Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt
She sat on the very edge of the couch, her knees clamped together, arms crossed, hands clenched, neck tense and chin tucked against her collar. Her eyes made me think of the old “deer-in-the-headlights” description of paralyzed fear.
Her husband took his place dead center, legs spread, arms stretched across the back of the sofa. His face telegraphed his complete confidence that he was the winner, always. He looked at me with clear challenge in his eyes. A big man, but not fat, he seemed to suck all the air out of the room.
“So, whichever one of you is going to get us started, I’d like you to tell me why you’re here today,” I said. It was my usual opening statement. As I had guessed, he jumped right in, giving her a quick “I’m in charge” glance.
“My wife (he said it with such an air of ownership) thinks we need counseling. I told her I’d come today to help you set her straight. We don’t need counseling. She just needs to submit to my authority and quit trying to undermine me, and everything will be fine.”
She was tiny, maybe five feet tall, maybe 100 pounds. Delicate bones, elegant facial features, she was a beauty–except that she was locked up with fear. Everything about her screamed out for help.
“Okay, Melissa, what would you like to say?” I asked.
“She doesn’t have to say anything. She knows I’m right. I preach to her every day right from the Bible about how I’m the boss and she just needs to obey me.”
By this time, I was doing a slow simmer that I struggled to keep from showing. This was not the first time I’d met with a couple like they were. Wife scared, locked down tight, and near tears. Husband asserting what he saw as his God-given right to be a jerk. Excuse me. To be an authority.
“So let me understand, Eric. You’re the boss, and she’s your–what–servant? Employee? Child? What are her biblically-given responsibilities?”
“Same as any married woman. You married? Then you ought to know.”
“Why don’t you tell me, from your own viewpoint, what you mean?”
“Respect. Obedience. Follow orders. Do as she’s told. Don’t buck me. Don’t question my authority, or there will be consequences.”
“Really. What kind of consequences,Eric?”
“If she’s going to act like a child, she gets treated like a child. I lock her in the bedroom. She can come out when she apologizes and promises to behave.”
“Hmmm. And how long will you keep her in there if she doesn’t give in to you?”
Melissa now had fat tears rolling down her cheeks. She blushed fiercely, and I knew the answer to my question. But I waited.
“I take care of business after a day goes by. She knows what she’s going to get, and I give it to her. I wouldn’t have to if she would just do what she’s supposed to do.”
“Melissa, do you agree with this kind of treatment? Are you living this way willingly?”
“She doesn’t get a say. She’s not the boss. I make the rules, she follows them.”
Well. I won’t tell you the rest of that session because it’s so predictable. Several months later, Melissa came back alone. She looked worn, tired, and had a big fading bruise around one eye.
“I’ve left him. I’m in a safe house. He doesn’t know where I am. What do I do next? I’m sick of being locked up in my own house, hit, yelled at. I’m done. Help me. What do I do next?”
And it was my privilege to help this beautiful young woman unlock all the chains and set her free from a man who had no idea what the Bible says about the way a man is supposed to love his wife. She’s doing fine now.
I don’t know how he’s doing.