Morning Friends,

I hope you had a beautiful weekend.  The weather here was just perfect yesterday. We’ve had so much rain and cloud cover lately, it was wonderful to have a sunny, low humidity day.

The Emotionally Destructive MarriageI have a special surprise for you.  Click here to listen to Abagail’s Dreams.  It is a new song written by Nashville songwriter, Kim McLean, for women in destructive marriages.   Kim and I did a retreat together, and I knew she was the perfect person to write this song for my book. It is truly anointed.

Also, don’t forget to watch this week’s video:  Why Consequences are An Important Wake Up Call for Destructive Spouses.

Todays’ question has to do with counseling:   My husband insists that I go to counseling with him. He said that our marriage can’t get better if we aren’t both in counseling together. Our pastor agrees with him.

We’ve done that before, numerous times. I don’t want to repeat that same cycle. The counselors that we have tried in the past just haven’t understood what’s really going on. My husband is so charming and convincing, I’m the one that’s always labeled with “the problem” or, if they do see through him, I’m told to just try harder to love him and wait for God to work.

Can you give me good reasons why and when couple’s counseling isn’t appropriate so that I can better stick up for myself?

Answer:  The standard thought in marital distress is that it takes two to tango, and therefore both parties need to be present in order to understand the dynamics of the relationship as well as work toward a solution. However, let me give you a few reasons why couple’s counseling is not helpful and can even be dangerous in destructive marriages:

  1. You’re afraid to be honest. In marital counseling, a counselor needs to hear both people’s perspectives as to what the problem is. If one person feels that her words will be used against her later or she is in danger of having a terrifying drive home after the counseling, she is not likely to be honest or forthcoming with her own feelings nor will she feel free to contradict her husband’s story. Often when she tries, it deteriorates into a session of “he said/she said” and the counselor isn’t sure who or what to believe.
  2. The marital counselor’s goal is to remain neutral. For the most part, couple’s counselors must not take sides. If they do, one spouse feels ganged up on and marriage counseling stalls. Therefore, the counselor tries to be fair to the husband who blame shifts his destructive, abusive or deceitful behaviors on his wife when he says, “if only she didn’t do ______, I wouldn’t have acted that way.”

    This kind of dynamic happens a lot in regular couple’s counseling where certain behaviors or actions are a trigger and it’s sometimes helpful to identify and work them through. In destructive marriages, taking this approach is harmful. It colludes with her husband’s delusion that he’s entitled to a fantasy wife who never upsets him and that he’s not responsible for his own emotions or behaviors. This delusion not only hurts him, it hurts their marriage.

    If the counselor starts to work with the wife on the things she should change to “not provoke her husband,” it reinforces her husband’s idea that the counselor agrees with him that his wife is the problem and she needs to be fixed. Instead of taking responsibility for his own problems, attitudes or sinful behaviors, he starts to portray himself as the victim. When this happens over and over again, the wife starts to feel crazier and crazier. She may get emotional and look irrational, argumentative or resistant, only further reinforcing the belief of her husband and the counselor that she is indeed the problem.

  3. For marital counseling to be effective, both individuals must acknowledge they have a problem to work on and they are willing to work on it. When an abusive/destructive person goes to marital counseling, it’s usually because he was pressured to do so by his spouse, by a pastor or by painful consequences.  He goes reluctantly, not with the idea of working on anything for himself, but to blame his spouse and get the counselor to see what a great guy he is and how wrong his wife is.

    When the wife goes into marital counseling, she is usually going with the hopes that their marriage will get better and that they will work on things. She is usually open to external feedback from the counselor, to grow, learn and to change.  Therefore the marital counseling starts to be “about her” because she is the only willing participant in the counseling process even if he is attending.

    He’s not owning any problems he has to work on. Although he probably won’t directly admit to this, he is there to observe what she is telling the counselor, clarify any “untruths” she says about him, and to make sure she gets the help she needs to become the woman he wants. As she colludes with this process, she is “trying harder” to be the fantasy wife instead of learning to speak up and be a real person in this marriage.

    Just this week, after working with an abusive man for the past two years, he still wanted to blame his wife for him “having to be in counseling”  after his abusive incidents. This is how I responded, “You’re still not seeing things clearly. Yes, your wife is partially responsible for some of your marital problems, but you are 100% responsible for your abuse. Until you accept that and work on yourself, you marriage has a zero chance of getting better.”

    He still wants to cling to the fantasy idea that if she became a different “wife” then he wouldn’t act that way.

    I must say that this same dynamic can and does play out when the woman is the abuser and the husband is seeking counseling.  The husband is open, willing to work, and the wife is accusatory and defensive. She is not there as a participating client but as someone to supervise the counseling of her spouse.

As I say in my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, “When there is no safety and no sanity, joint counseling is ineffective and often dangerous. If he can’t see his part or take responsibility for his own wrong thinking, beliefs or attitudes, everything ends up being the wife’s fault and her responsibility.”

Old history keeps repeating itself, even in the counselor’s office, which leaves a wife feeling hopeless that her spouse can change and hopeless that their counselor truly understands their problem.

If you’re seeking a competent counselor for your emotionally destructive marriage here are three questions you can ask before scheduling your first appointment:

  1. Do you have experience in working emotionally destructive marriages?  If so, what training have you had?
  2. What specific books have you read or do you recommend for other’s to read on this problem?
  3. Do you counsel a couple together or separately?  What would be your reasons for that?

I think the counselor's answers or lack thereof, would give you a good idea of how much expertise and background he or she has in this area and whether or not you thought their approach would be helpful to your situation.

Now friends it’s time for you to share too.  Has your counseling experiences been helpful or hurtful and why? What would you do differently?

 

128 Comments

  1. Brenda B on August 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    All good information. If the husband does seek counseling, at what points is marriage counseling recommended? As of today, we are legally seperated. He has ongoingly claimed to be seeing a counselor, but I have caught him in other lies during this time. I don’t see an improvement and he will not let me in on the secret of who this person is and does not answer questions other than jokingly. Last week I asked him a question about what his counselor says about his behavior and his answer was exactly what he always says. You should just give her flowers and candy and all will be ok. I don’t believe that any counselor would say such a thing.

    • Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Sometimes I think the better question is, When do we truly let him go?
      😉 Sending prayers for peace, direction and your own box of chocolates – the ones with salted caramels, flowers, and exotic chocolate. XO!

      • Brenda on August 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        Thank you Vikki, I love chocolate. I have been eating more than my fair share lately. As of yesterday, I am legally separated from him. His reactions to needing to sign all of the paperwork to divide assets was ridiculous. When it comes down to it I know that he is not changing and I am going to do the final step and go for the divorce decree as soon as the assets are done. I cannot allow him to use me as an excuse for his behavior any longer. After 3 months of living alone I am gaining confidence and know it will be ok with the Lord providing as he has. Thinking about chocolate makes me want to go to the kitchen.

  2. Stephanie Weldy on August 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    This is 100% true. I’ve experienced all of this. I would add that my destructive spouse pushed me to go to counseling and I resisted for a while, because I suspected his motives were to get me straightened out so that I would quit asking for honesty in our marriage. When I relented, the scenario played out as described in the post. He made himself out to be the saint and I was the problem. My frustration at his deliberate lies in counseling encouraged this view. Finally, my willingness to correct the things that I was doing wrong and his unwillingness to talk about his issues allowed him to deflect all attention off himself and onto me. The counselor told him he had nothing to work on but to help me get better. I thought I was going insane. The experience was so painful, I wish I had had more confidence in my original objection, because I was right.

    • Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 10:38 am

      I was in your camp Stephanie… everything was about me and after 19 years I agreed. Since it was about me and my choices and actions, I chose to leave.
      I left the chaos of appointments where the focus was on me.
      I left the insanity of his lies owning that he needed to change but then never would.
      I left the expectation that I would take it day after day.

      Funny, it really was all on me, to believe I was worth more than this.
      So I changed it.

      Wherever you are in your stage Stephanie, know that I said a prayer for you today, because I get it and wish healing for you from a Father who knows we’re worth so much more.

      • Stephanie on August 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        Vikki,

        Your play on words is humorous. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for your prayer. I’m separated now for four months and getting stronger. I’m remembering what God called me to do before I got married — to serve Him. I feel more liberated beginning to serve the Lord again than even being out of the destructive situation. I’m remembering what it means to be free in Christ. I don’t know how this will all work out, but remaining free to serve the Lord is my top priority. No more bondage for me.

  3. janet tobler on August 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    what a great question and post! thanks leslie. i experienced pretty much what you wrote. thankfully we have great questions to ask the counselors now… also what was also helpful before going to a counselor associated with a church was to identify their beliefs about marriage, abuse, family, roles of women in the church. when i searched for new counselors, if they weren’t on the same page of my biblical beliefs of women and men, family and marriage, then i thought it best not to seek counsel from one who did not share my same beliefs. one church i went to believed that the woman had to do everything the man said submissively and obediently without arguing. when i realized this i left the church, but it took some time to get to know them. why would i bring my husband to counseling when the church had such oppressive doctrine and dogma. i am still seeking a good church and i have found a counselor. keep looking and know your beliefs and look at the relationship between god and jesus and jesus and his followers and the holy spirit who is guiding us. look at that relationship as the guide and measure of health. take care. janet

  4. Ann on August 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Very helpful; I wish I had received this before wasting time and money in seeing a couple that practiced Imago counseling until my husband invited them to speak at a conference he was hosting as well as sending them ” wealthy clients”( his words). The next attempt was with a wonderful woman who practiced emotionally focused therapy and told us after about 8 sessions that she could not help us,I imagine this is why.My husband refused personal counseling,because ,as he stated to me and friends,” our marital issues were 100% due to my family dysfunction.He described his upbringing like Ozzid and Harriet,which I know now is very,very far from the truth.So,good advice,Leslie.

    • Jen on May 3, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      Ann, I am considering EFT. But, having just read this article I’m not so sure. Would you be willing to tell me more about your EFT experience?

      • Ann on May 5, 2016 at 7:47 am

        Jen,have you read the EFT book, Hold Me Tight?It’s focus deals with attachment issues which I believe were our issues. I don’t feel my husband was willing to look at his own” baggage” that he brought into the marriage; it was convenient to blame the problems in our marriage on mine as both of his parents died relatively young.I think it is excellent IF marriage counseling is right for you at this time.Obviously,it was not for us as our excellent therapist told us she could no longer help us.I think she saw the ” writing on the wall”… and she was correct.I left not too long after that and we divorced a year ago.

  5. Amy on August 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I married my ex-husband in 1989. He was verbally, emotionally and mentally abusive the entire marriage, not only to me, but our two sons as well.

    Long, long painful story as short as possible:
    After an event occurred in 2006 which made me realize just how unhealthy our marriage was, I begged, prodded and yes, demanded that we go for counseling.
    He went reluctantly and told me that he would not see a woman counselor. So the counselor I had been seeing gave me the name of a male colleague of hers who we ended up seeing.
    Our first day we were to go in (we drove separately at my insistence), my ex brushed past me on the way out of our house and sneered at me asking, “ready to go to the fights?” I wanted to throw up.
    I shook all the way there and was terrified as the counselor called us in. I could not speak up, no matter how badly I wanted to. I could not answer any questions. I could not be truthful at all.
    My ex did all the talking, of course, and when the counselor would ask for my opinion or ask me a question, my ex would sneer at me and I had to clench my hands to keep from visibly shaking in front of him. My heart was pounding, I was sweating and shaking, and ready to run!
    At the end I timidly asked the counselor if he and I could meet privately the next time and he then turned to my ex and asked him if it was okay!!! I just about passed out!
    And at that point, I knew this had been a big, big mistake, because my ex had done exactly what I was afraid of…he had turned the counselor to his side (or at least it felt that way) with his victim, poor-me attitude. He had blamed me the whole time for how he acted. He said several times how I made it too hard for him to do anything right because I continually raised the bar on him and the counselor even repeated that one time…”so she keeps raising the bar for what you can do that is right, correct?” Oh my, how I wanted to throw up and run, just run out of there. 🙁

    We ended up going maybe another four times, and yes, I did meet privately with the counselor once which was a joke. I finally just said I didn’t want to go anymore to which my ex replied, “ok, as long as you never do this again!”
    Yeah, sure, we’re fine, we don’t need counseling…I just needed to shut up, sit down and learn to live with it.

    My ex walked out on me in 2009 and the divorce was final in 2011.

    This November will mark my two year anniversary of being married to a wonderful man and living in a healthy marriage. I truly only believed this type of love and marriage was for fairy tales alone.

    Couples counseling is truly detrimental in the case of an abusive marriage because of what Leslie outlined above.
    Seek help for yourself by seeing a reputable counselor who can help you see clearly the harmfulness of abuse in your life.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 26, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks Amy for sharing.

    • Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 9:54 am

      YAY!!!!! THIS was a GREAT post! Thanks for the happy ending!!! YES!!!!

  6. Shellie on August 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    My counseling experiences have been helpful. I entered individual counseling first. My destructive spouse was certain he didn’t need one. Individual counseling was a safe place to share my problems and receive unbiased help in healing from them and learning how to resolve present issues. Many months later, my spouse entered his own counseling and we have had intermittent joint sessions. Where are are now, I think we are making more progress – as a couple – by our individual sessions than by our joint sessions. He cannot escape responsibility in his individual sessions, and is unable to maintain the “victim role.” I am able to focus on myself in my sessions, learning where my responsibilities begin and end, healing from old and new wounds, setting and keeping boundaries, and other vital support. This would not be effectively possible in couple’s therapy. A least, not where we are right now. We have had a few couple’s sessions and we both agree we benefit more from our individual ones.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Shellie, thanks for sharing your positive experience. I too believe when each person is willing to work separately first, own their own issues, that is the only possible way that the counseling can work. In my next 3 video’s I’ll be sharing when joint counseling can be started and why.

