Daughter of the Kings of Kings,

If you have found yourself in a toxic relationship, it is likely a surprise to you.  You likely thought you were marrying Prince Charming – after all, he was so wonderful when you were dating.  But things quickly changed after you said “I do.”  And his cruelty and lack of caring took you by surprise.  You may have been praying for your Prince Charming to return, that your relationship would go back to the way it was, and that God would “zap” him into being the good man you thought you were marrying.

Can I tell you something that you need to know? There is a playbook that abusers follow in every romantic relationship.  Even before the relationship begins, an abuser will focus on a target, much like a predator focuses on a prey.  Abusers lack the qualities that you have.  Women who are kind, gracious, generous, giving, forgiving, smart, lovely, and who invest themselves in relationships are the kind of women that abusers target.  An abuser knows that these women will invest far more in a relationship than he will, and that these women will forgive his many transgressions that he has planned from the beginning.  You see, abusers are users and liars.  An abuser will pick a person for what that person can do for them, not because they actually care about another person.  In the mind of an abuser, people are objects to be used, not treasures to be cherished.

After they have identified a target, an abuser will be relentless in his efforts to win her affections and to get her emotionally (and financially) attached to him.  He will be effusive in his compliments, he will be lavish in his gifts, he will wine and dine her, he will turn himself into Romeo, and he won’t take “no” for an answer. But this is all a show.  He pretends to be someone else – a loving, kind, romantic, good man – to get her to fall in love.  But, none of it is real.  And so, she will fall in love with a person that never existed.  A person he pretended to be. This stage of a romantic relationship with an abuser is called the “love bombing phase.”

After he has her hooked, he will suggest that they get married, or buy a house together, or go into business together, or have a child together.  Anything to solidify the relationship before she discovers who she is really with.  He needs to set his claws into her, so that it is extremely difficult for her to escape.  Once she is legally and financially entangled with him, he knows it will be hard for her to leave. But once she has a child with him, it will be darn near impossible.  That is why I call a child with an abuser an “anchor baby” – as a mother will do anything in her power to try to stay for the sake of her child. So, after the big event, the real person behind the mask is revealed.  Most of the time, the monster appears quite suddenly, because the abuser is relieved he no longer has to pretend to be Mr. Nice Guy.  One woman told me her husband changed on the plane on the way to their honeymoon.  Whether it takes a while, or it takes place more quickly, this next phase is characterized by control and power over his target.  The abuse can take many forms, but it always escalates as time goes on, as boundary after boundary is violated. This stage of a romantic relationship with an abuser is called the “devaluation phase.”

Women stay in the devaluation phase, sometimes for decades, hoping and praying that Prince Charming will return.  But once an abuser moves into the next phase, he does not go back.  Commonly, either the abuser will have so much contempt for his once-revered target that he will file for divorce (and usually has another woman waiting in the wings), or his wife will determine that she can no longer protect her children, and files for divorce for the survival of herself and her kids.   At this point, the abuser will discard his wife like an old, broken kitchen appliance and replace her with a shiny new one almost immediately. The wife is completely taken aback by the uncaring attitude of the husband she has put through school, whose career she supported, and/or whose children she bore.  But, the abuser has no further use for her, and therefore, she has no value to him. His wife finally realizes that he never really loved her, and the Prince Charming she fell in love with never actually existed.  This stage of a romantic relationship with an abuser is called the “discard phase.”

If you are in, or have been in, a romantic relationship with a toxic person, you have been in at least one of these phases.  Please know that your worth and value have nothing to do with how your abuser treated you.  And please know that nothing you could have done would have saved your marriage. All relationships with an abuser end badly.

Recovering and healing from a toxic relationship takes time.  But the first step is realizing what you have been dealing with. It is a gut-wrenching day when a woman recognizes that her husband was a predator looking for prey. It is a great betrayal. But this truth is a necessary first step in the healing process. Once she realizes that she was never the problem, she can put away the guilt and shame, and embrace the overwhelming love that God has for her as one of His own beloved daughters.

Beloved, let the warmth of God’s love pour over you. Know that you are loved, cherished, treasured, and adored.

Warmly, Charlene Quint