Good evening friends,

I had an extraordinary weekend that has left me physically exhausted, but with a great feeling of accomplishment. I PASSED my motorcycle safety course and am now the proud owner of a motorcycle license! Never in a million years would I have thought I would do this let alone pass!

The course is offered by the state to help you be a safe cyclist. Even though I just have a scooter, I had to take the course on a real cycle. The class consisted of nine hours of classroom instruction and then 10 hours of actual riding – all between Thursday and Sunday. I don’t know if I will ever ride a real cycle again, but I am thankful that I learned some great strategies and skills to stay safe on the road. I even posted a picture of my proud self on my Facebook page just after getting my license. My children were shocked that me, Miss Scaredy Cat actually did something pretty risky.

I have been inundated lately with lots of questions from all of you. I am thankful but feel sad that I can’t personally answer them all more quickly. I’m still counseling full time so am just not able to respond as I’d like but my goal is to answer them, so please be patient with me. At this time I can only answer a week.

I am going to answer part two to a long question from last week so scroll up to read last week’s question and answer first. I will add a new part today and part three next week. I am using her words because I know that many individuals become very confused about theology and what God says and I want you to hear where this person is coming from before I respond.

This week’s question: Though no one can be certain of another’s salvation, I have felt for some time now that my husband does not have a personal relationship with God and that he does not know Christ as Lord and Savior. Just 3 years ago after things got really unhealthy in our marriage I made a decision to make it my ministry to be an instrument of God to be used in his conversion process in whatever way God would be pleased to do so.

And yet, do I now hold it against my husband who does not yet have a pierced conscience which comes from having a new heart that can respond in faith and obedience to God? Can we hold our unregenerated spouses who are emotionally destructive responsible for their actions when they cannot even “see” their sin and need for God’s ultimate forgiveness?

Grace and undeserved mercy as the bible describes them isn’t something he fully comprehends from what I can tell which is why he justifies his behaviors and refuses to take responsibility for his abusive actions. If so, what is the biblical way for a wife to respond to her emotionally destructive husband whom she does not want to divorce nor separate from but at the same time does not want to be victim any longer to his abusive ways (verbally/emotionally/physically – i.e. slapping my leg, arm, head/shoving)?

Answer: First, let me encourage you. You obviously want to honor your vows and be a good example in order to draw your husband to Christ’s love, forgiveness, and mercy. That is very hard to actually want to do in our culture that doesn’t value self-sacrifice or staying in an unhappy marriage.

You talk a lot about holding your husband’s sin against him as if you are the judge. As I mentioned last week, your place is not to judge, but that does not mean that you are not to speak truth in love or prevent him from experiencing the consequences of his sinfulness.

You ask, “Can we hold our unregenerated spouses who are emotionally destructive responsible for their actions when they cannot even “see” their sin and need for God’s ultimate forgiveness?”

Let me ask you something. Do you think God holds people accountable when they are blind to their sin? For example, do you think God will give the Pharisee’s in Christ’s day a pass because they did not see their envy or their pride or their hypocrisy, even when Jesus directly told them? Read Jesus’ words to them in Matthew 23:13-38

Second, you say, “Grace and undeserved mercy as the bible describes them isn’t something he fully comprehends from what I can tell which is why he justifies his behaviors and refuses to take responsibility for his abusive actions.”

I don’t think your husband’s problem is that he doesn’t understand grace and mercy. His problem is that he feels entitled to abuse you when he doesn’t get his way or what he wants. There are many, many non-Christian men who know nothing of God’s grace and mercy yet they treat their wives with love and respect. They do not verbally, emotionally or physically abuse them. It has nothing to do with your husband’s lack of understanding of God’s grace and everything to do with his attitude of entitlement.

That takes us to your last question, how do you respond? If you want to “minister” to your husband as a godly wife, what does not look like specifically? Does it mean that you are to simply continue to allow your husband to sin against you without protect or consequence? Is that the best way you could be “love” your husband?

