Hey friends,

This weekend I’m in Chicago visiting my family for Christmas. I’m eating pizza, pizza, pizza and if you know Chicago’s pizza – it’s the best.

This week’s question: I so enjoyed your book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, I want to read it over again and pray and meditate on some of the truths you wrote. However, in reading the book and praying I’ve been a little confused. I’ve also been doing a bible study on the Wife of Noble Character. I am learning how to handle myself when my husband is sarcastic or short tempered: but where I have found it difficult is if he says something to me that is really hurtful and mean, or when I catch him in a lie. For example, he was out of town when his cell phone accidently dialed home and when I asked him where he was, he told me he was in his hotel room when he was really with his coworkers at a bar. He apologized later but I fear it can’t be the first time he has lied. Also when I forgive him for instances like these, and even bigger things like when he’s been verbally abusive towards me, it’s hard to be intimate and I really don’t know how to respond.

My question is what would natural consequences be for lying and being verbally abusive towards me? How do I respond besides saying, “You will not talk with me that way” or “I deserve to be told the truth and it’s important for me to trust you.”

He’s a good father and good man in so many ways, but it’s times like these I just don’t know what to do.

Answer: You are on the right track by attending to your relationship with God and to your own responses rather than trying to change your husband. But one of the things that you identify that is greatly impacted by your husband’s behavior is your ability to trust him and your desire to be intimate. Honey, those ARE the natural consequences for what is happening in your relationship.

It still surprises me that people fail to understand a simple Biblical concept. The apostle Paul says “what we sow, we reap.” (Galatians 6:7). In other words, your husband cannot lie to you and verbally abuse you, and continue to expect that your marriage will thrive, feel close, warm and intimate. That’s like stomping on my flower garden and still expecting flowers to grow or showing up late for work and still expecting my boss will give me a promotion and raise.

It doesn’t happen that way. Your husband might be a great guy 75% of the time, but what about the other 25% or even 10%? What’s that negative time doing to the stability and health of your marriage and family life? If I stop on some of my plants only one time, they’re finished blooming. That’s it.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. No marriage has 100% great times. There is no perfect husband or wife and so there is sin and suffering in every marriage. But how those difficult times are dealt with and repaired makes all the difference in the health and well-being of the marital relationship. It sounds like you’re trying hard to do your part to not overreact, return evil for evil, or treat your husband disrespectfully just because he treats you that way. However, if he continues to lie and/or verbally abuse you, his actions are just as destructive to the health of your marriage as swinging an axe into your bedroom walls would be to your physical home. Acting that way causes damage and it takes time to repair it. The more often it happens the harder it is to keep fixing it.

So your next step is to have an honest talk with him about what’s going on. Perhaps he isn’t connecting the dots but for the welfare of your marriage and yourself, you must now connect them for him. I love the Hebrew word ezer in the scriptures that traditionally has been translated for women as “helpmeet”. Helpmeet is not the best translation of ezer because it doesn’t convey the true strength of the role given to women. Carolyn Custis James, in her insightful book, Lost Women of the Bible writes, “The ezer is a warrior, and this has far reaching implications for women, not only in marriage, but in every relationship, season, and walk of life.” She says, “Eve and all her daughters are ezers – strong warriors who stand alongside their brothers in the battle for God’s kingdom.”

I want you to gear up for battle through prayer. You are an ezer for your husband and your family. Paul tells us God gives us power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Next you are going to prepare your heart to have a hard (not harsh) talk with your husband about what’s going on and the consequences to your marriage when he chooses to lie and verbally abuse you. Jesus says we prepare for these kinds of hard talks by taking the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3). So deal with your anger, face your fear, see if there is any resentment or bitterness or whatever sin that is in you that Satan could use to confuse you and twist things around.

Next, as you’ve done this preparation, you’ll have a humble and gentle heart which is the one most likely to be heard. Humility doesn’t mean weak nor is it passive. Remember, you are an ezer and that means you are a strong warrior woman who is fighting for the integrity of her marriage and well-being of her husband. Plan your conversation so that your word choice reflects how his behaviors are hurting you, hurting the marriage, and hurting your ability to be intimate as well as trust him. For example you might say something like this:

“I love you. I want more than anything else to have a strong loving marriage and a great family life with you for as long as I live. However, I know you’ve noticed that I’m having trouble being intimate with you lately and I don’t trust you. None of us is perfect and I’m not expecting you to be perfect but I am asking you for the welfare of our relationship, to tell me the truth, even when you don’t think I’ll like it. I also need you to respect me, even when you’re angry. (be specific here with what he does that feels like abuse to you – whether that is name calling, cursing at you, etc).

