Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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I have a serious problem with my husband and not only because of what is happening to me but also because of my concern for how the kids are being influenced by his behavior. Since I have been married, my father of confession was aware of the physical abuse that started from the second month of our marriage but nothing firm was done to correct this issue and that is why it lasted for the next 13 years. This is not the only issue. Abouna is no longer here anymore.

I talked to  Abouna 7 years ago and I told him what is going on but he was not willing to listen. Before that, he had attacked me in 2 incidences (verbally) without even knowing me, which surprised me but he apologized and gave me 3 tapes for consecration of the church; I accepted his apology. As I can see, he has a serious bias against me, even without knowing me, as it was also manifested in his behavior toward me in other communication with him. When Your Grace came for a house visit with him, I felt as if I was pulling his legs to come and visit. When I talked to him seriously and asked him why he wouldn't talk to my husband, he gave his reasons.  I said okay, but at least present to him what God says concerning those certain issues. I tried to consult once with him and he said as you have taken it for the last 10 years, you can continue for the coming years. I didn’t know what to do, and so, I stuck it out. Finally, when I started getting panic attacks in dealing with my husband in anything this whole year, I thought of  the other Abouna. I have been going to the church where this Abouna serves this year and I found him to be a very sweet father. He listens, but I expected him to visit me sometimes. It is not happening, and also not much advice is given to me on how to deal with my urgent situation.

This was my answer and explanation to Your Grace since you said to talk to Abouna and  the other Abouna and they would communicate my concerns to Your Grace. Now that the issues have been going on for a long time and they have become more critical, my situation needs your serious attention. I was also talking to my mother and I told her that I am really not sure what to do! I want God’s will in my life. I want Him to inspire me to do the right thing. I am in a critical time in my marriage because of my worries about what could happen to my health and I have no one here to care for me and my children. She said that the only way is to talk to Your Grace, because you know human psychology and you will be the best to understand what is going on with me and can advise me the best. I need your urgent advice and help.

Because of the issues we have been having and haven’t been able to resolve for so many years, I have become unable to live with this relationship. I am going to do my best to put them in the correct order of importance as it leads our life to the current situation. I talked to Your Grace about 11 years ago when we moved to  here, about the issue of my husband watching and using wrong things on the internet and TV or other sources. But you said “a person that doesn’t know God, how I can tell him don’t do this.” I thought that you would remember this moment that I talked to you. But at the time, I thought that this was my problem and I will have to deal with it. So I have been using God's help, but I was talking to my mother and she said, as I mentioned in the previous email, that she saw Your Grace on TV and she told me that I should talk to Your Grace. A couple of friends of mine also recommended that Your Grace could help me so much because of your background in psychology. I know that the church is my mother and what mother would see her kid in need of help and would not help. I need your help. I need your connection with God to inspire me to deal with my current situation in a godly manner. I also need to be able when needed and when possible to talk to Your Grace in person whenever you are available in church.

I think I grew stronger in the Lord through the hard life that I lived with my husband and with all the abuse that was inflicted on me, but there comes that time where all this can turn in the opposite direction. I was trying to turn to church in my worst times and that is when I came to talk to  Abouna. It hurt when he turned his back on me. When I saw that he was pushing me away and did not want to deal with me or my issues, I thought even the church, so I was very sad. I wanted to get close to the church and the people, but having this enclosed personality, and my husband not working with me but against me in having a couple friends, I gave up. Also, having my sister-in-law spreading lies about me made me more shy from going to church. A couple of her friends came and told me on different occasions that she is saying horrible things about me and I should be careful from her. Another friend told me that she couldn’t stand seeing me because of all the bad things she heard about me. So having all this issues, at home and then also at church, I talked to God and I said, how can You close all the doors in my face; who do I go to now? I tell Him this is too hard, help me! Going to see my mom in Egypt was a relief from the inside of the house to the outside of the surrounding people.

