Morning Friends,

Thanks so much for your prayers. I had the best vacation. I read, rested, and recharged my spirit which was much needed.

Lately, I’ve heard from many women who have been deeply discouraged by the response they’ve received from their church leaders when they’ve asked for help for their destructive husbands. I’ve taken a few things from my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, that are important to do so that if and when you go to the leaders in your church for help, you’re better prepared.

Stop Pretending

For any women in a destructive marriage, getting healthy includes having a group of godly and wise people who will pray for you, support you, and encourage you. That means you will need to be honest with people outside the home about what’s going on. No more pretending. No more covering up. No more making it look like your family has it all together when the truth is your marriage is seriously broken. Women write me that once they’ve told someone, their spouse accuses them of disloyalty. Yet the scripture clearly tells us to have nothing to do with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11 ).

This isn’t an opportunity for you to spill the dirt on who your husband is and what he’s done to everyone you know. However, once he knows that you will no longer pretend or cover for his behaviors, his power over you diminishes. Once he knows you will no longer allow him to isolate you from a supportive community of people, his ability to intimidate you weakens. Once he knows that you will no longer live the same way you’ve been living, he may begin to see that he has some tough choices to make if he wants his marriage to survive.

Sometimes when a woman realizes she’s had enough and begins to cry out for help, people struggle to believe her story because for the past twenty years no one suspected a thing. Even her own parents or siblings thought everything was fine. It was never fine, but she worked so hard to make it look that way, she has no concrete evidence that it wasn’t

Document

Jesus says that when you have told someone that his behaviors have hurt you and he refuses to listen, bring other witnesses (Matthew 18:15–17).  In destructive marriages, there often aren’t any eyewitnesses, but there can be witness in the form of documentation.

Write down when and where he berates you, what words he uses to demean you, what actions he does that scare you, or what specifically he’s done that has left you feeling abandoned. If you have financial records or other bills or receipts that need to be copied to prove deceitful or illegal behaviors, make copies of them. Do the same with phone records, tax records, or other papers that demonstrate indifference to your needs or the imbalance of power and control. If your husband destroys your property, take pictures or videos that show the damage.

If you or your children are injured because of your husband’s behavior, call the police. Go to the emergency room or your family doctor, even if the injuries don’t seem to warrant medical attention. You want them documented by a professional and photographs taken, dated, and made part of your medical record. If you feel frightened because he’s raging around the house, throwing things, putting his fists through walls, busting doors down—or he threatens to harm you, himself, the children, or your pets—immediately call 911. All you need to say is, “I feel scared of my husband,” and tell them what he’s doing. You don’t have to wait until after something terrible happens to ask for help.

When you document specific incidents and expose what’s happening to other witnesses (police, medical personnel, neighbors, church leaders), your husband is less able to lie to himself that his behaviors are not destructive, not illegal, and don’t have serious consequences. Documenting also makes you more credible when you ask for support from your church or file for a protection from abuse order from the court.

Sometimes women believe or are told, “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV). They feel guilty documenting these problems and exposing his behaviors to get support from others. This verse doesn’t tell you to forget about what happens. That could be very dangerous. This verse tells you not to keep score. Not to allow your anger and hurt to harden your heart with resentment and bitterness that make you feel entitled to retaliate. Your husband will need support and accountability too, if he’s willing to make some changes. It’s smart to have people who know what’s going on and can provide that support when the time comes.

Go Prepared

When you approach your pastor and church family for help, go prepared with facts, not feelings. Know ahead of time what you’d like them to do. For example, Laurie decided to ask her pastor and church leadership for help confronting her husband, Ryan. She went to her appointment with her pastor armed with specific documentation of his abuse, suspected infidelity, and financial deceit. She told them she needed their support because after many conversations with her husband, he continued to lie to her and to himself. She brought with her credit card receipts of charges to unsavory massage parlors and gave her pastor a printout of their cell phone bill that showed Ryan had over four hundred texts in one month to a specific phone number, a woman Ryan met over the Internet.

Laurie also was careful not to use the vague term of emotional abuse, but told the pastor the specific words Ryan used when she confronted him on these issues or called her whenever he was angry.

Laurie’s pastor felt deeply troubled when he heard the harshness and specific vulgar words that Ryan used with his wife. It was difficult for him to believe all that Laurie said, but the evidence she brought was clear. It was obvious that Ryan led a double life and yet was regularly involved in ministry at church. Laurie asked specifically that her husband be removed from a ministry role until he repented, and if he refused, she asked for the church to support her decision to separate so that Ryan would realize that he could not continue to be destructive in his marriage with no consequences.

Because Laurie went prepared with specific requests as well as documented evidence, it was easier for her pastor to support her request for help in confronting her husband.

