276-0057 (24 hr)
- Genesis Women’s Shelter
Provides emergency shelter, in-house food and clothing for battered women and their children
214-942-2998 (24 hr)
- The Family Place
Provides counseling and support groups for abused women
214-941-1991 (24 hr)
- Brighter Tomorrows
Provides services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Shelter locations in Grand Prairie, DeSoto, and Irving.
972-262-8383 (24 hr)
- Hope’s Door
Provides shelter and counseling services to individuals and families affected by domestic violence.
972-422-7233 (24 hr)
- Turning Point
Provides telephone crisis intervention, counseling and support to victims of sexual assault, their families and friends
800-886-RAPE (24 hr)