my Catholicism and domestic abuse…am i just being naive?

looking back over my last post, i feel like i must come across as incredibly naive.  maybe i am.  but i wouldn’t have stuck with this marriage for so long if i didn’t truly believe that there was hope.  i am a Catholic, and proud to believe that marriage vows are sacred.  but what does the Church believe about marriage and abuse?

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm

As bishops, we condemn the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love. Beginning with Genesis, Scripture teaches that women and men are created in God’s image. Jesus himself always respected the human dignity of women. Pope John Paul II reminds us that “Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.”11…

“…Finally, we emphasize that no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Some abused women believe that church teaching on the permanence of marriage requires them to stay in an abusive relationship. They may hesitate to seek a separation or divorce. They may fear that they cannot re-marry in the Church. Violence and abuse, not divorce, break up a marriage. We encourage abused persons who have divorced to investigate the possibility of seeking an annulment. An annulment, which determines that the marriage bond is not valid, can frequently open the door to healing.”

so, to me, this is saying that i should fight for my marriage, that my husband is wrong to be abusive, and that once i have given him the chance to repent of his behavior, i am free to call him out and divorce his butt.  i choose to think of my hope and trust as products of my Catholic faith, and not naivete.  i am certainly not going to allow his treatment of me to ever escalate to it’s previous heights, but i will give him a chance to repent of his sins and give him a chance to prove to me, to God, and to himself that he can change.  but, if he doesn’t take full advantage of that, then it is on him, and i will have a clear conscience.

works in progress

we are still ok right now.  he is not all over me lovey dovey like he was, and we are back to playing on our phones before bed instead of talking.  he started work at a new location yesterday, and i know that he is tired and feeling the pressure of a “new” job, but we are ok.

i have always been one to believe that a marriage can be saved.  i hope that this is the case for me.  i still have so many doubts, and i am certainly more cognizant of his behavior than i ever have been before.  but i know in his sometimes warped way, he loves me.

now, i know that many people believe that abusers can’t love.  or that they don’t know what ‘true’ love is.  i don’t believe that.  i believe that someone can behave abusively, but that abusers can learn to understand love and how to express it before it’s too late.  a true narc or a sociopath, or a psychopath, obviously can learn to mimic love, and to act as if they are in love, in order to try and mask their true intentions.  but there are many men out there who just truly don’t know how to show love in a healthy way.

my husband did not have a very good example of a loving marital relationship when he was growing up.  his mother loved him as he grew older, but had tried to abort him.  then, in a warped sense of guilt, told him what she had done, as a way of explaining his resulting birth defects to him.  what mother would do that?!

so, he has always felt as if he was unwanted.  as a second grader, his mother left the family, and his parents divorced, then he was basically left alone much of the time, while his young father played softball and drank every night of the week.  as an older teen, his father worked nights, leaving him in charge of his siblings, and without a chaperone much of the time.

in my own life, my parents were either all over each other, or completely silent, and not even in the same room.  i remember taking trips with them, where they barely talked the entire time.  i spend a huge amount of time in my room alone, while my mother would sit at the kitchen table and cross stitch while smoking and drinking her coffee.  my dad would sit in the basement, watch tv, and since he worked from home, he would work and smoke and drink his Pepsi.  my entire senior year of high school, they were either yelling, or threatening divorce, or holed up in their bedroom making up.

when we did all spend time together, it was to do adult things like play poker or go see a movie.  i saw Halloween as a five year old at the drive-in.

so, obviously, we both have had questionable role models of what a loving, giving, trusting marriage is like.  we both tried so hard to make a good marriage, or at least, what we thought was a “good” marriage, that we didn’t try to love the other person.  we tried to jam the other person into this idealized role, and when they didn’t fit, we became angry.  i admit fault there.  i may not have been abusive myself, but i didn’t stand up for myself when i should have, and didn’t show him how a wife wants to be treated.  i let him walk all over me, then just blew up at him when i couldn’t take it any more.  i kept trying to get him to change, rather than changing my attitude and reactions to him.

i can honestly say, that when i stand up for myself now, and tell him how i feel, he may balk at first, but he is way more likely to listen than before, when i would just save it all up inside and then spew my anger out all in one big burst. i am learning more and more how to communicate my needs in a healthy way.  it’s awkward, but it has made a difference just in these short weeks.

don’t get me wrong, his behavior was abusive.  he treated me like crap, and was not a very good husband for a good many years of our relationship.  but now that he sees that i am willing to go as far as leaving him if i have to, he has woken up so to speak.  he doesn’t want to lose our children, our relationship, our friendship, and his status.  he wants to be a good father, good husband, good christian.  he just doesn’t always know how.  he still thinks that he can make insulting jokes and i will just laugh it off.  but now, when i tell him i don’t like it, he takes it seriously, and apologizes.  when he does or says something that hurts me, i tell him right then, or later before bed, but i don’t just jam my emotions down any more, and it feels so much better.

we are both works in progress.

what do you think?  are some abusers able to learn to love?  is it worth the wait?