Sunday, August 07, 2016

Joel. Michawn. {Part 81 - Unsafe Relationships}

After I asked for help in my last blog post, one of the messages I got mentioned a counselor by the name of Patrick Doyle.  I looked him up.
The very first video I watched of his made me want to explode.  It was SOOOO different than ANY counselor I have ever heard.  What he was saying was EVERYTHING I had experienced for the past 4 1/2 years.  Everything.  If we received help like THIS, maybe things could turn around.

I've posted several things (on Facebook and here) that have talked about this sort of thing.  Several things that all added up equals what has happened in our marriage.  

This video meshes most of those things all together.  It has been sooooo validating and vindicating for me because someone GETS IT.  Finally.  I thought that one of our counselors had gotten it too last year...but two months later when we went back and I said that there had been no heart change and Joel said the opposite, he believed Joel and said that I was then trying to be controlling.  :( 

This guy though?  He's not convinced by mere words.

This video...please watch it (it's only 20 minutes long) and then read the specifics below of how it fits with our situation.  Soooo much wisdom and truth here that is soooo rare.

All that is italicized below are quotes from the video.

Within the first minute he talks about how you might feel harm from someone and it might be mild and not extreme, but it's consistent.  You yourself deny the harm that that person is doing...'that wasn't right and that wasn't very nice, but they didn't mean it' rationalize the harm that person is doing. Then that gives them license.  It's all unspoken, but they just keep taking ground and keep taking ground.

Then the person feels trapped and overwhelmed...and then they say something.  By the time they actually say something they say it with more intensity than if they had just started saying it in the first place.  Then the harmer acts like the harmed is just so wrong for addressing something with a higher intensity...and takes no responsibility...and turns himself into the victim.

Now, let me just say that I addressed the wrong things being done from the very beginning.  But, 1) since it just kept happening, and 2) since I didn't even find out what many of those wrong things were for a very long period of time (months/years; they were all kept secret)...the intensity with which I addressed things did escalate.  Not that when I addressed something it was always high-intensity...but when I addressed it and it was met with the SAME justifications and rationalizations and minimizations, the intensity of our conversation would definitely go up.

In the church particularly, people, because of their 'Christianity,' feel like they can't say anything that will cause a problem.  But...

The best and most loving thing a person can do if they are in a relationship where someone is hurting them is to stop them.

#1 rule of an unsafe person is that they don't take responsibility.  Now, let me clarify this here...Joel will seemingly take responsibility.  But, let me be very clear that it's only in word that he does that. He'll say "That was wrong.  I was wrong for doing that.  I've learned my lesson."  But then later, behind closed doors with me, he will still defend why he did that...he will still justify it and rationalize it and minimize it and spiritualize it.  Always.  That's what they do.

They rationalize, they minimize, they justify, they spiritualize, and they deny.

Joel will take the step where he says that he believes he was wrong, but he calls every wrong thing he's done the past few years 'mistakes.'  He hasn't ever said that he would change (in fact, he says that he's the same as he's always been and I never had a problem with him before...he shouldn't have to change...said that to me just yesterday), and he hasn't changed.  He can't ever reach a broken state about what he has done because he is too busy rationalizing, minimizing, justifying, spiritualizing, and denying.

Let me give you an example.  He lived a secret life for 7 whole months...deleting texts and calls and messages, putting on a show like he didn't know what was going on and acting indignant when his family contacted me yet he was the one who set it all up, getting talks from friends about how he needed to not be focused on his family of origin but instead focused on his wife and children and him replying saying that he hadn't talked to his family in months (while all the while he was living this secret life with them), promising me that he wouldn't contact his family of origin and within just a few hours of leaving my presence calling them, etc.  He lived a double life for those entire 7 months.
Then when I found out about it, he said it was wrong.  He said he was sorry.  And then he began rationalizing, minimizing, justifying, spiritualizing, and denying it.

Joel:  "I didn't talk to them all the time or anything.  If you hadn't asked me to separate from them for a year, I wouldn't have had to do it behind your back.  That was wrong of you to do that.  We are supposed to honor our father and mother.  Family is important to God.  Reconciliation is important to God...that's what He wants...that is what Christians do.  That is what you need to do."

