One thing so often targeted by male abusers is our dependability to be considered a partner who is capable of not only upholding their commitments to the functioning of the relationship and the family as a whole but also as a woman seen of any value at all. Just as many men attach so much of their worth to their ability to provide for and support their family, in addition to their femininity, women tie a substantial proportion of their self-worth to their partner’s impression on how they add to the partnership. When this dynamic at question exists within the constrains of a healthily functioning relationship, even though there may be occasional arguments and disagreements, the each unit of the couple holds value, respect, and love for the other and shows their appreciation for the other’s contributions to the relationship and the life they live together. However, if a couple is in a relationship fraught with intimate partner abuse, the efforts to make the relationship unbroken and function as a handicapped whole largely fall on one partner’s shoulders far more heavily than the other.
The abuser goes out-of-the-way to make the victim of their abuse feel like they are at fault for the dynamics between the two, that the relationship could be healthy and loving if it wasn’t for the victim’s incapability or lack of desire. They lay claim to all the positive aspects of the relationship and all the effort it takes to take it from completely going under, the functioning of the household, the income from employment, child rearing, and more. In all actuality, past some income and occasional periods of calm, the bulk of their contribution is stress and suffering, while the victim frantically treads water in attempt to just do enough, say enough to be what the abusive partner blinds them into thinking they should be. The victim takes on all the work and gets almost no reward for their massive effort.
If you were unfortunate enough as I was to be with an abuser who had a plethora of Scriptural knowledge to twist and bend in urgent manipulation of your heartfelt desire to please them, you know the unique pain of those who suffer emotional and verbal abuse of this kind. You may not have known it at the time, and maybe you do not even know it now, but this abuse has a name, and it can be used against you even when you are not aware. It is not specific to a particular religion. No matter what god you worship, the aim of spiritual abuse is to break this intimately deep and personal connection, severing you from beliefs, values, and standards that become a part of your emotional life in a way that no others can. For those of us whose spirituality is intricately intertwined so completely in our heart that without it everything is lost, spiritual abuse has the power to render us hopeless vessels shattered across a wasteland.
In my case, I believe I was blessed with strength (or stubbornness) to keep my spirituality from being destroyed. Whether predominantly faith or a need to have something to hold to, it only made me grow stronger. For him to try so desperately to keep this from me, he must have seen the value and importance it carried in my heart. While I am writing this post from the perspective of a Christian woman, if you practice a religion that is not Christian, please do not let this detract the important message I am sharing with you. My Source is the Bible, yes. However, the points I am bringing out are applicable and beneficial to us all, and I hope that you will follow my train of thinking and see how to use it to the advantage of your emotional and spiritual health.
When I first left, you can all imagine the weight of worthlessness I carried. The criticism I deluged my heart with. Unkindness. Cruelty. My sense of self-worth was warped into something I could never attain, because he wanted me to be perfect. Imperfect beings can never achieve this, no matter how we try. My utter failure as a woman on every level destroyed my esteem. But I did something that helped bring it back. I turned to the well-worn pages of my Bible and read a chapter in Proverbs that I had so carefully avoided while I was with Kevin, because it reminded me of how much of a failure I was. After I left and had a few months behind me, maybe a little objectivity as well, I was finally able to see it with new eyes. I previously discussed how he manipulate Scripture to damage my esteem and self-value and also provided how our Father really views women in Another Side of Domestic Violence: Spiritual Abuse, so I am not going to cover that here. (Read 1 Peter 3:7 and Genesis 2:18 – we were created as a “compliment” to man and we are to be viewed “with honor.”)
I actually want to give those of you who are willing to an assignment of sorts that I hope will help reverse some of the damage done to your self-esteem. It involves making a chart that I called “He Said, She Said.” I will provide a breakdown of an excerpt from Proverbs 31:10-31 (I will be quoting the New World Translation) that actually address so many of the insults hurled at us with the intention of destroying our confidence and stripping us bare of the knowledge of our true worth. Draw a line down the middle of the page to separate it into two columns. At the top of the left column, write “He Said” and in the right “She Said.” Using each point I mention, leave space to write the insults he spewed (the lies) under the “He Said” column. Do this for all the points at first for the “He Said” side, and after you are finished, I am asking you to go back through and re-read all the lies he told you to take away your value. (Your column headings will differ depending on your relationship.) Remember how they made you feel when he said them, screamed them, hissed them time and time again. (I didn’t say this was easy).
