Beware of the Strong Woman

Beware of the strong woman!

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

Warning: Trigger alert. Please don't read if you are sensitive to images of family violence.

"Susan, I'm ashamed of you! Why can't you have more grace?" said my pastor, after telling him I was divorcing my husband. We were just shy of our 20-year anniversary and the LAST thing I wanted to do was end our marriage and see my family hurt! But the threats were increasing in frequency and suddenly two of my friends were dead and the signs seemed to point to me being the next victim.

There seemed to be no safe place. My husband told me many times, "Sue, you haven't done anything wrong. There's just something inside me that wants to hurt you. But don't worry, I've got it under control." I prayed for hours every day. I spoke up to my pastors and asked for help. Years had gone by and it was only getting worse, not better. I tried harder to be strong.

"Sue, I've got this picture in my head that won't go away. I've got piano wire in my hands and I'm slicing off your breasts…. (not describing the rest here)… but don't worry, I've got it under control." I tried harder to be strong.

I tried hard to be strong and brave. I BELIEVED that if we worked hard enough and had enough faith that our marriage would be saved – that we would even be stronger than if we hadn't gone through the crises. But the verbal violence escalated. It was only verbal threats, I thought… he would never ACT on his words, would he?

One day we were walking hand-in-hand to the neighborhood park. Suddenly my husband pointed to a large rock alongside the road. "Sue, see that rock? Right now I really want to bash in your head! But don't worry, I've got it under control." I tried very hard to be strong.

We were just walking and chatting in a FRIENDLY way, hand-in-hand. Trying to be "normal". Our neighbors, if they saw us, probably thought we were the perfect couple!

Those who know me will tell you I'm very quiet and peaceful. I don't yell. I rarely ever raised my voice. When I'm angry you'll know it because I withdraw. Most people, when angry, choose "flight" or "fight". For me, it's always been "flight".

But it didn't do much good until I learned to take action. Until then, the verbal violence escalated.

"Sue, how about if we take a walk to the rock quarries. I have an idea. There's this picture in my head of standing on the edge of the quarry and putting a bullet in the back of your head. I'm watching your body drop into the water below. No one will ever find you there… but don't worry, I won't do that. It's under control." I tried yet harder to be strong.

Women like me always blame ourselves first. We carry a lot of guilt and shame, because we are always trying to "fix" the problem. We have been programmed to believe that WE are the problem!

I will let you peek into my diary… from March 2002.

Daddy, save me. I desire holiness. Come, separate me from my woundedness. I'm wretched, poor, blind, and naked. Oh God, rescue me from the enemy within.

"I'll lift you up, Little One. I've felt your tears. I know all your needs. I feel your pain as if it's My own. Remember, Little One, to come to Me right away. Humble yourself like a child and learn to trust Me with your pain."

Lord, be glorified in my life. I give up my heart to You. Please take it and heal, restore, change – whatever You want to do with it. Please comfort me.

"You love intensely – because of that you hurt intensely. You love to give and you enjoy being needed. You have a mother's heart. I've poured Myself into you – I gave you that heart. I will defend you – I'll defend your honor. I love you passionately."

Daddy, I ask to be able to know Your love to a much greater degree.

"I must go deeper to cleanse your heart, Little One."

Please do it, Daddy.

"Courage, daughter. Do not fear. Help is on the way."

We keep asking ourselves, "Did I love enough?" "Why wasn't my love enough?" "What could I have done better?" "What if I hadn't done this…" "What if I had done this?" The self-doubts are never-ending and futile.

Because the abuser in this type of situation is charismatic, well-loved, usually a dynamic speaker and great storyteller, a person who loves to help people, and a person who is usually highly honored and well respected, the victim is normally not believed. Rather, she is blamed. 

This tactic is so common that the women in support groups frequently exclaim, "We married the same man!"

The victims is confused and lives in a fog. She bravely tries to hold herself together. She intensifies her prayers. She upgrades her search for knowledge and wisdom about relationships and communication. She attends more conferences. She asks and pleads for help.

See the pattern? She's trying to fix the situation by focusing on her own issues. We all have issues to work on, but in relationships like this, the first responsibility of the victim (usually a woman) is to get out, to get help, and then to work on her issues.

Throughout this ordeal friends and family will usually side with the abuser, heaping deeper blame and shame on the victim. Everywhere she turns, she is staring at pointing fingers. How could she not be at fault?

The guilt intensifies! There appears to be no way out even though she cries for help.

The standard responses to her plea for help do more harm than good. This is not a normal person she is related or married to. He is a person most often attracted to places of leadership in churches… usually the kind of person who seeks to marry a GOOD GIRL. He lacks something deep within him, and he feeds off of her until she has nothing left to give.

