This week marks the two year anniversary of my escape from someone I consider to be extremely dangerous. Why is this person so dangerous? Because he is charming. He goes to church. He uses flattery. He does “nice” things for people. And he uses guilt, manipulation, and emotional blackmail to get people to do what he wants.

When people think of abuse, they tend to think of someone who hits his wife or girlfriend. But mental and emotional abuse can be so much worse. Because the victim usually has no proof and may not even realize it themselves for a long time. There are no bruises. There are no scars. (At least not visible ones.) They are slowly pulled into the relationship until they can see no way out. It is her word against his and these types of men are often respected leaders in the community. The same charm that they use to draw in the women they abuse is used on their neighbors, their boss, their pastor, their rabbi, etc. So when the woman comes forward with the truth, the reaction is usually that she is lying. That she is trying to get out of trouble for something. That she is jealous of him. There are many things that people tell themselves so that they don’t have to deal with the fact that they too have been duped by this man (or woman).

In my case, I had made some very wrong decisions concerning my relationship with him. I take full responsibility for those decisions because they were my responsibility, no matter how I felt. However, he too had responsibility. He had the responsibility to respect me when I said “no”, no matter what my body language or anything else told him. He had the responsibility to not use guilt in order to keep me in a emotionally unhealthy relationship. He had the responsibility to own up to the full extent of what he had done when I finally told someone the truth.

If  someone makes you feel like a bad friend/spouse/daughter/son/etc., you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone makes you feel like you are crazy and that you can’t trust your own perception/judgment, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone won’t listen when you say no, whether sexually or not, you may be in an abusive relationship.

If someone seems like they are trying to control you (they have to know where you are at all times, they flip out if you ask to go one day without talking to them, etc.), you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If you feel like you need to change your behavior or otherwise be perfect or else that person will get upset with you and withdraw, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone has different standards for what they can do and what you are “allowed” to do, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone criticizes or teases you about your looks, your work, or anything that they know you are insecure about, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If there are aspects of your relationship that you are uncomfortable with and have asked them to change and they say they will but make no obvious attempts to change (or change for a short time and then slowly reel you back into it), you may be in an abusive relationship.

If someone tells you that you are an idiot any time you disagree with him, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

You don’t have to be someone’s spouse or girl/boyfriend for this to apply. This man was supposed to be my friend, my father figure, my spiritual leader. In the process, he drew me away from my other friends, he did nothing to help my relationship with my real father and only encouraged my bad perceptions of him, and he used his spirituality as a way to guilt me when I did things he didn’t like. Or to convince me that our inappropriate relationship was fine and that I was being too legalistic.

If you find yourself nodding along to this list, you need to speak up to someone that you trust. You need to do everything in your power to escape the person you are thinking of. They will not change unless they are given a serious reason to and even then, they may not. I cannot promise that the people you tell will believe you at first. Some people may never believe you and that is their choice. Your choice is to stop letting this person have any part in your life. It will be hard. You may lose a lot. But I promise you, it will be worth it.

Two years later, I am happy. I am more confidant. I have a husband who loves me and doesn’t make me feel like a horrible human being or an idiot when I disagree with him. I don’t feel like I *have* to talk to someone every single day or they will be upset with me. I don’t worry about someone destroying me if I “make them too mad”. I made him mad and you know what? I was not destroyed. What would have destroyed me is staying in that relationship. Abusers only have the power that we (and others) give them. Do not allow someone who fits the descriptions above to have any power in your life anymore.

Let me say this again: I promise you it will be worth it. Maybe not today. Maybe not a month from now. But one day you will look back and say with pride “I made it stop.”

You Are Not Crazy

Signs of Mental Abuse in a Relationship

Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationship

Spotting Signs of Emotional Abuse

Schrodinger’s Rapist: Or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

“…a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.

So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

Tomorrow is my husband’s 30th birthday. In honor of that, I have compiled a list of 30 reasons why I love him. The list goes far beyond 30 but I doubt he’ll live to 10 million.

30 Reasons Why I Love You

1.      Whenever you get up before me in the mornings, you push your pillow up against my back because you know I don’t sleep well without something to cuddle with.