“Lying to me and calling me names when you’re angry is not acceptable to me, even occasionally and I won’t continue to allow myself to be treated that way. I need you to know that if you choose to to act that way, it will negatively impact our marriage even more than it has already. I don’t want that to happen and that’s why I’m talking with you now. I want us to heal and thrive and be close, but it’s important that you understand something about me. I will never feel close to you if I can’t trust you or if I feel afraid (or disrespected by) of you. It’s just not possible for me.”

Then stop talking and wait for his response. If he agrees that he needs to change, then ask him what can you do to respectfully remind him of this new commitment when you’re fearing he’s lying again or he begins to talk disrespectfully to you (because no one changes overnight). This will be a good indicator of his desire to stop these destructive behaviors. When we’re truly repentant, we’re willing to be accountable for making the changes we say we will make.

Start there and see how it goes. If things deteriorate, I’d encourage you to get my other book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. In it you will find specific resources and next steps.

Friends, any suggestions you have for this woman?

 

17 Comments

  1. Ellen on December 11, 2012 at 11:40 am

    My question is what would natural consequences be for lying and being verbally abusive towards me? How do I respond besides saying, “You will not talk with me that way” or “I deserve to be told the truth and it’s important for me to trust you.”

    He’s a good father and good man in so many ways, but it’s times like these I just don’t know what to do.

    Dear Leslie and Writer,

    First I want to say my heart goes out to you in the situation that you are in. It all gets so confusing sometimes and it sounds like your husband has managed to use your good nature and willingness to follow the Lord against you so that he does not have to face his sin. I am living in a similar situation and have by no means “arrived” but we are getting through it. Here are some tips but for the sake of time I can not go in depth here today.
    1. Get clear in your head that you are the spiritual leader in your home. You should not verbalized this to your husband as it will trigger a verbal assault. Just know it. Be very wary about the advice or counsel your husband gives you as he is living under a destructive spirit and means to harm you. Be wise about this but do not disclose it to him.
    2. Strengthen yourself. Get a few people to pray and fast for you. You are in a spiritual battle and can’t do this alone. Surround yourself and your husband in a community group. Alert the leader of your sitUation and do not disclose this to everyone. Be careful who you share information with. Not everyone will believe you.
    3. Read and learn about attachment theory. Your husband is severely wounded. God has given you the job of coming to his aid but be careful or your husband will pull you down into the deep with him.
    4. Learn to lead financially, spiritually, and every other way in your home. Be quiet about this to your husband but just do it. Take the reigns. Your husband is putting on a front of sorts but deep inside he needs help. Do not expect him to ever ride in on a white horse and fix this. You have to do it.
    5. Limit abuse by recognizing when it starts and exiting stage right! Kindly explain to him that you are leaving for a time to go somewhere to calm down because right now you are upset and need to ask God how to handle this. Do not get emotional. Stay calm. Do not go back and work on the issue with your husband until you can be calm. This might take a couple of days if your husband has been particularly hurtful.
    6. Have a list of responses memorized ahead of time. Work through this and be sure they are right with God. Show them to a trusted friend to be sure they are free from bitterness or any unholy innuendos. Learn to break down the root issue you are having with your husband and zero in on that. Don’t let him take you down a rabbit hole.
    7. Create your own goals and stay focused on them. Nothing is more attractive than a person who has a zest for life and who is creative. This will really take the rug out from under your husband. He needs to be in a position of concern that you are thriving and might leave him behind in the dust! You can not ever let him have power over you. Raise yourself from the ashes with God’s help and get the upper hand in your relationship. Deep down your husband will respect you more. He knows and needs a strong presence to help him with his brokenness.
    8. Be the strong emotional support your kids need. Do not go to them for consolation no matter how old they are. You have a support network in place for that. Remember that they are confused and wounded by this as well and they need you to be strong and full of His loving presence in this battle.

    This is by no means complete and many times I do not get this right but these tips do work. May God bless you and strengthen you dear fellow traveler!

    • CB on December 20, 2012 at 4:25 am

      This is a wonderful list that cuts to the heart of the issues. Thank you for taking the time to write this for all of us.

