Part 2 of Leslie Vernick’s, The Emotionally Destructive Relationshipis entitled, “Stopping It.” This section looks at first steps to stopping the destruction. Probably the biggest step is believing that there are choices and options. Most people in this situation feel that they have no options other than accept or die. Since none of the options will likely immediately place us in a fabulous situation, we feel that we have no choice but to accept what is happening to us. So, what can a trapped person do? Chapter 6 explores the ways to reclaim the truth and to name it for self and other. Usually destructive relationships contain all sorts of garbage half-truths, denials, etc. By bringing what has been hidden into the light, one can begin to weed truth from falsehood. In this chapter Leslie does a nice job with an excursis on headship and submission. She discusses how to respect authority but not the behavior as well as underlines the problem of those in authority who refuse to place themselves under any authority when faced with their own sin.
Chapter 7 covers the issue of choice and reminds the reader that they still exist. She addresses matters where people feel they must agree with others even when they feel it not right to do so. Choices a person has? To not assume responsibility for others; to work on and be willing to define one’s own problem and take responsibility for one’s own unhealthy patterns (e.g., allowing others to walk over you); to offer another view (in love) to counter a distorted view of the situation.
Chapter 8 gives guidance on how to speak up. Many people get caught between saying nothing or blowing up and being abusive in their attempt to uncover abuse. Leslie talks about how and when to speak up (use planning–many do this impulsively, seek a mutually good time, watch body language and tone, listen to the other’s perspective). Leslie gives several examples which show how to confront on a topic and yet be open, kind, and respectful of the other. Again, too often, we wait and wait and then blow. Of course, it can also help when the confronting person admits their own failings first. This requires that we do our homework first. Finally, in chapter 9, Leslie discusses how to be a “champion of peace” even while standing up and speaking out about someone’s wrong. First she reminds the reader why we stand up against those things that hurt us. She reminds us that standing up is standing up, “for something bigger than just our own feelings. We are standing up for goodness, truth, righteousness, and peace.” (p. 162) Then she discusses the need to “step back”–to create space to heal, to invite healing and reintroduction to a new relationship to the abusive person, to provide “the gift of consequences”, and to wait in love. She then ends this section about testing and evaluating repentance in the other.
Leslie does a nice job teaching how to practically stop a destructive pattern, own up to one’s own part in that, live in the light of truth and test the fruit of repentance, all in love. Too often, folks who finally get up the nerve to set limits refuse to even allow the abusive person to repent. Now, I understand that some abuse and some abusers have done too much to allow the relationship to continue. However, passivity tends to breed reactivity. Sooner action may encourage the healing and restoration.