In this kind of situation, the person who is the one who is harmed is always the one made responsible for making it OK.  And that's wrong.  Yet, that is what Joel and his family expect.  That is what every counselor we've seen has done...made me responsible.

In God's economy, if someone is being harmful (doing something wrong to someone else), it's their responsibility to come to terms with their own sin, with their own wrong.  And you can never be responsible for someone else's sin.

The person who is the offender is particularly smooth.  Except for in rare occasions where someone is highly pathological (signified by all kinds of other problems), the offended is telling the truth.  The harmed person is telling the truth.

Joel is well-liked by others, he has a good reputation, he is charming and kind.  The door shuts and he used to not turn into another person...but, when things started to not just go his way, he turned into another person secretly.  He kept it a secret from me when it started in Jan. 2012.  But, the secret was revealed to me quickly.

It's interesting...there is an article that I posted a while back that explains the phases I went through completely, just as this counselor in the video explains it.  The secret of who Joel was becoming (and how I was NOT his priority any longer, but instead his selfish desires and the expectations of others took priority) was revealed to me quickly...but I was just so incredibly dumbfounded.  It took me a whole year and a half before I could put it into words of any kind and actually started to confide in a couple of friends of mine.

There's sooooo much harm...that nobody can see.  It would be easier to diagnose of course if there WERE physical signs...a black eye, etc.  But, this kind of damage doesn't leave an immediate mark.

One of the signs of someone who is being regularly harmed is that they can never get any resolution! So there's this person who is being harmed continually who is desperately wanting to resolve the situation, but they can't...because the harmer won't take full responsibility and stop harming.  It always leads back to that...

Is the person who is harming willing to take responsibility?  And stop what they are doing?

One of the things that creates a LOT of difficulty is false humility.
 Dead on right there.  There is worldly sorrow.  Exactly.  There's not conviction and repentance.

A lot of people are desperate for things to get back together, so when the harmer gives them that false humility, they just take it in and believe them.  But, when they do that, the person who is the offender/the harmer, they are emboldened by that.  And they continue to just take and take.  Joel acts VERY emboldened now...and holds on to playing the victim.  I asked him yesterday if he had watched this video.  He asked me why I haven't watched it and applied it to myself before I applied it to others.  I told him because I was the one who was harmed.  He said, "Ditto.  We are at the same place."  :(

Joel yesterday:  "what is it that I want from you? to get constantly yelled at screamed at, threatened, and isolated from everybody that cares about us as a family?  You need to wake up. Not giving you rest and going behind your back might have started all this but I took ownership and tried to make things right. Now you are the one damaging our marriage. Why don’t you stop....take ownership and get your mind right and give me something I want to come back to."

Me:  "you haven’t changed any of those things, joel.  you put others and your own desires over me and my needs to start out.  and you are still doing just that."

Because the person who has been harming them is always blaming them and undermining them, they start to doubt their own instincts.  And when they start to doubt their own instincts, the offender takes full charge.  I've seen it happen for YEARS...where a person is trying to working it out, but they just keep getting overwhelmed by the person's accusations.  And it will go on for years...and no one knows.  Maybe a couple of other people will know, but there's not enough evidence.  So everybody is like 'wellll...maaaybe...I don't know.'  There's nothing's not like there's a smoking gun, so everyone backs off and doesn't want to get involved.

If the person being offended doesn't do something, it leads to unbelievable damage.

Here's another sign...someone comes into my office and says that they think they are going to lose their mind.  It's a sure sign.  
It is literally such a confusing situation to be in.  Like I said, I was just completely dumbfounded for the first year and a half.  What was happening?  Why were Joel and I no longer on the same team...why did he feel so far away and not with me?  It was so hard and heartbreaking to me...and I had no idea what was going on.  

So hard.

The counselor here talks about how the harmer is loved in the community and everyone thinks he's great.  And you, the harmed, start to wonder 'is it just me?'  Well, yes, it is just is just you that he is mistreating!   That's why it's confusing to others. 

Add on top of that the harmer is undermining the victim on a regular basis emotionally.

People ask "what do i do, what do i do, what do i do?"  The short answer is...get away.  Get away from the person that's harming you.  You've gotta have some boundaries.  When people leave the manipulative abuser, it's 2 weeks, and they can't believe how much peace they have.  There's difficulty because of the separation.  But, the fact that they're away from the person who is undermining them, they start to return to feeling better.  