      • Shellie on August 26, 2013 at 7:02 pm

        I look forward to those videos! Thanks for responding! 🙂

  7. Arie on August 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I experienced a lot of the same experiences as all of you above. I recently went to a new individual counselor. She explained away my husband’s bad behavior. When I was in the session a lot of what she said made sense, but once I left, I realized that either I have been over-reacting about the entire thing, or she was wrong. Perhaps a little of each. But what am I to think when I as my spouse for a little more foreplay and he doesn’t want to cooperate. When this comes up in marriage counseling he explains it away by saying when I said that, he thought I didn’t want sex. How does wanting more foreplay mean I don’t want sex??? Did he take it literally, meaning more foreplay, less sex? Am I crazy or is it just a case of men are from mars, women are from venus?

    • Brenda on August 26, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      I don’t think so. In my definition of sex, foreplay is a part of it and we are suppose to want to make our spouse happy in our physical love life. That is not an unfair request. Now if you asked him to dress up in a Little Bo Peep costume as some kind of acting out fantasy, I could see where he might have an issue. What you are asking for is simply giving your spouse pleasure. there is nothing wrong with that.

      • Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

        ROFL!!!

  8. Joy on August 26, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    My missionary/pastor husband was physically violent to me & ourchildren and emotionally abusive for 30 years – until the 3rd of my 7 grown children who tried to get help from our sending pastor was believed. We saw 2 counsellors who both basically said I need to submit more (from my husband’s lies) and he needs to learn to communicate better. Then our family was forced to resign and return to America for counselling by our NANC-certified associate pastor.

    Right from the start he met seperately with each of us just gathering facts….for about 10 sessions. He picked up on the truth immediately and could predict how my husband responded before I even told him. He even insisted I pack a bag and hide it and the car key outside somewhere to enable escape. I did come sobbing & shaking to his family’s door one midnight.

    He also explained how I was loving my husband by removing the object of his anger and preventing his further sin in that situation.

    There are no words to explain my relief and the hope that filled my heart. Hope is crucial & I clung to the verses he gave me proving God hates oppression & He was my shield.

    After confirming the problem was 99.9% my husband, we met together for the next year. I was asked to keep a log to confirm when my husband lied or blamed me. The pastor was relentless in first of all, getting him to even see any problems, let alone admit and ask forgiveness. When my husband’s anger poured out at the pastor, the pastor would raise his voice right back and even stand up sometimes, backing down the bully. It took months for him to admit anything.

    We were kept a close watch on and my husband was held accountable for 6 more years before we were tentatively allowed to return to the field, this time just to help out in a church, not pastor.

    I’m sorry to say that my husbands humility and good behaviour left and the violence & abuse returned after a year. The continued accountability that had been promised never happened.

    I’ve separated leaving conditions for reconciliation but instead he got a girlfriend, spent all of our life savings and just filed for divorce.

    This was in spite of the excellent counselling. I think he conformed to expectatiins because it benefitted him. There was never any true repentance with ‘godly sorrow’.

    But God is good and loving and I’m grateful for His grace.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Praise God Joy for your wise pastor and NANC counselor. Sad to say often these people go through the motions but never come to a true heart’s repentance. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

      • Brenda on August 26, 2013 at 10:37 pm

        I believe that is where we are. I was granted a Legal Separation from the court today. I was not shaken when I arrived and left at peace after the Judge gave his ok. Then I had to tell my now former husband that we had 30 days to get all of the paperwork signed for separation of assets.
        He begins by conveniently not understanding anything I am saying. I have to repeat what is needed to be done over and over. All of this time him saying I don’t understand. Last week he couldn’t get paperwork signed fast enough. With the stock market as it is and my getting a set dollar amount from his 401k he could end up with a lower remaining value by waiting. Now he drags his feet. Accuses me of only being concerned with money, even called me Mrs. Greedy. (really mature comment) this goes on all evening until I am close to insanity. Then he says ok lets stop this now and accuses me of being responsible for the entire event. I made him do it.
        I filed for Legal Separation rather than divorce hoping it would jolt him enough that he might be repentant. He is seeing a counselor that I can tell by his tone he resents. He says he will stop his verbal abuse and never say the kinds of things that he said to me in the past. Never lasts less than a day. I don’t believe I have a choice but to go the final step and file for the divorce. If I am no longer a part of his life in anyway, He will have no one to blame for his actions. I know that I am not responsible, but I play into his will by allowing him to play games with me. This does not help him and prevents me from being as close to God as I want to be. The X wants to be my god and have my undivided attention no matter how he has to get it. Negative of positive makes no difference.

        • Leslie Vernick on August 26, 2013 at 10:43 pm

          Brenda – what a brave girl you are. I’m proud of you.

          • Brenda on August 28, 2013 at 4:14 am

            Thank you Leslie for all of your encouragement.

            Could you put the words to Abigail’s Dreams on your site. I am loving this song, but have Tinnitus and can’t catch all of the words. I’d really like to sing along.

            I only feel brave when I tune in with God and remember “whom shall I fear”. I zone out just a little bit, I’m jello… but will get through this. Last night he said that God had him here for a purpose, to look after me. He also said that I would have a lifetime of him getting under my skin. Fear set in and my bones chilled. I could hear his voice saying the words. Brenda



        • Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 10:31 am

          Rooting for you Brenda!

      • Kay on August 31, 2013 at 7:58 am

        What is NANC ?

        • Leslie Vernick on September 4, 2013 at 6:36 am

          NANC stands for National Association of Nouthetic Counselors which was started by Jay Adams who was frustrated with the lack of biblical counsel in the church. You can google it to find out more about them. They tend to work as lay counselors in local churches. They are not licensed by the state but are credentialed by NANC after training in biblical counseling methods. They avoid psychological labels and believe that God’s word holds everything they need to adequately understand the problem and counsel the person. As in any organization, there are some very wise and good counselors and others who are not so good. Do you do diligence when selecting a counselor, especially when you’ve had numerous bad experiences.

    • Shellie on August 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Joy, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I needed to hear that.

    • Katy on August 27, 2013 at 10:02 am

      Joy and Brenda –
      I think the problem is that these Christian leaders/pastors are laboring under the delusion that these abusive men are saved. Just because they claim the name of Christ means nothing.
      Once we get ourselves straight on what a wolf in sheep’s clothing is, then we wouldn’t have the church wasting 6 years of your life trying to get this supposed “Christian” to start acting right. SIGH!!

    • Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Rooting for you Joy!

  9. Ellen on August 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Wow. I could have really used this back when I made all the above mistakes.

  10. rd on August 26, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Leslie…this is such a great article and very important insight. It is information I wish more than just a few people knew in the helping professions. It is more than frustrating to hear people who do not understand destructive marriages and /or abuse repeatedly give bad counsel and then judge when women say no…couples counseling is NOT safe for me.

    I asked my husband for over 10 years to go to counseling with me. He always found a reason/excuse why he couldn’t commit to that. FInally, 3 years ago I decided I had to go by myself to fix me if not my marriage. I was fortunate in that the first counselor saw huge control issues in my relationship and the second counsellor saw abuse immediately. We did finally go to the second counselor together which was a nightmare for me for all the reasons Leslie mentioned. In order to not alienate him…the counsellor remained neutral, which left me feeling crazy and responsible. I chose to do individual counseling at this point and it was life saving for me.

    The frustrating thing now, and I believe this is also quite common, is that our pastor refuses to believe anything other than that my husband is “a good guy’ so even great information such as this, is lost on him because in his mind…my marriage is not destructive. He simply will not believe my experience and story. Why is the guys story so much easier to believe? It’s a whole added layer of pain and abuse…being minimized and betrayed by another person who I ‘should’ be able to trust. Although I have said to my pastor “IT IS NOT EMOTIONALLY SAFE FOR ME TO BE IN COUPLES COUNSELING” he continues to press me on this issue, thus making it appear that It is me, not my husband, that is unwilling to do the work necessary to heal the broken marriage.

    I know this is a diversion from your post Leslie, but every time I read information like this , I think…Hey, I’ll send it to my pastor, I realize it will do not good. It will do no good because on top of not understanding the dynamics of abuse and destructive marriages, he does not see it when it is in front of him, therefoer the great information doesn’t apply in his mind. I don’t know if you have any suggestions for this dilemma Leslie, but if you or anyone else does, I’d be glad to hear it.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 26, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      I wish your story was unique but it is not. Sadly somehow a women’s word is suspect, a man’s word is gold. Sometimes I find that true in my own ministry. I try to talk with pastors and they just refuse to believe what I’m saying. That’s when we have to rest and rely on the sovereignty of God. He knows. He loves truth and justice but Jesus faced those who didn’t believe his version of truth.
      So, we will continue to speak out, speak truth, in humility and gentleness, praying that God opens the hearts and minds of those who are not ready to hear.

  11. rd on August 26, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Thanks Leslie,
    I’ve come to that point for the most part, (but clearly struggle with the injustice of it all still) and I do rest (most days) knowing that God is for truth and justice and the oppressed and one day…one day, the truth WILL be made known.

    Apart from the occasional frustration of certain people not ‘getting ‘ the sound biblical insights from people like you, your books and blog and videos are a great reassurance to my heart and mind and helps me stay the course with increased confidence. So, thank you so much for being a voice that helps keep many of us sane in the midst of crazy situations. I’m sorry, but not surprised unfortunately, that you face the same issue in your ministry. :-((

  12. Shannon on August 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    This is so good. I have so wanted and begged my husband to go to counseling with me but he would only go twice with me. The first counselor told me that we need to be kind to each other, I would have to be willing to go off the cliff with him in whatever he wanted to do and for me to be more submissive to him. The other counselor told my husband that he needed for Jesus to get a hold of his heart that he had so much pride and that he needed to change. To say the least, he was so livid when he got out of counseling and refused to go back. He told me that all the counselors do is tell him what a bad person he was and that the women were never wrong. My marriage is so different than others, that I have become numb to how he is. I started going to counseling for myself realizing that my marriage will not change unless their is a Damascus Road Experience.

  13. Jo Ellen on August 27, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Thank you Leslie for what you shared. All you have said is true and I wish I had this informaton 20 years ago. My ex and I went to our Pastor for Counseling. My now ex would get more abusive to me after every session and I would go into flight and have suicidal ideations. I so appreciated the comments by the women above about when a woman is brave enough to share and the Counselor (not trained on abusive relationship dynamics as relates to counseling)stays so called neutral, or the woman is not believed by any Pastor … that is retraumatization for the woman and further abuse that leads one to feel not wanted or loved anywhere. Praise the Lord that when human fails – the Lord is still there with us in all. The positive side of all this is: My ex did leave me – fast forward … I got excellent counseling for years and was able to help my 4 children who are all grown now. They see through their fathers lies (something Counselor told me would happen but when your children are ages 7-12 and identify at first with the abuser it seems hard to believe. All my children are adults now and see the dynamics. I praise God for Great Counselors like yourself and the work you are doing to give encouragement and education women – especially Christian women who are taught wrongly even in abuse to submit and “win” him to Godly Behaviors. As so many said – with no consequences … that does not happen and even when are consequences – takes the Lord to do a miracle to change anothers distructive behaviors. Even now all these years – I think at times – well maybe I should of done this or that and somehow made it work and then I read other womens stories and remember the behaviors and I know that we are not married is what kept myself alive and positively affected our children despite all. Thank you.

  14. sarah on August 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Leslie – Thank you so much for this post! I wish I would have read this many, many years ago – it took 20+ years of marriage and three different “marriage counselors” before one counselor finally separated my husband and I and counseled me separately and appropriately, because, she, like me, had been married to a man with borderline personality disorder. Only by truly understanding the dynamics of our marriage, gaining legitimate counseling to start to make requirements of my spouse have we gained some ground. I am still in my marriage – almost 28 years, knowing that with minimal use of medication, I can stay, but that if stops taking his medication, I will likely have to leave. It is an uncertain peace, but one the Lord has blessed for now! To God be all the glory and thank you for allowing Him to speak through you to those of us trapped in painful, emotionally destructive marriages!!! Your messages provide strength, hope and light!!!! You are a real blessing, Leslie!!!!

  15. Vikki on August 27, 2013 at 10:06 am

    19 years, over $20,000 in marital therapy,
    4 pastors,
    5 counselors,
    2 trips to the National Institute of Marriage (which has a 95% success rate, I love them!)
    1 personality dysfunction questionaire that when came back, no one wanted to touch,
    and guess, what I figured out.

    That even if I really was bat$*#t crazy, I deserved love.
    I was worth more than this.

    I told him I was tapping out. Done. All my fault. No blame. I’m over it.
    I took my half of the money of every account we had.

    $3000 attorney fee
    1/3 living expenses
    1 year of legal separation required by state (10 months to go, can I get an Amen?)
    Split custody and childcare 50-50
    No promises for college
    Bliss every single morning
    Peace at dinner every night
    Hot coffee ready every morning with a mental image of God saying “This is for you”.

    Leslie Vernick, you are saving women’s time, energy, money and very souls. Your work is eternal. Your battle must be fierce. May we pray for you daily.

