Life can seem impossibly difficult at times. When one young woman found herself trapped in an abusive marriage, she thought there was no way to change things. When she started to look for answers, things then seemed to take a turn for the worse—but the ultimate result was something she could never have predicted.
Silvia grew up in Germany. When she was in her 20s she met a young man from Kosovo and they instantly fell in love.
Rifad was a Muslim refugee who had left behind his worn-torn country at the age of 21 to seek a new life. He was smuggled into Europe in a boat along with 30 other people, and finally settled in Hanover in Germany.
Rifad’s father had died when he was just 6 years old. After he left Kosovo, his mother also passed away, which left him feeling lonely and isolated in a foreign country. The language and cultural barriers made it hard for him to settle in, he didn’t have much money, and he fell into depression.
That all changed when he met Silvia. Within two years of meeting they were married. But instead of being the start of a beautiful life together, it was the start of a “mutually torturous” relationship.
“After we married, I realized he was suspicious, jealous, rude, and had a strong desire to control,” Silvia told Minghui.org.
In Rifad’s culture, women were not supposed to be noticed. If a passerby looked at Silvia, he would become jealous and upset, and blame her for attracting attention.
He started taking it out on Silvia. Their arguments became frequent. Silvia felt like she was going mad and wanted to end the marriage—but whenever she threatened to leave, Rifad would break down in tears and she would feel sorry for him.
“We didn’t want to continue arguing, but we also didn’t want to leave each other,” Silvia explained of their dilemma.
They sought help, but marriage counselors and therapists didn’t improve the situation.
One day, Silvia remembered a book she had read many years before, a book about spiritual cultivation. She remembered she’d found a lot of answers to life’s questions in it, but with the distractions of modern life, she’d gradually forgotten about it.
Now, not knowing how to solve her marriage problems, she decided to start reading it again. The book was the main teachings of a spiritual practice from China called Falun Dafa, which also included practicing four gentle standing exercises and a meditation.
Silvia and Rifad had recently found new jobs in another city, and she was happy to discover that there was a Falun Dafa group there that met regularly to read the book together and practice the exercises.
But joining the group wasn’t going to be so straightforward. Rifad believed women should stay at home and not socialize in public with other people, especially other men.
One time he secretly followed Silvia to the group meeting place in a local park and watched her from a distance.
When she got home, he slapped her face angrily.
Silvia didn’t give in, however. Falun Dafa had taught her how to embrace the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. She tried to tolerate Rifad’s abuse and not retaliate. She also tried to share with him what she learned, and he would sometimes calm down. But the small windows of peace were short-lived.
His controlling nature wouldn’t accept that Silvia was doing something she valued more than him.
He tried to set a rule: “You are only allowed to attend the group study four times a year,” he ordered.
When Silvia calmly refused to obey him, that only inflamed his anger.
He became increasingly violent in his efforts to stop her going to the group. He beat her, swore at her, cut the phone wire, threw her cellphone against a wall, and hid her laptop computer.
When nothing he did would dissuade her, he pointed a gun at her and threatened to take away their son.
“Sometimes I thought if he pulled the trigger, it would be the end of this torturous life. No one can avoid death. But I immediately told myself that I can’t think in this direction. If he did that to me, it would be bad for him. And I told myself it was not his true nature. It was not the real Rifad,” Silvia said.
She recalled that Falun Dafa teaches looking inward to find your own short-comings in any conflict and to think of other people first. At this point, Silvia searched her soul for the answer. Why did he not want her to be a better person through learning Falun Dafa?
It was then she realized that she had been pursuing self-improvement just for her own benefit—so that her husband would not abuse her anymore. She had been acting as if she was morally superior. She had failed to have true compassion towards him.
“To some degree, I strengthened his attachment [to controlling me] by talking to him like his superior without the tenderness and kindness of a woman,” Silvia said.
When she changed her attitude, the arguments lessened.
As she continued to be less selfish and more compassionate, slowly Rifad changed too. He became more relaxed and friendly. Family life became peaceful and harmonious.
Finally, Rifad asked if he could come to the Falun Dafa group too.
Several years later, the couple are still happily married and still practicing Falun Dafa.
She knows what she would say if she ever got to meet the founder of Falun Dafa: “Thank you Teacher, you saved my family!”