2.      You’re so unbelievably smart about computers and math and all of those left-brained things.

3.      You make me feel beautiful every single day.

4.      You laugh easily and loudly and truly enjoy life.

5.      You don’t let things ruffle your feathers and whenever shit happens, you deal instead of having a meltdown.

6.      You always tell me the truth, even when it hurts.

7.      You have beautiful eyes.

8.      You dance with me in parking lots and catch me when I trip because I’m wearing flip flops.

9.      You hold me when I need you to.

10.  You clean and go through closets and organize because I ask you to.

11.  You don’t get mad when I move things and you can’t find them.

12.  You dream with me.

13.  You always kiss me goodnight.

14.  You don’t expect me to pack your lunches but you’re always appreciative when I do.

15.  You are good at compromising.

16.  You worked your way through JustFaith even though reading isn’t your thing.

17.  You love the Colts and very vocally watch them play.

18.  You make me laugh.

19.  You care about the people in your life and make time for them.

20.  You’re good at what you do and, even though you’re confident about it, you don’t let it go to your head.

21.  You care about what happens to people in other countries and those who have less than we do.

22.  You do things for the right reason because you believe they are the right thing to do.

23.  You honestly don’t give a damn about being popular or cool or any of the high school antics that people should outgrow. In fact, you didn’t care even when you were in high school.

24.  You aren’t concerned about keeping up with the Joneses.

25.  You show me that you love me even in the smallest of ways.

26.  You have strong convictions.

27.  You are willing to grow and change.

28.  You deal with all of my neuroses and OCD quirks and the millions of things I do that would drive most people crazy.

29.  You think for yourself.

30.  You chose me to be your wife.🙂

Happy birthday, beloved. I am so lucky to be married to you. I love you!

Day 5 - 9/19/10

Since this was what I wore for a Sunday morning that I was potentially going to have to help with the kids at church, I wanted to make sure my clothes were fairly kid friendly. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a classroom setting with munchkins but the 10+ years that I have spent in childcare haven’t completely left me.

At our second church we rotate by house church for who “hosts” each Sunday. Hosting involves folding bulletins, buying and preparing communion, greeting as people come in, and helping with the kids. I had been putting that last part off for as long as I possibly could.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. But those 10+ years I mentioned before have *really* burned me out on them. Baby-sitting, nannying, Tuesday morning Bible study baby-sitting, choir baby-sitting, Mom’s Day Out and Mothers of Preschoolers baby-sitting, teaching 2-3 year olds for Wisdom Builders, working as a teacher at a Hebrew school, and on and on and on. I still like kids. I find them hilarious half the time. I simply have no desire to be the one in charge of them right now.

Fortunately, helping out in Sunday school went better than I thought. There was a head teacher who had everything planned out and kept the kids entertained and moving the entire time.  And since there are a number of house churches at Trinity, I’ll only have to do it every few months. Now *that* is a reason to praise the Lord!😉

Shirt: Target

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Shoes: Sears

Cardigan: Forever 21

Necklace: The gold chain is from my MIL and the sea shell is from Hannah.

Earrings: A gift from my dad. (A non-dangley, barely grabbable gift perfect for wearing around kids.)

Day 4 – 9/18/10

So I haven’t been getting overly creative with the outfits and have pretty much stuck to jeans and flip flops. But, because of this challenge, I paired this shirt and cardigan! I know, this is a life changing moment. Novels will be written about it. A Lifetime movie will be made.

At the end of the day, I go for comfort with a little bit of style. I try to dress to flatter my shape and look pulled together. But I flat out refuse to teeter around on 5 inch heels, wear clothes that make it impossible to breathe, or jewelry that makes me look like I should be on the Discovery Channel. I know that some people enjoy these things and that is just fine. Everyone has their interests. Keeping up with the fashion Jones’ just doesn’t happen to be one of mine.

*Also, the Four Square title does NOT refer to the asinine “social networking” thing. It refers to the children’s game.

Day 3 - 9/17/10

Or “the picture in which Izzy and Katrina become Cylons”. Izzy looks particularly possessed.

So as I posted pictures, I realized that the usual size that I use for photos on here was a bit small to see the details of an outfit. Of course I decided to remedy this the day that I didn’t do crap with my hair. Behold the kink! Oh well. At least this isn’t completely an exercise in vanity.😉

Shirt: Marshall’s

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Shoes: Sears

Necklace: Somewhere in Canada!🙂 I bought it in 2001 when I went with a group from our youth group to the Le Brea conference. This was the first time most of us had heard the word postmodernism. Needless to say, it was a little over our heads. But I got a cute necklace and had a great time with friends!

Day 2 - 9/16/10

This picture is proof of what I said about my tank tops. I didn’t wear one underneath this shirt and my little tummy is peeking out. By today’s standards of modesty, this is no big deal.

