Husband Beats Me, but Priest Said: “Be Patient and Humble yourself”

Father Maxim Pervozvansky speaks about where one can get strength to fight
Husband Beats Me, but Priest Said: “Be Patient and Humble yourself”
Photo: Misha Maslennikov / flickr

At twenty-five, she looks forty. She lost half of her hair. Her husband and his parents have called her names for twenty years of their life together, the softest words are a“creature” or “fool”. And the methods of “education” of the wife, adopted from his parents, consist of “hitting and violence”. [She was told] “don’t dare go to see and talk with anyone”, “if you complain to someone, I will kill you.” What is even more terrible is that this was all supported by a priest,” wrote Archpriest Maxim Pervozvansky about his student, who found herself in a situation of domestic violence within marriage.

A clergyman and founder of the Crisis Center for Young Family Assistance told Pravmir about what to do if your husband beats you, but your spiritual father says: “Be patient and humble yourself,” where to look for support and how to protect your children from domestic violence.

– Father Maxim, you told on Facebook that your student got into destructive family relationships. How did it happen?

Archpriest Maxim Pervozvansky

– She moved to Moscow from St. Petersburg. Her parents who could support her stayed there [St. Petersburg – Tr]. And then the signs began to appear, the constant manipulation of the feeling of guilt by her husband and his parents.

It began with the fact that her parents were not even invited to the wedding. It was constantly emphasized that she entered the professorial family with roots, that she should be proud that she was given such an honor. And then it gradually got worse, coarser. When she got pregnant, her husband began to humiliate her even more, called her names. Then prohibitions appeared- do not meet with girlfriends, do not tell anyone anything. Then came the beatings – everything accumulated.

She cannot even explain it to herself how it all happened: before the marriage, young men paid attention to her, she never allowed rudeness in her address… At the end, I look at this young woman in her twenties, who in two years began to look like she was forty, half of her hair fell out on her head.

It is very important not to lose social connections, not to be cut off from people, by itself. It’s good that she found the strength and came to me.

– Yes, another priest could say: “Be patient and humble yourself” …

– This is exactly what their spiritual father and their husband used to say. In general, the fact that they are trying to substantiate it from the Orthodox point of view makes it difficult to assess the destructive situation sensibly: “Can’t you tolerate it? You must obey your husband and by your patience you will be saved, and you will also save your husband.”

For 20 years now I have been repeating and repeating that a husband has no right to force his wife to obey, he has no such power.

And I also have a criterion by which I can analyze what is happening: is there any respect for another person and (or) self-respect in what is happening? If something is lacking, then it is wrong behavior.

One of the techniques often used by those who build destructive relationships is the swing. You were scolded today, and tomorrow, on the contrary, you will be surrounded by love and care. And a person in this situation loses some kind of inner confidence, she has nothing to rely on within herself. She does not understand whether this man loves her or not, because today he beats her, and tomorrow he carries her in his arms.

I saw such a cynical reception back in Soviet times – one day a man gives a girl flowers, looks at her with love, she, although she did not pay attention to him before, melts a little and she is pleased. But tomorrow for some reason he is cold and does not even look in her direction, passes her by, does not say hello. She didn’t care about him yesterday, but she begins to worry about what happened. A day later, he flirts with her again. Then suddenly: he disappears for two weeks.

It can be the same in family life: one is pushed away – one is drawn back, pushed away – drawn back, and the amplitude increases, both of the one and of the other. As a result, there is a serious psychological dependence, dependent relationship. It is when the husband beats his wife, and the wife does not report him to the police or does not try to defend herself. She cries, complains, but is not ready for any serious action.

Self-respect is not pride

– How to raise children so that they do not allow themselves to be drawn into a dependent relationship? What to pay attention to?

– To self-respect. But when I talk about self-respect, the overwhelming majority of Orthodox people do not understand what this is about. “What is self-respect, is it pride? But what about humbling yourself? ” – they immediately ask me.

But true self-respect is respect for the image of God in oneself, just as respect for another person is respect for the image of God in another person.

A person must necessarily respect themselves, relying on the words of the Savior: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

Self-love is just self-respect, not pride. If you respect yourself, then you cannot allow another person to do this to you, defiling the image of God in yourself.

– How can a person get out of a destructive relationship if he/she is already stuck in them?

– First of all, you need to understand: something is wrong with what is happening to me. Moreover, if the consequences are already manifested at the physical level, relatively speaking, hair falls out, hands shake, weight goes away. It is better, of course, to notice this as early as possible. And immediately ask for help – ask a psychologist, a priest who will not say: “If he hits you, humble yourself and endure”, or your parents. The main thing is to seek protection and support.