    • Brenda on August 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      A big “Amen” goes out to you, Vikki!! Still want that chocolate and trying to stay away from the kitchen. I am looking forward to that prayer for flowers being answered. Counting down and praying with you, Brenda

    • tamara on August 27, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Help! Wish I could find a counselor. However, my God has been there for me and my son and I’m so thankful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Linda on August 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I love your book, “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship”
    And have pre-ordered your new book.
    I have seen 3 counselors, 2 priests, 2 spiritual
    Directors, my MD – all said “leave”
    We finally went to a counselor together (I reluctantly
    Agreed) By the 2nd visit she suggested he may
    Have Aspergers Syndrome. I never heard of it
    but then read every book I could find – it described
    him – as well as my life to the letter!
    She then recanted – he denies it – and no one
    “Sees” it in him. But I live it!
    Insanity! Insidious! Chaos!
    But he seems like he would not hurt a fly-
    yet is one unhealthy, destructive mess

  17. Hopeless on August 27, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Unfortunately I am currently going through a divorce. My husband has done exactly as each of you has said above. We have been married for 27 years and together for 30 and we have 3 children, aged 19, 13 & 12. For 30 years I have done everything I knew to do to please this man and never not once was I ever good enough. With so many years, I could write a novel about all that has happend, but I will try to keep it brief as I am in serious trouble here. I went back to work in Feb 2012 to because my husband wanted me to get a “real” job and provide health insurance for our family after being a stay at home mom for 13 years. I lucked up and found a part time position and quickly moved up and went fulltime with benefits in 6/2012. My hsuband started making comments about my job since i supervise 50+ men and i’m on call alot of the time. There were a two incidents with my 2 boys that finally pushed me to the limit and realized something had to change. We started having more problems and he started accusing me of having an affair at work. At the time i didn’t realize what he was really doing, but in hindsight i do now. The situation became worse and I was forced to flee from my home one night. We became a house divided. The two boys were very confused and he started telling them I didn’t love them or want them or care for them. My daughterr and I along with my son part of the time stayed in a motel and then with a friend until i could find an apartment. I tried to get my husband to go to a conselor, and he fianlly agreed. He did exactly as mention above as I knew he would and we did not return. We have been assigned a Guarudian ad Litem for my middle child and youngest. he quickly retained an atty and started telling everyone i am having an affair. He has started making out my eldest child to be a drug addict, my middle child who has never been in any trouble and in the gifted/advanced program at school look like a juvenile delinquent and making my daughter look like a flightly bimbo. He has her completely fooled! It seems like as soon as he he caught me having an affair, everyone turned on me. The bad part about it is that due to my job, i was on the phone alot and alone with men other than my husband for several hours a day and sometime during the night. the Guardian requested my son see a counselor and I quickly did research and found someone of good Christian beliefs that matched my own for him. His counselor is very concerned because the Guardian is so completely fooled and she saw it right away. The Guardian has not interview one single individual representatvie for me, but has interview his entire family, of which only the mother has never been in prison, that i know of, or mental institution. I am concerned becasue the guardian obviously doen’t have the proper training to spot this type case.I am completly broke and out of funds, i have taken a second job at Walmart to try and pay for my attorney and useless guardian and my sons therapy bill. My spouse makes 3 times more than I do and does not help me with anything. I am sinking fast and I have no idea what to do. I have no family. I am an only child and my parents have passed away. Everytime I try to lean on a friend my husband causes problems with them or calls their husbands and causes issues. In our entire relationshiop, he never not once went to church, but suddenly he joined the church i had been attending with the children. Now he is “moving” up within the church to try and become a leader. I know given enough time, they will see him for as he really is and who knows maybe that is part of God’s plan to save him. I can only hope so. I dont’ want to stray to far from the topic because my real fear is if he can fool the Guardian, I feel like he will fool everyone else and I am going to loose my case. He is wanting FULL custody of our two minor children and has told them when he wins it, they will only be allowed supervised visits with me when he allows it. WHY CAN”T THESE PEOPLE SEE ALL THIS! I feel like I’m going crazy and I honestly don’t know what to do. There are days that i feel like God has forgotten about me and wonder why is He allowing my husband to “win” this divorce. I alwayss knew if i ever left this would happen. Everyone always believes my husband, he makes me sound like a lazy frivolous witch that as he has said to me so many times, not made and viable contributions to our family for over 13 years. Any advise you can give me would be greatly appreciated or if someone has gone thru a similar situation and has advice that would be fantastic! Thanks and sorry I am so long winded.

    • Jo Ellen on August 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

      Dear Hopeless,

      I know it feels that way …. I so related to ALL you wrote. My Ex and I very active in our church – I was an Awana Leader and Sun. School teacher. We had 4 children ages 12 (daughter), son 11, son 9 and son 7 when my husband left our home. After our first son was born, we made a conscious choice that I would stay home with the children while he went through 3 apprenticeships in 10 years to get a good job.

      But what I found out was that while he asked me for a divorse and promised I could have custody of our chilren, only thing I asked – he went back on his word and Power and Control Issues jumped forth. He didn’t want me, after 15 years of marriage, but he still wanted to control me and our children. He too joined a new church with a new wife and would present an image of a Godly man on the outside to folks and get in positions of leadership … all while as he would go back and forth in court serving me with papers. He would put our children in the position of pawns and tell me I was crazy. I’m trying to make this short. He didn’t want our children till they became a child support issue. Our children did very well in school and all of a sudden different ones (like in an alcoholic home if you’ve learned on family roles – Hero, Scapgoat, family Clown in roles … etc) at different times would be the family scapegoat. I too had limited resourses and he had many dollars to get attourneys (he went through 3) … My ex was so convincing that as in your case he not only could fool a Guardian at L. (ours had no training in Abuse Issues) he fooled church leaders and several counselors for a time … that is the key. Our children were being sent back and forth and I saw what put then threw. At fist I had our children the majority of the time and custody. We would rotate weekends were all were together. But then he wanted the older two full time. Then he tried to make me look like an unfit mother (I do not do drugs, smoke, drink – very conservative Christian lady) … so he could get full custody. That did not work … but was emotionally tearing me up. In court I would get speed up (fight of flight responce) and be so emotionally upset and he would be calm and look like the one who was calm and collected. I too felt for a time I was abondoned by God – though I knew in my heart I was not. The Psalms – especially those in the 30’s really helped me and I felt David’s crys were my own praying to God. Then for a period my self esteem was so low. I stayed in Counseling (we had had joint with our pastor and my post is above about that) … and kept going till I found couselors that were skilled in abuse issues. It took a few years – but folks did see through my ex’s behaviors. I had two church pastors come to me in time and apologize to me. One was a youth pastor that saw what two of my kids went through.

      The hardest thing I had to do – was release my kids to the Lord (that does not mean one stops praying or interacting) … I let my ex after a two year period have full custody of all 4 chilren. I was assured by more than one counselor that they would come back to me. This went against everything in my mothering and Christian Instincts felt.

      But the Counselors were correct, once my ex. saw he could not use the children as a pawn, dynamics changed. This of course did not happen overnight – but the process started rapidly. One month after pur divorse was final (but two years after he left me), my ex remarried, but two years after he left me,- that is exactly what happened. Our Daughter then just 15 came to live with me. All of a sudden this 4.0 student according to him was wild and a juvenile. Next was our next son when he was 16. He came to me so sick with Grave’s Disease. My ex did not have a clue. I got him to an Endocrinologist and they saved his life literally. At adolescence for our children, my ex was controlling but really came out at the age where youth need to make some of their own decision and learn to have choices, go out with friends more – drive. Our oldest son got out of the home and went to the Navy at 17.

      Also what helped in my getting our chilren back to live with me – was I also signed a paper saying I would only take %25.00 in child support so that he would not use that as a rule of thumb over the children. My ex at that time made $60,000 a year. I went back to college but that is another story. The State recognized that our children were under emotional harm if the State went after my ex for support.

      He is a Believer and that seems impossible when one looks at his lying over the years and control issues – but he has grown over the years. I do not make excuse for him … nor would I trust him on his word on things. But I share to say it is possible for a man to have these issues and still be saved.

      I did make sure that when our children- were with their Dad – I was close by – in other words … we lived in same area with in miles. We talked on the phone, etc. There were times (why I said release them to the Lord) that my ex would lie – he worked at a dam and would say he had a baby sitter when he did not and he worked 12 Graveyard shifts and rotated with days. He had the children at times be with him at night and play where there were transformers and holes in areas they could fall in. I reported this to his boss – and so he was caught on that – but he still had our 13 year old (then) daughter trying to take care of her brothers all by herself. She use to call me crying. I would reportrf this to the court but would be his word against mine. At that time the children identified with their father – we now know as Stockholm Syndrome. Long and short – our children are grown adults – all went to college, all saw through their dad’s behaviors … and so did his new wife he married in time … It was a hard rode but I grew closer to the Lord through all. He never abandons us. My daughter is married now with her husband being the Youth Pastor at their church. Her experiences growiing up have helped her counsel other youth. All of my children are very close to me and grandchildren. They try to have a relationship with their Dad – but he barely sees them and when he does – talk is supervicial. I share all this in hopes of giving you hope. Please forgive how long this is. I’ve tried to just touch the surface. I will add when my son came home from the Navy – he asked me – why mom did we think you could not date … but dad could … and many other questions. I had to ask a counselor – how much does one tell one’s grown children – I was told you can open up and reveal as the adult chilren process some of their memories. I will say that most of my abuse was verbal but back then – I was 110 and my ex a body builder out weighing me by 120 pounds. His push/shove made it so I could barely walk standing straight up. There was a time I truly was afraid he might kill me … and my worse fear was … what if in front of the children. I share this just to share – though more of the abuse was emotional – that was where my healing had to come … through our Lord. As I got good counselors and I got healthy – then my children saw that and they learned positive parenting styles and about healthy relationships.

      Leslies – am not sure if you will get to reply to this – but please feel free to share about Stockhome Syndrom or the roles that are played in Alcoholic Families. I will add my ex. – has been dianosed narchistic personality – but I knew nothing of that years ago. He was called a dry alcoholic as he had the behaviors but was not drinking daily. Please forgive any of my spelling errors. I pray this comforts … my sweet sister in Christ who feels hopeless in post above. You are loved and you are a wonderful person. I send you a hug. Remember when we are weak – to cry out … and let Jesus arms hold you and strengthen you. I am sure you have done this – I will add too one more thing. Have a good physical in all this … turned out my Thyroid quit in all this and back in the 90’s that was not regularly checked on women then. It is now more so. I also was put (took some time to get the right one) on an antidepressant and that helped. You do not have to be on forever – for a period of time.

      Love In Christ,
      Jo Ellen

      • Abigail on May 21, 2015 at 12:25 pm

        Thank you, Jo Ellen, for mentioning Stockholm Syndrome.

        I think the condition married and abused women are affected by might have a different name assigned to it now, but it is essentially Stockholm Syndrome and I had it, along with PTSD. I was sure that if my husband was out to destroy me like he was, then everyone else in the world must be, because they had NOT chosen to live with me and vowed before God and witnesses to love me. And so even though he was the one putting those thoughts into my head, I desperately believed that he was the only person–my destroyer–who would protect me from the rest of the world, who would be worse. And I was also convinced by his pitiful stories of harm done to him as a youth, of everyone at work being out to get him, of how the course of destiny just wouldn’t get out of his way. I wanted to be the wife who believed in and supported her husband, and so it all worked together to create in me a fear of leaving him, and a connection to him that I don’t even understand now that I broke free of it.

        Honestly, this stuff is so crazy-making one cannot grasp it until one lives in it. I did not have a sound mind, and because it was caused by a destructive marriage, no one would help me. It was better, in everyone’s eyes, for me to go completely insane and to be put at physical risk too than for anyone else to risk being an agent that “caused” a “marriage” to split up.

        But this ISN’T marriage–not the way God designed marriage to be. Why so much fear of breaking up a legal union that is so harmful and destructive? It’s not honest to uphold it like that. I have found that honesty is the only thing that helps. Total honesty. Honesty is a trait of a sound mind, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Clinging to dishonesty (whether as the abuser or as the victim) only makes it worse and worse.

  18. Donna on August 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Leslie, Sorry for the cross post from the Separation blog but I didn’t know you had asked this great question:

    Maybe you and the readers can help answer the question of what “type” of counseling to look for as sometimes I feel like my mind has been so sifted and my perceptions so twisted bc of too many years of metamorphing myself into what my husband thought I should think, feel or be. Apparently, my counselor is so in disagreement with my scriptural basis for why I am divorcing that when he pressed me to answer and I did (confirming that I am indeed healing bc I stood up for myself), he labeled me.

    See below:

    Last fall my (Christian) marriage counselor told me 3 times to separate from my husband because of emotional abuse and he was getting increasingly concerned about my personal safety as things had spiraled downhill in marriage counseling and in the sessions my husband was “intense” while claiming he wasn’t angry. I was trembling constantly.

    So..at Christmas I packed up and moved to an apt. Almost 7 months later finally Post Separation Support and much financial abuse, name calling, and blaming me along the way.

    Last month I asked the counselor if he would be capable of counseling me for abuse and he said he “felt” he was.

    Last week I told the marriage counselor that I was moving forward with the divorce. We actually got into a heated discussion for last part of the session regarding my view on how I could justify it since it wasn’t adultery (in his view the only thing that can or should result in divorce). I felt he was trying to guilt me, condemn me, then shame me because it got pretty intense. He said I was an angry woman and that I am too focused on what the offending spouse has done (this was in reference to explaining why nothing had changed). He then said he that “I had stopped hearing from God and was determined to go through with the divorce”.

    At first he said I was trying to get him to agree with me then when I said “I could care less whether or not you agree me regarding the scriptural reasons (well, I said it a little more blunt than that)”. Then he said “I was a force to contend with.” wow – contradictory. He also said that he had been doing this for 30 years and he was trained that only adultery was the only reason then said that “I seemed to be more studied on the subject” because I answered him with multiple scriptural examples. -He asked, so I answered.

    I’m going forward with the divorce regardless of whether or not my counselor agrees that I have scriptural grounds because to my knowledge my husband hasn’t slept with anyone. (I wasn’t asking his permission to do so anyway.) He was teaching me that people have a “draw” when in conversation with them meaning people often have a goal that they want to accomplish when they communicate. It might seem that his goal was to get me to away with him…

    My question is this:
    Am I better off going to a secular counselor skilled in abuse counseling than going to a christian counselor who may or may not understand/empathize the emotional fallout that one has as a result of abuse? Because I have settled in my mind and heart the scriptural piece of it thank to first and foremost the Holy Spirit and Jer 3:8 and because of this Blog and Barbara Roberts investigative work.