Only after you have done this, I want you to go to your side, and I want you to take time to meditate on all the many ways you actually MET the qualities in each point I mention. And I want you to list each and every one of them. If you have someone close to you that can help you maybe reflect on things and remember strengths you have not considered, invite them to help you with this. Do not try to minimize your qualities by saying something that would read like, “I am punctual, but not all the time.” You are human, and you are not perfect. This exercise is to teach yourself, to reinforce in your heart, that you have more value that you ever considered. The point of this is to help you undo some of the hurt and re-build your sense of self.
The first section you will be doing correlates with Proverbs 31:11, 12 (reads “Her husband trusts her from his heart, And he lacks nothing of value.  She rewards him with good, not bad, All the days of her life.”) This is related to your trustworthiness, reliability, and loyalty. Under the “He Said” column, you could include things he may have called you: liar, whore, etc. Further, when you do this for “She Said,” you would list your strengths of fidelity, honesty, etc.
The second section correlates with Proverbs 31:13-19, 21, 24 (reads “She obtains wool and linen; She delights to work with her hands. 14 She is like the ships of a merchant, Bringing her food in from afar. 15 She also rises while it is still night, Providing food for her household And portions for her female servants. 16 She sets her mind on a field and buys it; She plants a vineyard from her own labors. 17 She prepares herself for hard work, And she strengthens her arms. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable; Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 Her hands seize the distaff, And her hands take hold of the spindle. 21 She does not worry about her household because of the snow, For her whole household is clothed in warm garments. 24 She makes and sells linen garments And supplies belts to the merchants.”) These verses relate to your ability work hard to care for and feed your family. Examples for your “He Said” column could include: lazy, horrible cook, lets him go without, sleep in late all the time, horrible mother, etc.) Therefore, things in your “She Said” column should refute these lies.
The third section correlates with Proverbs 31:20 (reads “She extends her palm to the lowly one, And she opens her hands to the poor.”) Did he call you selfish, greedy, miserly, penny-pinching, heartless, oblivious? These would go in the “He Said” column. In the “She Said” column, feel free to list the many things you do for others. Emotional support counts! Did you make a meal for a family who lost a loved one? This counts! Did you donate school supplies, old clothing, volunteer time, etc… This all counts. It’s okay to remind yourself that you do good things for others. Go on, try it! (You may struggle at first to list things here, but persist.)
The next section correlates with Proverbs 31:23 (reads “Her husband is well-known in the city gates, Where he sits among the elders of the land.”) This is related to how your behavior reflects on him. For the “He Said” column, you would list things like promiscuous, attention-seeking, rude, disrespectful, mouthy, talks back, etc. In the “She Said” column, you should list specific behaviors that speak against the insults.
The fifth section correlates with Proverbs 31:26 (reads “She opens her mouth in wisdom; The law of kindness is on her tongue.”) Did he call you a gossip, tell you to think before you speak, not to speak out of turn, that you are cruel and hurtful? This goes in your “He Said” column. For your “She Said” column, you would want to list examples of using wisdom and good judgment before speaking, specific examples of upbuilding, kind, encouraging things you have said to others. Did you leave a note on someone’s Facebook or Twitter profile telling them they are amazing for the things they do? Did you thank someone for going out of their way to help? These count. Acknowledge it!
The last section correlates with Proverbs 31:27 (reads “She watches over the activity of her household, And the bread of laziness she does not eat.”) Here you would use examples of how he told you that you detracted from the relationship and the household. Examples are being called lazy, sloppy, careless, oblivious to things that need to get done, refusing to help, etc. In the “She Said” column, you would list the many things you did in an effort to run the household to the best of your ability.
You can put in notes to yourself about the additional difficulties you endured due to your particular set of circumstances. There are no wrong answers here. Again, the point is to help you purge the negativity that was planted into your mind and heart, and permanently root it out so you can replace it with positive truths. Hopefully at the end of your exercise, you will see yourself as the wife lauded in Proverbs 31:10 which reads, “Who can find a capable wife? Her value is far more than that of corals.” (In Bible times, coral was highly valued and used to make beads and other ornamentation, hence the comparison to a capable wife.)