Interviewer:  Sometimes the abuser has no idea it is happening.  They don't see themselves doing it.  

Patrick Doyle:  If the person claims faith, rarely are they unaware.  If you don't know and you're a person of faith, I've gotta question your faith.  Because how can you mistreat somebody that long and God not tell you?  Your denial system is VERY significant.  If you are God's child, you living in abject unawareness of another human being that you're married to will not happen as a result of His Spirit being in you.  That's not how it can't be that unaware if His Spirit is in you.  Let's talk about why you don't see that.  Let's talk about what you are denying.  Until that person takes responsibility...

Listen, the Bible does not require reconciliation.  It requires forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a wholly separate entity from reconciliation.  

Reconciliation is ONLY the result of the offender having a conviction that has with it CONTRITION.  

If someone is convicted, from God, NOT just trying to mitigate their consequences (!!)...

When God convicts someone it is not because their spouse or whoever they are harming is upset.  It's separate from that.  It's a spiritual thing.  With conviction, Godly sorrow as the Bible calls it, always comes contrition.  Contrition isn't something we talk much about...and frankly it's kind of rare in my experience.

Contrition is this idea that I am sooo broken by what I have done in offending God and hurting the people around me that I am profoundly, behaviorally (NOT WORDS), motivated to show you (the person I've harmed)...again behaviorally, that I am so sorry and I'm different.  And the motivation is in's not something YOU have gotta keep feeding.  It's something that is in ME.  

This is the main thing that is missing.  This is what is needed to truly turn the tide in the end.  Yes, he has to be told that what he is doing is wrong and helped to understand why and how, etc....and I thank several of you who have stepped up and helped this week in that.  From the bottom of my heart.

But, then...if contrition doesn't also come, there is no way to move forward.

About a week before Joel moved out this time, I actually sat him down and had a long talk with him and said that this was missing.  I told him the story of the time I felt this the absolute most in my life. I was in my early 20s.  I can't get into specifics about it, but I had done something that I felt immediate and overwhelming conviction about.  So much so, that I named it 'condemnation, but a good kind.'  :)  I didn't have the language for it then...but it was, in fact, deep, deep, profound contrition.

I hadn't even hurt anyone else at all.  It was all me.  And yet, the deep, profound brokenness came. And not because it hurt me in any outward way or I had any consequences that came from it...I didn't.  But, what I had done was wrong.  It was that simple.  And God brought true conviction.  I was so deeply broken about it that I couldn't stop crying for a few days.  I went to work and cried.  I ran errands and cried. I cooked in my apartment and cried.  But, I can tell you this...I never ever did it again.  It marked me.

As I told Joel then, this is missing in him, and his family.  They are motivated by the threat of consequences...they are willing to modify their behavior for a certain amount of time only.  They have ZERO conviction.  ZERO contrition.  It's as if they don't even care.  They spew words and 'apologize.'  But, that is not what contrition is.

They claim 'quick forgiveness.'  They value that highly and from day one of meeting this family, that is what their biggest marital advice to us was.  But, they don't know what 'quick forgiveness' means. They also don't understand that some things require that there isn't 'quick' forgiveness.  And that forgiveness doesn't = reconciliation.  

The counselor here goes on to tell the story of how he was addicted to porn, came out of it, went back to it secretly for about a year, then confessed to his wife and really thought it was going to be the end of his marriage.  "One of the things that Katherine (his wife) has said is that the fact that it was within me, it was my conviction and she never had to manage any of that...she saw God working in that, changing me, I was broken by it.  That conviction and contrition, behaviorally...she never had to ask me to go to a meeting, she never had to ask me to talk to anybody, she never had to ask me to pray about it...I was like I gotta deal with this."  HE was motivated to do it...HE was convicted to change.

Sadly, I have had to manage it all.  It's true.  I have had to try to help Joel to see why what he is doing is wrong...why defending me is the right thing to do instead of defending his family when they bully me, why being ONE means being on the same team and being married doesn't mean we just 'do our own things,' etc.  I've just had to manage it hasn't been anything that has come from Joel.

He's even confessed to me that most of the good and right things he has said were all said because he knew those were the things I wanted to hear.

