One of the threads that weaves consistently through the tangled web of abuse is confusion. Abuse is rooted in control, and one of the quickest ways to take away someone’s power is to confuse her, so abusers are often deliberately mysterious and difficult to read. They seem to be made up of a strange jumble of incongruous traits: funny and depressed, warm and cold, loving and contemptuous, passionate yet passive, hardworking in public and lazy at home.
I never knew for sure who my husband actually was, what he really wanted, or what would make him happy–if such a thing were actually possible. There were times when I thought I understood him, and yet every time I acted on the signals he seemed to be sending, following the clues I’d collected along the way, the landscape would suddenly shift. I’d find myself alone and bewildered with the wind knocked out of me; disoriented and wondering where I went wrong.
At first, I found him fascinating. He was a puzzle I would cleverly piece together, the riddle I would delight in solving. Over time, though, my confidence and wonder dissipated. I learned to carefully and delicately navigate our interactions, striving for connection and love. I yearned for closeness, yet he kept me at arm’s length. When I expressed my dissatisfaction with the distance between us, he simply sneered with derision, saying how unloving I was, how obtuse and self-centered; after all these years, how could I not understand my own husband? With this, I sank into a swirl of despair and turmoil. I knew I loved him, and I knew I was not stupid. There was another explanation: I wasn’t crazy; he was making me crazy.
My sense of confusion and futility in our relationship didn’t spring from a deficiency or lack of ability on my part; rather, it was a dynamic he intentionally created to maintain control over me. The more off-balance I felt, the less power I had in the relationship. The less I trusted my own voice, the more his could take over. It’s truly a marvel of twisted genius how well he convinced me to give up my power while simultaneously placing all of the responsibility for our connection onto me.
It was only when I learned to quiet myself and surrender my turmoil and confusion to God that I finally began to have peace and clarity. I came to find security and connection with my Father, and that was enough. I grieved the lost desires of my heart and begged God to heal my marriage, but I didn’t need Him to do that for me to be okay. As God’s love filled the cracks of my weary heart, I slowly became empowered and confident again.