Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Changing destructive behavioral patterns

A couple of days ago, I received a very interesting question from Mark, in response to a post where I mentioned how destructive it is to be stuck in a dead-end relationship with a man who is unwilling to make a commitment. I won't reprint Mark's entire message here, but the bottom line was this:

"…you learned the RIGHT LESSONS from your experiences; how is it you were able to learn the right lessons, and make the needed changes, while a vast majority of women are not? Why is it you were able to learn your lesson after ONE bad relationship, while most other women take years, if not DECADES, to figure out that chasing abusive, bad boy boyfriends is counterproductive?"

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my background, I'll briefly mention that in my past, I was in a relationship with a man who abused me both emotionally and physically, not to mention the simple fact that it was going absolutely nowhere. It took me a while to get out of it, and even more time to heal.

Yes, I certainly did "learn my lesson". However, I wouldn't say I was such a smashing success in that department; I could have left much sooner. I should have left when he first became violent; when I first heard him curse like a drunken sailor; when he called me, drunk, in the dead of night.

Then again, I do realize how fortunate I am, having terminated this vicious pattern after just one horrible, uncommitted relationship. I suppose a major factor here is that I never really enjoyed being in this type of relationship. I mean, I knew it was socially acceptable; I knew it was expected of me to "have fun" – but somehow, the fun never happened! The few good moments were soon drowned in a sea of guilt and tears.

And you know what? I'm convinced I'm not alone here. I'm sure many, many women secretly know they are unhappy passing from one relationship to the next, even if they aren't abused, strictly speaking (most women are so naturally geared towards steadiness and commitment that I see the modern way of relationships as a subtle form of abuse towards women). But to help people make a change, we need to show a different way. Relationships have been so cheapened that sometimes it's difficult to see anything beside the hit-and-go attitude.

Seeing that there are other options has been literally a life saver for me. Reading the book "A Return to Modesty" by Wendy Shalit revolutionized my way of thinking. And above all, I started seeing myself – and every other woman - as a precious daughter of God, deserving love, respect and decent treatment. Committing to pure, chaste behavior humbled me and boosted my self-esteem in an appropriate, healthy way at the same time, eventually enabling me to seek a relationship with a man who would be willing to do things the way God intended.

17 comments:

Mrs. Mordecai said...

You've got it! When we see ourselves--and others--as children of God, we will treat everyone, including ourselves, with more respect and love.

Rebekah S. said...

Wonderful post, Anna! Thank you for your insight and wisdom. I can't wait to read that book! Another absolutely wonderful set of books is the Courtship Series by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Caslteberry. Those are life changing books!

Don't you find it strange that the modern dating practices came about at the same time as radical feminism? Feminism is supposedly pro-woman, yet this dating cycle leads to abuse, guilt, sadness etc. for women(as well as men). If only we would once again return to God's way of getting to know a future spouse, it would save us from so much heartache and pain! God's way is always best, no matter what anyone says.

I pray that the Lord will open up the eyes of countless women, to the fact that dating is dangerous and damaging (that's not the case for every single woman, but it is true to a large degree), and that the world's ways always bring nothing but pain.

I pray that the Lord will work in the hearts of many women, and that He will give them the strength and encouragement needed to stop the whole "worldly dating cycle", and to replace it instead with God's ways.

Great post, Anna! :)

Oh, I wanted to let you all know that I posted a Valentine's Day post on my blog dedicated to unmarried women. I hope you all come by and check it out!!

Blessings,
Rebekah

Rebekah S. said...

Changing destructive behavioral patterns is a terribly hard thing to do. First, you have to wholeheartedly desire to change, and desire to have God help you. Then, you have to go to the Lord and ask Him for help-that's the only way a person can change, is by God's help. You also must stay in the Word constantly.

Lydia said...

It's a sad cycle. We see ourselves as unworthy, and enter into bad relationships that only convince us moreso.

Having God in our sights really does make all the difference in the world.

Rebekah S. said...

We're sinful, wicked human beings, but in our Savior's sight, we have so much worth! :)

Terry said...

Wonderful post Anna. I think many young women have been so immersed in the ways and thoughts of this culture that they think that something is wrong with THEM if they want more. They need to know of God's love for them and that they deserve more than to be used up and tossed aside.

Sammybunny said...

Wonderful post, Anna. Although I don't think that every relationship (dating) is not God-centered (many are) but the majority of the non-religious people are in very destructive cyclical dating that can lead to destroyed dignity and lives.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to "learn a lesson" at the end of a disastrous experience. I think the key is to take some time out-- from whatever it is that hurt you-- and get some distance.

So, to answer Mark's question-- learning the right lessons takes time. It sounds to me that you, Anna, gave yourself that time you needed.

:)
Emily

Anonymous said...

Anna,
Have you read Mark's blog?
~Emily

Lauren Christine said...