  2. Wendy on December 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I learned that I had to stop and rest. Let God love on me and remind me how strong I was only through the power of the Holy Spirit.God will gently lead us and only one day at a time. I have to remind myself that the battle is the Lords and that He will give me the strength and wisdom I need every day if I yeild myself to him. Trying to make everything right for every one will make us crazy. Laying at the saviours feet every day and letting him love us and comfort us will give us the wisdom and strength we need to do the one thing that is best for this day. Being in an abusive relationship is a prison it is not a relationship. God helps me to see what a relationship is he gives me real love and truth to stand on. I read every book and tried so hard to do so many things but I missed the one thing that was needed most, sitting at my saviours feet, hearing him say I love you.
    Now I read and get wisdom but only after I give myself over to him it is so much easier. Before I would look down on myself for not doing enough now I can see the one great thing God did for me that day and rejoyce for I know that He is leading. So my advice to us all, take some time to rest in the way the truth and the life!
    God Bless us all we are all beautiful warriors!
    Thank You leslie

    • Karen on December 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      These are all very very good suggestions! Leslie’s book the Emotionally Destructive Relationship was key in getting me to see that we were BOTH being destructive. One thing I realized I was doing was allowing him to ignore his sin. But, in the end, the Lord showed me even more sin I was involved in that needed to be confessed!

      I esp love Wendy’s comment: “the one thing that was needed most, sitting at my saviours feet, hearing him say I love you.”
      So True, So True, So True!

  3. Sheri on December 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you, Leslie, for your reply. It is extremely timely and helpful for me as well. I also appreciated the wise input from the other women who posted.

    You are not alone if you are married to a verbally/emotionally abusive man. Many Christian women are in the same situation. God will be faithful to stand by you, to love you without condition, and be a guiding light in your life. Not all people inside and outside the church will understand this type of abuse and might blame you in some way, but there are those who get it. One of the most wonderful resources for me has been counselors, friends, family members, doctors, and women in abuse recovery groups that I can trust. Each in their own way offer support by speaking life giving words over me, reminding me of my true identity in Christ, and encouraging me during the difficult times. A support network has the power to give you strength in the days ahead.

    If you feel it is appropriate, an abuse intervention group helps men to learn new ways of behaving and has accountability is built into the package. In some locations you can find programs that are for voluntary attendees, versus court mandated ones and that may be more appealing. Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services (ARMS) is a Christian group that has programs and online resources for both the abuser and the survivor (see http://www.armsonline.org/). Leslie’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship was very helpful to me in sorting out what is going on in my marriage and Godly steps that I could take. Patricia Evans’ The Verbally Abusive Relationship further opened my eyes to nature of verbal and emotional abuse, particularly covert abuse. For me, the more information and tools I could tap into, the more empowered I felt in my circumstances. It is easy to get isolated and confused.

    May the Lord provide wisdom, protection, and strength for His warriors.

  4. Christine on December 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I pray you get Leslie’s annointed book: “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” besides the Bible, this was THE book that saved my life! Bless you Leslie for being a warrior & saying what so desperately needed to be said! I look so forward to your next book halleluja! I know it can do the same for you my dear sister in Christ! I was also blessed to hear Leslie teach on this topic twice & the ‘Truth Principle’ twice as well. Point is I ‘got’ this lesson in my heart because I sought hard after it as I was desperate for it;as a result, I, my life was transformed! Leslie is right, we Are ‘ezer’, Warriors & you can Do this & the riple affect will be a huge transformative blessing! Yet it is a war & the correct warrior attitude must be learned. You can do this! I have bought & given this book away more times than I can recall as well as the cds. As we speak my copy is lent to a woman with an abusive mother so again huge, timely message! The body of Christ desperately needs this message! I’d love to see this book taught as a bible study around the country; it’s vitally necessary as we see ‘Godlessness in the last days’ [2 Tim. 3] on the increase everywhere. Know that you are being prayed for & loved by your fellow sisters in Christ who have walked in your shoes. Love in Christ, Christine

  5. Verna on December 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you to the one who first wrote the question and to Leslie for your resources . . . and to Ellen & Wendy for your encouragement. I truly needed it today and will continue to chew on the truths suggested.
    My husband withdraws, and is not present emotionally a great deal of the time, there have been other addictions but currently the withdrawing and emotional absence is really killing me. I have a good network of friends and I do go to God. but it is so lonely and I am running out of steam to muster the energy to be present at all with him anymore.
    Although I am grieving and struggling I found great help from things said. Thank You THANK YOU and if I could type it bigger I would. THANK YOU, I desire to met with Jesus today and come away stronger in HIS strength.
    Verna