But ideally, you should still see the signs earlier and not allow yourself to be drawn into destructive relationships, and react correctly. What does it mean? Here’s an example: a husband comes drunk in the morning, smelling of someone else’s perfume, with traces of lipstick on his collar. If the wife starts to break dishes, scratch her husband’s face, then in the end the manipulator husband can then play on her guilt. If she doesn’t get into a fight, but just quietly packs up and leaves the house, and says: “Sorry, dear, I won’t live with you anymore,” – he will have nothing to complain about. And she won’t feel guilty.

If this is a 15-year relationship in which everything is trampled on, and there is generally nothing for a person to rely on, then only long-term rehabilitation can help.

You can get out of a relationship lasting two, three years, even five years, after realizing what is happening, and save yourself. But it is possible only when you have something to rely on: friends, parents, a priest, a psychologist, your work, social connections. And generally, when there is an understanding of where to look for protection.

Most often, destructive aggressive behavior occurs in a situation where the victim has nothing to rely on. I knew terrible cases where the husband arranged everything so that his wife had no profession, no job, no education, and all the property was registered on him. And as a result, by the time he got himself a mistress, after 20 years of family life, his wife had nothing, she found herself in complete dependence on him – material, legal.

That is, just according to the pattern of traditional society, no matter in what country, what religion, a woman obeyed her husband because she had no rights, she did not have education, social connections, legal rights. She generally could not exist separately on her own – she was either someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife. Traditional society built these large patriarchal multi-generational families, because there was no other way to survive in those conditions.

– It would seem that Christianity should change us, but in Orthodox families a situation of violence is not uncommon, why?

– Our faith, Orthodoxy, is always in opposition. It is an effort. And not something that naturally arises from the fact that we have built churches and now everyone will live differently. Unfortunately, it is nothing of the kind.

Moreover, changes in social relations and the material base have a serious impact on the understanding of the situation by believers. About 50 years ago, when a young wife came to the confessor and said that her mother-in-law interfered in the affairs of their young family, did not let them cook in the kitchen, most often the confessor would answer: “Listen to your mother-in-law. She is a grown woman, she is the hostess, therefore she determines the rules.”

And what would the confessor say 10 years ago or today? He would say, “You have to live separately.” Moreover, I know that even 20 years ago my confessor, Archimandrite, and later Archbishop Alexy (Frolov) would not have given a blessing for marriage to the young couple at all, if they did not have a place to live separately from the older generation. The situation is changing radically.

Yes, there was no other way to survive in a traditional society, except in a large multi-generational family, but this has nothing to do with Orthodoxy. Buddhists lived the same way, Muslims, but this did not fundamentally affect the nature of relations.

She left home with three children, and her husband was dismissed

– You say that you have encountered domestic violence in priestly families. But in this situation it is even harder for the wife, she has even more chances to hear “be patient and humble yourself.”

– The problem is that when it comes to priests, the modern Orthodox clergy even at the level of spiritual fathers of dioceses, they often do not know what to do with this situation, except to say: “Be patient and humble yourself.” Because they are terribly afraid of a priestly divorce, but they do not know how to rectify the situation before it becomes critical.

Therefore, I believe that in every diocese there should be not only a confessor, but also a family crisis psychologist for the clergy. I know situations that have changed for the better with the help of a competent approach.

But sometimes nothing can be done. So, for example, the family of one presbytera from a distant diocese began joyfully, she and her husband carried out educational work with inspiration. Then he began to hit her. The diocesan authorities intervened, did not tell her: “Be patient and humble yourself.” For some time, the husband was even banned from serving, which he also used later as a pretext for manipulation: “I was punished, I already suffered, I redeemed”. As a result, she left with three children, and her husband was dismissed.

– Here we say that the victim should not hear the calls “humble yourself, give in”, although, it would seem, these are normal concepts for a Christian. When does their meaning begin to distort?

– The ideal situation is when both spouses love each other, both give in, humble themselves. But when only one humbles oneself, but the other behaves differently …

When I read lectures on family life to seminarians at Sretensky Seminary, I always say: how to live when everything is fine, you will read without me. Let us talk about situations when it is difficult. For example, if your wife is going to leave you: “You earn little money, I have no [expensive] coat. I’ll leave you. ” Or what a woman should do whose husband loves her in a very peculiar way, or rather, does not love her at all.

By the way, the way out of the situation begins when the woman realizes: her husband, who is manipulating her, who hits her, does not love her. There are many secular posters on this topic. Like these: “It he beats you, it means he loves… beating, not you.” The first important task is to realize internally that violence is the evidence of dislike.

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