Finding Intimacy After Abuse
OK you find that you have married a controlling and abusive individual who will not see themselves for what they are. In most cases they can rarely be helped by psychological or even Biblical Counseling, though a few have. You find you had to leave the marriage in order to become WHOLE again. But you find the struggle for WHOLENESS almost impossible because of all the verbal and emotional abuse heaped on you. You wonder over and over how did I end up in this mess anyway? You tell yourself, all I wanted was a happy life and family with someone who would love me just for me. All I wanted was intimacy with a loving individual. You ask yourself, will I ever be whole again? Will I find my true self and the meaning for my existence besides someone's verbal punching bag?
The human desire for intimacy, for intimate love, drives us to do things that we never thought we would. We find reasons to be with someone who can never return the love we want to share. Our reasoning process without submitting it to God often leads to heart-break and even humiliation. But why do we do this, and what does it mean to be intimate?
Being Intimate Means "In-to-Me-See"
One evening over dinner with a friend, we spoke about intimacy and what it means. She shared a cute little phrase with me to remind me of intimacy's true meaning. "It means ‘in-to-me-see,'" she said. Ah yes, it's a blending of our heart with another's, so we can "see into" who they really are, and they can "see into" us.
According to Dictionary.com, intimacy is defined as, "showing a close union or combination of particles or elements: an intimate mixture."
Being intimate involves the mixing of our life with another's, a mingling of souls, a sharing of hearts. This is something we all long for because it's how God made us. We were designed to connect.
What Intimacy is NOT
Maybe you are wondering about sex. Granted, sex is a part of intimate expression, but it is not intimacy.
In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes:
"Sex can be the most intimate and beautiful expression of love, but we are only lying to ourselves when we act as if sex is proof of love. Too many men demand sex as proof of love; too many women have given sex in hopes of love. We live in a world of users where we abuse each other to dull the pain of aloneness. We all long for intimacy, and physical contact can appear as intimacy, at least for a moment."
I counseled a couple who called the church a few years back. When Meredith married Ryan, she was convinced that even though they were not really emotionally close before getting married, that combining their families and enjoying sex would change all that. After all, she'd seen the movies; she had watched television where two hearts blended into one once they became sexually involved. Sadly, she was heartbroken when the emotional connectedness she longed for didn't show up after she made it to bed. In fact, she ended up being the victim of a very emotionally abusive, controlling man. Her divorce was agonizingly long as he did everything within his power to make it difficult for her to get free of him. The craving of intimacy can lead to some very painful lessons in life, but God created within us the desire for intimacy.
What Is Real Intimacy and How Is It Found?
Real intimacy is not found just by merging bodies in sex. When Jesus said, "and the two shall become one. . . " He certainly meant more than just the physical. After all, how many couples go to bed at night, share their bodies, but not their hearts? Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone you have had sex with that is emotionally detached-disappointing isn't it? All he or she wanted was the act of sex to satisfy their vacuum filled life. Even that was not enough for them they had to control you! Undoubtedly, those women who have experienced this very thing would say they are very lonely, even depressed. Why? Because just as a garden hose is not the source of water, but only an expression, or vehicle for it, so sex is not the source of intimacy, but an outlet (or expression of) it. No matter how hard you try, if real emotional and spiritual intimacy does not exist before sex, it most certainly won't after.
Real Intimacy Makes Us Feel Known
Real intimacy makes us feel alive like we've been found, as if someone finally took the time to peer into the depths of our soul and really see us there. Until then, until we experience true intimacy, we will feel passed over and ignored, like someone is looking right through us.
Sadly, we can miss out on intimacy that can make us and another person feel known, when we predetermine what we think we should see when we examine their life, heart, personality and soul. When this happens, we will try to mold and make them into who we believe they should be. Sadly we find that none of us can change another human being into what we really want. As a result, we are blinded to their obvious character flaws and love and intimacy are destroyed. These flaws, as many of you ladies have discovered can lead to a real nightmare of an existance. Because intimacy flows out of feeling wholly accepted just the way we are. However, remember that character and integrity in those we focus our attention on for intimacy count!
