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Sometimes, recognizing the passive-aggressive manipulation, can take a life time.Recognizing the passive-aggressive manipulation, can take a life time.

This week I have decided to share a journal entry written the summer after I first moved out of my marital home. That summer, before I met my new husband, was a time when I regularly processed many things through the gift God gave me in writing. What I went through is not unique, but my faith and resilience are evident, as they were in “Heartbeats for Cancer.”

I intend to share more of this journey and how it felt to break free from emotional abuse, despite the urging of the church to stay in my toxic marriage. What I experienced is all too common. It is a darkness that needs to be exposed to support other abuse victims and their families, especially in the church. Many people stay under the misunderstanding that it is God’s will to uphold the institution of marriage despite the brutality pointed towards their soul.

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Ephesians 5:13

June 4th, 2015

Recently I’ve realized how hard it is for anyone to see how I was abused in my (former) marriage. I was outwardly well-cared-for, there were no marks or bruises, and there was very little fighting. Passive aggression can happen in ways that no one comprehends except for the one who is being abused. The abuse is a message that can be so subtle that no one else can decipher. When the abused person shares the experience, they can look foolish because others don’t want to believe what they are being told is abuse. A friend wanting to help save the marriage can’t see the silent weapons and dismiss one’s truth with comments like “You are overreacting, my husband does that too.” The relationships, however, are vastly different, and the lack of support offered to one who is crying out for help adds to the pain.

Those of you who have been there, know exactly what I am talking about. One thing I have come to realize is that I was often beaten emotionally, to a pulp, with flowers.

A few years ago, I was accepted into a novel writing class with the Christian Writers Guild. This was an enormous accomplishment for me, after having faced vast obstacles in life with my learning differences and ADD. Part of the class involved a weeklong intensive training with Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, and a few of his closest writing pals. The Novel Writing Bootcamp was set in a historic luxury inn, outside of Colorado Springs. I was so proud of myself for being accepted into the program and thrilled to have one on one access to these writing legends.

Once, maybe twice per year, I took a few days from caring full time for my husband, home, and four sons, to grow my craft of speaking and writing.

I longed for my then-husband to support my efforts and celebrate my opportunities. However, he felt that what I was doing was in direct competition with his needs. He never did support me, except by allowing me to get away occasionally to conferences and meetings.

This trip was a substantial event for me personally. Among other things, I was fresh out of cancer recovery and had that to celebrate too. I wanted to do something to commemorate what I was doing. Like Jacob marked his important milestones at Bethel, in Genesis, I decided I would send myself flowers to enjoy in my charming hotel room. They would serve as a visual reminder of how far I had come.

I mentioned to my husband that I was going to send myself flowers to enjoy in the room and celebrate this accomplishment.

He quickly said, “No don’t, I’ll send you flowers.” I was surprised because he had never done such a thing, though he knew I would have greatly appreciated it, in my previous trips.

Passive aggression can happen in ways that no one comprehends except for the one who is being abused.I can still feel the disillusionment when I arrived in my quaint boutique room. I opened the door anticipating a beautiful flower arrangement, representing his love and support for what I had managed to reach professionally. There was none. Each time I returned to my room, I opened the door and scanned the places where the flowers might have been left, but they never arrived. Each time, I looked for them, the pain got worse.

I finally realized they were not coming. I can’t describe the humiliation, the lack of care I felt for my heart and my soul. I felt desperately alone, except for my ever present Lord, and devastated after all I had done to serve him, time and time again as he traveled worldwide for business. The flowers never came.

The following year I attended another writer’s event. This conference fell on Valentine’s Day. It was the same folks, but a bigger crowd and venue. Of course, Valentine’s Day was an appropriate time to send flowers. He knew how much I had wanted them the year before. Like a fool, I allowed a sense of anticipation for receiving love and support. Never-ending hope fueled my drive though my heart was left shattered again. When I got home, he actually said, “I knew you wanted me to send you flowers, so I didn’t.”

When I fled the house two years ago, in search of emotional safety, I went to stay at the local Marriott. After a few days, he brought flowers to the front desk. Two days in a row I was told by the girl at the front desk of the grandiose gesture. One day there was a stunning bouquet of fresh flowers and the next was long-stemmed red roses. I remember the girl behind the desk lighting up, wishing she had such care. I knew it was not what she thought. I knew they were part of a manipulation scheme to get me home. Once again, I foolishly returned thinking/hoping this was for real, that he finally appreciated me and would begin showing me care. I was wrong.

I left home again about a year later. I had made my first appointment with a lawyer. My dad flew into town to try his hand of wisdom to help mend things in my twenty-two-year marriage, which had produced four incredible sons. We all met in my husband’s office. When I arrived, I was overcome, he had filled the space with flowers. It was part of the reason I aborted divorce proceedings. I stayed for yet another stint of time until I simply had nothing left to give to the toxic cesspool that had become my marriage and my home.

Not that long ago when things were coming to the actual bitter end, a friend of mine knew I was hurting, and she wanted to send me some tender loving care. She didn’t know I was making a short trip to take my son to look at colleges, and she sent me flowers. When they were not to be found after I got home, I asked my husband what happened to them. He told me he threw them out. My friend’s name is Cynthia, they were clearly not from another man (which would have lined up with accusations he hurled at me everytime I left); yet he still didn’t want me to have something that made me feel loved and cared for.

My last week in the house, I was packing up the final things ready to make my ultimate move. He filled the house with flowers and blooming plants. He had never done anything like that before. I knew it was just manipulation and a continuation of the abuse I had endured for years.

My ex-husband used flowers to control my emotions. I believe many abusers use such things in the very same way. Never again will I be subject to such evil tendencies. Never again will I be used to feed someone’s sick need for power. I praise God I made it out and have a chance to start over.

If you recognize you are not emotionally safe in your home, it may be time for a strategic move. Be aware most churches are not equipped to advise their members who need to separate. I suggest you find a professional who hears you and acknowledges your reality. It is time to exert your voice. God has a purpose for you, and it is not to be beaten with flowers or anything else.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • This is horrifying. “I didn’t send them because I knew you wanted them.” Such a huge red flag. This is not acceptable behavior, readers. Such destructive words and actions. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Thanks, Charlotte, for sharing your journey. May God use your openness and compassion to help others in the same situation.

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