It confusing to everyone. Sometimes years go by relatively "normal" until a particular stress point is reached and then the abuse begins to occur. There can be cycles where the relationship appears "normal".

Most churches and ministries are not equipped to help this type of couple. Until she finds the right counselor (who are few and far between) the victim will be blamed and shamed, left to hold the broken pieces of her marriage and family.

She will be lucky to escape with her life. She will realize, over time, that she was never loved in the first place. There was a wedding but never a marriage. The enemy only wanted to trap her, to consume her soul.

You are fighting for your soul. Sometimes the enemy is you, yourself. Don't press charges against yourself. When you side with the accuser, you condemn your soul to pain and suffering.

From my diary….

Daddy, I've just run out of gas. My husband drained me dry yesterday. I'm looking for love. I feel like You've deserted me in this desert, even thought it could be much worse. I can't take much more. Oh God, I need comfort, rest, forgiveness, help. I choose to obey Your commandments. I choose to walk in Truth. I choose life. Oh God, I am so lonely and confused.

"I have not hidden Myself from you, as you may think. I know you're tired and alone. You have had no break for a very long time. I want you to soar with me and feel the wind on your face. I want you to  walk in green pastures. My desire for you is to fill you with hope."

Daddy, I'm sorry. Please forgive me – for thinking You are abandoning me. My earthly father did that – and I forgive him again. Lord, please cleanse my heart of all bitterness, fear, resentment. Daddy, why must I suffer so long for my husband's sins? How much longer, God?

"Your need does not escape My attention. Daughter, My will for you is greater than the pain you've endured."

Daddy, I trust You…

My friend, that is the end goal. Trust. Papa's game plan is that we learn to trust Him no matter what, even in the worst of times. Especially in the worst of times. When it's darkest before the dawn. When all hope seems lost.

Don't blame yourself, my friend. No more self-doubts. No regrets.

If you see someone going through this dark valley. Don't let them walk alone. You are the hands and feet of Christ, for He lives in you. Your friend may need intervention and she will likely not ask you. She's too busy being strong for everyone. And she looks strong, sounds strong, acts strong.

Beware of the strong woman. She is acting strong for a reason.

Look deeper. Listen with your heart.

These women a strong! They are principals of Christian schools, singers, worship leaders, bankers, writers, poets, dancers. Some of them own their own businesses. Some of them make 6-figure incomes. Some of them are homemakers and home school teachers. Some of them are homeless.

They love God. Most often, these types of husbands are pastors or elders in church. All the more reason this type of woman will try to be strong. But she's fragile, my dear friend… she's holding a million broken pieces of her heart in her hands, trying to keep it all together. She needs your help.

"My will for you is greater than the pain you've endured," said Papa to me.

God has a plan to bring you to a place of peace, prosperity, and joy… a place where you are loved unconditionally. You are never alone. But you'll need to FLY like an eagle to get to this place! The best place to learn to fly like an eagle is to find some eagles who will teach you how to soar… and it's the winds of adversity blowing in your face that are the same currents that will elevate you higher and higher and higher…. far above the earthly turmoil!

That is why I write. So you can know there are many others who have walked this lonely path. It's an alliance of eagles!

God is with you in your darkest hour. You are never alone. We're going to be together until you get your life back!

My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,

Sue

Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
 
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.
 

Copyright © 2010 to 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

ANN June 20, 2015 at 1:21 pm

This site is a rare gem.  THANX.  I've searched, found, read, listened to many secular sites about abusive partners.    You, Susan, have touched on WHY some people become victims. Currently, I understand the abusers better than I understand myself & other victims.  WHAT is wrong with me that I allowed abuse?  Love addict?  Low self esteem?  Too sheltered? Too naive? Too needy?  Neglectful and.or abusive past? Codependent?  Is there an actual bad spirit in me that attracts abusers?  I dated a man I met in church who did the elevate, devalue, discard along with the smear campaign: The more compliant I was [thought I was repenting from former women's lib stance], the worse the abuse. I almost lost my mind.  Really.  I got very, very sick.  Still trying to recover….Still confused & hurting…Still got a bad taste in my mouth about organized religion… I found that to belong to that church, I was to zip-it.  I had hoped church would be more of a hospital & less than a court-room.  Shouldn't church be a SAFE place???!!!   THANX again, I will digest all that is on your site again.  I pray all victims trying to be christians really get what God wants for us – wisdom, healing, wholeness & real christians who actually get involved enough to see, to believe the truth, to speak when we can't.  Amen.   

