If a wife is married to an abusive husband, she is not safe. If a marriage is categorized as abusive, it’s dangerous. There are not degrees of safety. That’s like saying that living in a cage with a lion has degrees of danger; it just matters how much the lion gnaws on your leg as to how dangerous it is. No, if you’re in that cage, you’re in harms way.
And the best option for her is to find a safe plan to leave. Sadly, by the numbers of women who’ve been murdered by their estranged husbands, this doesn’t guarantee safety. However, for the majority, leaving a precarious relationship can help a woman begin a new life of freedom and dignity that she had long forgotten.
We act as if we can give permission to abused spouses to leave their marriages only if it’s “really bad” and only if you do it out of a heart of love. I say, abuse is always really bad and love is always there whether you’re aware of it or not. If a woman leaves a mean man, only for the reason that he’s mean, she is doing it for love; love for herself, her children, and maybe even a rudimentary love for her husband. Love isn’t always as evolved as we want it to be, but it’s love just the same. Leaving is love because she’s seeking dignity by doing so; hers and his.
We’re missing a pivotal point if we put the burden on the abused spouse when we tell her that she shouldn’t separate because the abuse isn’t bad enough, or that her abusive husband is willing to go to counseling (most abusers are!). In an article I read that was referenced in the last blog, it said that in abusive relationships, “it is sometimes healthy and wise to separate.” (italics added) I wish it had read, “It is usually healthy and wise to separate.” We talk about abusive relationships as if we’re granting some sort of sanction to a small percentage of battered women that “well, mostly it’s good to stay in an abusive relationship, but there are times when it’s healthy to leave.” What? I think it’s just the opposite. Mostly it’s appropriate to separate. I just wish we’d end the pressure we put on abused wives to keep putting up with the abuse.
I’m all for healing from abuse, healing for the abuser, and restoration in marriage! I believe in it and I know God changes hearts so that a husband and wife can live in freedom and with dignity. And I don’t think that what I’m saying contradicts the Jesus I know. God loves us and sent His only Son to die for us! Why would He want us to willingly live in abusive homes when we live in a country where freedom is there for anyone? I just don’t think the burden we put on abused spouses is right. Domestic violence is illegal and we’ve got to realize that the laws of our land regarding domestic violence align with Scripture about how we are to treat one another.