Laurie’s pastor worked with his leadership to plan a conversation with Ryan, presenting him with these facts as well as reassuring him of their love and commitment for him, Laurie, and their family. If Ryan refused to repent and get the help he needed, the next step would be separation, supported by her church. Laurie felt relieved that she was validated, believed, and supported by her church family.

This outcome was exceptionally positive but would have been less likely if Laurie had not prepared both her heart and her strategy beforehand.

Don’t Forget: Prayer is your best preparation

In all your preparations above, bathe them in prayer. God is on your side, but you do have an enemy (Satan) who will tempt you to do these very same actions out of spite and revenge. That is not God’s way. Your goal in doing these things is for your husband to come to his senses, repent, and to be willing to receive the help he needs for you both to be reconciled. When that doesn’t happen, when you have the support of godly others who walk along side of you, the path forward is not quite as difficult.

(Some portions of this blog have been taken from my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope,  WaterBrook, September 2013.)

 

52 Comments

  1. Lisa M on May 28, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Thank you!! I am struggling with this issue at the moment. I have been very discouraged and disheartened. I look forward to your new book.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 28, 2013 at 9:06 am

      You’re welcome. I hope it helps you when you go for help.

  2. Krista on May 28, 2013 at 11:17 am

    When I went to my pastor regarding my husbands sexual addiction I was annihilated by him. He told me that my husbands addiction was my fault because I must not be pleasing him in the bedroom.
    Needless to say, I m now churchless!

    • Leslie Vernick on May 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Krista, I’m so sorry. They sound like Pat Robertson’s foolish remarks that somehow if a woman was doing everything right, her husband wouldn’t commit adultery. How sad that women are still blamed for what their husband’s do wrong. That’s not to say that women don’t play a role in the deterioration of a marriage, they certainly do. But if a husband is disappointed with is marriage or his wife he has other means of communicating his feelings than to sexually sin against her with adultery or pornography. A sexual addiction or any other addiction does not have to do with the spouse’s faults or defects but the problem is in the addicts mind and heart.

      • Krista on May 28, 2013 at 7:35 pm

        Thank you for that validation!
        My husband has Been having affairs and prostitutes our entire 21 years of marraige.. He has told me several times in the last two years that he is working recovery and he does for a little while.
        The last 2 months has been disclosure after disclosure. He has never been honest before so that is a sign that this time maybe he really is serious about recovery. However, I have had enough heartache and am in the process of deciding whether or not to end the marriage.
        I no longer feel that The Lord is requiring me to stay. But for some reason I have been unable to tell him directly that I would like to divorce.
        Very hard to lose my best friend!

        • Leslie Vernick on May 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm

          I bet you have had enough heartache for a lifetime. However, a best friend doesn’t continually lie, cheat, and put their best friend at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. If my best friend did that to me, I’m not sure I would call him my friend. He’d feel more like an enemy. I know what you’re saying though. It’s hard to lose your marriage and all that it stands for. That is one of the toughest things for every woman on this blog – to lose their idea of what they thought they would have and face the reality of what they do have. My prayers are with you.

          • Lynette on May 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

            “…to lose my idea of what I thought I would have and face the reality of what I do have.”

            Yes, Leslie, it is one of the toughest things I have done in my life – and one of the things that has been most difficult for people around us to comprehend. One person can speak truth, while the other can continue to call evil “good” and live a pretense. I had to get to the place in my relationship with God where I could trust Him with my future and what people thought about me and my character. Then I was ready to stand up for truth and respect against lies and manipulation.

            Jesus said that if we hold to his teachings, “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:32 &36)



          • Sojourner on May 29, 2013 at 8:24 am

            “…to lose my idea of what I thought I would have and face the reality of what I do have.”

            Yes, mourning this a little more every day!



    • Sojourner on May 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Krista,
      I hope you know, that is NOT true at all! Sexual addiction has NOTHING to do with a spouses performance or lack there of, it very likely existed before you! Please research sexual addiction, it may help clear up any lingering doubt.
      As for your church, that must have hurt but I’m glad you had the strength to walk away. What an inappropriate comment for anyone, no less a pastor to make! That really makes me mad! I hope this doesn’t offend you, but maybe in time you will see his reaction as one of those “blessings in disguise” because at least you are not sitting under this pastor anymore?
      I hope you do find a good church that will give you the support and guidance you need.
      (((hugs)))

  3. AJ on May 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the helpful tips I can see where I have made a few missteps. Any suggestions for what to do when your spouse “confesses” to the pastor, is not disciplined and does not change?