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Susan Schiller June 20, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Dear Ann,

Even well meaning people tend to think women like us are typical “battered women” who suffer from low self-esteem or other issues that draw us to losers. But that’s just it… we were drawn in to CHRISTIAN men who appeared to be godly! We were drawn to GODLY men because we are godly women who love the Lord with all our hearts.

There is a clear difference between normal abuse and sociopathic spiritual violence. Abusers may well be foolish people, but sociopathic abusers under a religious mask are TRUE EVIL and evil is a much different battle than a simple foolish man. 

We become part of the evil our ignorance makes us silent accomplices. I am so glad you found some support here, and I thank you for having the courage to share, Ann!

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valerie November 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Hi Susan,

Iam in the process of a divorce and everything you posted on this page was me..I was very stong and yes I was even the "Good girl" chosen and discarded. I have a small child whom I am protecting from my narcisstic abusive husband. Thank God for a protective order which has my child on it. God could only have done that!! Grateful..

At this very moment as I am still in the phase of scanning blog after blog and web page after web page to figure out what kind of monster

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valerie November 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

My message was submitted by mistake before I finished.

I am just in awe of the smear campaign and the people who he has gotten to turn against me. I feel like I am so scared and I just want to move to a city where noone knows me. He is soo evil yet he goes to church every Sunday and sits in the front row. He is very charming but very arrogant. He always says "I'm the most humble man I know" Really!!!

I guess I am just in the process of trying to figure out how I can live my life without being afraid and looking over my shoulder. I have to face him in court soon and I have a feeling he will have most of the church there and he has already told them lies about me too.

I no longer attend that church and I left him after he physically attacked me and tried to kill me. I have to testify against him which is a terrifying thought because he lies wiithout thought. Perjury is nothing to this man and I feel like God will turn this around for my good and His glory but I still feel scared.

I also praying for my divorce to to finalize quickly but he keeps dragging it out. Causing me to spend so much money.. Do you have any words of woisdom for me as I am almost out of this fog.

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Susan Schiller November 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Dear Valerie… I just had a whole page of response to you that disappeared in a computer glitch! I have to run out, for now, and I’ll be back soon to write it again!

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Lisa October 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I was reading one of your articles today – not this one and now I can't find it – The words "garner attention" were used – blew me away.  This winter my abuser was at church – I was home and the Lord gave me a very clear  and strong word for my husband.  I was like no way Lord – He will never receive this from me but the Lord strongly persisted as I resisted.  When he came home I sat him down and told him I had a word for him – that I did not want to give it to him but that I was being obiedent to the Lord.  The word I had to give him was this "As you garner the attention of men you will receive a Pharisee's reward" – he left the house.  We later went to a Dunimus seminar and he was getting prayer with a few men – men who didn't know him – when he returned to his seat I asked him what they said – his response was "they said what you've been saying" —– What a strong warning from the Lord who in his mercy always gives a warning before He sends the storm.  A Pastor I counseled with said Lisa he will never stand before the Lord and say why didn't you warn me Lord.  So heartbreaking – such a wasteland this has created.  

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Susan Schiller October 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Hi Lisa,

What a beautiful way to be a helpmeet for your husband. You are a praying a wife, and one who heeds God’s counsel, even when you’re afraid of what it will cost you. You’re willing to be spurned, if necessaryl, to give a warning to someone who is headed into a deadly storm.

It’s heartbreaking to feel what God feels, when a son strays so far from Home… and yet, he’s in church… and that makes it twice as hard, or worse, to get his attention. Do not despair – your words, which were God’s words through you, will not return void. They will do the work of God’s bidding in ways you cannot yet perceive. I know you know that – I sense you have so much detemination and perseverence.

I ask God to expose the darkness wherever your husband goes, that there would be no place to hide. Father, please give this husband what he needs and strengthen Lisa’s mind, body, and heart. Give her wisdom, favor, and even more of You.

Please stay in touch, Lisa – I would love to hear more of God’s doing in your life! Thanks for sharing!

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Meg E October 11, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Dear Susan,

It took me 7 years to finally figure out that I was married to a “Christian” sociopath; initially a kind, humble, lovable charming, handsome, “Godly” sociopath who “found the Lord and was set free from a Cocaine addiction”.  Awe, how wonderful, right?  I fell for it.  
I was the “perfect prey”; as my counselor said, “his Golden Goose” and cocaine was just a symptom of some much deeper issues.  But unfortunately I genuinely loved him (and still do to some degree) and I took my vows very, very seriously, so I hung in there to the bitter end.  Like in your testimony, I believed that If we worked hard enough and had enough faith our marriage would be saved.

