Do You Really Know the Difference Between Peaceful and Pushover?
If you’ve lived with an addict you may have found yourself in a situation where you’ve become the "unofficial peacemaker". Maybe you’re in that situation now. You learn quickly how to adapt to tense situations, avoid ruffling feathers and what not to say to prevent tempers from flaring. You react, not how you want to but with the sole purpose of keeping the peace. You may push away your feelings or convince yourself that certain things are okay that aren't because your world revolves around keeping other people happy.
If you’re like I was, you probably didn’t see it in the beginning. You may not see it now. But the "peacemaker" mentality is more than likely there. As the sober ones, we shoulder the responsibility of everyone’s happiness (and forget about our own) because addicts lack empathy. I find this especially true for us Mothers because we're already pre-programed to, "Take care of" and put ourselves last.
Despite your best efforts, if disrupting the peace gives you anxiety, you're being a pushover and not a peacemaker. [If you have anxiety check out: Practical Ways to Pray for Peace When You Have Anxiety]
I Was a Pushover
I clearly remember the day I realized my marriage had become emotionally abusive. I was Googling all things addiction-related and came across an article where a woman had a similar situation to mine. What shocked me was the behaviour she described sounded exactly like my husband. I had him read the article and even he agreed it sounded like him.
It was a real wakeup call.
I had never thought of myself as a weak person but there I was, letting someone else dictate my emotional health. Compared to other kinds of abuse, emotional abuse can sound fluffy but don’t brush it off. It's serious! Now, not everyone acting as peacemaker is necessarily abused, I'm saying I was.
Some days, my husband was great. After all he is a fun, sweet, loving, caring man (Oh and so good looking. Have I mentioned yet how handsome he is?). Other days, he was selfish, pushy and aggressive. He would manipulate me, play off my emotions to get what he wanted out of me, bully me if he didn’t get his way, whine, complain and tell me (Very passive-aggressively) in so many words or less I was boring and basically... I suck. Obviously, there was something wrong because that just wasn't true. I used to be fun, interesting and adventurous! [Want to get to know me better? Read: Weird Things You May Not Know About Me]
My husband was also very secretive. I felt like I was guessing about what he was doing or where he was all the time. If I asked I got only vague answers (It's actually amazing how well he could answer a question without ever really answering the question at all).
I felt like I lived with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; It was the man I loved vs. the addict inside.
If it's your spouse who's struggling, please know without a shadow of a doubt, God didn't design marriage to be that way. You are not in a normal, healthy, loving, supportive relationship how God intended. Red flags, my friends.
Looking back, I felt I was being tough when I was being submissive. I tried to do what I thought was right but I was a pushover, not a peacemaker.
Freedom From Their Addiction Feels Good For You
Realizing my husbands addiction was controlling him and therefore controlling me was what finally set me free. I did everything I knew to do (Which was nothing, I knew absolutely nothing!) and I let God fight for me. I wish I had known enough to let God take over from the beginning but through it all I learned how much God loves me, which I've never known like I know now.
Preacher: "God loves you"
Me: "Yes, I hear you... but when is he going to save me from this mess?"
The truth is, you and I are Daughters of the Creator of the Universe. We were created to be holy and righteous. We are worth more than gold. We not only deserve to be treated with respect but we deserve to be adored and loved without boundary.
If you're a spouse remember, Jesus told husbands to love their wives like He loves the church; Jesus died an excruciating, torturous death for the church He loved it so much. If your loved one with an addiction wants to love you they need to die to themselves, become new creations in Christ and love you like the church.
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Clearly, I Had to Stop Being a Pushover
To regain control over my own happiness and not get destroyed in the storm of my husband [Related Reading: How to Get Out of the Storm] I stepped away from the chaos of his addiction. I physically left him but I made it clear I wasn't abandoning the marriage.
Every expert I saw told me I needed to make boundaries. But how can you make boundaries when you don't know what it means? Emotionally distraught in the thick of the problem I had no capacity to make boundaries. When I asked what the boundaries were supposed to be, I was told it's personal and it's different for everyone.
If you want to dig into this further, I have an eCourse on creating Godly boundaries called UnBound Me but my advice to you right now would be to write down your ideal relationship and start praying about it. How do you want to be treated? Do you totally hate it when they swear at you? That should be a boundary: "Not nice, no dice!", somebody has to leave the conversation until later.
Whatever it is, make your boundaries based on your needs and desires and not on how you think they'll react.
Once You Make Them, Don't Let Them Break Them.
Remember, being a peacemaker doesn’t mean you have to make everyone happy.
Let me say that again!
Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean you have to make everyone happy.
What's a Peacemaker?
A peacemaker is someone who brings God’s peace to others because true peace comes from a relationship with my man, Jesus. A peacemaker makes peace between God and man, not man and man. Peacemakers patiently plant and water spiritual seeds to grow good crops (People crops!).
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
I think I'm being a pushover and not a peacemaker, now what do I do?
1. Don’t stay in the home with an abuser, emotional or not. You may think you can handle it (and maybe you have been managing it) but it’s just not worth it. God doesn’t want us to live that way. Your loved one can live with a friend or family member (Or in their car for goodness sake-it's not your problem) until the physical/drug/alcohol/sexual/emotional abuse stops. If they won't go, you go. If you don't have anyone to lean on, go to a women's shelter. It's going to be hard but it's necessary. If you don't stand up for yourself and stop the abuse you're saying it's okay. If you have children this is especially important because they're looking to you to see what a healthy relationship looks like. Be Brave. Be Independent. Miss Independent.
2. Love them and forgive them. We are all sinners. God put us in our loved one's life for a reason. Plant seeds of faith by being an example of peace and forgiveness (even if you don't want to, just do it because God said you have to).
3. Be wise and realistic. Addicts need to hit their bottom… let them fall. It will hurt both of you. Help them by letting them be responsible for their own behaviours and consequences.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
4. Be gentle. A soft word turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Speak only when you can speak. Don’t scream. Don’t yell. Don’t spit out sarcasm (This is definitely my weak point, I'm a bit of a yeller/screecher). It helps to pray before you talk about something. God WILL tell them things for you- you don't always have to say it.
5. Be willing to yield to God's healing process. What does that mean? It means we need to be patient. Know when you’re hitting a wall. Yield to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to move in your loved one's situation. More prayer, less physical action.
6. Be full of mercy. Be full of grace. Be sincere. Be full of hope! Not only will you be a witness to your loved one but you're going to be one to the people around you too, "When you're thrown in the fire you will not be burned". Plus, we come out of the fire as way better people than how we went in. [Read: Wisdom is the Fruit of Fire]
7. Fight Satan with joy. Don't let him steal your life. Happiness is contagious and because addicts are not happy, hopefully, they're going to want a piece of whatever you've got!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”