  4. Brenda B on May 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    All my pastor said was “we need to get him saved”. Although I agree, that didn’t help me in the least. His salvation is between him and God. I am now seeing a Christian counselor, moving to an apartment and have filed for Legal Seperation. I pray that my husband will turn his life over to the Lord and turn his life around. Even then I am not sure that I can forget all that has happened and reconcile with him. It is just too scary to think about. I have been wanting to get away for 15 years. I wish nothing more for any of you than to have your marriages whole, but if that doesn’t happen be happy in the Lord wherever He may take you.

  5. Sojourner on May 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Hi. I posted a comment earlier, it was awaiting moderation but it never posted. Did I do something wrong? Thanks!

    • Leslie Vernick on May 29, 2013 at 8:12 am

      I think it’s up now. Sometimes I miss the approve button because it shows up anyway on my board but not on the general one. Sorry. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  6. Teresa on May 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    This is an excellent strategy for a situation in which a husband is behaving in ways that the church would clearly condemn, such as adultery and physical abuse. However, if the abuser is more circumspect in how he mistreats others, be prepared for your church leadership to take his side and join him in his distorted perspective, adding to your pain. This is especially true of he “repents” of his previous bad behavior and paints you as bitter and unforgiving. It’s a sad situation, but much too common.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Teresa, thanks for your comment because you’re absolutely correct. However even in slippery cases where the specific incidents are “no big deal” when you can present a pattern of indifference, or controlling behaviors, it becomes more credible with some pastors, not all. For extra support I’d encourage you all to look at Jeff Crippen’s book A Cry For Justice, How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church and he is a former policeman turned pastor. He talks specifically about how a man starts to talk “repentance” and the church leaders then support him and go against the wife. A great resource for church leadership but victims should arm themselves with some of what he says.

      • Brenda B on May 30, 2013 at 7:09 am

        Leslie: Thank you for all of your help. The book that you mentioned here sounds like a must read. I half expect that situation to happen soon. My husband is being served the papers for Legal Seperation today and I begin moving to an apartment tomorrow afternoon. Please pray for me. I expect things to be tough the next few days.

    • Brenda B on May 30, 2013 at 7:11 am

      I know this is all too true. However, if that happens, I think it is time to move to a new church.

    • Sonia on May 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      I went to my church to ask for help with my controlling husband. He has demean me, told me I was worthless and cursed at me several times over the past four years. I didn’t have the evidence except I had been asking for help from the beginning. Realizing my husband needed help and knowing he would not seek counseling unless something changed, I moved to a “safe place”. I hoped for husband to get accountability. He had not been getting it and slid in and out of the church unnoticed. When I went to the Pastor, I got called into accountability and the Pastor declared we had a relationship problem and that he wanted to get us together to meet as “expediently” as possible so that we could “help the Holy Spirit” fix the marriage. It didn’t matter that I told the Pastor I did not feel safe. When I refused because I asked that they encourage counseling and accountability, the Pastor decided to just drop the ball. My husband never got called back, the Pastor never dealt with the issues, and 8 months later my husband is just attending counseling. At this point, something miraculous would have to happen in order for me to feel safe with this man. He was angry that I exposed him, and when he met the one and only time with the Pastor, the Pastor took his side and assured him that it was my “cultural” background that was causing the problems. The Pastor knew this because he had been a missionary for 20 years in “my culture”. How do I know this was said? My husband told me. I am still separated allowing the Lord to heal my fears. I don’t know what will have to happen for me to trust my husband. I am not making presumptions but wholly relying on God. My heart and mind want to run away and stay away from this man, who has an obvious personality disorder.

      • Leslie Vernick on May 31, 2013 at 10:36 am

        It is difficult for church leaders to make a judgment call on who is right or wrong, who is telling the truth and who is twisting it and honestly, even as a counselor it isn’t always easy to discern. That’s why outside documentation and evidence can help when you can gather it but when someone doesn’t want to confront someone, they won’t do it no matter what evidence is in front of them.

        Ladies I covet your prayers. I am meeting with about 60 pastors in a few weeks, teaching them how to “see” emotional abuse and why it’s so important that they not ignore or minimize it.

        • Sonia on May 31, 2013 at 8:40 pm

          I realize it is difficult. But I was not asking to take sides, I merely was asking for the men to mentor and bring my husband into accountability. I was making myself accountable to other women in the church, one being the wife of our former pastor. When I realized my husband was becoming more oppressive I decided to break the silence and do something that would force counseling. I begged my husband to go, he said he would not because the problem in the marriage is that I would not submit. I did not wash the dishes properly, did not clean the house to his specifications, I left food in the refrigerator that should have been removed. The house we lived in was his before we married, he reminded me of this on a regular basis. I had nothing and I was nothing according to him. I had a note that my husband wrote with his own handwriting admonishing me because I locked the door to a room and it was his house. I had a voice mail message where he threatened to file charges because I “stole” his necklace, which I did not. I had a recording of him ranting as he often did. None of it mattered because my complaints were “vague”. The Pastor saw it as an emotional woman’s problem. He couldn’t see why someone being constantly critical would cause me to feel like I was walking on eggshells. All I asked was for counseling, individual counseling, which I have attended. The church defaults on the side of the man and often contributes to continued abuse. I have educated myself enough to know that if he is not truly changed and repentant, I cannot go back.

