What to do With Emotional Abandonment — By Megan Cox

I remember being so hurt and angry when so many of my friends and family “ghosted” me after I came back to the states with my four beautiful babies. It seemed as though I had four categories of people, in my life:

  1. Those who felt they were doing God’s will by trying to get me to go back to my abusive husband. (danger! danger!)
  2. Those who completely abandoned me or withdrew
  3. Those who persecuted me through emails, phone calls and gossip, anywhere and everywhere on the spectrum from mild concern to harsh, public criticism.
  4. Those (and there were exactly two people in category number 4 for me) who were telling me that I was doing the right thing and that I would eventually get through this nightmare.

Category number two was, perhaps, the most painful. There were people who knew me — I mean really knew me — who simply stopped talking to me . . . people who did not want to even see my face . . . people who moved forward with life and wanted nothing to do with my amazing children and myself. It was terrible-lonely. And I would not wish it upon my greatest enemies. In fact, I have finally reached a point where I am happy for all of the people for whom that did not happen — my own family, my own church, my ex husband and his family. I felt like they bonded over their avoidance of me. But, they had each other and I am glad. Because even for all they put me through, I would never want them to be as alone as I felt during those first few years.

I don’t know how many times one of our mamas has shared a similar experience. Losing the trust of your family, your core family, and having them choose not to believe you and your own experience and what happened in your own home makes the mind want to break. There is no other way for me to describe it. And then taking away the friends of the victim removes that last layer of healthy security that each person needs. None of it makes sense. There is a definite cognitive dissonance surrounding the fact that you had friends and support and . . . then you did not. There was no way for me to wrap my mind around this phenomenon. And it happens all the time. Emotional abandonment. So many of our mamas face this. It hurts me to even think about it.

Since being free for seven years now, I have spent a lot of time in prayer, in every book I could get my hands on, in therapy and ministering to our mamas. I have heard from those friends who withdrew from me now. Many, many of them. It is as though they look at my life and think, “Oh. She’s moved on and she is a normal person with a normal family and a normal life. She doesn’t seem to be like the monster-sinner-narcissist-unbeliever (fill in your own ugliness) she was described to be! Huh.” It has been so strange. But, in talking with some of these people, I have discovered that my “rotten first draft” of what I believed they were thinking (term adapted from Anne Lamont . . . only she doesn’t say “rotten”) was that everyone was abusive because that was what I was used to. Everything was my fault; I caused all the pain; I was someone to stay away from. But, that was not what everyone was thinking. The truth revealed itself, once I had revised my draft several times and spoken to many people who had originally kept their distance. And I have some clarity. So, here it is:

Yes, there are people out there who really and truly believe that it is their job to get you to go back to your abusive spouse. They believe this — and stand on it as God’s solid truth. They believe they are doing a good thing. And they will even try to “love you” right back into abuse, unwittingly. They don’t get it. That’s OK.

Yes, there are people who really and truly want to hurt you. They never liked you, in the first place, or you hurt them in some way (in the past) and they see this opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of hating you. Its awful. Its sinful. It is anti-Jesus. And crazy-unhealthy. These people are not your friends. They are unhealthy and they need therapy. Avoidance is key here.

However, there are people who withdrew from you for other reasons:

  1. They don’t know how to handle your heavy stuff. And they just don’t have the bandwidth! They have families, they have jobs . . . and we all get really messy sometimes. I know I do! It hurts because when a victim of abuse leaves her abuser, she lacks the emotional, physical and spiritual tools she needs to land on her feet. She is looking around and people she thought she could trust just step away. They don’t know what to do, either. We can’t blame them for that. They simply don’t have it in them. It still hurts.
  2. They may have been told so much drama and gossip by others that they just don’t want to be a part of it. They step away from you AND they also step away from those who are stirring up the drama. For them, their mantra is “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
  3. They are afraid. They don’t want to be ostracized like you have been. David and I have people, in our lives right now this very minute, who found that it was emotionally easier to take the side of the abuser than to find themselves in the mud and the minority with us. They don’t want the same thing to happen to THEM that happened to YOU. They cannot carry on a friendship with you AND the abuser at the same time . . . and they are much more afraid of the abuser than they are you. Because you won’t smear them; you won’t hurt them; you won’t try to destroy them. But they have seen what happens when you cross the abuser . . . and they don’t want to go through that. So, it is a loss.

In fact, it is all a loss. While I can understand the reasoning and have all the compassion in the world for those who withdrew from us when we needed it most, it was still a loss for us. And it had to be grieved. But, here’s the good news: There are golden people, in your midst, who do not think that your story is too awful, too heavy or too burdensome.  They are out there! I know that I don’t think that your story is too much. I know that Give Her Wings doesn’t. I know there are more than a few folks who can take it and help to a certain extent. But, I know that Jesus never, ever ever ever thinks that your story is too heavy a burden to hear. And He will never abandon you. The rest of us . . . we’re human. But He . . . He is the Master Counselor, the God who Sees, the Provider of everything. He is there, sister. He is there. And it is our joy, as a ministry, to be used by Him where and when we can. And we do! And nothing makes me happier.

So, we can find some healing in knowing that not all is for spite. But, some of it is . . . and I am sad for those people. Because they are missing out on YOU. They don’t get to take this journey with you and your family and grow with you and learn from you and be blessed when you rise up again. It is your loss, I know. But, really . . . it is their loss.

Find the golden people.

Megan Cox is the Founder of Give Her Wings, Inc., and has written “Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse.” She has an MAR in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in crisis response with the AACC.