    What kind of therapy does one need? cognitive, etc?

    I don’t want to get stuck in this emotional place. My choice is to LIVE regardless of people’s opinion about what I should/shouldn’t be doing. I want to heal my emotions so I don’t look at everything through an abuse lens but a balanced outlook peppered with grace and when I get healed enough the ability to view with great discernment the next person who may enter my life.

    BTW: My counselor said that *until* one of commits adultery that I could not divorced or get married again. OMG – was he serious?! We had quite a heated discussion on grace at that point. I fall on the side of the blood of Jesus covering ALL sins – (we do always pay the consequences anyway of our sin unless Jesus decides to give us His mercy in the situation). He made me feel like I was making an unpardonable sin by divorcing instead of just staying separated which would result in my financial devastation.

  19. kelly on August 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Im about to experience this and not looking forward to it all. I have filed for divorce and every other day theres an abusive incident, than an apology, then calmness and so the cycle goes. We met with a pastor friend last night he was ok during the meeting then i got it after, then again this morning. Now he expects me to think hes a hero because he called a marriage counselor today and apologized. If i dont go im hard hearted and dont want to work on reconcilliation. But i know his pattern. Im exhausted and tired of the cycle of getting no where. So ill use some ofthis advice to hopefully get the counselor to understand. I know all things are possible with God however this seems hopeless.

    • AR on August 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      Kelly,
      There is no reason the counselor needs to understand your actions to preserve and protect your wonderfully created self.
      God sees you, he believes you, and he is with you.

      I understand the uneasy feeling of the fact that you are having to make decisions that you may not want to. Plus your reasons are not understood mainstream. The whole thing is disappointing and hurts.

      Just yesterday I shared with my therapist that I still struggle with how bazaar my home life is. I feel like Alice In Wonderland everytime I step thru the door of our home. She replied, “yes, and God is with you”!
      So true.
      My prayers and support are with you!

  20. FloridaLizzie on August 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    In our case, we tried counseling together for a while. It was kind of wishy-washy, “try to be kinder to each other” stuff. I think it only postponed the ending of our marriage, but I believe that was in God’s good plan. I don’t know if I would have ever had the courage to leave my husband, even though he was unwilling to do any work to change. I feel that part of me did not want to take my marriage vows lightly or displease God by divorcing without full conviction that I had Scriptural grounds and had tried to do all I could to save the marriage. The other part of me was afraid of being divorced and trying to manage alone. It has been 8 months since my ex-husband walked out on me, not long after another single attempt at counseling. The divorce was final 4 months ago. Some parts of it were very scary, but overall, I am thankful to God that my ex left me, and I am starting to heal. Life is much more peaceful. I may not feel sure I know what sort of career I want, since my part-time job won’t cut it. But money doesn’t disappear into a black hole anymore either!

    I cannot say for sure that counseling was terrible for us, but neither can I say it helped much. What was very bad was going to a marriage conference where I spent the whole time reeling from my ex’s verbally abusive yelling at me in private between sessions. The trigger? I suggested we eat out once a week, and he was annoyed that I considered a week to be an actual length of time on a calender, rather that whenever he felt it was a week (like 12 days, for example). He said he was disgusted that all these conferences want is for a man to kiss his wife’s butt! It was the first time I woke up to the fact that this was an abusive marriage.

    So I would add that going to an ordinary weekend getaway type of marriage conference can be terrible in an emotionally destructive relationship. Two things that really helped me were opening up to a few trusted friends and family members two years ago to the fact that there were serious problems and we needed prayer. Because of my ex’s use of copious amounts of prescription drugs, going to Al-Anon really helped me figure out some better coping strategies. I made amends and learned not to engage in fruitless quarrels with an intoxicated man. Though he left me, I have a clear conscience before God that I did all I could, and He set me free from an abusive man.

    Thanks, Leslie, for the excellent work you do.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks Liz.

  21. Angie on August 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    This entry rings completely true to me! I wanted things to work out so much with my ex and he agreed to go to counseling with me. It made it worse! I couldn’t believe it! I was trying to be honest with my feelings and he made me pay EVERY time. After a few sessions, I became very nervous. The counselor (who happened to be my pastor and his wife, who is a licensed counselor herself) noticed it. I was wringing my hands and shaking so bad I couldn’t control myself. They were very tough on him and saw through his tactics. He called and texted them all the time in between sessions to try to make them see his side of things. He kept telling them I was sick and needed help. They didn’t buy into his antics. They gave us a book to read, “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud and a workbook to work through. It was the best book for me to read at the time and it opened my eyes to many things. Needless to say, he hated it and claimed it was against “Biblical principles”. We went to them several more times before he told me he wouldn’t go back.

    So then HE found a “Christian” counselor for us to go to. I agreed. I am not sure what this guy believed about what was going on but he was obviously on my ex’s side. I’m sure it was because of what my ex told him outside of our sessions that could not be defended by me. Our sessions with him were so very frustrating for me. Him trying to help me work on myself, which I was not opposed to at all, but the main problem was that my ex controlled the sessions. What he talked about was what the counselor focused on. When my ex would try to turn the tables onto me after I said something negative, the counselor went with him.

    We saw him quite a bit until I finally said that I would not go anymore. At home, things were just getting worse. More and more was being brought up at counseling that we had to work through and more was being blamed on me. I couldn’t do enough, couldn’t be enough, for him.

    So when I saw your post title, I was curious what you had to say about this topic. You were spot on! I can’t say that I would take back this experience if I had the chance. It is actually the pivotal moment in me being able to muster the strength to leave. My pastor and his wife were so supportive of me. I continue to see her today on a regular basis and don’t believe I would be where I am today without her.

    Leslie, your blog has helped me so much, as well as your book. I talk about you on my blog and have linked your website. I just wish I would have found you sooner! Thank you for approaching this issue from a Christian viewpoint.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks Angie.

  22. Alene on August 28, 2013 at 1:07 am

    25 years.
    6 couple counseling, 1 marriage retreat, 2 counsel for him, 3 for sons, various prayer and reading, and now 1 counselor for me.
    It is hard to write that.
    There sit the stark bare bones of reality.
    A broken ministry situation several years ago and both boys impacted and an example with an element of ineffective, unhealthy patterns displayed by both of us to all the children.
    This post is so discerningly true.
    I wish I would have known. I wish the counselors would have known. The 3rd couple counseling I got myself out.
    The great thing about the individual counseling I am doing now is that someone else sees it and I am not crazy.
    I have been gaining strength, skills, and outside support to change my approach and heal which changes the dynamics. I am facing the problem more truthfully and actively with healthy boundaries. The Lord had already been working in me at the heart level in the reality of humility, warmth, caring and understanding his wound and lately servanthood and set apartness in heart, deeper reliance on Him, and thankfulness; from that loving core, I am growing and healing to interact with more strength in the realities of life.
    Leslie recommends outside support and advice in the journey and I think objective discipleship relationships, whether that is counseling or other relationships, are something the Lord uses.
    I have found that rightly dividing the word of truth is key. Think compliant vs submissive, defining submission carefully ‘as is fit in the Lord’, peacekeeping vs peacemaking, what is helping and what type helping hurts.
    The wisest thing I did was seek counsel for myself. I knew exactly what I was looking for and I asked for it.

  23. Bettina on August 28, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Leslie’s answer is so on target. Thank you for such clarity! BACKGROUND: My husband and I have been married 34.5 years. My marriage was destructive right from the start – I knew things were way wrong, but was told to keep working on our marriage. Counseling was sought at my insistence and it was always “couples” counseling. It was not only ineffective in creating a change in my husband, it was harmful and produced more damage. Each time, he came away with more ammo and methods. Every counselor/pastor thought they were doing the right thing. They are human and prone to error just like the rest of us. It is very hard for me to go against the authorities in my life. WHAT I HAVE LEARNED, and am working on making it consistent in my life, is this: the authorities in our life can be wrong and can miss hearing God – they are human. The very same Holy Spirit that is in my pastor is in me. I hear from God. I can read the Word and apply it to my life! I am just as valuable as the authorities in my life. And I had better be quick to obey the Lord. MY POINT: We need to obey the authorities in our life AS LONG AS they are in obedience to God’s word. When we are asked to do something that goes against God’s Word and principle, then we obey God rather than man. I spent many years doing the opposite, but for the sake of my family, I got up enough nerve, strength to do what I thought was right and go against my pastor/counselor. I also have had to stand up to friends and tell them I know I heard from God! None of it is easy. It is hard to go against others – their voices are so loud, and God’s voice can be so quiet (but right). There was, and is, much self-doubt. But I get stronger and stronger – so can each of you reading this! IN CONCLUSION: You obviously know in your heart that the couple’s counseling is not helping, but is harmful to you. Just because your pastor says his way is right, doesn’t mean you have to do it if it goes against the Word of God. Seek God and do what He says to do. Do not be afraid of what your pastor, husband, or others may say. My daughter, who was being falsely accused, said this so elegantly, “I stand before God. He will vindicate me.” She made no other defense and turned and walked away. Seek God, pour over His word, cry out to him, listen to His small still voice. Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted. He loves you. He hears you. He sees your tears. He longs to comfort and hold you in His arms. Trust God and trust yourself!

  24. Lynn on August 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    My husband of 32 years decided that he no longer loves me and that he jsut wants “out” of our marriage. He saw an attorney, and told his friends and family of his intentions before he ever said a word to me about separating or divorcing. He filed for separation, which was 4 months ago. But he hasn’t moved out of the house, and I wonder if he wants me to make the first move now to divorce as that will relieve his guilt? I have seen a Christian counselor and it was very clear to her that I have been emotionally abused over the past few years. When I read the signs of a mid-life crisis, my husband fits the descriptions to a “T”…. from dropping weight, purchasing new clothes, buying expensive and unnecessary “toys”, etc. I wonder, too, if there may have been another woman he was interested in.

    My husband is not a Christian. I have been advised to “let him go” as in one of Paul’s letters it states, “If an unbeliever wants to leave, let him.” My husband even said, in justifying his decisions when he separated from me, that “God is on your side.”

    Initially I was very hurt, felt betrayed and was angry. I felt my husband “deserved” forme to divorce him and I found a “shark” for an attorney, had looked at new housing, etc. But God has also been working on my heart… and in self-examination, I can see where perhaps I didn’t carve out enough time for my husband or wasn’t focused on his needs. I think it is important to remember that there are two people doing this dance in marriage, and the spouse isn’t entirely at fault.

    What is being impressed on me more and more is that God desires reconciliation and hates divorce. Why aren’t we praying for HEALING of our marriages? I think Satan wants to destroy Christian marriages and there is probably more of an attack on us. So why aren’t we meeting with other Christian women to pray for our husbands to become the men God intends for them to be? For those married to men who claim to be Christians, why don’t you start praying as a couple? Let Jesus be in the midst of your marriage. My prayer is for my husband’s salvation… because he will never be at peace with himself or with me until he is reconciled to Christ. As for me, I am trying to focus on Christ and to reflect His love to my husband. There are days I would rather throttle my husband and give a mean retort, but then I think of how I represent Christ to my husband and my in-laws in this situation. And that gives me pause…. because while my actions may be “for now” , there is an eternal implication that I must consider.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      God does desire reconciliation and we should be praying for healing of our marriages but to successfully put a broken marriage back together takes two individuals committed to working on it. As I say often, you can make a bad marriage better all by yourself by not repaying evil for evil or retaliating when hurt, but YOU CANNOT MAKE A BAD MARRIAGE A GOOD MARRIAGE all by yourself.

      It’s good that you are focused now on representing Jesus to him and not throttling him. It’s important to press pause and do all within your power to help him “see” wake up and repent. But, and I will say this again, you cannot make him repent, you cannot make him see, and you cannot make him change. His heart has to be willing. Even Jesus in all his goodness and loveliness couldn’t “get” the Pharisee’s to change their ways or repent.

    • Brenda on August 28, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      There are ladies in this site who have prayed for their husbands for decades privately and with others–me included. I don’t consider my marriage to be a Christian marriage as my husband is not a Christian. It takes 2 to make a marriage otherwise we are just aemobas. There is eternity, but God has other directions for some of us. We all are not meant to stay on the path that he had for us at one time. Who is to say that staying on God’s path, but not necessarily with an abusive spouse won’t give them a wake up call? We are not all called for the same purpose. I was granted a legal separation this week. It has not changed my husband whatsoever. Being loving and eventually a door mat for 2 decades didn’t change him either. Not all people are willing to see our lives as better. That is between them and God. I guess it boils down to “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. I for one needed boundaries before I completely went off course. My relationship with my God means a lot to me. I am getting stronger by being gone. Perhaps that will set a fire under my husband. I don’t know, but I do know that I am where God wants me to be. We all have our own course. You need to go yours and I need to go mine. Neither is wrong.

  25. Patsy on August 28, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Hi thanks everyone. I am in all of these situations except the physical beatings. It’s nerve racking. I always believe he can change. Or I can change. Or I can stay out of his way. Or I can be blind to him and he can be blind to me. Or I can’t leave cos my six year old don’t like change, he can’t sleep in other places except his dad’s house. He run’s around uncontrollably.

