The Love Dare, a dangerous book in the hands of an abuser — by Deborah
We want to thank Deborah for her willingness to share another part of her story with us…
Anybody heard of the Love Dare? If you have seen the movie “Fireproof”, you will know that The Love Dare is a book given to the main character of the movie, to use as a last ditch effort to save his dying marriage. It’s a 40-day challenge that has him doing tons of things to romance his wife and try to bring back love into his marriage.
The book itself is real — and popularly used as a relationship tool in many Christian marriages. The premise of it is to change your heart attitude toward your partner and to learn to value them above yourself. Sounds great, huh? I guess for marriages whose worst problem is whether they should have another baby or not, it is, but for those of us who have been in abusive marriages, this book is nothing more than another nightmarish and twisted tool in the abuser’s arsenal.
I know. I had to live it.
My abuser did some of his worst emotional and psychological abuse at the same time he was using the Love Dare on me. It was near the end of our 17 year relationship, and I think he knew it was already over when he decided to try it. He just thought he could use this as a way of being able to say in the aftermath of our divorce, “Well, I tried everything I could to save the marriage and she just wasn’t willing to work at it.” And that is exactly what he did too. It’s what he says now, to anyone who will listen. He holds it up as a trophy of how noble and wonderful he is, and uses it to bash my reputation over the head, again and again.
The sick thing about it all was that he was sending me flowers, love notes, making me dinner, and following all of the rest of the prescriptions in that book that were supposed to magically make the relationship better, while at the same time, he was berating me for not doing the same thing for him. When he was done, he told me not to read the book (it has places to write notes, as you are going through the process, about how you are feeling while doing the dare, and how the other person is responding to what you are doing for them), and said I may find some of it hard to read. Then three days later, he yelled at me for not having read it and for not buying my own copy to do for him.
I must not love him as much as he loves me if I hadn’t even looked at it, even though he had specifically warned me not to when he gave it to me. He constantly made me feel indebted to him through the process. “Well, look what I am doing for you.” “You aren’t giving your 100% like I am,” and it went on and on . . .
The Love Dare puts even MORE power and control into the abuser’s hands, and as a bonus, it conveniently sets them up to appear as “The one who is trying” in the relationship. Oh, how they love this. With this tool in their box, it’s play time for the manipulative abuser. They get to maintain control of you, make you feel guilty and indebted to them AND appear wonderful to everyone around them, all at the same time.
I was so emotionally beaten down by the point in my marriage that the Love Dare was used, that I had already been disassociating and losing chunks of daily life, just to survive. The additional confusion added to my brain at the introduction of this book just overloaded my system and I literally, completely shut down. In shutting down, I looked cold and uncaring. I wasn’t. I was just too hurt, too confused and too scared to function anymore. My brain had had enough and it was checking out, in order to protect the rest of me.
I had gone from him casually telling me a year before this, that he didn’t love me anymore, to him picking up this Love Dare and essentially telling me, “ I dare you to love me.” It was crazy making par-excellence.
So not only was I still being abused daily, which I was just barely starting to understand fully, but then here comes this curve ball, aimed to smash to pieces what little sanity I had left, by making me feel completely in debt to my abuser for the “nice” things he was also doing for me. These were supposed to cover all of the many abuses of the past, and yes, the present ones too. Any abuse didn’t count any more. He had full amnesty, because I got flowers and dinner and a date and he suffered through one of my “boring” movies, which were all prescribed by some book that my abuser used to cover his abuse, shut me up about it all and prove to everyone around him that I was cold, sick and completely insane.
Well, it worked. It must have, because that’s how I looked to everyone around us for at least the first year, post divorce. Oh did my abuser ever sink his teeth into that…like a dog who has just been given a giant t-bone steak to devour.
And now to the reason I speak out against this magic-elixir-for-every-problem-in-a-marriage-book: I ask you to please see in my story, the snake oil that it can be, in the wrong hands.
If you are suffering in abuse and are considering using the Love Dare or if you are a pastor or counselor, considering recommending it, please, please stay FAR away from it when dealing with abusive marriages. You will only make things far worse for the victim than they ever were before. I would recommend that this little marriage-fixer-upper be left to couples who are not abusive with one another and who are both willing to work on their marriage issues, and let it be black-listed, along with mediation and couples counseling, for those marriages affected by abuse.
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