Abused Wife Syndrome

No, this is not really about abused wives.  But I had a client use that phrase recently in describing his repeated return to the work of his professional training (yes, one more dentist).  In his mind, there was a strikingly similar pattern.  He would break away for something more rewarding, experience a challenge or setback, and return to the work he despised yet knowing it was where he could make the most predictable income.

Last night Joanne and I went to see the new Steve Carell movie, Get Smart.  In one poignant scene Anne Hathaway is afraid she is going to get sent back to a desk job, rather than being a field agent.  She moans and says, “Yes, I can imagine that, just like I can imagine scraping a cheese grater across my forehead.” 

Do you do your work only because of the paycheck you get?  Do you long to leave for something more enjoyable?  Have you tried another path only to return to what is more familiar?  Unfortunately, wives, dogs, and children often get trapped in these patterns of going back to negative and abusive situations.  The emotions and self-esteem issues there may be complicated and confusing.  However, the stakes are dramatically lessened with a “job.”  A job should not be the definition of “who” or “what” you are.  You can leave today and not change the overall purpose or direction of your life.  Your “Calling” is a much larger concept than what you do daily to create income.  No divorce is needed to walk away and into a more fulfilling and rewarding type of work.  

And you can leave the cheese grater in the cupboard.


“The tragedy of a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives.”  — Henry David Thoreau

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20 Responses to “Abused Wife Syndrome”

  1. Anita Says:

    Oh my! Imagine my surprise when I saw the title of this article. Just last week I was referring to my current job situation as being like an abusive relationship. In this case, it literally refers to how I continue to accept poor treatment because of the occasional acknowlegements/treats/bonuses/ that cause me to forget the everyday difficulties. What a slap on the back of the head and reminder that it is time to make my move. Thank you.

  2. lisa Says:

    This is such a scary economy or is that just an excuse?

  3. Terri Camp Says:

    That is so right! When I think about choosing stability over freedom it makes me want to cringe. As a Realtor in this market, there are times I’m scared about being able to provide for my family. But then I realize that as someone who is self employed I have a greater reliance on the ultimate Provider.
    I am a single mom with seven children left at home. They rely almost exclusively on me for their support. and they know it’s quite difficult. When asked, they all agree they would rather I live a life of freedom than a life of slavery to a job.
    We all must say no to abuse and slavery!

    Terri Camp
    Author, Inspirational Speaker, Realtor, Communiteur

  4. Mary Johnson Says:

    Yes—this is interesting b/c I just have been thinking of this lately. My mom is in an abusive relationship and I encourage and wonder why she stays and it frustrates me. Then I realized I am doing the same thing with my own job—I stay at a job I am consistently hating b/c of who I work for–the abuse of power, continued hiring of incompetent friends, the continued let down of the system taking advantage of the poor—I am sick of it. But like the majority—we stay b/c of the money and vacation time—-that is the consistent attitued found yet suffer job emotional abuse and refusal of correction daily with drawn out lawsuits that most money heavy business can withstand. The fear is placed in individuals by retaliation, harassment, and threats—-making others withdraw from you b/c you’ve spoken up—I realized I am abhereing to the same abusive situation as an abused woman. Staying b/c of fears, preceived safety, it is what you are used to —it is shocking how it relates to my abused mother who out of fear stays in a worsening abused situation as I on my JOB—I must make a leap with God’s help to see that I can and I am worth it. I am better than what I am treated—who knows it could be the greatest decision of my life!!! And guess what that is what I told my mom concerning divorce!!! Pray for me and I am working on debt relief right now and have an exit plan of 2010 but if a door opens that smells good—I am gone w/ God’s strength and peace—Right now I am settling myself down and beginning to seek God’s face b/c my whole life is surrounded by dysfunction w/ unhealthy people who do not seem to desire to come out. The only hope I have is God and He has hooked me up with a nice Women’s Bible Study—Women who want more!!! Pray for Me!!!

  5. Shannon Says:

    This is great — inspired! I am in a master’s program to become a psychotherapist. I have practiced law and worked in other industries as well. There is a lot of research and discovery in the fields of addiction. “Process” addiction as opposed to substance addictions, are what we are seeing as epidemic in our culture. Compulsive working, spending time on the computer, as well as love, sex, and relationship behaviors(not the “real thing”), as well as shopping, eating, and many forms of gambling, which are yet to be recognized in our culture. People are disconnecting from their feelings and their values, and this is resulting in the breakdown of intimate relationships, and, families.