Another thing...this counselor said that he was broken about what he had done and when he confessed, he really thought his marriage was over.  Joel has never thought that.  Partly because he doesn't think he's really done wrong...partly because of the 'quick forgiveness' standard (and what that means to his family) that has been drilled into him...and partly because of the whole 'Christian' mantra 'divorce is never an option.'  When he confessed to me that he had been in a secret relationship with his family for 7 months, he never in a million years was afraid our marriage was over.  He likes to say to others that he knows he was wrong for that.  But, this is how he says it to me..."Was I wrong for that?  Yes...I shouldn't have done anything behind your back.  From now on I won't do anything behind your back.  I'll just tell you upfront from now on when I am going to talk to them and go see them.  Then I'm not wrong."  He likes to just tell himself that it was the 'doing it behind my back' part that was wrong.  He has said over and over to me..."I told you I would never do anything behind your back again.  We worked that out.  I won't do that ever again."  And that is him 'reassuring' me that he is all better and 'fixed.'

As you can see it's all so twisted and manipulative and squirrelly and wrong and soooo soooo soooo very damaging.

Read this next part and tell me how many Christians give this WISE advice (hint: almost none, ever).

That conviction signals to the other person that there's something good and transformative happening within ME, which then allows them to open up and start to trust a little.  If you don't see that contrition, you have NO BUSINESS reconnecting or making yourself vulnerable.  You HAVE to keep the boundary up.

And this is where it's so hard for people.  Because a lot of their training don't do that.  

No, we as Christians are taught that you 'forgive 70x7' and we are taught that that means that you just just keep going after just keep trying to work it out...and so many other false, damaging, completely unhealthy things.    

What happens if the person recognizes they are in this kind of harmful relationship, but they are slowly becoming immune to it?  People just become really despondent.  They just give up.  They feel hopeless and trapped.  Which is another sign.  If you are in a relationship that brings you to feeling hopeless and trapped?...that's not how relationships are supposed to make you feel.  

If you go up that ramp enough times to try to fix it, and every time you just get pulverized or turned away or disappointed or re-convinced (re-told) how crazy you are for thinking that...

Every time the person brings up the issue, the offender turns it around back on them.  Blame-shifting is one of the #1 things they do.  They have responsibility teflon, and the victim has responsibility velcro.  

I fortunately don't have responsibility velcro.  The first year and a half, I tried every avenue I could to fix this within myself.  I even took a few days away to just go meet with God and reflect and 'get better.'  But, the problem wasn't me and how I just needed to 'get over my needs.'  The problem was that I was having very real needs (not wants, not desires...dire needs) not being met by the person who was supposed to love me and want to meet those needs the most...and that continues to this day, only with much much damage attached.

But, I knew for sure, after that year and a half, that I was not responsible.  That turns some people off...maybe that's why some of the counselors had a problem with me.  Maybe that's why I got informally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  But I knew that I wasn't responsible.

A perfect human?  No.  But, I was not responsible for this.

But I also was not/am not vindictive.  Every single time I thought Joel was taking responsibility and repenting and changing his path and starting to walk in the right way, I locked arms with him to do it together...walking out of the quicksand and horrible times and walking into all of the good things to come in the end --> complete restoration, being best friends again, being on the same team, complete camaraderie, being able to trust again, etc.

Joel likes to say that I constantly bring up the past.  But, what he calls the past is actually our present. Why?  Because he never actually walked away from those things.  He never actually changed his path and started to walk in the right way.  Every time, I had locked arms with someone only to see them unlock arms with me and turn back.

Unsafe relationships...there is a spectrum.  Mild to extreme.  But, if you are anywhere on the spectrum, it's a bad deal.  And you might start out at mild, but eventually you are going to end up in a much worse place.  Unsafe relationships do not stay the same.  They progress.  Every time.  Because people who are taking advantage of another person, that is a snowball that gathers mass.  One of the worst things you can do, as a person in a relationship with someone who is taking advantage of you, is give them power.   
And what does the church tell a wife to do in a marriage?  Submit.  What if it's a 'bad' marriage, but not physically bad?  Submit.  You will win him by your love and Christlike submissive witness, after all.  And they use this verse to solidify this 'calling' on women:  "In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands.  Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words.  They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives."