    • jennifer on December 13, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Im so glad i found this web sight. I have a feeling God will use you more than i can imagine. My verbally/emotionally abusive husband just moved out this weekend. Its a relief and yet incredibly painful. I decided to take a stand and not allow him to run over me any longer and then i was to blame of course for being such a terrible wife. Sometimes im completely devastated when i remember all of our good times and wonder why he chose to turn on me like he did. Its a choice. He has chosen bitterness and anger over love and peace and theres nothing i can do about it. This is so hard. But in the end, i believe that this seperation is an answer to a long awaited prayer.

      • laura on February 24, 2013 at 10:43 pm

        Jennifer,
        I am in the same exact situation . My husband moved out last May and the children and I have been on our own since. He wants NOTHING more than to move back together and go to Counseling together. We have gone to marriage counceling for 15 years … I am at the point where , Unless he can acknowledge his rude / abusive / sinful behavior towards me and the children , I need to stand my gound and NOT go back to marriage counseling with him right now. It is hard, because now that we have been seperated , I have been able to acknowledge all the good in him .. It has been hard to do that living under the same roof in constant arguing … I do believe God has a PERFECT plan for all of us. For you & your , Me and my husband , This may be part of Gods plan to bring our marriage closer than ever. I know things were NOT going to change living under the same roof any longer . Hopefully our husbands will , Acknowledge , Take ownership for there hurtful, sinful ways towards the woman who loves them and want to do something to change it. The choice is up to them , Meanwhile God does have a PERFECT plan
        God BLess you and Your Marriage

  6. Wendy on December 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Dear Jennifer,
    I also asked my husband to leave only seven months ago I know how you are feeling it is so fresh for me.I will be praying for you my sister. I think it is so wonderful to know that some one who knows how I feel is in the battle with me.
    Your fellow warrior in Christ,
    Wendy

    • jennifer on December 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you so much Wendy for your prayers! What an unexpected blessing! I truly believe that the only way I will survive this emotional devastion is through prayer. It is a great comfort to know that you and others are out there and can truly relate. I will be praying for you as well. Bless you and yours at this wonderful Christmas season!

  7. Virginia Garcia on December 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    One of the many things I have learned throughout my journey of healing from a 26 year abusive marriage is very simple. Our husbands cannot expect for others to be submissive to them when they are not being submissive to the Cross.

    1Peter 3:7 If you are a husband, you should be thoughtful of your wife. Treat her with honor, because she isn’t as strong as you are, and she shares with you in the gift of life. Then nothing will stand in the way of your prayers.(CEV) Ephesians 5-25-God Commands Husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church. Christ was submissive to the Cross and that is what husbands are commanded to do. If they are not being submissive to the Cross then who are they being submissive to?

    My best to us all as we heal and continue to learn and grow in God’s commands for our lives.

    Virginia

    • Mary on January 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      I am also in a very verbally abusive relationship. I want to jump ship, I want to run, I have heard all the answers above before and have implemented them. Don’t know if I can continue as I know myself well enough to know that wanting all God has is a driving force in my life and heart. Staying, doing the warfare, truth, but I am so weak I don’t know if I have the want to any more. Finances seem to be the reason I stay. Although I do love my husband nothing I have tried reaches him. I know only God can change his heart, but where does that leave us women. Everytime I try to get a support group, they seem to fade out. Where are the christain women who lay down their lives for one another. Does anyone really believe what we endure and are we called by God to stay until death do us part? No matter how I approach him, I say the wrong thing, I should have said it this way or that way, he is in total withdrawal and only invites me into his life when its up to him. Alone, but not alone, I know God cares, sees, hears, how long oh Lord. I am not saying I haven’t done my share of damage, I have, but its over, my damaging part, I want to bless when reviled, 24/7. God help me.