    The terms being used in psychology which pertain to those affected by these behaviors of the loved ones include “emotional abuse, interpersonal violence, spousal abuse” to begin with.

    I hope to see more of this addressed in your newsletters.

    Thank you!

  6. Beth Says:

    Your dentist example shows that men too can get into a negative pattern.

  7. Charles W. Davis Says:

    The “Abused Wife Syndrome” is excellent.

  8. Andy Says:

    I have given this a great deal of thought and I really think you have an obligation to provide a retirement income situation before you can self actualize. I wish it were otherwise. As Tennessee Williams is supposed to have said: “You can be young and poor, but you can’t be old and poor.” We have successful people like Dan telling us to go for it, but I would wager there is a much larger group, who do not have the speaking platform, who would argue for caution and provision for health care and old age (or of course for family, if applicable) first.

  9. Lageshia Says:

    This came at just the right time. I left teaching and have begun to move full steam ahead into the work I know I was created to do, but I’d started to doubt my decision to leave a “good job”. God is so good! He knew I needed this “word” to keep me focused on what He called me to do. Thanks!

  10. Kevin Says:

    I wish I could walk away.

  11. Joanne Says:

    This sounds so spot-on. I HATE my job. I learned some things there, granted, but I don’t want to be there and its not my passion. Big question though – how do you support yourself when you only have yourself to depend on? I tried being self-employed (on the side) but was losing money. I am not a great marketer of myself and maybe thats what I need(though I hate sales too!) Perhaps I need to talk to someone who is a professional in careers (if I could ever get the money together)! I have a doctorate in pastoral counseling and really would like to be doing more spiritually oriented therapeutic work with functional people who really want it, rather than being trapped working in the government with very difficult severely mentally ill people who most of the time do not want the help you are trying to give them. I am curious what others have to say. Because now it is only prayer that gets me through each day.

  12. Patrick Says:

    I have felt this way for a long time with my current company and my current career path…or lack thereof. With some anxious support from my wife, I finally walked away from the company after 8 years, having made a few lateral moves, accepting a couple promotions and choosing one demotion along the way. I devoted too much of my time and energy to taking care of everyone there and was trying too hard to make me a fit for the company, all at the expense of finding a career path that fit me. Though we have some income struggles ahead, my wife has been given back “the man that I married” and soon will be getting so much more once I find a career where I belong.

  13. Sue Says:

    Interesting article. I have been a christian for 30 years and in a abusive church for 20.

    I am finally free.
    Interesting thing about abuse it happens at home,work and church.

  14. grace onyango Says:

    I left my teaching job in my country to join my husband. We have two girls and leaving off a stipend and having to support so many people back home. I know I would like to make motre money, I have my passions, i have tried some and not succeded but I am hooked, I have to do something that I enjoy and making money out of it. I still have fears, I have to deal with lack of boldness and feel inferior sometimes but I am holding on and fighting on. I have to live my dreams and show other women back home that it can be done! Thanks dan for the good work.

  15. Fred Foulks Says:

    Having given 4 weeks notice to a Q.A. Manager’s Job last week of June 2008 with a Dept. Head Title, Making under $11.50 hr & working for the Company for 4 years, I can relate to the article.
    Friends & Family, Even my Apt. Mgt agreed that it was the best decision I made.
    My Family was concerned about my health, Stresses, Anxieties and demands of the position and work for a Boss who did not give much praise for the work done although I respect their point of view and position.
    In 2 weeks I will be jobless. Good news is I have income to hold me over for about 3 – 5 months.
    Finally, last week I went for my Dr. Check-up and he made the comment that my BP was down. I responded “Amazing what turning in your notice for a job will do for your health”. Dr. got a laugh out of it.
    Now, I have a future of challenges, uncertainty, hope, faith and a Boss who will see me through to the next chapter in my life.
    That Boss being God, His Son Jesus Christ.

    Note to Dan, Appreciate your ministry & close work with Dave Ramsey.
    Having hit 40 I believe its time to dare I say “Kick it up a Notch!” and find the work I truly love.
    Thanks Fred.

