When Mr. Right Is Mr. Wrong

Monument to Cervantes (statues of Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza) by Lorenzo Valera (1930), Madrid, Spain, Author/Source Luis Garcia (“Zaqarbal”) (PD)

“He thought that every windmill was a giant.  That’s insane.  But, thinking that they might be… Well, all the best minds used to think the world was flat.  But, what if it isn’t?  It might be round.”

They Might Be Giants, lead character commenting on Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes in his great classic Don Quixote celebrates the individual, and the unique vision that can see beyond the limitations of this material world.

We get the phrase “tilting at windmills” (pointlessly assailing imagined foes) from the scene where Don Quixote – an elderly gentleman who believes he has become a knight – mistakes certain windmills for giants.

On the page, this is laudatory.  We are elevated by the call to idealism.  But in practice – especially where love and romance are concerned – this approach has serious flaws.  In fact, it can be downright dangerous for abuse victims.

Fixing Mr. Right

We meet someone.  We like his appearance or his sense of humor [1].  Whatever the attraction, whether he is a loner or the center of attention, we find ourselves drawn to him.  At long last, we have found Mr. Right.

We may, on some level, notice in the early stages of romance that there are problems in store.  But we dismiss those.  So he drinks a little.  OK, more than a little.  We tell ourselves he has his reasons.  We are sure we can “fix” him.

In reality, the problems may be precisely what we find appealing.  Reminiscent of problems in our family of origin, they feel “familiar” – as if we had met this man before.  We convince ourselves that fate has selected him for us.

We determine to defend him against the world.

If Only

What women often see in their beloved is the man he might be.  We fall so deeply in love with that man the thought of leaving him, of abandoning our dreams (especially dreams in which we have invested precious years of our lives), is unbearable.

We tell ourselves he will change.  He tells us he wants to change.  But he takes no steps in that direction.  And the problems only get worse.

If only, he didn’t drink.  If only, he didn’t cheat on us.  If only, he didn’t gamble.  If only, he didn’t use meth.  If only, he could keep a job.  If only, he didn’t hit us.  Then he’d be perfect.

They Might Be Giants

There were giants on the earth in those days…” (Gen. 6: 4).

They might be giants, these abusive and addicted men we love.  But they are not.  They might be heroes, we argue.  But they are not.  Our pain is living proof of that.

We believe the depth of our pain reflects the depth of our love.  That our relationship gives life meaning.

But love is not intended to be painful –  certainly not painful as the result of abuse by our beloved (or his own self-abuse).  Our lives had meaning in God’s eyes before the relationship began.  They will have meaning even after it ends.

We can tell ourselves that these men were hurt as children; that they have been mistreated by the world; that they are misunderstood.  We can tell ourselves that, deep down, they love us; that we deserve the lies, the cheating, the beatings, and so on.

They may have been hurt as children.  So, of course, were we.  All the rest is untrue.  None of it is an excuse for abuse.  Until we realize that –  and recognize Mr. Wrong for who he is  –  we will go on tilting at windmills.

[1]  This post could easily be redirected to men who suffer from the abuse and/or addiction of the women they love.



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

26 responses to “When Mr. Right Is Mr. Wrong

  1. Yes. My own pattern is so clear (in hindsight, of course). I enabled my abusers. When I finally got permission to say “No, I won’t do that.” and “No, I don’t want you to do that.” things started to get better. And I needed someone to GIVE ME PERMISSION to say it. “No” is a very powerful word.

    To anyone out there who might need it, I give you permission to say “no.” It is OK to say it, use it whenever you get that icky feeling that you are being asked or expected to do or be something that hurts.

    • That’s a harsh judgment. If they had not been abusers, you would not have been abused. No “enabling” necessary.

      Abuse victims are taught to ignore that icky feeling. Our boundaries are routinely violated, and our needs ignored. This happens so frequently we begin to feel we need permission even to defend ourselves.

      Remember, also, that children are naturally egocentric. Both as children and as victims, we assume responsibility for actions outside our control and blame ourselves for the evil inflicted on us. As children, that’s actually a protective measure. It assures that we can face a highly threatening world in the belief there are adults who will protect us. That belief is, of course, sadly mistaken in cases of abuse.

      The important thing is that we can restore boundaries, and learn the necessary skills to secure them. As adults, we have the power over our lives we lacked as children. Our “no” at last has clout.

  2. I think for many people who have been abused, they learn to see the abuse that they have suffered as their ‘fault’ and not the fault of their abuser. So when they meet an abusive partner, the pattern is somehow played out again in their adult lives. At a loss as to what to do to fix the problem when they are children, clinging to the abuser, loving the abuser and wanting to appease the abuser, they repeat patterns learned as youngsters in adulthood. It becomes a quest to ‘fix’ the ‘loved one’ by continuing to see abusive behaviour as something they deserve and need to put right in order to retain their love. It can be a difficult lesson to un-learn those lessons learned in childhood.

    It might seem simple to those who have not been abused to see those who stick with an abusive partner as weak and foolish – ‘why don’t they leave?’ But as you rightly say,until we can recognise this behaviour for what it is, we cannot move forward. This is such an important lesson about love which comes from a very loving place, dear Anna.

    • I agree completely. The pattern set in childhood carries over into adulthood. But it is not set in stone. There is hope. Difficult though change may be, we can break the chains that bind us. ❤

  3. Have a very nice week dear
    Kisses back to yo

  4. HopeGlenn

    I like the thought of your comment saying the article can be directed at men being abused by women. I understand your thoughts on that. Yet, I as a woman can only write from a perspective as a woman with no apologies. I am a woman and realistically can understand any abuse, yet only speak about the effects and such from my place as a woman. And when I talk about it, I have stopped apologizing for not being able to reference how a man feels or deals with it. I guess I have stopped trying to be politically correct, which is impossible to do.