          • Leslie Vernick on May 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm

            Sonia,

            Hooray for you that you tried to get help. Shame on the church that they still did not “get it”. Over and over again women are saying they are not heard. What do we need to do differently as women – as a community together to be heard on this issue. I am committed to helping women who struggle in this very difficult dilemma. Thanks for sharing.



          • Brenda B on June 1, 2013 at 6:15 am

            Vague?? A hand written note and recording? How is that vague. They not only don’t get it, they don’t want to. I have found that many churches only want to see the Biblical true beauty and not the reality. This world is not perfect and Christians don’t live in a bubble. True this world is not my home and I am just on assignment here, but I believe that God changes our assignments here. Being treated poorly in the name of Christ can be a joyful thing for God’s cause. Being treated poorly by a spouse who may call himself a Christian is not. Each spouse should be looking to change their heart, not one in domination.



  7. Amy on May 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    What if your leaders view talking about your difficulties as gossip or slander unless it’s told directly to them?

    How do you distinguish between no longer pretending and spilling the dirt? How do you make that distinction clear to leadership?

    • Leslie Vernick on May 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      Amy you make a good point and please pray for me as I speak with Christian leaders and pastors around this issue. I think much of it depends on your heart and attitude when you go to your pastor. In my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage I help women develop a CORE strength that enables them to express themselves in a godly way about tough truths in their marriages. When a women talks in that way, there is less to find fault with her about. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but if you are brave enough to approach church leaders for help, then hopefully you want to get the best possible outcome.

      I think the verse in Ephesians about not colluding with unfruitful deeds of darkness but rather exposing them is helpful here as well as saying that you will not lie or cover up to enable your husband’s self-deceit to continue citing Hebrews 3:13. But unfortunately women still meet with a resistance – probably because the leaders have no idea what to do to help.

      • Amy on May 30, 2013 at 12:11 am

        I’d be honored to. And I’m looking forward to your book.

  8. KB on May 30, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Oh gosh, where do I start with church people…. I had been the dutiful, make things appear perfect wife….When I left my ex, the first thing he did was go running to the pastors for ‘help’ then asked the pastors to ‘help’ my teenagers….I did speak with the clergy briefly about the abuse when I found out they were intervening with kids (but was told by clergy that some things were black and white in the bible), and now I will tell you that my kids quote me things like forgive 70×70 and love, love, love …..and kids seem to think I am crazy and I am the one estranged from the kids…..some help the clergy was….
    Since leaving my ex, I have attempted to visit churches…. i have been told by one minister that emotional abuse is not abuse, and if I am to be allowed to actively participate in church will depend on why I am divorced (none of his business, felt very judged…as if I do not have enough of that already…)………I feel like a leper because churches are built around the traditional family…which is how it should be…but for those of us that are single and 40’s..there is nothing there….and people assume that I am some sex starved harlot since I am older and divorced anyway….
    So I am done with church for a while….I love God and know he has a plan but I am struggling…….please pray for me.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Lord, help KB find a good support system of Christian sisters who can shepherd and mentor her through this time.

  9. Rhonda on May 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Leslie,

    Your post completely confirmed that the things I’m putting into place currently are the right ones! I am in the process of getting the paperwork together to file a TRO w/moved out orders against my husband. I am also filing for legal separation. Please keep me in prayer as this will be put into action by Tuesday, then all hell is going to break loose!!

    The emotional/verbal abuse I have been getting makes it so that I feel like I’m having to constantly tread on eggshells. My worker, Sara, at our Women’s Shelter compared my situation to someone living with Elder Abuse though and said I was definitely dealing w/ physical abuse. I have MS and am dependent on a walker in my home and a wheelchair outside of the home. I do not drive and require assistance for a lot of my basic needs.

    My husband is an alcoholic and is addicted to “Spice” a synthetic pot and occasionally the real MJ. I have numerous pictures of him pasted out all over the house, even on the ground in front of the open refrigerator! I also have video of him barely able to stand and even falling over at times. I think my biggest frustration is trying to get people to step up and confront him [well, my brother did and my husband punched him] My pastor wrote a letter for me for the TRO but he won’t confront him because he feel that its a conflict of interest since he’s both of our pastors. I love my church family regardless. I know they’ll be there for me.