Near the end and especially through our divorce he showed his true colors, but I attributed them to the demonic influence of drugs.  He was raised in an abusive, alcoholic, home so I let that be his never-ending excuse in my mind.  I too got the guilt trips put on me by my former church, some of our friends and neighbors, and even my own family.

Condemnation overwhelmed me and I struggled (and still struggle sometimes) with the regret of not being a “better wife”, not trying harder, not giving him yet another and another second chance, the guilt of divorcing him, etc., etc.,  

Recently a trusted friend pointed me to information about sociopaths and my ex-husband fits 90 % of the characteristics.  And tonight I found your website and have been in tears as I read the TRUTH and recognize that I’m not alone and that God truly did rescue me from further damage, and there is hope for my future.  

Looking forward to your e-book.

Thank you so much,
Meg

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Susan Schiller October 12, 2014 at 11:58 am

Hi Meg,

I can feel the love for your ex-husband in your words and the passion for God in your voice. Seven years is a long time… do you have children with him?

I hope my own story and the stories of others helps to remove the last layers of shame and guilt. I’m so glad you had a friend you trusted enough to listen to her information about sociopaths. I am so, so glad to hear that, because the victims are often left with no one who understands, and that increases the likelihood of staying far longer than is healthy to stay.

I am so glad you escaped further trauma and brain damage. There is certainly much Hope for your future! Thank you so much for sharing, Meg – I send you my love!

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Meg E October 13, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Dear Sue,

Thank you for responding.  I can’t get enough of your website.  I’ve cried and cried and cried some more.  

We were together for 10 years total.  We made it through him going to a 30 day in-patient drug rehab program twice over the course of our marriage, and at one point we lead a Celebrate Recovery 12-step program together.  Sadly, he never quite surrendered to the whole recovery process; never willing to take the masks off.  And the more I wanted him to “get well” the sicker I became.  I had my own masks (that covered the intense fears inside of me) that needed to come off.   

No children (sad in many ways, but I’m grateful that I’m not raising little ones alone and trying to explain why their daddy never comes to see them).  I’m sure God sheds tears along with single parents and abandoned kids.

God was (and is) so faithful to me.  He surrounded me with about 4 friends and my sister who validated me through the whole divorce.  Without them I wouldn’t have made it.  They love us both and prayed for us both, but they realized I was being abused and was dying inside.  

My prayer is that I can totally “let go” and be willing to grab a hold of what the Lord has for me now.  I'm finding that as I learn about sociopaths it helps me the most.  Denial is being lifted off of me. 

Thank you again SO VERY MUCH!  Sending love back to you.  🙂
Meg

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Susan Schiller October 14, 2014 at 6:19 am

Dear Meg,

Thank you for coming back to share more – I am relieved you are out, safe, and that you don’t have to try and help children to recover. The effects of pathological love on children is painful beyond belief, and co-parenting with a pathological person means the pain never ends, it only escalates in the majority of cases.

You’re getting your life back! You’re right, studying about pathological relationships helps to solidify truth and it breaks off the unconscious and conscious lies we struggled against. It causes us to face our deepest fears, and when we come out on the other side we are new people. We no longer face the same fears, we have become “more” than we were before the mess.

I’m grateful to know the Internet, and to some extent Team Family Online, has helped one more person to feel reassured they are okay, on the right path, and headed to the other side of the mountain. There is such a great blessing ahead of you, Meg. It’s what’s inside of you – that part of you that was attacked and nearly eaten away – that is so valuable. It’s your heart – the heart of Christ in you. 

Nothing except the lies are missing, though… the false reality, the bubble, whatever you want to call it…. everything of Truth and Love remains and is bigger, better, and full of Christ. We still grieve the loss, for we truly love our spouses… and the double loss of the dream we had together, or thought we had. 

But God’s promise stands True: Two mercies for every woe. There is great joy ahead and all of Heaven is backing you up!

You are welcome to email me, Meg – Contact Me– anytime. 

Sending love and light,

Sue

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Linda Honea October 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Sometimes the only prayer is "Help."
And sometimes the only hope is, as you said,  "God has a plan."

There's something bigger going on than I can see. 
There's Someone bigger in charge than me.
Can I believe for one more hour, one more day?
On my life, He's never giving up.
And so I lift to Him the cup. 
   ~~poem from Psalm 116

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Susan Schiller October 11, 2014 at 7:08 am

Yes, Linda… thanks for sharing this poem and prayer from Psalm 116! I'm so sorry I missed it earlier – this is good, and you are precious!

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