I am an abuse survivor. It is an issue I struggle with, which I will not discuss at length here save to say that I realize it is a general social evil and that awareness of it is important, and that recognition of it is important.
One of the arguments on CF was about whether or not emotional abuse was grounds for divorce. There are Christian teachers who simply say that it is not and leave it there, and others who doubt whether or not it even exists as a category of abuse. I have no doubts about this at all: emotional abuse does exist.
There is no issue for me in a person suspecting that they might be subject to emotional abuse, questioning another person’s behaviour or having done so requesting that boundaries should be respected or even just plain getting out of the way. If you are really uncomfortable with how a relationship is going, considering the worst is an intelligent thing to do. It could after all be anything from it being you–your own self esteem issues–to being that yes, you are involved with someone who is selfish and cruel towards you. Analysis is wise.
My concern about it in the context of relationships between people is that it has come to be yet another feminist trump card, yet another means by which women in particular are urged to avoid taking responsibility for the decisions they make in their relationships. It is used by feminists for the following things:
1. To avoid having to take responsibility for considering whether or not to work on mending a marriage rather than using the divorce parachute. The odd thing here is that most of us discussing this here I’m sure feel that if a woman really wants to say “Look, I just don’t like you anymore and I’m done” that that would actually be fine. That’s literally between the woman and her conscience/God/whatever; we can call it crap all we want to, but it’s HER CHOICE. We would just rather she honestly said “I hate you and don’t want to work on anything with you.” than threw around false accusations to avoid having to admit that she doesn’t care what God or man says, she wants a divorce. It’s called having agency. In the West, women have it.
2. To avoid having to have an honest conversation. “I’m afraid of you” when there has never been violence or any kind of unbearable consequence, when there has been no name calling, no control of money or relationships of any kind–maybe it might work if the person had PTSD, but it’s interesting that it only comes out at such times when accountability is in question in such cases. Which leads to the next point.
3. To explain dissatisfaction. Rather than admitting that you have standards for life that you didn’t realize the other person didn’t have, and finding ways to compromise, it is called ’emotional abuse’ when they don’t want what you want, or when they want different things. A good example is the way that Christian feminists interpret a man wanting respect for a man wanting worship and adulation. Respect, which involves basically treating the other person with courtesy, is hardly an outrageous demand. Or for example the man wanting an actual sexual relationship–which would involve the woman having a sense of agency and explaining her sexual feelings to her husband and again seeking compromise–is considered ‘wanting sex on tap’ and is therefore ’emotional abuse’. When in fact in both these cases honesty should win out. If she genuinely feels so, she should be willing to say “Well, I don’t feel you should have any basic courtesy because I don’t like you and look at you with contempt” or “I don’t feel like having sex with you–period–because I don’t feel like having sex at all and don’t see why I should have to.”
However it’s easier to avoid taking responsibility for your selfish thoughts by accusing the other person of having evil in their heart.
The moment that someone who simply has a marriage they are not happy with brings up emotional abuse, we should be suspicious. Bear in mind, I know what emotional abuse really looks like; I’ve suffered it along with the physical, and I’ve known people who suffered it, and I know that there are many forms it can take. Because of this, because I have known it, I resent people using it as a get out of jail free card.
From a Christian perspective, I’d love to see something other than the Two Loonies–that is to say the extreme Big Man little woman crap and the Feminist insanity of man bad woman good–and something where we actually believe what Jesus taught us, where we are responsible for our own recognition of our own sins, where we are responsible for looking to the sins of others only after we have examined our own, and where women are encouraged to do this instead of all the weird crap modern Christianity insists on.