    I just want it to be done so I can get on with my life! I love my husband but I can’t continue in this for now.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 30, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Lord, give Rhonda everything she needs, both in her spirit, like courage and confidence, and externally like money and favor with the courts to get safe and sane and in a better place. Amen.

      • Brenda B on May 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm

        Amen.

    • Brenda B on May 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      I have the paperwork in my hand to serve to my husband for a legal seperation. Now I have gotten advice from several people not to do it. Not that they are opposed to the seperation. They are afraid for me to do it personally. I thought I knew what I should do until now. I am in need of the Lord’s direction in this. I have already made arrangements for movers on Monday. Most feel that I should wait to serve him until we are finished with the move. Please pray for me and God’s will to be visual to me. Also, that I will feel more at peace with my decisions.

      • Leslie Vernick on May 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm

        Lord, please give Brenda safety and wisdom to know when and how to inform her husband of her decision. Give her perfect peace with her decision Lord and people who will support her through this next step. Wake her husband up Lord. Help him to see that there are serious consequences to his choices and his unrepentant heart. Help him to want to get the help he needs too.

  10. Karen on May 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Leslie,
    I thank God for you all the time. You counseled me and my husband 2 years ago. I did go to his church leaders and it was and is still all being brushed under the rug because they are FRIENDS. But, God has given me a peace of mind that I know I did what I was supposed to do. We separated and are close to being divorced. He will not go to a counselor and still believes the divorce is needed because I will not SUBMIT to his every desire, even tho he has absolutely no biblical grounds for a divorce. It hurts but I know that this is what must happen for me to move forward. The Lord has brought many wonderful people into my life through this time and even a new church family whose leader supports the idea of confronting the abusive person. Thank you so much for your wisdom and I really appreciate that you don’t grow weary in doing this work for the Lord and for those who need this type of help.
    God bless you and your family.
    Karen M.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks Karen.

  11. Meg Elyse on May 31, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Leslie,
    Thank you so much for this. I did the documentation thing – so much in fact that I think I’ve changed from being a non-detailed person to OCD over details. I’ve written a 20 page paper documenting events of the last year (so that my counselor could counsel me in a serious situation), several pages on my husband’s questionable activity during our entire marriage that are now pieces to a puzzle that is starting to materialize, his statements of manipulation, 30 pages of counseling sessions I’ve had with 14 different counselors expressing their shock and advise for my situation. . .on and on. I did it to survive, to keep telling myself the truth because my husband would confuse me, and to just have a record – because no one could possibly believe what has happened (and because maybe I’ll write a book one day.)

    I did all of this and my information wasn’t received well because it made the church staff look bad.

    I have wrestled with the “doesn’t keep record of wrongs” verse, and I have heard it in my head a lot. But this gave me some validation of something I already knew. It IS necessary if the problem isn’t being taken care of or resolved.

    Thank you.

  12. Carolyn on May 31, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Leslie,

    I’m so thankful you have covered this topic in your new book and that you occasionally raise it here on the blog as well. It is an issue church leadership needs to wake up to. In my own experience, I left my former church after being oppressed there (over a two-year period when seeking marital intervention) only to find in dismay when I finally left to go to a different church, the elders decided to pay a little visit to “brief” the new pastor. Need I say more? I quickly began to experience the same painful confusions with this new pastor/elder as had been previously experienced. (My situation is complicated, but to keep it brief– husband lives a double-life. His private life of deceit, manipulation, passive-aggressiveness and psychological mind-games is known only by me. The outside public image is one of devotion to Christ, humorous, a good provider, and a simple down-to-earth nice guy who no one could possibly believe would be destructive …. A man of whom Pat Robertson would say, “So what’s the big deal if he is a little destructive and uses pornography – get over it because he is a good provider …” (Pat’s latest advice Leslie referred to….) Because maintaining a good public image is everything to my husband, he soon followed me to this new church claiming repentance, desire for reconciliation and a resumption of couple’s counseling. (This was when the former elders paid their visit… The only thing husband was admitting to at that point, however, was his discovered pornography addiction of which undestroyable evidence prevented denial…. Because I was still struggling at that stage with accepting the depth of reality of who he genuinely is as a man and his level of deceit, I bought the manipulation that he was sincerely repentant and was convinced with time and a little bit more “thawing”, he would also be able to admit his other areas of destructiveness …. Big mistake.) As it turns out, it was all a farce to get family members and friends off his back asking questions about why I had changed churches and distanced myself in an in-house separation. Once he had me back and learned that the former elders had helped “transition us” to this new chruch (giving him the green light of assurance he had the trust and support of this new pastor/elder), he returned right back to the same double-life as before. No heart change…. When I tried to bring forth concrete examples in our counseling of continued destructiveness occurring inconsistant with genuine repentance, husband skillfully twisted things back around on me … (the old pattern as before). And as always, the elder just bought it without question or exploration of facts. So, once again I had to quit. It was only enabling husband more in sin and traumatizing me. But of course that was not how my discontinuing was interpreted… Unforgiveness and self-righteousness was the diagnosis. For over ten years now I have been praying for God’s intervention to save our marriage and have tried to figure out what He would have me do. I know He does not want enablement of lies and manipulation. Because this new pastor elder (not so new anymore….it has been over three years now) continued to handle matters like the previous ones in a very biased and unBiblical way, I recently felt led to write him a letter respectfully presenting my confusions and seeking his explanation for the way in which things were being handled (like for one – asking why husband’s word was automatically believed over mine). I told him I was at a place of needing to have our dialogue documented in some way until my confidence in his objectivity could be restored (Not wanting to be demanding, I asked him to choose his preference – written correspondance or audio recording of a f2f meeting). There has been absolutely no response whatsoever to my letter/request and no interest shown to put my heart to rest regarding the struggles and confusions experienced. Six months have passed by and I have just been left in a state of total limbo. It has become quite awkward attending church on Sunday mornings and seeing this pastor turn away from making eye contact….