Soooo much can be said about that passage to refute the way it is used in the church today, but I just want to point out one thing...that this passage was referring to the unsaved husbands of the Christian women of Asia Minor.  Unsaved.  Not men who supposedly are saved and filled with God's Spirit but are behaving badly...and won't stop behaving badly.

I was told by our latest 'counselor' that he knows so many women who are at peace in their marriages even with crappy husbands because they are tight with Jesus.  I just wanted to SCREAM!!  After hearing our story, how on earth is that where people go?!  No...these women have dissociated themselves from their reality. Yes, they have Jesus and He is getting them through...BECAUSE He is all they have and they have settled...BECAUSE nobody helped them do anything better than that.  Nobody has come to their rescue.  Nobody will hear their cries for help.

I won't live like that.  Jesus doesn't want me to live like that.  Jesus wants people to come to others' aid and weep with those who weep...not ignore those people who are weeping.  Not tell them that they shouldn't even be weeping.  Not tell them that God is there for them and if you stay tight with Jesus, you'll be fine no matter what your circumstances.  No...that's a load of cow manure!

Somebody feels like they are just worn out from this, they may even feel that they are becoming immune to's 'easier' to stay in the relationship and live under the same roof than it is to confront it (and one of the reasons that is so is because the church and people in general make it soooo hard), but they're just running out of gas.  What is the first thing they should do?

Well, the first thing you gotta do is you've got to talk to someone who understands this stuff.  And you've got to start getting some validation.  I've worked with people for 1, 2, 3 years before they're ready to confront...because they're soooo broken down.  And it takes me convincing them, really, in the long run, that what they are seeing is true.  "Yeah, if that's happening, then that's the right conclusion." And then they go to the person they're with and that person undoes all that and then they come back and I say "No, that's the right conclusion."

The other thing about this is that I've seen a lot of people in the church use Scripture to justify their harm of others.  And that's spiritual abuse.  So now not only is the victim 'crazy' for bringing it all they're bad with God.  So where are they going to go?  

Exactly!!  I have had nowhere to go for help.  Because this is what always happens.  Always.

So they're the problem.  The person being harmed has no place to stand.  So that's why you've gotta get with someone who can help you vet out all those things you feel.  Because internally it is going to be really hard.  Having that connection with someone else who understands is hugely important. They HAVE to have somebody they think they can trust.  Seek someone out that you can trust.  But, you have to vet that trust.  You can't just blindly trust someone.  You have to slowly check them out. Because I've seen this...and I hate to say this, but it's true...many times I've seen people go to their pastors and their pastors comPLETEly mishandle it.  And then it's worse.  It's not a short-term deal. And it's VERY serious.

How many times has this happened?  A counselor, a pastor, a trusted friend acting as counselor...mishandling it and making it worse.

Something I've learned through this is that trust shouldn't come so easy.  I had never had something like this happen before...I had never had any reason to lose trust in anyone really.  There were a few that I held at a distance because I knew they weren't completely trustworthy.  But, I had never been truly betrayed before all of this.  Joel likes to say that I hold grudges and that people who 'I say' hurt me (he likes to say that what they've done shouldn't hurt me and I should just let it go)...he says I am the one who pushes them away.

The truth is that so many have betrayed me throughout these past few years...some have actively betrayed me and some have betrayed me in their silence.  When you see someone clearly hurting and being harmed, sitting in silence (Christian people like to call that 'praying for someone') and doing nothing to reach out is betrayal.

No, it's not me who has pushed people away.  I have only been trying to survive here.

When people betray, trust is no longer there.  And distance is required and wise.

I've yet to find a counselor I can trust...and keep trusting.

What do you do?  What is the goal?

That is dependent on the offender.  If the offender has any semblance of repentance, then we're going to work towards restoration.  If the offender is just continuing in the denial, rationalizing, minimizing, etc....then we have to help set safe boundaries and see what God does.  If God convicts that person, then we try to work towards coming together.  If that person isn't convicted, we figure out how to live in a safe way and it varies what happens next.

One of the hardest parts of this is if the offender is at the same time claiming to be spiritual.  That's the one you really need some good counseling for.  Here's the deal...BEHAVIOR always tells the story.  I don't care what you SAY.  If your behavior isn't convicted, isn't soft, isn't CHANGED by God, then the person who is being offended should not trust you!

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