"Edie - The Victim Who Tamed Verbally Abusive Dan"

Edie’s first appointment was without her husband, which is often the case in first marriage counseling sessions. She came complaining, almost hysterically, of enduring the worst kinds of verbal abuse from her husband Dan.

She described her husband as a man who lacked patience with a quick fuse that released an explosion of rage when she messed up or disobeyed him in any way. Edie was walking on eggshells.

She told me she truly wanted a divorce if he would not let her be herself, and stop his frequent criticism and violent rages. And even though she stated she wanted a divorce she was afraid of what he would do if she tried to divorce him.

I told Edie that I could sympathize with her, but it would only bring temporary relief. Her pain and fear would definitely engulf her again by the time Dan came in from work. I pleaded with her to understand that I was not minimizing what Dan had done to her, but that as a Christian Counselor my job was to help her see where she had shared in the sufferings of Christ (less perfectly), and to help her bring to The Cross whatever part of her flesh (old nature) was responding to Dan in all its various ways.

This included bring to The Cross any part of her flesh that had been slightly like Dan toward others in her life. I also asked about her past experiences. Had she been anywhere near as fearful and hurt in a past relationship as she now felt with Dan?

If she had ever been guilty of similar perfectionism, criticalness, impatience and rage, then she had to crucify whatever part of her old nature had been that way.

If she had never been like Dan, then she had to crucify whatever part of her had experienced someone like him in the past; judged them; learned to believe they would never change; learned to feel and believe herself powerless around them; and probably vowed naively to never be that way nor endure living with anyone who proved to be like that.

As a result, we prayed together in two long sessions to forgive her mother, who had impatiently criticized everything she tried to do as a child and never gave her any affirmation. We brought to The Cross the little girl who shared in the sufferings of Christ merely by growing up under the same kind of scrutiny that the Priests and Pharisees were guilty of when Jesus himself was performing the most perfect miracles, and perfectly revealing the nature of His Father, and they were trapped in insecurity, jealousy, greed and pride and could do nothing to help anyone without craving public approval.

Edie had to forgive her dad and mom for causing her to pity her father as he was constantly subjected to her mother’s criticisms, nagging and negative opinions about everything he held dear. She loved how sweet her father tried to be with her mother and Edie and everyone else, but she wished a thousand times that he would get some backbone and stand up her mother and shut her up. When it never happened she gradually grew to despise him for his weakness.

Understandably, and ironically, Edie then became very sure that a real man needs to be very strong, always right, and even forceful with his wife in order to be able to shut her up. She judged that her mom needed her dad to put her under a harsh hand for a while in order to lighten her up. Sounds like a remedy a child would applaud her dad doing to mom, but not what a little girl would grow up to desire of her husband, at least not to the extreme she wished it upon her mother.

Edie's mother turned her daughter into a very fearful victim who would cry at the frequent and always harsh criticism. Edie also became a self-pitying victim who would run to anyone who would listen to her. She learned to histrionically describe how mean, unfair and abusive her mother was to her and her father when anyone asked if things were any better at home. She wasn't wrong about how bad her mother was, but her habit of complaining to others provided no real remedy or comfort.

Then Dan came along, and Edie saw this strong handsome man as the knight in shining armor who would impress her mother enough to silence her. Otherwise he'd simply tell her mother to stop criticizing his wife. It was obvious to her that Dan was not the kind of man who would tolerate her mom's manipulation for a minute. And, if he saw it, he'd probably converse with dad in such a way that dad would rise up and retake his rightful place as the head of the family. She loved it when she saw Dan talking to her father while they dated, and was so glad that Dan went to dad alone to ask for Edie’s hand in marriage.

Edie never told me exactly what Dan did for a living, but she did say he owned his own business and that he was a workaholic who found all his identity in work. He was such a macho man that she was absolutely sure Dan would never come see me. He just wanted her to get over her female sensitivities, and learn how to deal with life confidently.

Sadly that is not what Edie's mom sowed into her. In fact, she prepared Edie to be overly sensitive with someone like him who demanded what he wanted, and said what he thought very bluntly. After 20 years of listening to this self-made man's opinions and philosophies of life, Edie was hurting and lonely and she felt she was actually dying inside.

Edie didn't have much faith that it would do any good, but she came to me simply because a mutual friend of ours had been pleading with her to see me for several years. Edie said Dan would never come for counseling alone or with her, and she didn't see how my counseling her alone, without confronting him, was going to improve their marriage and make a more loving and patient man out of Dan.

I told Edie that if we could get her flesh to The Cross, in all of the weakness and powerlessness which she learned under her Mother, and with all of her unfulfilled desire for her Father to be strong. That God could give Edie what Mom and Dad didn't, and what Dan had also failed to give her. God could give her peace no matter how fearsome Dan sounded or acted, and God would begin to convict him when he was mistreating her. If Dan wasn't going to lay down his life for his wife, she could go to The Cross herself and God would begin to turn up the heat on Dan's carnal and self-righteous ways.