But I was raised in a church that was formerly Baptist. All those times where the girls got sent into one room, and the boys into another, so that the youth group leaders could reiterate, once again, that it was our responsibility to help our brothers not stumble by being modest is forever pounded into my head. (The boys, I found out later, were being lectured about porn. I think we got the less embarrassing end of that deal.)

Though apparently I’m not too scarred since I still posted it on the internet. Anyone thinking dirty thoughts because of my stomach yet? Thought not.

This is not intended, btw, to bash the standards I was raised with. I completely understand where they were coming from. Frankly, it’s probably in part due to those standards that I don’t dress like Paris Hilton and thus flash my lady parts to all when getting out of a car wearing a mini skirt. However, as with pretty much everything else in my journey of faith, I have come to seek a balance between what is acceptable (or, at any rate, photo worthy) to US culture and the near Puritanical standards held by some of my fellow Christians.

For more thoughts on dressing appropriately and relaxing some formerly held standards, read here.

See you again tomorrow!

Shirt: TJ Maxx

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Shoes: Sears

Belt: Target

Hat: Some cute little store in Seattle that I forget the name of.

Bracelet: A peddlers hut on the beach in Puerto Vallarta

Glasses: Lenscrafters

Day 1 - 9/15/10

This is my “I just got done with school and walking two dogs and you need to take my picture before we go into the gym and I get all hot and sweaty” look.😀 I promise to try to be a little more creative with my posing and hopefully we can find prettier locations than our gym parking lot.

Shirt: Kohls

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Duster: Forever 21

Shoes: Sears

Headband and Sunglasses: Target

In looking for some new blogs to read, I ran across a blog called Kendi Everyday. Kendi is a fashion blogger and was in the middle of what she called a 30 for 30 Challenge. I was intrigued and went to read more about it. Basically she had come up with a challenge where she would only wear 30 pieces of clothing for 30 days. This would force her to get creative with her wardrobe instead of thinking “I have nothing to wear!” like so many of us do when, in fact, we have a closet full of clothes.

The other part of her challenge? No shopping during the 30 days.

I thought this looked like fun as I watched her and other women post their daily outfits and saw how they used accessories to turn ordinary clothes into cute outfits. So I decided to do the challenge too.

Now we don’t have a fancy shmancy camera. My husband is not a photographer like Kendi’s is (though he does just fine). And I am not Miss Up With Fashion. But I thought it sounded fun and I want to see if I can stick to it.

I’m sure some of you are sitting there thinking “Some challenge. Does she realize that people around the world have *less* than 30 pieces of clothing to choose from?”

Well, yes. I do. In fact, there is a challenge to only use 6 items or less. But this is purely for fun. I am not a fashion blogger. I in no way want to promote consumerism or the drive to have more, more, more! Especially when I live in a country that has more than enough. But that is part of why I want to do this. I want to challenge myself to be happy with what is in my closet. I want to challenge myself not to shop for 30 days.

Is this going to change my life or someone else’s? Probably not. But not everything in life has to be for the greater good or intended to change the world. I’m sure even Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa and Gandhi did things that were purely for fun.🙂

So here are the rules: I have 30 pieces of clothing (this includes shoes) that I can pick from for the next 30 days. Underwear and accessories don’t count. You will probably see tank tops under most of what I wear and I’m not counting those either. They go under pretty much everything and counting them would eat up a good chunk of my 30. They are purely for modesty’s sake anyway. I will post a picture each day of my outfit. Please don’t expect high quality photos or me to look like a model. I probably won’t be wearing make-up half the time.

Finally, I will be posting pictures of the previous day’s outfit because I have to wait for Shane to get home to take my picture and sometimes I’m too tired to deal with the computer by then.

The Clothes:

Casual Pants and Skirt

Dresses and Dress Pants

Shirts

Cardigans and Sweaters

Shoes

You probably noticed that I wear a lot of black and neutrals. I also don’t get into things that are really fashionable. I don’t like to buy “high fashion” items because A: I think they are hideous/ridiculous looking most of the time and B: once they are out of style, they are OUT. I don’t like wasting money on things I can wear for one season.

My clothing philosophy is more Audrey Hepburn: figure out what your best features are and then dress to accentuate those features.

We’ll see how well I do at that over the next month.🙂

Ran across this song on a friend’s blog and since it pretty much describes how I feel about my husband, I thought I’d share it here. (Commence the gagging!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7M7cJ4DydQ

I love you, Shane!