"A Return to Modesty" was the beginning of a complete turn around in my life. I am so thankful Wendy wrote that book! I definitely recommend it to any young girl.

USAincognito said...

I think we all have made mistakes when it comes to relationships and everyone has been thru some sort of "destructive" relationship at one point or another.

Pendragon said...

First, kudos on your increased self-esteem and refusal to tolerate further abuse from your past boyfriend or further abuse in the future. I am so glad you have found someone worthy.

But the first thing that struck me in the post was Mark's unsupported generalization that the "vast majority" of women are unable to learn the right lessons. How does he know that the "vast majority" are repeatedly making the same mistakes? The tone of his comment sounds like classic "victim blaming" to me.

The fact os that it isn't always obvious that an abuser is going to be an abuser. By the time an abuser has revealed his true colors, a woman may already be heavily invested in the relationship (either in terms of time, financial dependence or other emotional factors) so it can be hard to leave. Also, abusers don't necessarily act abusively all the time. At first it can be easy to write off abuses as rare or isolated incidents, until suddenly you are in too deep. In addition, there are women for whom the abuse seems normal due to past experiences, especially women who have grown up in abusive homes. Often the community is not especially supportive of a woman who claims abuse, rendering it difficult to complain or get out. I think it is inaccurate to portray women who wind up with abusers as somehow foolish or failing to learn certain lessons. I have known many abused women who are far from foolish. (That's not to say that there aren't red flags you can look for to try to weed out men who are inclined to treat women badly.)

*Speaking of red flags, I would note that Mark's website is, to my mind, extremely disturbing. He makes all sort of enormous and always hostile generalizations about what "women" think and do. In the Feb. 9 post, he complains about his "nagging, fat, boring wife." He also says: "I don't condone violence, though I think it's wrong to hit your wife, I can certainly understand WHY some guys do!" Lovely.

Pendragon said...

Don't you find it strange that the modern dating practices came about at the same time as radical feminism? Feminism is supposedly pro-woman, yet this dating cycle leads to abuse, guilt, sadness etc. for women(as well as men). If only we would once again return to God's way of getting to know a future spouse, it would save us from so much heartache and pain!

I don't necessarily think that serial monogamy is the be-all and end-all, but I do have to question the notion that there is some other method that somehow protects women against abuse. I am aware of no evidence (or reason to believe) that there is some other way to more effectively prevent abuse, such as having your parents choose or approve your spouse, or engaging in an intimate relationship only upon marriage. I don't think that my parents would be any better positioned to weed out abusers than I am. I also don't see how having a relationship upon marriage somehow guarantees that I won't wind up married to an abuser.

Indeed, it seems that the religious way may make it more difficult to leave an abusive relationship, as divorce is more frowned upon and the wife is more likely to be financially dependent on the husband.

I am not saying that modern dating practice is some kind of key to happiness, but I don't think the solution to unhappy relationships is to limit women's autonomy. Sometimes having freedom means risk, i.e. the possibility of making choices that lead to unhappiness. But it does not follow from that fact that freedom is in itself a bad thing.

Personally, I really enjoyed dating, and I look back on that period of my life fondly. I also enjoy married life just fine. Different things work for different people.

I should also note that feminists have been instrumental in educating the public about domestic and intimate partner violence, and overhauling police and criminal justice methodologies for bringing abusers to justice.

deb said...

I grew up in a family that was abusive. My mom saw her siblings and mother abused by her father and she in turn was emotionally and verbally abusive toward her children.

My grandmother was able to pass on what she learned from being in an abusive marriage. She always told me if the guy pushes you, slaps you, pulls your hair or in any way lays a hand in anger on you leave. If he calls you names when angry leave. I think that these guidlines protected me.

I've begged young women to leave relationships in which the guy had shoved them in anger or called them names. But so many young women don't realize that abuse doesn't start with a punch, it starts slowly and builds up over the coarse of time.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post, but you may wish to reconsider posting the link to Mark's page, which is a little vulgar and derogatory to women... and folk in general. Please delete this comment if you feel it to be inappropriate!

Catherine R. said...

Hmmm, Mark has a link on his blog called "Dump your wife now". I don't know if that's exactly evidence of a guy who is on the same page as we are. Good post anyhow.

MarkyMark said...

Ladies,

It's late, so this will be quick; when time permits, I'll try to address your points in greater detail. If you have the time, reading more of my blog posts might yield a different picture than that which is painted by my most recent posts. If you were to take a look at my posts "Lest We Become What We Despise", or my response to Christopher in Oregon's comments, you'll see that I don't hate women; I am, however, angry & disappointed with a vast majority of them.