      • laura on February 25, 2013 at 2:29 am

        Dear Mary ,
        My husband and I have been going to marriage counseling for 15 years .. After he go physical with my oldest son , I pretty much refused to go to anymore counseling together until he took ownership & Acknowledgef his behaviors and chooses to do something about it… For the past 6 years I have been saying I cant live under the same roof with things continuing like this , Hoping they would change . I prayed and prayed and prayed about it.. My biggest concern was finiances too. God PROMISES to provide … So I took a huge leap of faith and moved into a smaller home with me and my children 8 months ago.. GOd HAS provided in EVERY Way and MORE .. I have also thought quite a bit about what the Bible says about Divorce / Marriage and what God intends for Husband & Wife …Including Death due us Part .. However , As Christian Women, and Loving Daughters Of God, He WOULD NOT want us to allow ANYBODY to Sin against us in Such ways… I pray that you will put all your Trust and Faith into God and Know HE IS GOD and he is the ONLY one who can change things… You need to focus on Your own spiritual growth and your own Joy.. Praying for you

  8. Jennifer on February 4, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Dear Mary, I feel like I can really relate to your story. I completely understand the being alone but not being alone part. It is so hurtful to think that this person who you love would totally dismiss you as a person, let alone as a wife. My husband and I were discussing something about a year ago, I’ll never forget it, and I disagreed with him about whatever it was and he got upset with me and actually said, “I can go back to ignoring you, you know. Is that what you want because I can do it?” I was so stunned because I realized that he knew exactly what he was doing and it was PURPOSEFUL! We have been separated now for 2 months and to be honest this is the most excruciating process Ive ever been through. Even though I am no longer under his controlling and critical gaze I grieve daily for my marriage and the man who I once knew to be loving and giving. Like you, I know God sees all the tears, watches my heart shatter over and over and understands the groans that cannot be uttered. And like you Mary, I ask how long Lord, how long? I too feel weak and unequiped to handle this emotional turmoil. As hard as this is I dont believe it is the Lords will to remain in an abusive atmosphere. We were not created to be abused and neglected but cherished and cared for. It is ok to stop someone from hurting you even if it means moving out of their proximity. I just want to say that I understand your pain and the feeling of isolation that accompanies it. I pray that God will see fit to reach down into our husbands hearts and souls and work a miracle as only He can. Please have mercy on us Lord as we seek Your will for our lives and marriages. Thank You Lord for a place to come and share and heal. I’ll be sure and say a special prayer for you tonight Mary. God bless.

  9. Jane on February 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    My spouse divorced me after over three decades of emotional & verbal abuse. He was a master at hiding it from others.
    Withdrawal,like Jennifer’s spouse, was his method of crazy-making.
    I grew up with a mother who purposely withdrew from whatever child was “in the doghouse” amongst me and my sibings. She would not say a word or look at us for days at a time. The only way to get back into her “good graces” was to do exactly what she demanded, regardless of how unreasonable she was. There was no discussion..no opportunity to express feelings…no model at all of admitting her harshness. I have never heard my mother apologize. My dad was very co-dependent, so that was the model I had as a chid.
    Then, no big surprise, when I got married, I was just like my mom.. and soon began to realize how I was repeating history and began to change.

    The problem was……I went from being angry and disrespectful to my husband to being utterly co-dependent hearing the wrong teaching about “submission”. Instead of owning up to just my end of it, I took on all the blame as he glady heaped it on, taking no responsibility whatesover for the pain he was perpetuating, much like my mother.

    My spouse lost the minimal respect he originally had for me as I gradually allowed myself to be enslaved as he manipulated and controlled me through silence, withdrawal,and financial control.

    What makes it so difficult is that these men are able to appear to your children and others like the perfect dad and provider. They know nothing about what goes on behind closed doors.

    His favorite weapon (of which only I knew) was complete physical withdrawal. I would really like to know how often these men withdrawal physically while in front of others love to make remarks that make them appear like the “typical” man who pursues physical intimacy.

    I also can attest for the fact that, though it is lonely being divorced now, I never feel as alone now as I did when living with him under the same roof.

    I feel for all the women still living in that quiet desperation. The one I now draw my companionship from is my new perfect Bridegroom, Jesus!

  10. Linda on February 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Leslie, I heard you on the radio discussing your book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. I wish I could have heard the entire program. Your message hit home and I wish I had heard this years ago. My husband’s cruel comments and public outbursts started when we first married. At first it was infrequent, but as the years went on, they were more common. He was so kind and thoughtful at other times. I never addressed how the words and the emotional distance hurt me, but looking back, I did retreat emotionally with each occurrence. 5 months ago my husband abruptly ended our 18 marriage for another woman. I have never known such pain. While finding you is a blessing to me now, I wonder if he and I could have prevented this had we each been able to communicate. I will read your material because I obviously have a lot to learn about what a good and loving relationship should be.

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