  26. Sally on August 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Desparate here! we are getting down to the wire on finalizing the divorce and we both really don’t want this but I do not, can not but want to believe he is changing. His counselor says if he sees any other counselor then she cannot see him anymore. I want a non-biased, godly couselor if we are even thinkin of reconciling. He is reluctant to lose his counselor but determined to do what it takes to stop the divorce. He is working on it and has a meeting with his counselor Friday and says he is working on meeting with the counselor I am comfortable with and recommended. He wants to see if his counselor would be involved. I do feel he needs to continue to see her because he is more aware of his contribution to the deterioration of our marriage as I have of my ‘enabling’ him to be verbal. We both agree we cannot live together still during this time and he SAYS he will take as long as I need to gain that trust back. How do we do counseling and still see our own counselors for our individual growth? we have been separated for 6 months. Most of this time I did not allow him to contact me. We have met with our pastor. It is still my choice (and his) whether to try and work this out. Most advice is divorce and if he is sincere there is remarriage. Do I really want to do that?

    • Leslie Vernick on August 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Sally,

      Watch my video’s over the next 3 weeks on my home page. I share the journey of what steps are necessary to rebuild a shattered relationship and what it looks like. Separate counseling is advisable until there is safety (no more abuse) and sanity – people are taking responsibility and are actively and faithfully working on their own issues. At that point, some joint counseling might be helpful is ALL parties sign release of information so that coordination of care AND stories are known by all.

      • Sally on August 28, 2013 at 11:05 pm

        I’m afraid I have made a mistake by agreeing to this…
        We accidently ran into each other on the street and I feel I just let my guard down… I may have given him hope and I just don’t know if there is.

  27. SOBLESSEDTOBEGONE on August 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I cannot count the number of counselors or sessions my ex and I saw both together and separately. I can say they were ALL disasterous! I’m now divorced for 10 years from an extremely emotionally, psychologically abusive man. I had counselors say things like, “Maybe it would help if you would simply return to the Catholic Church!”, or “I’d really like to see (ex) be able to enjoy a couple of beers now and then!” (He’s an alcoholic!!!) I stayed with him for almost 19 years trying my very best to be the perfect wife and mother until the day I realized I had given it my best shot, turned over every “new leaf” and finally once and for all made the decision to walk out the door for the last time. I filed for divorce. I can’t say that things didn’t get UGLY!!! After all was said and done though and the divorce was final, he had this “moment” and decided he needed to confess his sins to me! I learned some really awful things, but found out that God was truly protecting me all along and even though I hadn’t known at the time, I was doing the right thing by getting out of the marriage. He was never truly “in” it . I will say that my biggest regret is staying for far too long and trying to please him too many times, too many ways. I now have two grown daughters who grew up in that atmosphere and they not only want nothing to do with him (not that I mind that), but they really want nothing to do with men in general. That is a huge problem that I am facing now…and I know is an entirely different topic! However they have watched how he’s behaved, how I’ve been treated, why would they want that?

  28. Vicki on August 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Leslie, once again thank you for your courage to speak up. It is good for me to know that I am not the only one in a longterm marriage that has been destroying me. I related to the song you posted – I always thought that God expected me to sacrifice ME for this relationship! Our first 3 years were good ones, but the next 37 have been full of psychological abuse. At this point I don’t know how I would be able to leave because he has total financial control. Because we are in ministry, any steps I take will affect our income. I have taken steps in recent years to understand the destruction and most of the verbal abuse ceased because I won’t allow it. I am getting stronger and speaking up more which hopefully will make a diff. for my emotional health.

    The question you posed is about counseling experience. I initiated counseling three times. The first time, I tricked him into going to one session. The counselor gave us both the silent treatment, it was disconcerting and made no sense. I quit going. In the meantime, I pleaded with my husband to allow me to speak to our pastor (on our furlough) and he said no way. I did speak with a few women coworkers and they promised prayer but gave no support or encouragement. I convinced him to allow me to go to an intensive counseling retreat by myself when I visited my family. It was a good experience so I planned how I would get him to go with me another time.

    Next time around, I went to someone in the country where we minister. She was young and I thought it would be good to just have someone to talk to. I have battled with depression for all these years, as well, and my husband would not let me spend money for getting help for that either. We had maybe 20 sessions when she decided, without my knowledge, to have a private session with my husband, in a restaurant one evening, to talk about including him in the counseling. I had already been talking with my husband about going to the same ten day intense counseling together that I had attended several years before. I had spoken to the counselor of the intensive counseling about whether or not to include my husband in the counseling here and he said no that it was not a good idea – the he needed to be confronted and it should be by a man he trusts. I told my counselor here but she invited him to that restaurant anyway. I was livid and wrote her a long letter explaining that she had broken counselor/client trust and I would no longer be seeing her.

    After a 6 month separation (I left), he agreed to go to the intensive counseling. I really thought that this was going to be helpful for us based on my previous experience with the counselor and what he advised about the counselor here. When we got there, the counselor and my husband became instant buddies with lots in common and the sessions became all about how to fix me! I was so confused that I hardly participated – I think I became the person my husband believed I was/am-how he portrays me to others!!! It was horrifying and I felt like I was in a living nightmare with no way out. My body reacted with intense headaches and a pain in my back and neck that would not go away. I think it was the worst thing I have experienced in my life – worse than our child’s death, worse than my husband’s constant abuse, and worse than being bullied for years by his parents.

    I won’t try counseling again. I am working on me as best I can with the resources I can get. I can hardly wait to read your new book!

  29. Ikzaalhandhaven on August 30, 2013 at 8:18 am

    How do you refute the argent well nobody is perfect until they get to heaven and you aren’t perfect either. This seems to be a common argument used by a users…

  30. Ikzaalhandhaven on August 30, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Whoops typo here I meant argument not agent.

  31. Kat on August 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Leslie, I too have bad counselling experiences. We went to so many marriage retreats I have lost count and tried to counsel with our pastor. We finally found a counselor that works on helping us find our identity in Christ. This counselor was the only thing that helped. We went to her for two years, and I thought that my husband was finally changing. A year and a half into going to this counselor, my husband got tired of “trying to change to please me” and started regressing. It got so bad at home that I had to call the police and finally had to leave him. I have been separated from my husband for over a year now because of a Court Protection Order that was put into place to protect me and my six children. I hoped that in the year that we were apart, he would seek professional counselling, but instead, he went to a church that has enabled him to continue the same destructive patterns, and has spread terrible rumors about counselor. He blames her for my leaving him. The only thing that has kept me from divorcing him and moving on with my life is that he says he wants to change and wants me back. I don’t see how that can happen because of the church he is going to and the advice he is receiving. Whenever there is an issue and I have to confront him, they are always there to back him up and help him justify his actions. It makes me feel crazy! The only things I know to do is pray,and work on my own sins and weaknesses. I am learning how to serve my husband better by holding him accountable to his actions, and to stand my ground even when he tells me I am controlling, presumptuous and coldhearted. Sometimes it is hard to know how to do that in a Christ-like manner. I am looking forward to following your blog and gleaning wisdom from you. I am so grateful for all you videos on you-tube as well! God bless all your endeavors.

  32. kelly on September 2, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    How do you respond to our mediator saying “God forgives everything you do. He erases all the bad, therefore so should you. God sees both of you good and loves both of you.” Yes true but how do you counteract that these behaviors ARE NOT OK. Stop accusing me of being unforgiving and that all i ever do is bring up the past. He wants “examples” of what he does then accuses me of holding a record. If i dont say anything then yeah im just crazy mad for no reason whats so ever and making things up. He twists everything. He tells me if i dont unfile for the separation im forcing him into bitterness and theres no hope for reconciliation we will just get divorced. But if i unfile we can go to counseling and work towards oneness and unity. I think hes playing games with me. I dont trust him. I feel if i dont agree im hard hearted if i do im enabling him to put on a temporary bandage and things go right back to the way they are. I hate this so
    much. Im exhausted and frustrated. I want to honor God but i feel like no matter what i do or not im basically up the creek w/out a paddle.

    • Leslie Vernick on September 4, 2013 at 6:33 am

      Sounds like the mediator has only half the Biblical story. One, you are not God so you are not capable of erasing all the bad. Yes God forgives and erases and sees the good and loves both of you. But God’s word also says that people do very bad things and when they do it repeatedly, it breaks fellowship, especially if they’re not sorry, unwilling to change or take responsibility for their own actions or attitudes.

      Your words are a very good example of the crazy-making some women experience not only from their spouse but sometimes also from the very people who want to help them.

      • Sally on September 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm

        I could have written Kelly’s letter myself! I am at my wit’s end with the twisting and playing with my mind! Leslie, please give me the verses you are referring to in your answer. “But God’s word also says that people do very bad things and when they do it repeatedly, it breaks fellowship, especially if they’re not sorry, unwilling to change or take responsibility for their own actions or attitudes.”
        I filed last Feb and my atty and courts have delayed the divorce for ‘chance of reconciliation’. He says he will do counseling and then backs out when he gets angry. Did it again just last week and four after (and 2 days before our court date) he ‘may have been harsh’ and could we please work on a joint counselor again. With a sad heart and only because I know it is impossible at this time, I told him gently, “No, I can’t.” After hearing a message from Pastor Chas Stanley how we interfere with God at work, I realized that each time I agree to joint counseling when he has not shown any change, I am interferring with God at work. God can’t reach him if I keep rescueing him….

        • Leslie Vernick on September 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          Sally, Go back a few blogs and look at verses that support separating yourself from a destructive person, even if you are married to him/her. Matthew 18 is the verse where Jesus says if you’ve gone to someone who has offended you and he/she refuses to listen – treat him/her as you would a pagan and tax collector. All Jews knew what that meant – fellowship was broken, relationship was not possible. That doesn’t mean you treat pagans or tax collectors disrespectfully but you have no intimate fellowship. God himself says “Your sin separates me from you” in Isaiah.

        • Brenda on September 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm

          That must have been hard for you Sally, but you are doing what is best for your husband and you. Some times people have to hit rock bottom before coming back up. I am so proud of you. I will pray for recovery for both of you. If your husband doesn’t choose healthy change for himself, I pray that you find it for yourself. Brenda

          • Sally on September 9, 2013 at 9:43 am

            Thanks Brenda. We were working on joint counseling again and again he got upset with me and said forget it and get the divorce. I sent him a relatively nice, calm letter back telling him what I saw in him when I married him and what I don’t see now. Told him our marriage is broken and I can’t fix it but hoped that we would both heal and grow from all this. He attacked me back. Then 4 days later said he reread and had time to think about what I said. He thanked me for the nice things I said about him and wondered if we could try again. I gently told him no, not this time. I am exhausted. Unchecked again leads to uncontrolled behavior. Until that stopped or even lessened I could not deal with this anymore. Have not heard from him since. His atty told him he did not have to go to court last Thurs and now a new court date is set for our settlement for Oct 10th!! I keep saying, “Lord, you are in control – always. I don’t understand the delays (8 months) but I thank you for them as you have given Pat time to change his heart and for me to become stronger but still teaching me to have a gentle spirit allowing YOU to do your work without my help.” I sill have compassion for him and know God loves him and wants to heal his hurting heart. I just have to let go and let God. I have to protect my hurting heart, my crushed spirit and wanting to nuture and fix him. Divorce Care class is starting up again and I will go through it again til this is over.



          • Vikki on September 9, 2013 at 10:38 am

            8 months!!
            That breaks my heart. I will pray and ask God to release you into freedom from this bondage. Please update us when this is resolved.
            Until then I’m on my knees for you.



    • Brenda B on September 4, 2013 at 7:25 am

      Kelly, No one can tell you what to do, the decision is yours. The X has said and done many of the same things and even though we now are legally separated, day 10, he is still doing them. I’ve heard the same thing about forgiving as God does. We aren’t God, but he wants us to strive to be like Jesus. Strive for–we will not attain it until we are with Him in Glory. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same. Forgiving so that you can move on with healing yourself doesn’t mean a redo of the old relationship or an unconditional one. You set a boundary by saying that his behaviors are not ok. Hold him to that. I’m getting out and out tired of these people (mediators, counselors etc)who are suppose to be helping using the Bible with half trues, if that. I pray you won’t let them suck you in. You are a precious child of God. Don’t let them forget who you are.

  33. Wendy on September 4, 2013 at 3:12 am

    I am scared to go to marriage counseling with my husband of 23 years, and scared to even try to reconcile. We are still living in the same house but he is sleeping in the living room and I am living as though separated. His emotional abuse was brought to my attention by close friends of ours (a married couple) six months ago. The information I found, the input of my priest and others in the church, and the counselors at the woman’s shelter have helped me put together the pieces of the puzzle of why I haven’t loved him for at least 10 years, why I am no longer physically attracted to him and in fact have had zero sex for nine years, and why my marriage was one of two reasons (the other some health problems) why I didn’t care if I lived or died anymore.
    Ironically, we were in marriage counseling prior to this “awakening” and the counselor’s assessment was that he’s controlling, has to be right, and its all about him.

    Since becoming a client at the woman’s center, the marriage counselor will no longer see me privately but does still see him. She wanted to work with him on expressing his feelings and on his control. I have taken the fact that I’ve allowed him to behave this way for 25 years (yes, he started this prior to marriage while we were living together) very hard and grieved the marriage and the future. I’m still fearful but not as sad all the time. I’ve been to my counselor weekly. The odd thing is that my husband isn’t as terrible as I hear other women tell but i still feel so devastated. He didn’t do most things on the list. His behavior is controlling of my (and the kids) emotions–telling me how I felt, making me apologizing because I hurt his feelings for a tone of voice he didn’t like, teaching me lessons on “common courtesy” and how I should treat him, not allowing me to express my feeling, confusing me with long explanations about how I offended him and accusing me of not listening if I couldn’t repeat back what the issue was exactly as he phrased it, looks of disapproval, condescending tone and body language and facial expressions. The counselor was aware of this, believed what I told her, called it controlling and parental, but says it is not abusive.