    Don’t really know what to do anymore. In many ways it seems to be a lose lose situation for women in these situations. But I’ll continue to trust that God will come through in His good timing.

  13. J on May 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    What do you do when you went to the church for help and they turned their back on you? They are in support of my husband! My husband has hidden behind a religious facade and they believe him. It feels like a bad nightmare. There has been emotional, verbal, spiritual, sexual, financial and it turned physical. After having gone to a womens shelter I now understand the cycle of abuse. I lived confused for 13 years isolated in another state away from my family and friends with children all by myself. I feel like I finally understand the cycle of abuse and am so thankful to understand this but the church slammed their doors in my face! My heart breaks for the people out there that finally understand this and have been wounded by the church because of their lack of knowledge or how deceiving the abuser can be. My husband has elders and counselors from the church testifying on his behalf. The one place I thought I should feel safe and get wise counsel and it turns out like this?!?! My husband knew how important my faith is to me and he used it to his advantage. How can we make a difference in this world when in the legal system it seems to be all about the money. I filed a year ago in March and this divirce is still not final. My husband has just gotten worse with the abuse and has learned how to continue with his ways through the legal system. Does anyone care about the truth? How can we make people better away of Domestic Abuse? My heart breaks for anyone going through something like this. Please respond….how can we make a difference do that churches are made aware of situations like these. I don’t want others who are desperate to get help to have to go through the painful process of having the church turn the other way and not help.
    Thanks,
    J

    • Leslie Vernick on May 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      Wow this story is heard over and over again. I’m going to write more about it and speak more about it to church leadership. Pray I am heard.

  14. Rebecca on June 2, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Sure wish I had gotten this advice 8 years ago. I went to my pastor and told him I was deeply concerned about my marriage (husband was drinking often and in excess, hiding credit cards, & worst of all- had completely cut me off emotionally- cold as ice doesn’t do justice to how hateful his looks were and chilling his sighs of contempt were when he got home and saw a toy on the floor instead of a perfect house (he didn’t want it to look like there were kids in it). He would pick up the lid and slam it down, “Spaghetti? How boring! I’m going out to eat!” And then he would leave and go to a pub and eat and drink alone, leaving me to continue my single-mom-with-a-husband-in-name-only life. He completely shut down and detached when I got pregnant with #2 shortly after #1 arrived. I felt hated and started believing I was as pitiful as his negligence and critical remarks implied. As you can see, there weren’t hard cold “abuse” facts. When we met with the pastor, my husband made mince meat out of me. You would’ve thought I was there to whine about the toilet seat. We were encouraged to have a date night and go to counseling. As the years rolled on, the affair came out. The counselor said, separate until he has gotten help. The pastor said, as long as he is repentant, must stay. More. Years. Roll. The drinking worsens. The DUI. The spending is out of control. The church? An elder meets him for breakfast once or twice (in a year). When I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Friends urge me to tell him to move out. I did- with option to move back if gets help/sober 6 mos. Church finally calls him in and he lists his sins and they all stare and say nothing. Two are asked to pray for him and he is sent out. That was the discipline. No counsel, no road to recovery. He never came back. We are divorced. He lost his job… still drinks. My kids are still devastated (though in counseling). SO grateful you are speaking to pastors. Please tell as many as will listen! You may use my story!