The result now is that we have been separated inside the house together for a year now. I am unable to converse with him at all because if he tries to talk to me, I start experiencing panic attacks (chest pain and then I am unable to breath, blank memory, and nausea). So through this separation, I found out that it will be the way to protect myself from his continuous damaging behavior, since I have been asking him not to raise his voice or to scream and not to use profanity with me or in front of the kids for so many years and he refuses to comply. I feel that this relationship has been damaged to the maximum. I have been taking breaks by going to Egypt every year hoping that it will change but it doesn’t; moreover, it gets worse and it becomes permanent. Sometimes, I thought maybe I could go along with him, but I will loss the principles in which I believe that make up my personality and the kids will be the same like him, and that is what hurts more.

The major issues that we have been having since the second month of our marriage are, in general:

The length and the physical abuse and the extremity:
It started since the second month of our marriage and has lasted for the next 12 years. It ended when I had the police come because of the physical abuse and I feared for my life. One year later, it stopped but then the extremity of the verbal abuse was revealed.

The appearance of the verbal abuse and its extremity:
Any conversation taking place between us was treated the same way by rejection, loud voice, screaming, and profanity. That was his way to get to do everything he wants without discussion. The way of dealing with this behavior was to avoid conversing with him because it sounds like a fight and not a conversation. I wanted to keep the peace.

The financial abuse:
It is okay for him to waste money, but I can’t use money for necessities or nice things.

The issue with the spousal relationships:
Finally, the continuous practice of using wrong sources for gratifying his sexual appetite became a way of life. Any kind of intimate relationship became impossible. When I confronted him with it, he said to me, I am not 19 years old anymore.

The emotional abuse:
You cannot do this…You do not understand anything…Taking my college degree and hiding it and all the above mentioned abuses lead to my very low self esteem.

The usage of illegal substance:
My husband has been using testosterone (male hormone) since the beginning of our marriage and I confronted him. He said he will not use it, but on different occasions, I found out that he is still using it until now. He claimed that he goes in cycles and that it is not dangerous. He was caught trying to receive some from the post office and that is when he was busted and how I found out. (He was a bodybuilder and a wrestler). He says he will not use it anymore. How do I get to trust anything he says anymore?

I am very sad that God allowed this relationship to go that bad. I have been with him from the beginning of this marriage and I did what was recommended to be done, especially the one that said "do not let the sun shine on your anger.” I have applied this saying for the first 7 years of my life with my husband which were the years of my extreme crying as to deal with the physical abuse inflicted by my husband that continues....and as it continues, so in every situation that I have faced, I look to see what God would recommend to be done and I applied it to the best of my knowledge and power throughout the following years. Where did I go so wrong to have been in this unbearable situation now?

There is nothing biblical, cultural, moral, or ethical about spousal abuse and I want you to know that our church does not condone it. Every situation requires a different approach, but prayer remains as the common thread. Your safety and the safety of your children are of concern to the church. If you feel that your life and/or the lives of your children are at any risk, you may defer to your local police and report the incidences. It is clear that not only does the abusive spouse need concentrated attention and therapy, but so do the victims. Another concern is the addictions, whether they are prescription drugs or Internet pornography. It is a known fact that steroids and these kinds of medications used for body building and other athletics can make a person more aggressive. Perhaps by mandating that your husband attends weekly counseling sessions to address his anger management and addictive behavior issues, he can then begin to understand the impact of his destructive behavior and to recognize the damage he is inflicting on you and your children. In addition, he can also learn strategies for better communication skills and behavior modification and training. In the meantime, you need to work on yourself by developing a social support system and rebuilding your own self-esteem. Explain what needs to be explained to your children and help build them up as well. If they are witnessing this turbulence in the home, it is sure to infect their lives and be manifested in other areas. I am sorry that the priests to whom you were referred did not provide you with the support you were seeking. There is no need to hold that against them. Sometimes, priests become overwhelmed with the many tumultuous relationships facing them and prefer to turn these matters over in prayer. I know how important it is for you to find a cure to break this perpetual cycle of abuse. Both of your commitments, (yours and your husbands) in trying to salvage this marriage are important. Keeping silent about it is not the answer. If your husband agrees, we can have a male counselor contact him on a regular basis and counsel him for his issues. If that does not work, we can discuss what other options are available that would work for you and the children.
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