    My husband believed my friends when they pointed out his problems, and believed and apologized to my parents when they expressed the same and told him how I’ve lost myself with him. He seemed really sorry. Attended (and still does) biweekly counseling and a Celebrate Recovery lifeskills group. He backed waaaaayyy off. Gave me lots of space. Took the blame. Did everything the books say he must do. But recently he is saying I get some of the blame too…there’s two in this marriage, I’ve also been controlling (and are now), I define his reality etc, he wasn’t abusive (the conselor told him so) and wont be lumped in with wife beaters. He wants to work on our marriage. Wants me to acknowledge his hurt over the past six months, doesnt agree with how I “chose” to “change things” Wants me to trust him, to go on dates with him, talk to him….and go BACK TO MARRIAGE COUNSELING!!! I spoke to his counselor last week. She told me he isn’t a brick wall after all. He does have feelings and he feels hurt!

    I don’t know what to do. My husband doesn’t understand why I’m scared, not only of counseling but of going out with him even, and how a present disagreement floods me with so much discomfort that I feel a vice is squeezing me and I cry. My counselor is only for womens center clients and won’t see us together. His counselor will only see me with him (and I’m not sure i trust her). I just don’t know where to go from here…

    • Leslie Vernick on September 4, 2013 at 6:30 am

      Wendy you bring up an excellent question which I will answer in a separate blog a few weeks from now. But for now, let our community of friends share with you their experience. But from what I know, your feelings are typical and normal, however, your husband may have his own separate feelings, just like you do and need to have some validation for them. However the history of his feelings always trumping yours and his control over you in the past make you very wary of going down that path and I totally understand that. So I will put together a lengthier response in a few weeks, but for now, I’d encourage you to ask God to show you what your first next steps are. Dont’ worry about figuring out the whole big picture, just the next step.

    • Brenda B on September 4, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Wendy, He’s not ready for marriage counseling. From what you’ve said, he’s only made a very temporary change. The X can only makes it a few hours and has shown up 3 times at my apartment since Friday unannounced and uninvited. It sounds as though your husband made it a little while, but has somehow blame shifted and his counselor has bought into it even though many people have told him the reality. Your fears are warranted. Go with your gut and heart reaction. God placed them there for a purpose. I’m not a counselor and I know Leslie will have much better answers for you. In the mean time I’m praying for you. They all say they want you to trust them–for me that’s the first clue not to and watch every move they make.

      • Wendy on September 5, 2013 at 5:58 pm

        Thanks, Leslie and Brenda. I think what is really hard for me is it that his behavior is so covert. My family just chalked up his weird faces and personality (the part he showed to the public) as his unique strange characteristics. The boys and I got the more several form when he felt offended. It wasn’t until my mild-mannered Mom, who had always told me to give 100% and “men just want to be right”, witnessed an episode for herself and told me she’d have kicked him out long ago, that I began to realize things were more difficult than they should be. Basically my husbands a man who wants to do right and says he loves me like crazy but somehow managed to “plant weeds around his wife instead of pull them” as an episcopal bishop told me. It would be so much clearer to me if he did call me bad names or try to control my whereabouts. Even at our best, communication is very difficult with him. For some reason he doesn’t hear me as I intend and vice Vera. Sadly, I have never nor too I now, have this problem with any close friend or acquaintance male or fenmale.

    • LA on January 8, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      Hello Wendy, oh my gosh! I could have written this post! Almost word for word! As I read this I can remember that “flooding” and feeling a vice squeezing my heart during one of his many lectures! I left on Nov 12, 2015! We were married 22 years, and my H’s behavior is also very covert most of the time when we were alone together! Eerily similar situation! I just began to feel no longer safe! I just began to feel crazier and crazier! Thank you for putting into words what I couldn’t express! The thing that pushed me to leave, was on the morning of Nov 12, he was lecturing and I said, “Please stop, I’m flooding and I can’t hear you right now. Time out”. He looked right at me and said,” Well, I forgive you for flooding” “WHAT???!!!!” (You forgive me for having a normal body response to your controlling behavior????!!!!) I didn’t say that, but it was what I was thinking, I excused myself and as soon as he left for work, I packed what I could and left! He often unloaded before leaving for work, so that I had no time to respond! I called it “a hit and run”, I have filed for divorce and am in the process of filling out the discovery of assets, which is a nightmare! Please trust your gut feeling and know there is a reason your body is responding with flooding and the “vice grip” feeling! Sometimes all I had to point at was my body response, there were no external bruises or bleeding, all my wounds were internal, bleeding to death on the inside, not seen, not heard, not validated, told how to feel, what to think and how I should respond as his wife! In fact he called me “his wife” and rarely used my name! So much disconnect it was frightening! I have to stop, my tears are flowing with grief…

      Just breathing and trusting

  34. Wendy on September 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I say “sadly” because I don’t think my primary relationship should require constant, unrelenting work….where the joy is replaced by uncertainty at his reaction and then more work.

    • Brenda on September 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      Wendy, You are correct! Your primary relationship shouldn’t be constant, relenting work. It may be work for both parties involved, but never just one partner and not constant. Every marriage is going to have trials that you will have to work through together and none is perfect, but none should be where one does all of the work. If you have good communication skills with everyone else, the problem is most likely his. The X told me today that anyone can “joke” with me besides him. No one besides for him “jokes” in a hurtful, belittling manner except for him. No one else that I talk to thinks it would be appropriate. I am happy to say he is the X.

  35. Valerie on September 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I have been blessed by Leslie’s comfort and scriptural teaching to give a voice to those who feel they have lost theirs. I have read several of Leslie’s books and refer to them often.
    Early on in our marriage my husband refused counseling. I didn’t completely come as a flag to me because I knew I had an emotionally destructive past before him and concluded (with my husband’s help) that it was 99% my problem. He would account for 1% to show he was trying. Finally about 10 years ago God showed me overwhelming grace by leading me to resources that had a name for what I was experiencing. I had been living with a Passive Aggressive spouse. I didn’t share this with him because at the time he was a “biblical fool” and was not interested in gaining understanding. Yet he agreed to go to counseling (after much begging) and we saw a man who had a great heart, biblically sound but unfortunately did little more than just listen. I didn’t know who else to turn to so we kept this up for years getting nowhere.
    God in his mercy sent a new person into our lives- a female counselor who engages in the conversation and insists on seeing each other individually too. We have been seeing her for about 3 months now but I am beginning to feel a bit of what I’m reading and hearing on Leslie’s video regarding counseling for destructive marriages. Since I am the one pushing forward I *feel* I am the one being given the bulk of the responsibility. She seems to see it is an indicator that his very going to counseling shows he wants to change despite a near empty list if he were asked the question, “What did you DO this week to improve the marriage?”.
    God brought my husband to brokenness about 8 months ago and during that time I had a completely new husband. He listened to me, CRIED OVER HOW HE HAD HURT ME, and acknowledged the pain he had caused. Unfortuately after the crisis leading to the brokenness passed he began going back to finding strength in himself and reverting back to his stubborn, indifferent way of relating to me.
    Though I find myself hurting and lonely I would like to offer hope to anyone who may read this based on my own story. With God ANYTHING is possible. It may not be (likely) in our timing and in our way. Right now I am losing hope that my husband wants to fully change to a healthy life but I know a new marriage IS possible with God. I am left with the only question I can ask myself “God, what are you trying to teach ME through the current circumstances?” because God allows (not implying causes) everything in our lives for a reason.
    I do not say this lightly and would encourage anyone considering this step to prayfully over the course of time consider this before making it a prayer…I realized that for my husband’s sake he needed to be broken and only God knew how that had to come. I prayed for brokenness in him and God answered my prayer. However, I suffered too as a result of this brokenness (came through in the form of finances). Yet when I saw the God fearing, gentle man he became as a result it was more than worth any other consequence for me.
    It is too easy to stay focused on our pain and ourselves. I don’t believe we are to ignore the issues but we must choose to dwell on what is lovely and right and praiseworthy. Remember that our war is NOT against our spouse. Our spouse is often just a conduit for the real enemy of our souls to bring destruction. If your spouse is acting hurtfully on a habitual basis, they are not at peace. Love them enough to want peace for them and let us all do whatever is necessary that God is calling us to do. It is hard not to run *from* something. As God asked Hagar “where have you come from and where are you going?” I pray you all find God’s comfort in this site in the way that you need.

    • Ann on September 9, 2013 at 11:15 am

      Hi,I have not been apart of the excellent ongoing conversations you all have been having as I have the added burden of caring( albeit from a distance)of a mother with serious dementia.But I loved the book and the two calls and am now catching up with your various comments.It encourages me greatly to see the supportive virtual friendships developing here.Valerie,I was struck at how similar our stories appear to be but after 10+ years of fighting this battle to save the marriage,I have decided it is time to let go.Through the counsel of close godly friends( and fighting pastoral advice at times),lots of soul searching and personal counseling ,much prayer and the wisdom ,particularly from a fresh Biblical perspective of Lesllie,I feel I have been enabling “a Belueving fool”, if not an ” evil one”. It sounds as if you may have read Dan Allender’s book,Bold Love,Valerie and I would highly recommend it.That book along with Leslie’s have provided sanity and godly wisdom during this very painful time.My husband asked me to come up with a separation proposal which I will be doing tomorrow with my lawyer.I would greatly appreciate your prayers,particularly for our 3 adult sons.Thank you.Ann

  36. Sally on September 9, 2013 at 9:54 am

    After I filed for divorce to separate myself from my husband after Christian counseling that he did not take seriously…my husband lost his mother (he still blames her for his hurt and did not respect her or other woman but because she was his mother, he still cared deeply for her). He then lost his best friend a month after…he had shot himself. It was another tragic loss. He hates he has to live in an apartment. He is seeing a secular counselor and is aware of why he hurts but hasn’t gotten beyond that. He still takes little blame and still blasts me when he doesn’t like something. I still pray for brokeness – but he has had 3 whammies in 3 months and still there is no change. I am afraid to pray that anymore. I feel I need to go through this divorce until he has no where else to go but GOD. I think I have interferred too much already talking possible reconcilement only to have it backfire on me.

    • Vikki on September 9, 2013 at 10:24 am

      Sally, I’m so glad you shared this. I’ve been separated for 3 months
      and my hub is in same interesting position-
      lost his largest account,
      lost his secretary,
      lost 1/2 his biz in another company,
      told me he almost got into a street fight because
      he ” stood his ground” at 11pm.
      hates his apartment
      tells me he yells at people at work
      had a one hour conversation to see if I wanted to reconcile
      ( which I said no but we’ll see if changes can happen) and ends it
      with yelling at me in a public park.
      literally, Im afraid to tell him I will never go back.

      Im grateful you posted because I believe God is also trying to get His attention and he is balking. I too feel I’ve buffered too much for too long.
      (=my sin). Im sharing my bit so you too can be encouraged that this is happening to someone else too. I will lift you in prayer today!

      • Sally on September 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm

        Thanks Vikki, prayers for you too. We desire, as God does, that they will fully submit to HIM. It is the only real change that can take place. Unfortunately…it is their decision with God and not ours. 🙁

  37. Janet on September 13, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    You have just described the last 15 years of my marriage.
    With each counselor, pastor and concerned person, my husband has grown more convinced that he’s the good guy and I am the problem. I even had one “spiritual counselor” look me in my face and tell me that I am a “horrible wife, terrible mother and I have single handedly ruined my marriage and family”

    I got up and walked out.

    I keep trying to believe. I know what God has told me and I believe He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above what I could ask or think. I REALLY believe this. But I have to be honest, I wonder if He will in THIS lifetime.

    Everything you have described is my life. Right now, I have grown and though the last counselor dumped us, she has continued to see me and reminds me that she has seen growth in me. I only see her periodically. But she validates me and the work I have done. I am thriving. But I am weary. I want out, but can’t afford to. I care for myself and my needs. He pays for the mortgage, and other household bills. In other words, he provides for himself and our children. SInce I am here, I get that advantage. But everything that has to do with my personal living, I must pay for alone. He decides what I do beyond that is invalid and never happens. I share what I have with the children, but as far as he’s concerned, I do nothing to contribute.

    I don’t mean to complain. I just want to say thank you for paying attention. My life is real. What is happening is real, no matter what his pastor, or anyone else who’s been involved and rejects the notion that I might not be the problem.
    My husband accepted Christ as his savior in 2003. Our marriage began to improve for a 2 year period. The Holy Spirit was speaking to my husband and performance is what he does well. Anger seemed to set in slowly when I didn’t change the way he thought I should. It wasn’t anger at me though. It was God. But he couldn’t admit that. Being angry at God would be wrong. So he pointed his finger at me and gradually back slid into worse than what he was before being saved. Believe it or not, he is going to ministry school. He attends through his church. The church I left after 2 years of telling the pastor what was happening and hearing,”We’ll be praying for you.” After a physical altercation in front of our youngest son, I called the police and had him removed. The pastor insisted I allow him back home before the children came home from school that day. He brought my husband back and then escaped at his first chance, leaving me with a man so full of anger and revenge. But he was back and I wasn’t EVER going to make him leave HIS house that he alone has paid for. The last 2 years of counseling were useless for us anyway. But not for me personally.

    am curious. I have my own theory as to why marriages are experiencing this. I’d like the thoughts of others. I believe it is a VERY serious spiritual pride issue.

    • Brenda on September 16, 2013 at 12:52 am

      Janet, If it is a Spiritual pride issue it is an ungodly spirit that is causing it. Are you sure that your husband truly accept Christ as Savior. His turning against you after this point doesn’t reflect a repentant heart in my mind. I have also been told–We will pray for you. I truly believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe that God wants to get up off of our knees and take action. Your pastor showed cowardice in my mind leaving you to face the enemy and danger. I don’t understand a new Christian being angry at God. That was suppose to be left behind.
      Janet, you pay for the mortgage and other expenses just as he does. He may make more money or work more hours, but you are contributing as well. You may be putting more hours into caring for the children and home. Don’t let him tell you that he pays for everything. That house is yours as well. It is a marital asset. It doesn’t matter who has the bigger paycheck.
      I pray that God will untwist your husbands thinking or remove you from these conditions for your childrens sake as well as yours.