  16. Wendy Says:

    I just got back from a 7 day vacation in Cape San Blas Floriday.  After finished reading “Money Makeover- Dave Ramsey” and Dan’s “No More Monday’s” in may and most of “48 Days to the work you love”, I am in the infant stages of starting my own company “Keep This Place”.  During this vacation my goal was to focus on the Lord’s will and try to understand why he hasn’t blessed this new business venture knowing that I despise/hate/loathe my soul sucking job.  On the 13 hour trip down to Florida I listened to the recommended “one Minute Entreprenuer” on cd on the way down…WOW what another amazing book!!!  I have come to the realization and definitely having it confirmed in my church sermon this morning that always, the Lord wants us to trust (full body on the ground face down) that HE will take care of us.  My job is the abusive wife syndrome except, I haven’t left and come back…..I am being abused at the moment, but I know there is something the Lord wants me to do yet. . . I think he wants me to rely on Him and be balanced (God First, Family SEcond, then Work). . . This week I go back to work and my goal is ti try to help create eagle leadership to take my place first. . . I have a great plan that will only work with the Lords leading. . . It will be an interesting next few weeks if my idea at my “beauacracy workplace” matures. . . We will see.  I am asking all of you to please pray for the Lords leading. . . that I will not encounter the “battered wife syndrome”….When I leave this company I will not go back….It will be a clean divorce into FREEDOM!!!  Thank you Dan for all you do. . . You truly are a gift from Heaven…keep up the fantastic product.  Love in Christ,Wendy


    FEAR =


    My prayer for all in the world is that the Lord Bless you will knowledge, wisdom and strength to not live a life a mediocrity. . .

    I know I am trying my darndest to live my 3 decade of life — and the other 9 decades (which started at the end of march) with valor and strength. Peace and Love to all of you.

  17. Cynthia Says:

    What are you supposed to do when you discover you have diabetes, are going through a divorce, and can only get health insurance by working at a job that provides group insurance???

  18. chip brandstetter Says:

    I hadn’t even finished NO MORE MONDAYS and quit my job. After nearly 10 years of busting my hump in a busy MRI scanner with no raise, indifferent management and a supervisor that got paid twice what I did and would stroll in around lunch time every day only to complain about how busy she was when someone from another department would ask something of her while playing games on the computer I simply got tired of the treatment. Realizing the true value of my contributions really fueled my actions there at the end.

    My management told me they were going to let my supervisor go, leaving me to run single-handedly a busy and EXTREMELY profitable MRI outpatient facility, and give me a few dollars more. I resented being a part of their diabolical little plan to ‘downsize’ and was doubly insulted by their compensation offer. I’ve seen their houses and cars and am not stupid.

    Long story short (too late for that) I went to my immediate supervisor’s house and resigned effective that second the Sunday before they were going to lay her off. They had even secretly CHANGED THE LOCKS when she had been off the previous Friday! I knew if I stayed and kept generating thousands of dollars in revenue for them daily, my fate would be just like my co-worker’s. What happened after I quit is yet another episode of LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND SHAMELESS.

    I suppose the reason I had to sit down and wordspew on everyone is my old job was exactly like being in an abusive relationship and it’s an analogy that I, too, had used in describing it. You get conditioned to believe it’s all you can do, that it’s all there is and get pulled down into the complacency. I was terribly confused about what to do…make a LITTLE more money and stab my coworker in the back or not? They were going to put me in a position with no help or backup, no chance for sick days or vacation unless I could find my own relief? I remember the moment it occured to me that I could quit and it reminded me of when I was saved at the age of 15…a wave of peace just swept over me and I knew I was doing the right thing.

    I now have no health insurance but will start my own coverage shortly. I come to this website so it’s obvious I’m also in tune with the Dave Ramsey philosophy of having an emergency fund. I’m taking a few weeks and planning my new direction in life. I guess you need health insurance if your job is killing you. Life’s too short. You only get one lap. I’d rather be happy than rich.

    God Bless.

  19. Susan Says:

    I’ve wanted to change careers for a long time. God has called me to a very special ministry. I’ve given it over to the Lord. When God shows me where He wants me to serve, I’ll make the move. He will make the opportunity available.

  20. Teresa Sams Says:

    Hello. My name is Teresa Sams. I WAS an abused wife and I know EXACTLY what you mean. “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” I have finally broken away from that dead end relationship after 25 years. (I’m a slow learner…LOL). Now I have my own successful business. I help other look and feel better. I just wanted to encourage other abuse victims. You don’t have to be a victim anymore. Forget the lies you’ve been told. You are a very unique, smart and wonderful person. You can be victorious, not just a survivor. I would love to have you on my team. God loves you and so do I. I’ll be praying for you.

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