Real Intimacy Begins With You
Perhaps you are wondering how you can build an intimate relationship. In addition to accepting another person just how they are, (Note: This doesn't mean accepting any form of abuse), real intimacy can only begin once you know yourself. Since intimacy means "in-to-me-see," how can anyone "see into" you and who you are, your fears, dreams, hopes and desires unless you know who you are and are willing to allow someone in? Experiencing true intimacy begins with being connected to your own heart and that heart connected to your Heavenly Father.
Granted, sharing who we are with others is often not easy. All love is a risk. I admit, it can be uncomfortable exposing the deepest parts of ourselves. Thankfully, you don't have to do it all at once because developing intimacy is like peeling an onion—it can happen just a little at a time while trust is developed. Trust is vital to a healthy relationship! Listen to me on this: TRUST IS EVERYTHING IN A RELATIONSHIP OR IT WILL TURN OUT BADLY FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN!
Intimacy With God is Real and Rewarding
I have some very good news for those of you who have been terribly, emotinally abused. There is a God and it was never His will for you to be in an emotionally damaging relationship. I would like you to read this excerpt by Kerby Anderson, President of Probe Ministries, A Christian Doctrinal site on the Internet. He states that because abuse is fast becoming the number one reason for deep-seated emotinal scarring it is important for a spouse to recognize these abusive behavioral characteristics and categories since the abuser is usually in denial. Thus, the responsibility for recognizing verbal abuse and doing something about it often rests with the partner.
We have described various characteristics of verbal abuse and have even discussed the various categories of verbal abuse. Finally, I would like to provide a biblical perspective.
A Biblical Perspective of Verbal Abuse
The Bible clearly warns us about the dangers of an angry man. Proverbs 22:24 says, "Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man." And Proverbs 29:22 says, "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression." It is not God's will for you (or your friend) to be in a verbally abusive relationship. Those angry and critical words will destroy your confidence and self-esteem. Being submissive in a marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:22) does not mean allowing yourself to be verbally beaten by your partner. 1 Peter 3:1 does teach that wives, by being submissive to their husbands, may win them to Christ by their behavior. But it does not teach that they must allow themselves to be verbally or physically abused.
Here are some key biblical principles. First, know that God loves you. The Bible teaches, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)
Second, deal with your feelings of guilt. You may be feeling that the problems in your marriage are your fault. "If only I would do better, he wouldn't be so angry with me." The Bible teaches in Psalm 51:6 that "Surely You desire truth in the inner parts; You teach me wisdom in the inmost place." Even though you may have feelings of guilt, you may not be the guilty party. I would recommend you read up on the subject of false guilt. You can find that at http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/pastors-and-abuse-confronting-and-dealing-with-abusers-by-jeff-crippen/
A related issue is shame. You may feel that something is wrong with you. Your abuser made you feel that you are a bad person for not submitting yourself to them. Psalms 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Finally, you should realize that you can be free from being a victim and agree with God that you can be free. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." A key element in this area of verbal abuse will no doubt be confrontation of the abuser. It's important for you to realize that confrontation is a biblical principle. Jesus taught about this in Matthew 18:15-20.
You Can Find Intimacy But It Begins With God
Because God made us, He intimately knows us better than anyone can. For this reason, He can make us feel known in a way that no one on earth is able; and in this we can experience intimacy in an indescribable way. Intimacy with God through His Son Jesus has been the most rewarding and life-changing thing I have ever experienced. It may be necessary for you to leave your abusive relationship in order to heal. The good news is that healing will come by the accetance that God sees you as fearfully and wonderfully made. Choose life over imprisonment to begin the journey to real intimacy.
My prayer is that you will first experience the joy that comes from having an intimate relationship with God and that out of that love you have experienced with Him, that you will find intimacy with a special someone who will make the load of walking the earth a little lighter.
I recommend reading:
Matthew 6: 19-34
Thoroughly Christian Divorce From An Abuser
See you next blog,