Roller Coaster Relationships

When I was just a brave, young lass of 9 or 10 years old, my grandmother took me and my two younger brothers to a country carnival. Since I was the older and wiser sibling, I decided to show my brothers how to conquer the scary rides with fearless abandon.

The first ride was a roller coaster called “The Wild Mouse.” Even though we were the only customers in line, we convinced the carny man to let us ride–me in the front car and my brothers in the car behind me.

Off we went with glee as the cars inched up the incline and gained momentum for the upcoming peaks and valleys. At the top of the first hill the cars looked like they were going to fly right off the tracks into the adjacent field, but instead of the wheels leaving the tracks the cars jerked wildly to the left and continued to the next corner where we flew right out to the edge again.

By this time our glee had turned into gut-wrenching terror as we found out why the roller coaster was aptly named Wild Mouse. Each time we reached the corner I was convinced we were going to die, expecting this wild thing to jump the tracks, fly through the air, and crash on the ground below.

My brothers were too macho to scream or cry, but they were white as two ghosts with eyes big as saucers and hands tightly clenched to the side of the car.

I could see they were not in a position to rescue me, and since I had gotten us into this mess in the first place it was up to me to save us all. Now what you need to know about me during my adolescent years is that I was so shy I would easily cry if someone looked at me with a cross or angry expression. I had a meek demeanor with a quiet, timid voice. Instead of possessing the bravery of Joan of Arc, I had the backbone of a fishing worm–and that was on my good days.

I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly I had the voice of an archangel about to blow the trump of God on judgment day as I opened my mouth and yelled, “STOP! Let me off!” The clank of the cars and roar of the engine was deafening to everyone standing on the ground (like the carny man), so it was a real miracle that he heard my voice above the noise of this great machine.

Just in case he didn’t hear me the first time, I continued to scream with a vengeance until he pulled the switch to tame this wild roller coaster. Very slowly and gently our cars were rolled from the very top of the steel tracks to the bottom where my grandmother and safety awaited.

The carny man looked like he had never before encountered a kid who was so terrified of a little carnival ride, and I vowed never again to ride a roller coaster.

Little did I know that over a decade later I would be involved in an abusive marriage relationship that felt very much like that ride in the amusement park, only this time there was no one to hear my screams because they were silent.

I knew I needed to get out of this abusive roller coaster relationship, but I didn’t know how to get off the track without derailing my family and causing more destruction. I lost sight of the person God created me to be and felt my entire life was out of control, ready to careen off the tracks into oblivion.

My husband, just like the carny man, had control of the relationship and he enjoyed keeping me off balance and disoriented, scared and helpless.

Sometimes the relationship was calm and even enjoyable, but without warning the mood would change into a volatile, unstable, controlling, terrifying situation. It was just like being in a roller coaster as it inched its way slowly to the top and then quickly plunged faster and faster until it took my breath away.

Up and down, over and under–always knowing at the end of each wild ride there would be a slow, peaceful ride back to the top just in time for me to catch my breath before it plummeted back down again.

Is your relationship a lot like a roller coaster ride? If so, there are a few things you need to know in order to survive. First, don’t be silent! If you are being abused verbally or physically, tell someone you trust. Do it today! Abusers get their power through the silence of their victims.

If the person you tell doesn’t believe you or tells you to just go home and be a better wife (pray more, be more submissive, keep a cleaner house, etc.), go tell someone else who has a better understanding of domestic violence.

Second, you have ridden the track long enough to know the cycle seldom, if ever, changes–a nice, calm relationship slowly progressing upward (building tension), and eventually losing all control as the whiplash of evil words and brutal fists awaits at every turn.

Just as soon as you begin to regain your sanity, the cycle repeats itself all over again, only this time you hope it will be different, but it isn’t.

It’s time for you to evaluate the damage being done to you and your children, and find a place of safety until the abuser has made permanent changes and it is safe to return home, if ever.

Third, remember that God is always there. You don’t have to shout to get his attention and he will give you the strength you need each step of the way.

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
I look behind me and you’re there
Then up ahead and you’re there too.
Your reassuring presence, coming and going.
Psalm 139:5,8 (The Message)

Copyright © 1999 Brenda Branson