Also, when I say women, I'm NOT referring to those of you on here; how could I, when you are LADIES in every sense of the word? I'm referring to the female population at large, which is representative of the females I and other men deal with. As wonderful as you gals on here are, you are RARE. You're so rare that gold would be as plentiful as sand is on a beach in comparison! I'm old enough to have met women like you; I know that ladies like you exist. However, ladies like you have become an increasingly rare sight. For guys under 35 years of age, ladies like you are a myth, a legend like The Headless Horseman or The Flying Dutchman; they've HEARD of you, but they've never SEEN you or known you.

When I read comments saying that my comments are vulgar towards women, that they're disturbing, etc., it smacks of shaming language; it smacks of comments such as, "You hate women," "What's the matter, you have issues with your mother?", etc. Why is it whenever a guy says anything that is even slightly critical of women that he's branded a woman hater?! Why is it that women, rather than DEALING WITH THE ISSUES I and other men raise, change the subject and attack us personally? Normally, when someone resorts to ad hominem attacks, it's because they have NO SOLID RESPONSE to what the opposing debater said; since they can't kill the message, they kill the messenger instead. I noticed that not ONE of my points was addressed-not one! Hence, I have some pointed questions...

Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe, just maybe, I have legitimate gripes as a man? Did it ever occur to anyone that there is a MAN'S side to the gender war, and it needs to be heard? Did it ever dawn on women that men have their own thoughts & feelings about relationships? Did it ever occur to anyone that our views are valid too? Finally, did it ever occur to any of you ladies that there might be a REASON why I think, feel, write, and speak as I do?

You might want to check out Zenpriests' pages; I have a link on my blog that'll take you there. When you get there, click on the link for 'Gender War'. It'll not only give you the man's viewpoint on this topic; it'll tell you WHY I and an increasing number of men are voicing similar sentiments.

The one point I would like to address here is this: when I say that a vast majority of women engage in destructive relationships, from where I sit, this seems to be true. When comparing notes with other guys, they've seen the same things: women REPEATEDLY chasing abusive guys while spurning those of us who are not. When you've been on the RECEIVING end of this your whole life, it tends to color your perception, and not for the better. Not that anyone here watched it (I could BARELY stomach two episodes!), Sex and the City was all about this sort of behavior. Carrie Bradshaw was FOREVER chasing the vain, arrogant, disinterested Mr. Big, while spurning Aidan, a decent guy who really, truly cared about her. Such behavior is all too common amongst women. Does life imitate art? Does art imitate life? I think it's a little of both; that said, SATC is proof positive of what I said, and I stand by my remarks.

We could take a look back at a classic piece of literature, a work that is one of MY all time favorites: Gone with the Wind. Scarlett O'Hara, though she could have had any man she wanted, went for the rogue, Rhett Butler. When she got him & married him, she told him after having children that he could forget, shall we say, marital relations? Between that and other fun & games Scarlett played with Rhett, he finally said, "Enough!", at which point he uttered the classic line, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." I can empathize with Rhett, and I'll explain why next time...

When we men get told that women want a good, decent honest guy, yet we see them chasing guys who do NOT have their best interests at heart, we scratch our heads at first; we say to ourselves, what gives?! What does she SEE in him? From where we sit, it smacks of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy; women will say one thing and do another. Being gentlemen, we get the dubious honor of being used as a free therapist, a backup date, and mover; we never GET the girl, who has eyes for the bad boy. After having had that happen most of my life, and seeing it happen to other good guys, I'll admit that I'm a tad bit upset.

One more thing: though you're all welcome to read my thoughts, my blog isn't targeted at women. My blog is targeted to men; it's by a man talking about issues from ONE MAN'S PERSPECTIVE-mine. I and many, many other men are very angry with women. While we're grateful for the fact that fine ladies like you exist, the facts of the matter are these: 1) you're extremely rare (Proverbs 31 says a good wife is worth far more than rubies if I remember correctly); 2) since you're such jewels, you went off the market early, and will remain off the market; 3) finally, though I COULD meet a fine lady like one of you, it isn't going to happen-I could win the lottery too, but that isn't going to happen, either. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that a vast majority of women are like the skanks on Sex and the City. I don't say that without basis; I've worked with women, gone to school with them, and known them in my personal life, and they DO emulate Samantha, Charlotte, Carrie, and Miranda on SATC. They, along with Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, et al are the MODERN PARAGON of femininity. Sorry, but that's how it is...

I'm going to close for now. I have a LOT more I'd like to say, but I do not have the time or energy to do it now. Please try to read some more of my blog before jumping to conclusions; please read a little bit more before forming an opinion. Please also consider that, just because I'm a man doesn't mean that my points are invalid; just because I say something that you don't like doesn't mean it isn't true. When you attack me personally, while simultaneously SIDESTEPPING the points I raised, I'm inclined to think that I struck a nerve, and that I AM IN THE RIGHT. If I weren't right, then my points would have been challenged and refuted; instead, I'm attacked personally. Just because a man says something that ruffles your feathers does NOT mean his point(s) is(are) invalid. I'll try to finish this later. Thank you, and good night.

MarkyMark