After two sessions with Edie, Dan surprised Edie and even me a little bit. He came for a session with her, and I wondered if Edie had invited him or if he had insisted on coming himself. The latter seemed more likely when he walked into my office as if to a meeting of business tycoons or warriors.

From the first instant we met Dan was sizing me up, as he probably did with anyone who might know something he didn't. As soon as he sat down, Dan began to take control of the meeting by asking me questions about my credentials. I stopped him, and told him I didn't have any that would impress him, but that if he'd let me do my job and lead the counseling session he'd see some good come of it that he might not expect.

Though Edie looked terrified at our quick exchange, I first turned to her and asked if she felt she had been getting stronger and less reactive to Dan as a result of our two sessions. She admitted she did feel less fearful and hopeless, and then she even dared to share in detail about a couple of recent episodes in which she found herself able to stay composed when Dan was doing his usual abusive thing.

Edie was less histrionic in her account of those events, but as she talked I saw Dad struggling to control his impatience with what he saw as the slightest exaggeration or inaccuracy in her words. Though he was obviously trying to show some restraint in my presence, he corrected her rather harshly several times. I could see that Edie had not been exaggerating about how abusive Dan could be.

I turned my focus on him and asked several questions rapidly:

"What philosophy do you live your life by?".......
"What philosophy drives you?".........
"If someone were to quote your favorite Dan-ism's what would they tell me you frequently say?"…….

He answered me without any hesitation and in rapid fashion.

"Do it right or don't do it at all."

"If you can't do it right then get the hell out of the way and let someone do it who knows what they are doing."

"In my business time is money and money is time, and any screw up can cost me and a lot of other people their jobs."

"One wrong word or move and you're dead."

"Blink once and the other guy wins and you're on the junk heap with the rest of the has been's."

I quickly asked if his philosophy always worked to his satisfaction, and he replied,

"I've always succeeded where others have failed, because I've got the guts to make sure the job gets done right the first time."

"I know when to cut my losses and when to get rid of anything that’s just dead weight holding me back."

"I don’t waste time crying over spilt milk.”

That's all I needed to hear. I knew by the Spirit the very root of Dan's posture toward life. He had a "life and death mentality." Every issue was a life and death issue to him. That's why he was always so urgent, demanding and angry at any mistakes.

I told him, "So every issue is a life and death, all or nothing issue to you. That's why you’re so urgent about everything that you demand, and angry at any mistakes Edie makes. That’s why you’ll make a mountain out of a mole hill if it offends you, but you pretend a plank is only a speck when it’s your plank offending someone else."

Dan looked at me in silence and Edie held her breath. I knew the question I was supposed to ask, but I was a little reluctant to risk it. I knew Dan was the kind of guy with whom you get one chance and that's it. The fact is I had to ask the next question as quickly and confidently as he had answered my previous questions.

Hesitation over, I bluntly asked Dan, "How many miscarriages did your mother have before you were born, or was there some other reason she feared you might die in her womb?"

Dan looked stunned for a few moments. He looked at his wife for an admission of guilt, but she just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, I don't even know what is going on here. Then Dan looked at me as if in shock and asked "How did you know to ask that question? How did you know my mother had any miscarriages or any concern for my life while I was in her womb?

I told Dan that his life and death mentality were a dead give-away. He had obviously had it sowed into him that the consequence for the slightest mistakes in life is death. Dan soberly admitted that he had been born following seven miscarriages!

I didn’t wait for any more information. I began to tell him what views and attitudes that such a start to life would have given him, and explained how it might have manifested at school, among peers, and on various kinds of sports teams, and other fields of competition.

Dan had been born a survivor of what had killed others, and winner where others had lost. As a result of that start to life, all the way through school Dan would have been the go-to-guy in the final seconds of any game, either to score the points, get the yardage, or stop the attack of the competition.

If he had been in the military he would have been a stern drill sergeant, or better yet a Trainer of Commandos in some kind of Special Forces, who would constantly be shouting in the face of his soldiers, "One screw up like that in battle and you'll cause the death of every man in this company!"

I assured him, that as long as there was truly the threat of death, as in war-time, and he was talking to soldiers, he'd be respected by his men. But, if he was speaking that way to Edie or anyone else who didn’t speak or act as he preferred, then his manner of addressing people would be totally inappropriate and abusive. If he had children he would cross the line into abuse constantly as he tried to extract the best from them.

If he pursued a career in business he would have been a great corporate takeover kind of guy, buying up floundering businesses and turning them around by making the hard decisions others failed to make. But, he wouldn't have anyone who enjoyed working with him except for a high compensation plan, and he wouldn’t form friendships based on anything else than monetary profits.

He looked stunned! He looked at his wife and she quickly protested that she had not told me anything about his life because I had only focused on her past and the issues of her life that were rooted in her own family.