      • Janet on November 13, 2013 at 12:00 am

        When he got saved, there was an improvement. But after 2 years, he says I just was never satisfied. He said I never really wanted him, I wanted someone else. He said he was tired of trying to be who I wanted. He said he’d never again do anything to try to make me happy and he’s kept that promise.

        My christian counselor/mentor told me she questioned his salvation as well. I believe it was real. I just think that his inability to trust anyone, including God, and his own pride blinds him and leaves him unteachable. He was never able to recognize when God was moving and at work in our lives. I grew up in a christian home and was taught christian principles from my youth. He even told one pastor who questioned my ability to hear the Holy Spirit that he knew I heard correctly. But something just wasn’t right. He never gave God permission to change him. He said, “God made me this way, he doesn’t want me to change.” He may be attending ministry classes, but it’s for knowledge sake. “To keep my mind busy”. For the ability to debate the facts. He really has narcissistic tendencies
        and he thinks he is always right. He has an uncanny ability to lead conversations based on fact and it’s hard to argue with him. He removes all emotion from it and factually leads you to the place where you can’t disagree. I can’t tell you how many times I thought afterward and got angry at myself for not speaking up for what I knew to be true. He used this tactic with our oldest child who was in rebellion from 5th grade on. In his mind, he has proven himself and that conversation is concluded, he is right and if I come back again, I am being a trouble maker.

        My new pastor recently met with us both. He invited us to a dinner and felt that by doing so, he was at the very least trying to create a bridge. He and I have had many conversations about what’s happening and he’s supporting me as he feels the Spirit leads. He said he hoped we (my husband and I) might do it again ourselves before he asks to meet with us again in a few months. The meal was over and there’s been no change.

        I have a dear mentor/counselor who I met with for about a year and a half. She and I stay in touch even 2 1/2 years later. I called her when the old pastor insisted on bringing my husband home after the pushing event. She was the one that helped me create ground rules for him coming back. He agreed never to touch me that way again. He agreed to marriage counseling. But he would not go to the spiritual counselor we had in mind. He said he had a pastor and he would meet with him. It was then that his pastor took my leaving to go get our oldest son from school to be his moment of escape. I recently called that pastor. I told him 6 months ago that I wouldn’t call him again until there was a testimony. I didn’t want to sound like a complainer any more. There has been no change. It only got worse. So I called anyway to see what he knows of the last year. He knew nothing. Not that we no longer live as husband and wife. Not that we live in separate area’s of the house. Nothing. This man see’s my husband every week. How could he know nothing?

        I am here, for now. I believe this is where the Lord wants me. I have been hearing from the Lord recently. I am concerned for my husbands health and well being. We watched my sister in law go through a similar chain of events in her marriage. She and her husband divorced. It’s been about 8 years or so. Her ex husband recently suddenly passed away. I felt like it was a wake up call to my husband. Just felt it in my spirit. But it had no effect. he barely made it to the funeral. He and his brother showed up just as the final prayer was being prayed. I am concerned for him, if he doesn’t turn around soon.

  38. valerie on September 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I am further questioning the healthiness of our joint counseling sessions. I posted just several days ago about my concern which has increased in our last appointments. Our counselor did a technique of describing a list of about 10 negative attributes such as preoccupation with looks, lack of empathy, judgmental, etc. Each of us were to give yes or no statements as to whether we felt this was something true of us and secondly was it true of our spouse. Some of the traits did not fit well into a “yes” or “no” category and I attempted to say a sentence of clarity with a few to which the counselor shifted in her seat agitated. I said I wasn’t trying to be difficult but was trying to clarify so that my response was as truthful as possible. Her response was to half-jokingly assert “Just so you know, you ARE being difficult. I’m just looking for a general yes or no answer”. All this in front of my husband who has a history of using anything negative against me. In private he has badgered me until I will agree with him that I have things I need to change (I know that I do but don’t feel safe to discuss with him). If I don’t tell him what those things are I’m not cooperating as I accuse him of doing. When I tell him he is satisfied but then will use them against me in the future. When he feels he is losing a disagreement he will pull out from his pocket “remember when you admitted that you were quick to believe I didn’t have your best interest at heart?” End of discussion. He has regained control and he now satisfied. It’s like a game of paint ball. He stalks me and feels a sense of empowerment and intelligence that he has “won”. He finds further satisfaction in the scarlet letter paint I am covered in as a sign of my defeat until my pain subsides, the paint wears off and I find myself in battle once again.
    Anyway I am starting to feel stuck. I don’t feel the counselor hears what I’m saying but has formed her opinion on what she thinks is happening and I feel I’m seen as argumentative and unwilling to change if I don’t see what she sees as the obvious. In several sessions now she has come down on me (in front of him) that she sees it as a problem that I automatically assume a negative outcome or negative intent in our interactions and if I would simply put the past in the past and not set him up for failure then there would be a more positive tone in the relationship. I feel alienated by these comments. Yes he is going to counseling. Yes he says there’s things he needs to work on. Yes he says he has been hurtful….however in the last 2 weeks he has even been given a physical *written* list on what he can do to show me love and by his own admission hasn’t even looked at the list. The counselor knows this yet I feel like the difficult one by expecting remorse or repentance before assuming good intent. It seems to the counselor listening and going to counseling is enough to show his good intent. He is very engaging, open and willing to acknowledge some of his hurtful behavior in sessions with her BUT am I crazy for thinking that it is more important what he is like when he comes home??? She is literally the last person I have to talk to at this point. The few female friends I have either chalk our problems up to “him being a typical man” or have no advice/support to offer. I feel very alienated, accused and sometimes crazy. I’m so grateful for you group of people I’ve just found that gives me hope my warning flags are not just “in my head”.

    • Brenda on September 16, 2013 at 12:28 am

      Valerie, You have just described why marriage counseling with someone who is abusive and destructive is a harmful idea for the victim. Being locked into yes and no answers? I’m not sure where this person was going with this but why would any counselor put you in a trap like that? If living with this man, the counselor would be in the trap of abuse in a heartbeat. She has been twisted into power. You have proved that marriage counseling before he is he repentant is futile and destructive to you and any hope of having a loving marriage. Him going to counseling is a façade. Now he has 2 people he is able to control.
      I don’t know where God is leading you, but this is clearly not helping you. If treating his wife the way he treats you is being a “typical man” I want no part of any of them. You are not crazy. Please don’t allow yourself to be put in this position. I am praying for you. I think more and more about forming a survivors prayer group. We need one another in support no matter what location of the globe we live.

  39. Terrie on September 25, 2013 at 12:35 am

    What do you do when you are just so exhausted you can’t even sleep. Can’t sleep, can’t function. Just so exhausted! I have been married to my husband for 17 years. I had 3 children previously and we had a son together 12 years ago. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on. Many counselors and books later, it all makes sense. Now I am just too tired … He has NPD and is emotionally abusive. He was so emotionally abusive to my oldest daughter, she went through depression and became a meth addict. This was the year my son was born. He has gone through so much. So concerned about him after an event where I caught my husband using marijuana again, I took my son out of his school and put him in a Christian School. My husband only has spirituality as an act to look good. When it comes down to it he speaks all his negative thoughts about Christianity out loud where my son hears it. Now my son questions his faith. He has become very narcissistic also, takes no accountability for his behavior and is lying in school. My husband has his own rules for living and excuses to back them up and he has taught those to my son. So tired! I have been grasping at straws to find hope for years and keep running into a dead end.

    • Brenda on September 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Take a time out. Do you have somewhere that you can go for a week or 2 or a month or even longer? Both parents are responsible for the way their child is raised, even if that means protecting him/her from the father of the home. Protect your child at all cost. Do whatever you can to prevent another child from addiction or worse.

      I know what it is like to be so beat down and tired that giving up seems like the only option. But, our children deserve every bit of us that we can muster. Setting boundaries on the behavior of all in the house may be necessary. Reinforce your faith with your child throughout the day. Trump your husbands mocking of truth. It will take courage, but you have that. Ask God for renewed strength. Ask it every hour if need be.

      I have a son who is 39 and experienced and witness various forms of abuse including physical. He is still using drugs and is angry at the world. I cannot reach him. He is in God’s hands and continually in my prayers. I have no influence at all. Please, please don’t loose your influence. If you don’t already, establish daily times for prayer and reading the Word with your child. Make visits to his school to see how things are going. Whatever it takes. I am praying for you and your son.

    • Kay on September 26, 2013 at 7:50 am

      It sounds like your husband needs some distinguised love. He doesn’t understand what love means, either from God or anyone else. His banner over you and your children is not love. Gently and lovingly remove yourself.

    • valerie on September 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Terrie,
      I am pained by your obvious exhaustion. FWIW, what I’ve learned from my own marital exhaustion is to really pay attention to what is draining my mental resources. I have spent much time in trying to make an impossible situation possible…trying to reason with someone who is unreasonable. That is truly exhausting. For anyone! Its pushing a boulder uphill with flip flops in the rain. The PA or N will get us to believe if only we would try “a little harder” we will reach a place of peace and rest. But there is no rest. “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs and there is no rest.” Proverbs 29:9.
      For me it has been difficult to accept that as is this situation is currently impossible (humanly speaking) to be worked out. I can not change his heart and that is absolutely the only thing that will begin change. I have come to the end of myself. This is the only place that leaves the path open for God to do His thing now in His way instead of me perpetually interrupting Him…whatever that may be. To truly believe this means I have to do something different. That is terrifying. The PA/N has caused such mental chaos with their emotional shell game (here it is, no over here, no look again) that we no longer feel we are capable of making a wise decision. After all, how could we be so foolish to fall in love and commit to a man that is not capable of love (not meaning globally speaking in all our situations). That’s what I question anyway. But look again at the verse. It states when a WISE person confronts a fool. That’s the thing about a biblical fool. They fool. The devil himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14) I’m not implying this is how to think of your spouse!! We can’t go there ladies!! Remember that your spouse is a tool who is also being used by the evil one to do his bidding. Yes, he is choosing to live in the flesh and I don’t think he is an innocent bystander either.
      I know, I for one, need to truly take a good look at what I’m exhausting my resources on. Does that mean give up, give in? No, not on him per se but maybe we need to give up on a dream that may never come to fruition. Maybe we stop to ask God if this really IS the dream He wants us to have and focus on. Maybe…just maybe He has something far greater, better in store (I am not implying SOMEONE better, but something better). Maybe its time for new dreams. Allow God show us reality rather than seeing it through the foggy rear view mirror of our circumstances and feelings.

  40. Summer2 on October 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I get what all you have been saying on this post. And it is getting harder and harder to deal with it. I finally listened and left but it hasn’t been easy, it has been pure horror esp. the constant dangling of false hope.
    I would appreciate prayer for God’s intervention to provide someone to talk to who really gets DV (and a job). I have been reading books and trying to get through all the horror, manipulation, lies, court stuff, church lies, without any support at all. No family to turn to, church people in three churches absolutely destructive, not understanding, not one word from his so-called christian family, and horrific legal system. Everything I read everyone seems to have some family to go to to help with healing. I keep looking for counseling and writing letters to various authors and christian radio but no one knows anyone.
    Thank you.

    • Brenda on October 27, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      I found for myself that God is giving me friends and support in His time. He wanted me to be totally dependent on Him first. Don’t give up, He will come through for you. I am praying for you.

    • Lynn on October 27, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      I would recommend finding DivorceCare, which is a Christian-themed ministry for divorced and separated people. There are 13 sessions, and meetings are held all over. Go to DivorceCare.org to find a meeting spot near you. I have found my group and the videos to be invaluable. And Leslie is often featured with offering the counselor’s professional views on the subjects of depression, coping with being lonely, financial difficulties, etc.

      Also, another helpful read may be “Unraveling” by Elizabeth Klein Corcoran. She is a Christian who divorced her husband after years of trying to make her dysfunctional and emotionally abusive marriage work. I subscribe to her free blog, and have found her insights to be “spot on”.

      • Brenda on October 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

        The closest DivorceCare is 5 hours away from me. I am already Legally separated, but today I finally saw there was no hope. After 4 months of separation he has completely turned the situation around to where he is being treated badly and says I enjoy tormenting him. I also found out that he is spending time with his former wife and the love notes that are going back and forth are enough to turn my stomach. This is a woman who he has not had a civil word for in 3 decades. Well, I know where I stand and emailed my attorney to follow through with the last bit of paperwork to finalize the divorce. The assets are already divided, so it should be pretty simple. I do suddenly feel very lonely. I would like to start a group to uplift one another who had been through the destructive marriage and is moving on. If anyone has any tips to get started I would appreciate it.

        • Vikki on November 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

          You freaking ROCK. Not because of the stuff you’re going through but in SPITE of it. And that you’re calling a spade a spade. Some thoughts on a group – private FB group where you can allow in whom you like, or a private Google group, or I think Yahoo still has groups. I will be your first join-ee… in your 5 month mark. 😉 Please keep us updated on this thread to let us know where you land. All the best to you Brenda, I’m quite sure your life has only just begun. Bless you for trusting God in uncharted waters and may He whisper words of truth and love to your soul. In prayer for you.

          • Brenda on November 5, 2013 at 8:21 am

            Vikki, I will pray on this. I have chosen not to get into social networking in the past because of all the bad stuff I have heard, but I think you may be on to something here and it could be used for good.

            I saw this bit of inspiration on an advertisement for an inspirational book yesterday:

            Scars Show Where You Have Been….They Don’t Decide Where You Are GOING

            What a legacy that could become for all of us.

