Featured teaching: The Emotionally destructive marriage: Leslie Vernick
I grew up in a small village in Kenya in a family of six, three girls and three boys. I was blessed to have hard working and caring parents, yet, I knew something was not working between them.
As a small girl, my basic understanding of marriage was that it was a commitment between dad and mum. What I did not understand however is why my father who, when drunk would physically beat up mama and chase her out of the house in the cold.
With a black eye, an injury on her face or elsewhere, Mama would come back into the house in the morning to prepare breakfast for Papa and her six children, yet when Papa woke up, he behaved like all was well.
It is hard to unpack in a few words what pain this caused us all.
There are days when mama could not take it anymore, and she would pack her few clothes and escape to her parents.
When I was a grown woman and with my own family, I asked her why she kept coming back to the abuse to which she responded: “I kept hoping that one day your dad would stop drinking and treat me well. Again, as a Christian, I believed that the Bible commanded me not to leave ’till death do us part’.”
Mama was the firstborn in a family of thirteen children. Her parents were peasant farmers and had enough challenges in raising their dozen children. Whenever mama ran back to her home, she felt guilty that she was adding a burden to the already burdened parents
As a result, I saw mama go through so much pain. She worked extra hard. To ensure we had enough to eat, she was hired to work in other peoples farms. I witnessed her lose weight due to lack of an appetite, she would easily get agitated, she developed asthma and became very weak and skinny. I now know that she suffered clinical depression.
While I felt sorry for Mama, I also cared for Papa. When not drunk, he was kind and loving. Despite his drinking, he paid school fees and provided the basics. This made him look better than many men in the village. When sober, he was calm and quiet. Many times, he looked remorseful after spending his money on the bottle or having gotten mugged when walking home at night. I felt sorry for him. There are times after a drunken fight, he would apologize to us, would promise that he would stop drinking for a few weeks, then relapse after a few weeks.
By God’s grace, we all grew up, got jobs and moved from home to the city. We looked forward to coming back for a holiday. When we did, it would sometimes be fun and sometimes bitter. I realized mama and papa were not friends. With the children gone, they simply co-existed and this was painful to watch.
I have since learned that abuse takes many forms. For Mama, it was physical, psychological and emotional. I have also learnt that dad was sick. He was an alcoholic who for lack of knowledge and resources never received any treatment.
Today, people are more enlightened about these conditions that so negatively affected my parents relationship. Abusibe spouses are more afraid of physically abusing their spouses for fear of going to jail. As a result, they revert to emotional abuse. I knew mama was hurt because I saw her scars. What I did not see were her emotional wounds.
This concern led me to look up resources on emotionally destructive marriages and below, I share a few references from Christian councilors. Through them, I hope to repackage what abuse looks like in a marriage and what a Christian can do to be safe and live a life that glorifies God.
Featured: How to have more emotional safety in relationships and what to do if you are in a relationship that is unsafe. (credit: Veritas counselling/Dove Tv)