The Lazarus Project

Resurrecting hope for Christian victims and survivors of family violence.

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Picking Out a Partner

     Valentine's Day often gets survivors thinking about looking for someone to love and to love them in return.  How do we know, though, whether we will pick another abuser--and, are we stupid if we do? Is there any way to know beforehand?

     Picking out a partner is a little like shopping for melons at a Farmer’s Market.  There may be thirty or forty melons to choose from.  And different people have different methods of choosing a ripe melon: knocking on it with your knuckles, or shaking it and hearing the juice and the seeds bouncing around inside.  Sometimes you can tell just by looking that they’re still too green, or by touching that they’re overripe because they’re too soft.  But even after all that investigation, you never really know what you have until you get the melon home and cut into it.

      So it is with us: after we say the “I dos” and cut the cake and run underneath the showers of rice (or birdseed), we find out what kind of partner we came home with.  Somehow, abusers seem to be able to keep up the act until after they know they’ve hooked us, and then they show their true colors.  And too many of us, by then, think that we’re stuck.  We brought home a melon that was too soft, and so we learn to settle for a lifetime of mushy melon instead of just tossing it in the trash and going without.  Or we pretend that somehow our green melon will mature and ripen over time, and are continually disappointed that it’s never as sweet as it was supposed to be.

      Now, I know that ending an abusive marriage is much more complicated than tossing out an overripe melon.  But there is value in accepting reality for what it is, rather than for what we wish it were.  The fact is, an overripe melon is only going to get mushier over time: it is never going to reverse itself.  A green melon will never ripen when it’s cut, regardless of how much praying or hoping or fasting or cajoling or counseling we do with it.  It is what it is.  That’s all.  It’s a sad realization, but a healthy one.

     In this regard, the Catholic tradition is much more realistic than many other religions.  In the Catholic tradition, a marriage that was entered into under false pretenses is eligible for an annulment.  Annulments are not given indiscriminately; but with careful scrutiny and investigation, the Church looks into the reasons why the marriage failed.  Not knowing prior to the marriage that a potential partner is abusive is, to me, a marriage entered into under false pretenses.  In my opinion, a marriage to an abuser is set-up for failure from the beginning.  There is no way that I have found yet to make an abusive marriage work. 

      In some ways, an abusive marriage is a little like a mathematic equation that can never be solved.  In Algebra, both sides of an equation must always be equal, and what one does to one side of the equation has to be done to the other side as well to maintain that equilibrium.  But in an abusive relationship, there is no equality.  In order for the abusive relationship to be maintained, there must always be an inequality: an imbalance of power.  One side takes over; the other side gives in.  This is NOT how God designed marriage to be.

     And yet, too many of us hold onto ideals.  We tell ourselves elaborate tales to cover over the truth.  We quote Bible verses to ourselves to convince ourselves that marriage is for life and that if we’ve made a bad choice that we have to live with it.  We let others shame us or condemn us into making decisions that we know are not in our best interests, and we bite our tongue and play along with the charade until it becomes unbearable.  How much more honest we would be if we could simply say, “I bought a bad melon” and leave it at that?

    Buying a bad melon doesn’t make you stupid.

    Only God knows what’s inside the melon without cutting it open first, because He looks on the heart.  If, when partner-picking, we consult the Holy Spirit, He can tell us whether to grab that particular melon or to leave it on the pile of other melons. Scripture says He searches the hearts, and knows the mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:27).  He is the ultimate Green Grocer, and we can ask Him to help us pick the right melon.  Just like He did for Adam.

--Christine Hagion Rzepka

Posted on 02/15
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