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Moving Toward, Not Running Away

When it comes to abusive relationships, it’s inevitable that at some point we reach a breaking point and realize change is necessary. What form that change may take varies from person to person, situation to situation, but eventually the toxic becomes intolerable. Something has to give, and it shouldn’t have to be the giving up of yourself.

Perhaps you’ve begun asking that crucial question, should I stay in this situation or should I finally admit it’s not going to work? This is a purely individual decision, of course—and I realize it’s not as easy as a mere should I stay or should I go? So many other factors come into play—such as safety considerations, financial worries, concerns about the children or pets or the house or the fleeting (yet often returning) hope/obsession, what if he changes and I miss out on something good?

Remember that true change comes from the heart and must be initiated by the perpetrator, not through any actions or convincing from you. This conversion must be major—like the Road to Damascus experience of St. Paul—and it takes both utmost humility and a true openness to the graces of Christ. A victim of intimate partner violence should never continue to tolerate abusive treatment simply for the hope of change. In the rare instances that change actually does happen, each individual in the relationship will need to heal from the toxic damage of abuse before they can even think about coming together again to try to repair the immense destruction perpetrated within the coupleship.

If you’ve had to face this type of life-changing decision, one important mindset to consider is to realize that you’re not running away from your relationship, but are actually moving toward something—mainly a reinvigorated, healthy and stable life.

It’s true that stability and healing won’t happen immediately, but it will happen. Remaining on a Christ-centered path always leads to a glorious resurrection. One of the key ways to re-center yourself and encourage genuine healing is through daily prayer and meditation. Silent and peaceful prayer not only confers spiritual graces, but it also calms the nervous system and helps reset the mind. Scott Hahn, from his book Signs of Life, states:

There are many good, natural reasons to take up prayer. Physiologists recognize that they relax our bodies, reduce our stress levels, and unfurrow our brows. They also burn durable neural pathways … Even amid the most extraordinary circumstances, we can escape to God, we can endure, and we can prevail, using the most ordinary means of prayer. It is a very good thing if all we need to do is touch a bead … in order to turn our thoughts to God, because we may come to moments when that’s all we can do. (Scott Hahn, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots)

Healing is a messy process, and it isn’t a day-to-day thing—it’s an hour-by-hour, even minute-to-minute process.

Embrace the minute you’re in.

Take your time. Turn to healing practices to steady your soul. Seek prayer, meditation, self-care and self-love. Take the time to rediscover yourself. Erase the toxins in your life—all of them. Create the space to become you again. But go slow, because this is a slow process.

It’s important to maintain the mindset of moving toward rather than running away in order to help you realize the true focus of your decisions as you seek healing and restoration. Remember that you aren’t giving up on your relationship—despite what your (ex) partner may try to claim—but instead are embracing your true self, imago Dei—made in the resplendent image of God. You’re respecting your dignity and inherent God-given worth. You’re honoring the truth that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and should be treated as such. You deserve to be loved as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). By no longer tolerating abusive treatment you’re moving toward that reality and allowing yourself to step into the light of a personal resurrection.

In the Song of Songs the bride joyfully cries to her beloved Bridegroom: Draw me in your footsteps, let us run! (Song of Songs 1:4) Let us all run toward Jesus, our Bridegroom and Divine Physician, who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3).

Copyright 2024, Jenny duBay

As a domestic abuser survivor, advocate, and author, Jenny duBay knows what a huge impact intimate partner violence (IPV) has on an individual. She founded Create Soul Space to help cultivate awareness of domestic violence within a Catholic setting. Jenny is associated with Catholics for Family Peace and works with various organizations within the Catholic Church to spiritually support victims and survivors of domestic violence. Author of the Create Soul Space and Prodigal Parishioner blogs, Jenny also writes for Missio Dei along with various other Catholic publications. Her book, Don't Plant Your Seeds Among Thorns: A Catholic Guide to Recognizing and Healing from Domestic Abuse, is available on Amazon and through her website at https://www.createsoulspace.net.

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