Dan had played all the sports I mentioned and captained most teams. He had indeed been a Special Forces Commander, who had warned men thousands of times about mistakes that could cost others their lives. After he had resigned the military he had taken over several failing corporations and made them succeed where others failed.

How did I know that much after he only spoke several sentences? I knew simply because "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." His heart was abundantly full of "life and death thinking" - very suitable to war time and hostile business environments, but not very productive in marriage.

I explained that he was carried in a womb that had lost several other children who failed to form properly, and it cost them their lives. Mom would have thought, “If I am ever going to have a baby it’s going to have to be one tough kid to survive whatever is happening in my womb.” He was going to have survive whatever her body or blood had done or not done to the children in her womb. Everyday of her pregnancy would have been filled with fear that she might lose another baby.

Mom essentially told Dan in the womb "one wrong cell division and you're dead." At birth he was basically named the one who succeeded where others failed. In essence he had survived her womb and emerged a victor and self-made success. In biblical times, he would have been given a Hebrew name that meant just that, and it would have become the rule for his life.

Now he wanted his wife to applaud his survivor mentality, submit to it without any hesitation or reservation, and prove that she was a survivor worthy of his respect. But in order for her to be a survivor he had to introduce harsh conditions and even some kind of threat.

In marriage survival is not the issue. In marriage, men laying down their own carnal life, to gain the life that God wants them live, in front of their wife and children, is the true issue. Men who stubbornly try to survive in their old life only end up feared and hated, as was true of Edie's feelings toward him.

Dan said “Okay, I agree with what you are saying, so what am I supposed to do now, just go home and be nicer to my wife?” I told him we needed to pray to crucify the old Dan with Christ on The Cross, and to ask God to release from within Dan the new life that Christ wanted him to have and had secured for him by his death and resurrection.

Dan agreed and let me pray with him, but it seemed too easy, so first I asked a barrage of questions:

"Was he really ready to repent of the self-reliance and to let that old man die?"

"Was he really ready to believe fully in Christ's work on The Cross?"

"Could he begin to accept that in Christianity the goal is to die to self, not to survive and keep the old life, no matter how successful it has appeared in the past?"

"Could he really start each day asking Christ to live in him?"

"Could he accept that his eternal Commander-in-Chief is the one who won the victory by dying for us all and setting an example for us to follow?"

Again, Dan agreed and so I prayed over him for about fifteen minutes, concerning every issue we had touched on and about some of the related things he would have seen, learned and been saturated in through his life experiences as a victor and survivor.

I got a phone call from Dan a few days later, telling me that he appreciated how I taught him more about his life and how to improve his marriage than all the previous shrinks his wife had dragged him. But, because I didn't get all over him for his impatience and verbal abuse of Edie, she did not want them to counsel with me anymore.

Edie was set free from her fear of him, but she got stuck in a bossy and resentful attitude toward him because of all the years of abuse. She didn’t want them to return to me for counseling, because the fundamental key to transformation in Dan’s life had been reconciling him to God, to the truth of God’s word, and to what Christ had done on The Cross that he could only receive by faith. Edie like other women wounded over a long period of time feel this "remedy" was not as centered on her desire for him to repent to her profusely, and to serve a long sentence of time making amends to her.

Edie complained that he had never ever complied with any of her desires in life, and it would be nice if this time he would honor her desire that they not see me again. He didn't want to blow this opportunity to give her what she wanted even though he knew I had a lot more to offer the both of them. He said she needed some time to punish him, without him lashing back in any way. I told him that this sounded like he was actually ready to share in some of Christ's sufferings in order to set his wife free of hurts and resentments that had built up for many years.

Sadly, I didn't see Dan again for several years. When I did finally see Dan and Edie again it was in a restaurant. Dan was immediately happy to see me and very humble in how he spoke to me. I could see that a deep transformation had occurred in this man.

Dan was joyful to see me and very humble in how he answered my questions when we got a few moments to talk. As he shared with me weariness left his face. Perhaps it was because he felt he was finally able to share with someone who knew how hard it had been for him to suffer silently, surrender and die daily to his old nature with all its pride and aggressiveness, and to let Christ reign in his life.

Dan had to humbly face and let go of a posture that had permeated every area of his life, and in which he had trusted for his very survival perhaps more than any person I have ever met.

I could also see that Edie was indeed much stronger. She told me that she and Dan had read the Bible together since we last met, and that she and Dan had been on a couple of mission trips, but that health issues had them in a time of resting.

I told him that I wished we had met several years earlier, and had spent a few more times together, but I was glad to see them together and happy. Edie seemed genuinely at peace with my impression.

Edie had come first and won a victory by going to The Cross in obedience to God in intercession for Dan. Then, even though her flesh got the better of her, after Dan's first session, she prevented any further counseling sessions, Dan learned to share in the sufferings of Christ, die a little more to himself every day, and to win Edie over, lifting her up out of her fears and her resentments, so she could enjoy being his wife.

C/O Cross of Christ Ministries
4132 Annistown Road Snellville, Georgia 30039