A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. – Proverbs 22:3 NLT
One-third of women in our country and one in ten men have been hurt physically or emotionally by a partner. Abuse is becoming a bigger problem, affecting families from all walks of life. The National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) says domestic violence affects about 10 million people yearly. You might be in a relationship and wonder if what’s happening to you is abuse.
God’s Word is clear about how we should grow in relationships with those around us. However, it is essential to recognize the danger of remaining in a relationship where you are deprived of things like sacrificial love and genuine selfless care. There are challenging moments in every relationship.
However, God’s plan does not make us stay in a destructive pattern of one partner exerting power and control over another. There is a distinct difference between ordinary relational sin and abuse. “Sin says, ‘me before you’ (competitor), abuse says, ‘me over you’ (predator) and uses personal strength to diminish the strength of the people under my influence to increase my control.” (Pierre and Wilson, 2021)
What is Abuse?
Abuse happens when a person is repeatedly and persistently misused and subjected to cruel or violent treatment. This includes demeaning, insulting, or offensive language.
Abusive relationships show a pattern of these behaviors, while healthy relationships involve repentance and remorse for sins against each other. Repentance is the decision to change and a commitment to do better. It is focused on the well-being of the other person, not the preservation of themselves.
Abuse follows a defined cycle of deception, tension, and harm. Unfortunately, people often miss the signs until they are caught in the rotation without an easy way to escape. The cycle starts with the honeymoon period, where the abuser is exhibiting behaviors to compensate for the injury they have caused.
The Honeymoon period provides the abused member of the relationship with a false sense of security and safety. The tension period is where the abuser will start to exhibit unsafe behaviors, and the victim will begin to adjust their own responses to minimize conflict. Then there is the explosion period. This is where the abuser asserts emotional, sexual, verbal, or physical harm against the other person.
Physical or Sexual Abuse
Physical abuse is one of the most recognized forms of abuse. It often starts as a small act of physical violence. These acts can range anywhere from a threat to harm you to physical aggression that inflicts bodily injury or damage to personal property. It is important to remember that sexual abuse can happen, even in marriage. Sexual intimacy is intended to be an exchange of mutual affection and consent. Any sexual encounter forced, manipulated, or coerced is not mutual.
The graphic below shows how consistent power and control patterns appear in abusive relationships. If you are dating or married to someone that behaves this way, you need to connect with one of the resources listed at the end of this devotional.
Emotional abuse is sometimes hard to identify early in a relationship. However, there are warning signs or “red flags” that you can be alerted to that will help you recognize potential problems. Remember that not every expression of anger or disagreement constitutes emotional abuse.
Scripture allows us to experience difficult emotions such as anger, but it admonishes us to avoid sinning in those moments. (Ephesians 4:26) Emotional abuse is characterized by a behavior pattern fitting into a defined cycle of manipulation, rejection, control, and disrespect.
While emotional abuse is sometimes hard to recognize when it is administered. Its effects are evident and lasting. An adage says, “people don’t always remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.” One of the keys to recognizing an abusive relationship pattern is taking inventory of how your time with that person affects you.
- Do you consistently feel diminished when you finish a conversation?
- Do you feel violated or harmed?
- Do you feel devalued and degraded after a disagreement with them?
- How has this affected your relationship with God?
- How have your interactions with your partner affected your physical health and overall emotional state?
Pause and Reflect
Below are questions that might help you identify if you are involved in the cycle of abuse.
- Are things always my fault? Am I blamed for every conflict in this relationship?
- Does my spouse or partner threaten to harm or violate my personal space or property if I disagree or choose not to do something they have asked of me?
- Have I stopped making healthy decisions because I fear how my spouse/ partner will respond?
- Does my spouse or partner isolate, disrespect, or control me by withholding financial provision, reasonable care, or access to others?
- Can my relationship be characterized by the cycle of deception, tension, and harm?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should seek additional support through one of our trusted resources.
10 Scriptures for those that recognize abusive patterns in their relationships
1. "I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27 NLT
2. But You, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; You consider their grief and take it in hand, The victims commit themselves to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. – Psalm 10:14 NLT
3. He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. – Psalm 147:3 NLT
4. And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. – James 1: 19-20 NLT
5. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. – 1 Peter 2:23 NLT
6. Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. – Proverbs 22: 24-25 NLT
7. But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace. – 1 Corinthians 7:15 NLT
8. The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. – Psalm 11:5 NLT
9. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. – Colossians 3:19 NLT
10. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her – Ephesians 5:25 NLT