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Margaret's Story - 7 Years On

11 November 2016 — Esther Sweetman — Survivors’ stories

I would love to say that the last 7 years have been easy and God wonderfully and miraculously restored my marriage. Unfortunately, it has not been that easy. Yes, my husband has changed hugely and he is able to control his temper much more effectively. He has apologised to our children for his abuse and he has apologised to me. Things are definitely on the up. However, the journey here has been tough.

It is my belief that Jesus is the only way that angry men can be transformed. My husband has grown in leaps and bounds in his relationship with God and it is God who has changed his heart. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. I have cried out to God and pleaded with Him to heal our marriage. I have sobbed and I have had tantrums, asking God why He can’t change him overnight but change doesn’t happen overnight.

Unlearning Past Behaviours  

My husband and I have both had to unlearn behaviours. I have had to learn to not be fearful, not to over think my answers during an argument and to learn to trust again, which has probably been the hardest - I still struggle with this. I have to remember that his behaviour is not my fault.

My husband joined a programme to help him recognise his abusive behaviour. He had to learn to recognise his triggers and learn that the way he deals with his anger is his decision and choice. He still has the odd angry outburst, but he is able to recognise when he has been abusive and he does apologise. He was taught to think about what his actions did to the family. For instance, for whom did the house need to be tidy? What impact did his behaviour have on his children? He still refers to this programme as being in the ‘asylum’. There are moments when he seems to resent his time there and he did not particularly like the people who ran it but it was the one thing that got him to a point where I was able to accept him back into our family unit.

Healing and Transformation are Ongoing 

I am very aware that most men are not willing to accept responsibility for their behaviour and therefore do not change. I know that I am an exception to the rule when it comes to having a partner that has accepted responsibility for his behaviour and is working hard to be transformed, so for this I thank God.

Our relationship is definitely the best it has ever been, but it requires hard work. All relationships require hard work, but this kind of relationship requires work on a whole different level – from both parties.

The healing process is still ongoing and the transformation that my husband has had, apart from God working in him, is that he has been able to take responsibility for his actions and is still in the process of engaging with transforming his behaviour. This may be a lifelong journey for him and for us, which sometimes scares me, but I know that God is with me and He has brought us so far. I have to believe it can only get better, even if it is a lifelong process. I have to continue hoping and praying that one day we will be in a position of no abuse at all.

Growth and Supporting Others

The question I ask myself is this – would I change what has happened in my life? The answer is not simple. While being on the receiving end of domestic violence is horrendous and I would not wish it on my worst enemy, I have grown through my experience. I regret that my children had to witness their father being abusive and I pray every day that they will not have long term negative effects from the abuse they have witnessed. However, I understand the issues at hand now. Before I found myself in an abusive relationship, I did not understand why women stayed. I did not understand any of the issues surrounding domestic violence. Now, I am in a position to help others in a similar situation.

I am in ministry in my church and I do pastoral work. I recently met a lady who has been in an abusive marriage for many, many years. Her experience of the church has been the same as mine – a lack of understanding and unhelpful attitudes. I find this incredibly sad as the church still has a long way to go in how it deals with domestic violence. This lady was so relieved that there was someone who she could be honest with and who understood her. I feel truly blessed that I am now in a position to help others who find themselves in abusive situations. My years of heartache have not been wasted. God is using me now to bring healing to others. He is so amazing.

You Are Not Alone

Be encouraged that there is hope and you are not alone. Obviously, the abuser needs to want to change and sadly that is not always the case. It takes a courageous man to admit he is abusive. I believe God wants to restore marriages but if the abuser is unable to face up to his actions, then you need to walk away.

Whether you stay or whether you leave, your journey will not be easy. However, if you find a friend you can trust and share your story with and let them walk with you, it will be so much easier. Don’t suffer on your own. Remember that you are precious. Do not believe the lies that your abusive partner has told you. You are worth a great deal, you are beautiful and God loves you. There is hope that one day you will be strong and confident. Don’t give up hope. Whatever your situation is, God is there with you. If you allow Him to, He will walk with you on whatever journey you have to take.