Or, is a more bold love required? A love that is strong enough to hold him responsible and accountable for his sinful choices. A love that might call the police and let him experience the legal consequences of his abusive behavior which very well could be a wake-up call that helps him “see” the sinfulness of his behaviors.

There is no easy answer here, but finally, if you do not want to be a victim any longer you must take steps to prevent your own victimization. You can do this lovingly but firmly as you leave the house when he escalates, refuse to engage in arguments, call the police when he gets violent and separate from him until he gets the help he needs to change his sinful behavior so that your marriage has a chance of being healed. If not, trust me, nothing will change. It will only get worse.

Remember, you are not just taking these steps for you. You are also doing them for him with the hope that as you draw a line in the sand and say “no more” your husband will begin to repent of his abusive behavior and want to change.

Readers: Please what wisdom would you give this struggling wife?

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous on May 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

    OH! You ROCK, Leslie!!! Love these parts best: "It has nothing to do with your husband’s lack of understanding of God’s grace and everything to do with his attitude of entitlement." and also this one "A love that might call the police and let him experience the legal consequences of his abusive behavior which very well could be a wake-up call that helps him “see” the sinfulness of his behaviors."
    You are so good at explaining this stuff to simple folk like me! I wish her well with your excellent adivce!
    Love you! And Thank You!

  2. Anonymous on May 24, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I am sure you are in prayer already, add to your prayers a request for wisdom and the words to say. Be prepared to follow through… mine chose not to change – he felt justified in what he said and did. My husband's behavior got worse the more I stood up to him and drew the boundary. As I stated earlier in my note – be prepared to follow through with drawing your boundary line – leave so that he can get help… otherwise he may not see where his behavior is wrong and where he truly needs Christ. Like Leslie said, it doesn't have to lead to separation or divorce. Some men need to have their wives leave the home in order to "get it". Some men never get it – mine didn't.

  3. Anonymous on May 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I don't know how much this applies, but here goes. I've seen what it looks like when one person "rules the roost" over another. One has high and selfish expectations of the other and is verbally and emotionally and sometimes physically abusive toward them. The other person takes the role of a mouse -meek, helpful, compliant, seemingly only wanting the good of their abuser.

    The mouse never directly feels anger for being treated this way. They may outwardly feel it is wrong to get angry, or it will stir up too much. Inwardly, there may be a self-decieved desire to passive-aggressively punish the "lion" who is oppressing them.
    I've seen this with my parents -my dad being the lion and my mom the mouse. And I've repeated it with my wife -her the lion and me the mouse.

    If you truly love him and want to minister to him, then I applaud hyou. So, the only thing I want to add is for you to deal with your feelings, especially anger, directly. This doesn't mean you blow up. It means you internally acknowledge it toward him (relationally), rather than bury it, and deal with it constructively. If you don't, that anger *will* find another route, usually in sabotage, self-destruction, and passive-aggressively seeking to punish him.

Leave a Comment





Read More

Topic: My Wife is Verbally Abusive

Morning friends, I’ll be on Moody Mid-Day Connection today, Easter Monday at noon CT, talking about How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong. So many of us know God’s truth in our head, but when life’s difficulties come, we find it much harder to apply it in our heart. Join me for an…

Read More...

How Do I Know My Spouse’s Changes Are Genuine?

                Happy Labor Day friends, My sister and her husband are visiting me this week. We’re heading to NYC on Wednesday and then to the beach for Thursday and Friday. It’s great to get a little down time. The following week I’m traveling to Nashville for the American…

Read More...

Controlling abuse verses reactive abuse

Morning friends, I’ve been writing all weekend for my new book on Emotionally Destructive Marriages and because of that, I did not write a new blog for this week. But I want to share a blog I wrote for American Association of Biblical Counselors, and much of the content will be included in my new…

Read More...

Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?