    • Leslie Vernick on June 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks Rebecca. Your story is one of many coming my way. I know of instances where churches did step in and offer help and a plan of recovery and the person still walked away but it feels different when they at least try doesn’t it?

  15. J on June 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Leslie,
    I’m praying you are heard. My heart is so heavy for others to see, hear and act on the truth. I wanted to encourage others and say I have found a new church home where they acknowledge Domestic Violence. Thank you for what you do! Your book helped me so much…The Emotionally Abusive Relationship. This book is one that helped me to see the truth. What is crazy is the lay counselors from the church I went to with my husband said I needed to throw the book away because it was putting seeds of doubt in my mind if I wanted to really make my marriage work. The counselor didn’t realize it but he gave more power to my husband and my husband hoovered over me when we got home to throw the book away in the trash. This book helped me to understand all the confusion we were living in. How can there be change if you don’t call it what it is “abuse” …the counselors would not let me call it abuse only sin. You have to shed light on the darkness. We as a church can’t keep this hidden. Thanks again for all you do!
    J

  16. J on June 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I got the name of the book wrong…sorry. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.

    • Leslie Vernick on June 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks J for the correction. I thought you were referring to my book but glad you clarified. Why do you think the church is so afraid to call evil evil? They want to neutralize it with the generic label sin – and that’s true, and we are all sinners and we all sin but some sins are much more destructive to the well-being of others and marriage and family life than others. God singled out specific sins he hates such as haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies and one who sows discord among brothers. Sounds like abuse to me. (Proverbs 6:16-19).

  17. Karen on June 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Leslie asks…”Why do you think the church is so afraid to call evil evil? They want to neutralize it with the generic label sin – and that’s true, and we are all sinners and we all sin but some sins are much more destructive to the well-being of others and marriage and family life than others.”
    Don’t you think the church as a whole has a BIG problem with the whole church discipline thing? We are all so full of pride – collectively, as well as individually, that to admit we have struggles in any area of our life is unheard of, in any church. Yet this may be just what a fellow Christian needs to witness, along with loving pastoral, and, if need be congregational care for the ones who dare to stand up and admit that they can’t do it on their own.
    The dishonesty in this area does two things: for new believers, it presents a false picture of true Christianity, i.e., “we never have any problems in this area”. And then others in the congregation who are struggling as well, and might very well be encouraged to seek help for themselves by witnessing proper care for those who stray are, by default, left to “put on a happy face” and continue living their own lie. Until they can’t.
    And that, my friends, is sometimes how we end up with perfect-looking marriages of 20-30 years that fall apart to everyone’s shock and dismay.
    A third problem that results from this “hear no evil, see no evil” routine in the church is that those who grow up in these homes may be doomed to repeat the cycle because there was no one to show them another way.

  18. Kelly on June 3, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    My heart is so troubled in hearing of all the negative responses and lack of support you are all getting from your churches. I am praying that these pastors hearts will become softened and that God will give them wisdom. I pray for you Brenda, for your safety and for supernatural strength as you serve your husband papers. I can not believe when I read most of your stories the similarities between yours and mine. I will have to reread most of them because there’s so much to take in. My husband is not physically abusive and hasn’t been unfaithful that I know of but the mental and emotional anguish is all the same. Twisting scripture, double binding communication, the berating… My children have suffered greatly. 2 have left the home (teens), one who is struggling with severe anxiety and depression (9), and I pray over my youngest(5)that so far she has not been affected. One thing different is that for the past almost 6 months I’ve been talking with my pastor. He is so supportive. I also have provided him with documentation and he has been helping me and my children. My pastor has been trying to confront my husband but he refuses and of course I’m an accuser, a traitor, and I want to divide our home. It is so unbelievable that a mans words are so powerful even when you know they are not true. My pastor is now advising the next step of separation. For years I was unable to even fathom this and now that I have a church family to back me up and hold me in prayer it really makes such a difference. Thank you Leslie for this support site and ladies I write your names in my prayer journal and will pray for you.

    • Leslie Vernick on June 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Thank you for your prayers.

    • Brenda B on June 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Thank you so much for your prayers and for all the ladies on this site that are praying and have their own struggles. You are all on my heart and in my prayers. I am also in pryaer for the children that are being affected by the brokenness and sin that they are enduring. It is so not their fault and I know God weeps for them.

      I was unable to serve my husband as his behavior was much more severe at that point. I returned the papers to my attorneys office. He called within minutes after that and I told him to pick them up at her office and he did rather quickly.