3 Replies to “What to do With Emotional Abandonment — By Megan Cox”

  1. Oh, Megan. This is all very familiar and something I have been through in the last couple of years, although through very different circumstances. Abandonment, rejection and shunning, both by some close friends and by those I had considered ‘dear aquaintances’.
    Please let me share – I hope I do not come off as offending anyone. My life situation is different, but the pain is similar.
    Coming from a secularl liberal Northern European country, divorce is so commn here it is not a taboo at all – not even in churches. Quite the contrary: churches are full of support groups for divorced people, single mothers, and similar situations: being divorced is so normal that it almost is seen as a ‘badge of honor’ – a sign that you’re a mature person and have experienced life… and, far from being shunned or disapproved, there is an pouring out of love, compassion and support for anyone divorced, and encouragement to ‘go n with your life’, to meet a new partner and re-marry.
    I see it time and time again.. divorced women are celebrated, supported, and very often, they are re-married within a couple of years… That is completely normal, and widely accepted.

    What the churches do not so much care for and invest in… are the single, never-married women (and men). Our pain goes totally unrecognized, and if one dares to mention it, she is seen as a weak, bitter, less-than, unstable, crazy woman etc.. (I am sure you’re familiar with the drill.) It is very hard to find compassion in that situation -people and churches just do not want to hear that type of pain. The excrutiating pain of being abandoned and rejected again and again, when you thought God had shown you your potential spouse… going through the same ridicule and shame again and again, and blamed for it – very few people are willing to offer any comapssion or empathy. That a single never married woman even longs for marriage, is seen as odd, unnatural, and almost a cardinal sin – ‘Don’t seek marriage, seek the Lord, and think of all the other stuff you can focus on’ (hah!) Singles do not get the same support and love that divorced folks get – and the worst is, often as a single woman I have been the shoulder to cry on, when somene else was going through a divorce… and then I get the ‘children card’ shown at my face, telling me that I am less than, because, I cannot show of having kids..!

    I know many women who have been through horrific divorces, in my country and elsewhere – and I know what you have been through is not a picnic. It however seems to propel many women into a fruitful, blessed life: I know of so many who, after marrying a narcissistic abuser and then divorcing him, found a wonderful ministry, wrote a book, recorded music albums etc… and all that within a few years – all while many of singles are still suffering, and the pain is not getting any less with the time. If anything, it does get worse – to see others marrying for the second, third, or fourth time… and enjoying their children and ministries.
    And there is no need to mention the ‘Prodigal son’s brother’: I do not consider myself being more holy or deserving, because I am unmarried. I have made many other mistakes in my life, but they did not result in having children… ! Many of us singles could have married a wrong man, but we either were not attracted, or God clearly showed us that it wasn’t a good idea. Now, we are left alone and seen as the complicated, difficult, unstable etc… women..

    As someone who had lived abroad in missions for years and then came back to finalize my formal uni education, I have been severely hit by the grief of being alone – and the disappointments have taken their toll on my health, caused delays in my studies, and, when people saw how devastated I was, they turned their back on me just like you described: and telling me I was bitter, needed psychiatric evaluation, (!) was unreliable, emotionally unstable.. (all because I was no longer functioning as my best self but was suffering from unwanted singleness..) People I knew and enjoyed interactin with, even at a very intimate level, dropped me from their radar and told me off, when I no longer seeme that strong, confident and succesful woman.. When I suffered and needed support, I was ignored and shunned, and even lost ministry connections through gossip… all in all, I became the Persona Non Grata!

    Divorced women would not be treated that way, but single women are. I have often told the Lord that I am thankful he has spared me the pain of an abusive marriage, but if that was the only way to be blessed and experience the abundant life, I would have been willing to pay that price. Divorce is hard, but so is years and years of rejection and loneliness as a single woman…

    My tip to all you who have been through divorce: do not look upon us singles and think that we have it easy. often the opposite is true. Please try to show compassion to us as well, and use your God-given strength to pray and minister to us abandoned, lonely singles, who are so often sidelined and seen as a threat.
    Blessings to you this coming year! Love, NG

  2. Yes Megan, this is very true. I am coming up on four years since leaving my abusive spouse. I have definitely found those golden people! I thank God for them every day. But it was a bit of a process because there were people in my life who I thought were golden people, they stepped up at the beginning, offered friendship & support. But then as time went by, they started avoiding me, some sooner than others. They stopped calling me with invitations or to check on me. I’d call or text & they’d explain they were busy, ask for a rain check then never follow through as promised. This is tough, I’d rather have faced rejection from them right from the beginning. So my learning curve this past year is to realize these people had actually abandoned me & accept they were gone, probably due to as you said a “lack of bandwidth”.
    There’s also another group of people I have encountered. I call them “emotional vampires” who somehow found me & were able to gain control of me through manipulative relationships. They like to own other people & wreak havoc emotionally. Recognizing them & extracting them from my life was also part of my learning curve last year!
    So now my life has a lot less friends in it, but those friends are true, and definitely golden. I thank God for His loving care over me these past four years, & for the lessons I’ve learned about people & friendship.

  3. For all of the excuses these kinds of people have, I still don’t buy it (apart from the genuinely deceived that think it’s Gods will for a wife to return to an abusive husband). The bible is so simple, Jesus words are so simple, He makes it very clear what it means to be His follower. If they can’t follow the simple, basic precepts of what it means to be a Christian (love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself) then they simply aren’t one. They are cowards.

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