broken heartRecently my wife and I had the opportunity to help a young, pregnant girl who was trapped in a domestic violence situation. My wife first connected with her in a group through which the girl was soliciting help. We were able to provide her a place to stay, food, and other supplies. My wife and I eventually had the opportunity to talk with her.

During our earliest conversations she shared how bad the abuse had been for the last four months. At one point, she was sent to the hospital with injuries so severe that the doctor described them as “the worst” he had seen. After our initial conversations, my wife and I felt it would benefit her to open our home to her. For the safety of all involved, one of the main stipulations would be that her boyfriend could not know where we lived. Initially it seemed she could legitimately commit to this. However, as the conversation progressed over the next few days, it became clear that she was not ready to separate herself from her abuser. Because of that, we were not able to open our home. However, we continue to help her in other ways.

An area I feel most called to is helping guys figure out how to be men. I desire for them to be men that are healed, whole, and fulfilling their roles of follower, leader, husband, and father. This young girl is the product of many guys in her life not being a man.

While I don’t have the opportunity to help this man, at least at this time, the situation reminds me that it takes time to become an abuser. And there are indicators to warn us, that we, as men, are on the wrong path. And so today, I would like to write to the guy that may not be abusive, but is on his way. He is living in a way that will either damage his relationship or progress to more serious abuse.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but here are three indicators that you are hurting your partner.

You Always Justify Your Actions

Whether you yell, slam things, walk out or ignore your partner; you always have a justification for the way you have acted. Your behavior could be identical to hers, but somehow hers is not acceptable and you can justify yours. You often find yourself providing that justification to her, to others, and to yourself. After every encounter you have to convince yourself that you acted appropriately and why it was the “only way to get through to her” or that “she was the irrational one.” And still, regardless of how much you justify it, deep down you know your behavior is not justified.

You Function from a Place of Fear

Fear rules you. It occupies your thoughts and directs your actions. Maybe you are afraid of rejection or being alone. Maybe you are afraid that you will be “found out;” that someone might figure out the “real” you. Perhaps you are afraid that you will have to face yourself. Whatever your fear, it becomes the basis for how you interact with others. Fear causes you to mistrust others’ intentions. It causes you to filter their actions through your lens of anxiety and apprehension. You are constantly worrying that you may do something to insight a negative response from others, so you approach others with caution and never really develop healthy relationships.

You Keep Secrets

There is something, or many things, that you are hiding. You tell yourself that whatever it is, it really is not a big deal. But you still hide it from them. Your secret only perpetuates your need to justify your actions and fear that you’ll be “found out.” Typically, the secret does not start out big, but over time it grows. Eventually you get to the point that you are unable to tell anyone. Because you keep secrets, you are convinced that your partner has secrets. Any appearance of trust you had in your relationship is slowly eroded. Your secrets cause you to approach your partner from a place of constant suspicion and you treat them as such.

I am convinced that abusers do not start out with the intention to hurt their partner. It is a slow road that ends with people getting hurt and broken. Ending it before the damage is done begins with you. It begins with being honest with you. Changing your path will free you from the certainty of broken relationship and make way for a future with your partner that you may not even dare to hope for in this moment. If you see any of these indicators in yourself, find a professional or support group to help you avoid the damage that is most inevitable. But in the end, all the help in the world is just “pain management.” Real freedom from these things comes from Jesus.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 ~

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