      Prior to that discussion, I had moved most of my belongings out of the house. Someone called and told him that I was leaving, he returned home and changed the locks before I could finish. He insists that I come to get the rest after 4:00 when he will be there. I find that arrangement unacceptable. I have emailed my attorney to see what my rights are. I am told by other sources that it is still my house and that I can get in by any means necessary. I am verifying that before I do. But at this time my plan is a brick and crowbar. I can get the rest of what I need in one trip. I am now in a 1 bedroom apartment in comparison to the 5 bedroom home that I had been living in. It’s not like I can take much.

      Please continue to pray for me Ladies. My counselor said that after I get everything from the home the grieving process will start and I could have the thought of giving up and going back. If that does happen I will need prayer and my Savior even more. I pray for closeness to Him more than ever. I am blessed with some truly awesome daughters that came from out of town to help me move and a couple of very friendly new neighbors that have welcomed me to the community that I now call home.

      • Rhonda on June 6, 2013 at 12:24 am

        Brenda, I am so sorry for what you are going through! I can relate 99.9% as I am serving TRO docs to my husband on Friday! I went to our local Women’s Shelter and they have someone who specifically deals with them. All I had to do was fill out the forms. I also submitted letters from family/friends who have witnessed his behavior. She wrote up a formal request based on my responses and after signing them, she turned them to the judge. She should get the official court documents in the morning and after making extra copies for me to have, she will then turn it over to the local sheriff who will not only deliver it to my husband but he will escort him off the property! He’ll only have 5mins to gather some belongings.

        I pray things work out for you!

      • Kelly on June 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

        If I’m not mistaken you can get a police escort to get youre belongings if you don’t feel safe.

  19. Linda Stoll on June 4, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Thank you, Leslie … this is obviously a hot topic for many women … and words that our church leaders need to hear.

    I’ve shared your post on this weeks’s Gleanings
    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2013/06/gleanings-breakout-spice-rack-healing.html

  20. J on June 4, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Leslie,
    I know in my situation my husband and I have been to over 13 different “Christian counselors”…looking back I understand better because we moved 7 times out of our 13 years of marriage. It is definitely a cycle. We would move from counselors I believe every time they started to see through my husband. My husband would convince me that they(counselors) were not really true believers in Christ because why would they give me a plan B to exit the marriage. I did divorce my husband in 2009 after finding out about another one night stand. He kept telling me and his Mom Was telling me as well that I was wrong and that God hated divorce and even though he sinned he repented but now the divorce was my choice (sin) and it was devestating our children. So everything was put on me. Long story short we moved churches and ended up at a place with the lay counselors and I was not allowed to call it abuse. The counselors said there was no reason we shouldnt be remarried and that I was in the wrong. My husband is very charming and everyone likes him. He made me out to be crazy and made fun of my faith in God. I believe that there was a since of pride in that church we went to together and it was like everyone I went to no one wanted to deal with or acknowledge these heavy issues. It was very confusing because this abuse was done all behind closed doors. I only had a picture of when he hit me that was proof something was definitely not right behind closed doors and that is when I knew I had to leave because we were no longer safe. My mother-in-law said I was keeping records of wrong by holding onto that picture but it was the only proof of truth that I had that I was not making this up. My 2 children are relieved we are no longer living under the same roof with him but how do I help them now? I feel guilty for getting out and they still have to deal with it. Marriage is sacred to me and I think that is why I stayed so long…not to mention its very confusing when you are living and walking on eggshells all the time. Throughout our counseling I was told different things like well you have stayed this long you might as well stay. I got to the point I hated the word submit. I felt like there was no hope and I was dying inside until I read your book. I really look forward to reading your new book as well. I want to send copies to the churches and counselors so they can better help others down the road. This was so complicated and hard for me to explain. I guess when you are in the thick of it…it is even harder to understand. There is such a need for people to understand this…especially those giving counsel to others. Can we make it a requirement ?

  21. Carol on August 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Leslie, I am so glad you have written this. I struggled with how much to tell my Bible Study leader, and went prepared and emotionally calm. Unfortunately, my husband had already brainwashed the leader, so I had to leave the group. Giving him specific records of verbal and emotional abuse was not enough to convince him of my husband’s wrongdoing – he said he would pray for our reconciliation. My pastors supported me through my separation because they knew our situation quite well but advised me to change churches because of his stalking.

    Now he is influencing my new pastor, and every time I try to calmly tell the pastor of the abuse, there is no response. I have written informative emails, with references to books like “A Cry for Justice”, but they all go unanswered. I am still serving there, and he appreciates everything I do, but I don’t feel validated or completely safe. I also think that my stbx has badmouthed all the organizations and books that raise awareness about abuse, so if I recommend them to any pastors or preachers in my small town, they stonewall me.

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