Sara* didn’t expect a breakthrough in her marriage after 35 years. The patterns were set – harsh words, countless wounds, mistrust and confusion.
How many times had she heard his mocking tone asking her if she was “going on a hot date” anytime she got dressed up to go out with her friends. After all this time, did she really think their relationship was going to change?
She could just put her head down and endure the dull pain a little longer. Besides, telling anyone the truth would tear away the facade they’d built and ruin their reputation in the community – if they even believed her in the first place. With a shared house and kids, she couldn’t leave easily. She didn’t know what she was going to do.
One night everything finally came to a head. After a heated argument, Jeff threw Sara out of the house and called the police. When the police arrived and assessed the situation, they decided to detain Jeff overnight in jail and set up a no-contact order between the two. Their relationship was at its worst, but it was from there that they found a way back up.
A lawyer working with Sara referred her to a support group for women experiencing harm in intimate relationships. At the same time, Jeff was invited to join ‘Home Improvement,’ a support group focused on helping men who have harmed their partners see a path to change.
Both groups are offered under MCC BC’s End Abuse program and emphasize relationship-building, self-discovery and emotional vulnerability as tools for restoration.
Each week, Sara joined 45 women in a specially arranged space where they could gather under the soft glow of candles, savour tea and chocolate, and find comfort in their shared experiences (and a box of tissues or two). The program is divided into four different groups: Understanding Abuse, the Healing Journey, Brene Brown’s Connections, and The Return Home. Each group represents a distinct phase in a journey towards healing.
Within each group, every woman is encouraged to share her unique experiences and offer support to others facing similar challenges. Guided by two skilled facilitators, the group engages in a series of discussions aimed at personal and relational growth and understanding the nature of abuse.
The men’s support group also meets once a week, creating a confidential environment where men can be accountable and take responsibility for their actions. For five months, Jeff, and men like him, come together to share, learn and support each other’s journeys, also supported by two trained facilitators.
A number of men have chosen to return to the group after completing the program because of the positive impact they’ve witnessed on their relationships.
After all they’d experienced and learned, these groups were life-changing for Sara and Jeff. It took two years of hard, vulnerable work in their End Abuse groups, but they saw breakthroughs in their 35-year marriage that they never could have imagined.
Sara recalled that when she’d gotten dressed up to go out for her final night of the women’s support group, Jeff commented as she was leaving, “You look beautiful.” She could see how far he’d come.
Sara had worked to gradually rebuild her confidence and to value herself. Reflecting on her time in the support group, she shared, “Self-worth and self-love are the most precious gifts we can allow ourselves … [this program] is the best program I’ve ever taken for self-empowerment.”
As part of her efforts to process the feelings she had encountered along the journey, Sara wrote a poem and shared it in hope that it will reach and help those experiencing abuse:
To believe in oneself again feels uplifting,
Enlightening and refreshing.
It encourages us forward with faith.
It jolts up back to our innocence:
A time before injustices, betrayals, and abuses.
A time when everyone and everything around us was good.
Again, we venture out into the world
With our hearts bearing our scars
And our heads hopeful
For love and acceptance.
Sara, participant in the MCC BC End Abuse women’s group
The MCC B.C. End Abuse program makes it possible for couples like Sara and Jeff to access the support groups they need to heal and learn how to build healthy relationships
* Names have been changed due to the sensitive nature of this program and out of the couple’s request for anonymity
If you or someone you know is in a harmful relationship and would like to have a fully confidential conversation, please reach out to us; please contact the MCC BC End Abuse program coordinators by email ([email protected]) or by phone (604.850.6639).
A three-day Understanding Abuse training hosted by the MCC BC End Abuse Program will be held at the MCC BC offices March 8 – 10.
This article first appeared on mcc.org and is re-posted here by permission.