    As abuse is abuse is abuse and nothing changes that..it does have alterations when it is man/woman, woman/woman, man/man and on and on. Cultural dynamics views each differently. Some speak up and some do not. Some find it easier to speak and some find it harder, due to norms of what our society says is an allowed relationship.
    I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the way women enter and view relationships, such as this one. I wonder though do men approach it from the same perspective?

    Women enter believing their love can transform, make them better and women are taught, which comes a belief to stand by their man. Do men operate the same? Is that the knight in shining armour ideal?


    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You have every right to express your views without apology. Having been abused, myself, I, too, tend to view abuse from the female perspective. This post was not though meant to be “politically correct”. I have personally known men who were abuse victims.

      Abuse tends to manifest differently in men and women, as you suggest. The children from homes in which violence was present are many times more likely to recreate that setting as adults. The boys who were beaten (or saw their mothers beaten) tend to grow into abusers; the girls tend to choose abusive partners. This is not a hard and fast rule, of course. It is merely a generalization. The dynamic in the family of origin (the favored child v. the “bad see”), also, plays a role. But we gravitate toward what is familiar.

      The majority of women caught in a situation of domestic abuse feel enormous shame. They have been systematically deprived by their abusers of financial independence, emotional support, and self-esteem. Nonetheless, they blame themselves.

      The men who are beaten and ridiculed by their partners feel the same shame. Men may have chosen the very partners who abuse them in an effort to “rescue”. But society expects men to be strong and stoic. The “humorous” image of a man being scolded and/or cuckolded by his wife dates as far back as the Middle Ages.

      These days we take allegations of child sex abuse seriously. Some women, however, make false allegations in the context of custody disputes. A man’s reputation can be forever tarnished by such allegations. In fact, he may be imprisoned as a result.

      • HopeGlenn

        In response to the last part of your reply…

        many women have their children turned against them and stolen from them and face the same tarnishing of reputations and honor..having your children believe you are damaged and deserved to be shunned, is a much greater burden to carry then my social reputation.

        Women also in large numbers are facing imprisonment for attempting to claim their children back from the abuser and/or bringing claims against the abuser.

        Men also make false allegations of sexual abuse also and have a much higher rate of getting a woman;s children taken from her and given to the abuser. A woman reacting in a very normal way to abuse is seen as inappropriate. We are told to bear it with grace..Having your creations..those you gave life to..taken from you and turned against you to go to the abuser is life crushing..many mothers must sit by and watch. If we do anything with emotion it only increases our separation from our children. We are still in the walking on eggshells just as in our marriages. Most of us must sit and watch our children’s lives destroyed because of lies..My point of it being impossible to be politically correct is illustrated in the response. As one explains we are attempting to make sure all the bases are covered and no one is offended. It is impossible and foolish to be politically correct. I as a woman can only speak from that platform. me attempting to speak from a man’s view is impossible. Nor should I try it. I have compassion and empathy for another. Yet by being politically correct I diminish my own experience and say it is nothing cause..someone had it happen too or worse.

      • You make some very valid points. Violent parents are more likely than non-violent parents to seek exclusive custody http://www.apa.org/pi/viol&fam.html and are successful some 70% of the time http://aja.ncsc.dni.us

  5. You have so beautifully and compassionately captured the essence of
    “fixer-uppers”….everything you share resonates…lessons learned the hard way…thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. …so very true and sad, in some ways.

  7. Yes I agree with you Anna, often when we are abused blame ourselves, it must be our fault if things are not right.

    But there is a way Anna that can change Mr wrong or Mrs wrong to Mr right or Mrs right and that is when they are in Jesus Christ and walk in The Fruit of The Spirit.

    Christian Love and Blessings – Anne.

  8. Thank you, Anna.

    Very insightful and always many things to glean from.

    Your brother

  9. Anna, I find this post very revealing. I am guessing that the most common form of spousal abuse is emotional. It made me wonder if it is possible to provide sufficient legal evidence of emotional abuse in a court of law.

    My take from your post is that abusers hardly ever change. Should we as Christians encourage people in abusive relationships to “run” at the first instance or pursue other avenues to resolve the problem?

    • Domestic violence follows a pattern. The abuser harms the victim, then apologizes, and promises never to do it again. He is forgiven, and the cycle repeats itself endlessly, with the level of violence progressively rising. The ultimate outcome for the victim is death.

      Emotional abuse accompanies this. The victim’s judgment is criticized, and her confidence eroded. The victim is increasingly isolated from family and friends. Her activities are restricted, and her access to funds eliminated. The lives of her children are likely to be threatened.

      The standard in criminal cases is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Statutes define the elements of the crime. These vary from state to state. Federally, however, misdemeanor domestic violence requires that an intimate partner, parent, or guardian of the victim use or attempt to use physical force or threaten to use a deadly weapon.

      As Christians, we should urge those in abusive relationships to save themselves and their children while there is still time. This may, however, be a process for victims. It is a decision only victims can make. There are shelters available, but openings can be scarce.

      I hope that answers your questions. I wrote more extensively about the morality of this in a 4-part series called “Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture”. It starts here: https://avoicereclaimed.com/2015/09/13/christian-marriage-and-the-misuse-of-scripture-part-1-satans-lies/ .

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