            Thank you Vikki for your words of encouragement. I have no idea how to start up any of these sites, but when I do you will be the first to know. Love you sister, Brenda



          • Vikki on November 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

            Love you too Brenda! Circle of prayers around you!



          • Brenda on November 5, 2013 at 6:49 pm

            Vikki,

            I was enlightened today that by blogging on this and other websites that I am social networking. Ugh!! Shows how little I know.

            My main goal is to get a face to face group going right here in Saginaw, MI and I have been making excuses for why I can’t when I should be letting God be my guide. I made my first contact today (had to leave a message). I said that I wanted to get involved in a support group with the ultimate goal of finding a group of believers who may have difficulty with leaving or even separating for a time because of untrue teachings of the church. Or even believers who just need to know there are others like them that they can talk to.

            I want to go where the Lord leads, wherever that may be. I am still not opposed to the FB idea. Let’s see where the Lord leads.



          • Brenda on November 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

            I had my first contact with the Underground Railroad today. I will be going to there support group for the next few weeks and get a feel for what there client base is like. The facilitaor is aware of my goal of reaching Christians that don’t feel they have options other than staying in abuse because of the church and is fine with that. I am looking forward to this. I am still looking for other options in reaching out to others if this doesn’t pan out.



          • Brenda on November 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm

            Hi Vikki & anyone else following this journey, This is my update. I went to an Underground Railroad secular support group today. What a mess. There were about 20 women, several coming in late and the language–would make a construction worker blush. The discussion was on excerpts from Chapter 3 of Lundy Bancroft’s, “Why does he do that?” I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, so I listened or tried to while everyone talked at once. I felt pretty good when I went in to the meeting, but felt discouraged walking out. I won’t give up though. I am going back next week. There was one lady that I was able to talk to briefly. Introductions right away and a little chitchat before the meeting began. Unfortunately, I had to scoot right away to get back to work.



    • Stephanie Weldy on October 27, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      I will pray for a friend or family member to come along beside you. Wait on the Lord, and when all else fails, wait on the Lord. He sees your pain and struggle and is walking with you through all of this. You are definitely not alone. You have someone who loves you and is listening to you and cares about you and what you’re going through. Now you have reached out and found others who will pray the Lord meets your exact needs. God bless you and be with you.

    • Vikki on October 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Can you give a city and state or nearest big city? maybe someone can point you in a good direction!

  41. Sally on November 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Brenda, I believe we have conversed before and I skipped the legal separation and wondered if I was wrong. I had tried Christian counseling but until they quit blaming everything and everyone else, it is no use. I heard at Divorce Care how 70% who file for Legal Separation end up in divorce. I feel now I just jumped over that waste of time and money. There is no change and he wants money from me. Getting down to where it is a waste of my money to spend on my atty to come down anymore. It will cost me more to have this linger on. This is not just money….it is the emotional stress that goes on in this waiting game. Let the healing begin!

    I am involved in a wonderful “Forgiving the Past and moving forward” ministry being taught in our church. Plus I am doing a seminar coming up on the book, Not a Fan. If you are the one from Midland, MI. It is Sat, Nov 23 9:30 until 2:00. You are welcome to join me and even stay the night before at my place for a getaway and refresh yourself. I live in Port Huron.
    I got what was probably my last day of golf around here in today and Zumba tonight and tommorow and then Yoga on Thurs. I can’t sit around anymore waiting for something to happen. I want to heal and grow! I have learned so much about this type of relationship and I have owned my responsibility in its deterioration too.
    Seriously, if you are from the area, you are welcome to join me.
    Sally

    • Brenda on November 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Sally, In hind site I should have skipped the Legal Separation and just gone for the divorce. He is dragging his feet signing the final paper and if I have to go to court I will have to come up with $445. It he signs the paper $0. My attorney want both of us rid of him that bad. It took him no time to get himself a honey (that’s another long story), but still trying to coax me back.

      I live in Saginaw, MI. My church is having our Thanksgiving feast that weekend. So the seminar won’t work for me. I would like to hear more about the Moving Forward ministry some time. I am taking time off at Christmas time, maybe we could get together then.

      • Sally on November 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        My sister lives in Clare, MI and I will be going there for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. I would like to meet you at either time.

        My divorce could be final this week and I am still uncomfortable about it but again know nothing would have changed. I believe he will just move on and not pursue any more counseling himself once he finds someone to fill his void. I still pray daily for him and have feelings but not having contact with him is less stressful. Just have a lot of issues to work through financially now. I know my great God has plans even though this but I just can’t see it now. I had a stronger day when I last wrote but today is dreary and tough. Brighter days will come. Keep in touch and when you would like to get together.

        • Brenda on November 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

          I will be home for Thanksgiving. I usually have dinner at Cracker Barrel. I will be at my daughters on Christmas, but am taking 2 weeks off during that time. You are welcome to stop in.

  42. Sally on November 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I re-read my blog and feel there was some anger there. Believe me it is just emotional exhaustion. IF there ever was godly remorse, repentance and change of heart. I definately would look are reconciling…I still love him and have compassion for him but I will not try to reason with him, allow my selfself to be hurt nor give in to him anymore. I pray for him still each day. I have given him over to God who is the ONLY one that can change him.

  43. Brenda on November 11, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Is Abigail’s Dreams available for purchase yet?

    • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

      I don’t know. I’ll check with Kim – the singer/songwriter.

      • Brenda on November 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm

        It’s not on the internet anywhere or her website, so probably not.

  44. Patty on March 5, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    this is my 2nd marriage. I left my first marriage after 13 years of physical and verbal abuse. I was happily single for 7 years until I met my current husband of 9 years. We have 5 children together from our previous marriages. All grown. I saw maybe one or two incidents a year that were very overreactive to an action of mine that was very minor and not resolved until I apologized for the first 5 years. Now I see a pattern of very high expectations, co dependency, very conflict avoidant so no resolution of differences or offenses. He makes a mountain out of molehills and has little grace and rarely apologizes. He admits to me that this is what his other family had complained about him.(perfectionist?) I have caught him in some pretty big lies. He is basically estranged from his grown children and will not take any responsibility and has blamed me for the last 3 years since I emailed his son about some of his hostile responses and why they don’t visit. He believes if I never would have “rocked” the boat, he wouldn’t be estranged even though his son has been avoiding him for years.
    I talked to a “phone coach” and told her stuff I was dealing with and she talked to a counselor and said “We” need to read the Emotionally Destructive Relationship and go to CR. I read it, he hasn’t. We went to a counselor who was neutral and we went no where for about 12 sessions. His conclusion was I am the target of his kids hostility towards their Dad. No sympathy or support from my husband in this. I was ready to leave my husband due to 3 years of his resentment towards me and emotional unavailabilty and blame. He is very passive agressive and supresses a lot of his anger. We have also been going to Celebrate Recovery for the past year for our past hurts. I ask the pastor for a counselor and tell him I am desperate. I hoped to get a counselor that was on track with CR and dealing with our past baggage. Instead we had about 12 sessions at $130 an hour with someone who has a very unique cognitive therapy that would focus a lot of his attention each session on my husband and his bad behavior for the week. He appeared to want to try and persuade my husband to change his thinking. After several sessions of very focused effort on him and my husband acting passive but in reality resistant, I decided not to go for the last 2 sessions and let him just work on my husband. I returned for the last one since we decided we couldn’t afford it any longer and told him so. The counselor had decided to focus on me about a particular issue we couldn’t resolve and told me I was being very resistant, more than any other client he had ever dealt with and that he thought that something “must be wrong with me” and I should go for a full psychological check up with a specialist and then back to him for further help! I believe my husband must have told him some falsehoods in the previous sessions when alone with him. How can a counselor assess something must be wrong with me when he has been talking mostly to my husband about all his over reactive behavior? in one session? I had emailed him if he could help me confront my husband with his emotionally destructive behavior, a day before and included a link to Leslie’s broadcast on Focus on the Family. I had asked him if he had ever read any of her books and he said, SURE. I don’t think so, he certainly didn’t sound like he knew what the criteria is in an emotionally destructive relationship. I will certainly be more cautious and ask more questions in the future IF we do couples counseling. I am ready for a long break and probably separation. I have tried hard, I am the pursuer and feel very unloved by him who was so loving the first 5 years of our marriage. I cannot live up to his standards of being his fantasy wife.

  45. Linda on March 13, 2014 at 9:47 am

    I am replying to “Patty’s” frustrating post about counseling etc. For whatever it is worth, I believe you completely!! Been there. There is some question about whether my spouse has Asperger Syndrome. It is insidious and a lot of the time subjective and confusing – even in the medical community, courts, and religious arena. Passive, passive aggressive, avoidance, resistant, hidden hostilities, ego-defensive, insecure, depressed/anxious, blames everyone, is never wrong, withdraws, withholds information, combative – need I go on??? I have spent the better part of a decade negotiating the land-mines of an unworkable situation. Many counselors, spiritual directors, doctors, resources, books, articles and you name it have been sought. I find it hard to believe that the awful and unacceptable behavior(s) on the part of the (mostly) men that are discussed here do not have some sort of deep or intense issue going on. I understand “family of origin” or past hurts – but we all have both. I also understand working on a marriage/relationship. But, I have spent almost a decade trying to have one – not “work on one”. It is frustrating!! We try so hard to be Christ-like, forgive, have mercy, have compassion, own our own issues and more. I get that it “takes two to tango”. But I also believe that there is a huge imbalance and unreasonable expectation placed on most woman. It can appear we are not doing enough when it is not acknowledge – and when it never seems to make an iota of difference, or we’re told “try harder”. At times our efforts are sorely taken advantage of – we often assume our responsibility and everyone’s.

    • Patty on March 20, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Linda!
      Just saw your post, I wasn’t notified via email, just came here to check because my last counseling session was so disturbing and frankly unprofessional. He was recommended by 2 male leaders at my church and I am thinking about reporting him. I looked in to Ausberger syndrome after reading your post. It doesn’t sound like my husband. I just found a book about “The Emotionally Unavailable Man” and I think it is spot on with a lot of his issues. A lot of fear issues. Fight or flight, the last counselor certainly recognized that but appeared to discard that in our last session. He has MAJOR fear issues but won’t admit it, he says he has no fears! And of course all our problems are my fault! He does want a divorce now, and I don’t know what else to do, I don’t want to get him mad but I am considering talking to a pastor at my church.

  46. Abigail on May 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    This was my exact experience with a marriage counselor. EXACT.
    She was so wooed by my husband and so sure that I was the problem that I really began to think she wanted to have an affair with him. She wouldn’t let me tell the truth. If I said he was “violent,” she would say, “Oh no. Let’s not use that word. Let’s say, ‘intense.'” Then she would put it all on me for begin too anxious, completely ignoring the reason I was anxious, which was that my husband was at best unstable and at worst dangerous. I had reason to be fearful and anxious, but she wouldn’t let me talk about that. She wanted me to cut out of my life the only people who knew the truth about our marriage because she felt they would come between us. She wanted me to move further into isolation from the community in order to please him. She honestly worked FOR him like a lawyer does in court.
    How does this happen? How do counselors get certified to counsel without first having to have some understanding of this type of marriage scenario and what NOT to do?
    If I ever questioned her, “But what about…?” she would lash out at me like a scolding parent, saying, “I am TRAINED to do this. You are NOT TRAINED in counseling! I went to school for this and you can see my degree on the wall!”

    I was so meek and crumpled in her office that it was all I could do even to make eye contact with her, which she also accused me of. When I did make eye contact, she would accuse further and say, “I see you looking at me. I see in your eyes that you disagree with me.” All the while, my husband sat tall in his chair, just being fed and fed and fed.

    Marriage counseling was abuse on top of years of abuse. It did so much more to empower him and tear me down. It is a wonder I ever got out.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 21, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      She sounds like she was narcissistic too. Not a good counselor at all. I’m so sorry you experienced this.

  47. Carol on September 7, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    My husband is emotionally abusive and controlling. I have been married for 24 years and just realized how bad it is . He has cheated on me at least three times that I know. Recently caught him texting and emailing another woman saying he that he loves her. Found flirty messages he sent to her and another woman. He says it was nothing physical that he likes the chase. I do not know if I believe him. Prior to finding the messages, someone sent me a facebook message that he was cheating. Of course he denied it. He always threaten divorce when I called him on it. I would back off because of fear. I believe I am codependent , and I am experiencing trauma bonding. He knows I do not have legal grounds for divorce if he didn’t have sex. However, I do have grounds for separation. We had a big blow up and he said you want me to go sleep with someone . I can do that so you can be free! That is not what I want. Why would he purposely disrespect God, himself, his family and me instead of doing the right thing and repent and humble himeself? It is just another way to exercise control and keep me hostage. How do I use consequences to stay well at this time? We are having an in house separation at this time. He says he is getting better, but I caught him in another lie. He says the marriage and us is finished right now ,and we should use this time to work on ourselves and we will reevaulate in December. I am working with a counselor to get as healthy as possible . I am an sexual assualt survivor who was attacked at twelve by a serial rapist. I have a history of depression, ocd, and post traumatic stress disorder and believe this has contributed to me allowing myself to be victimized. I feel like he is stll calling all the shots even though he is the one that has messed up. He has not changed his patterns of flirting , having inapproriate relationships with women and repeating rescuing damsels in distress. He continues to lie. What can I do to protect myself and not be a target of his abuse?I no longer have sex with him, and I told him to go get checked out and bring me a clean bill of health if he wants to be intimate. It has been two weeks. He hasn’t been yet. Says he hasn’t had time. I feel you make time for what is important.At this point , I do not see a future with him much longer. How do I detach and get healthy so I can stay will or leave well? I do not have a job. I have a little money saved. I have to lie and say I have no money so he will give me some. He doesn’t want me to save. I no longer have access to the credit card. He took it. He gives me money, but I have to ask. Getting a job is not an option while with him because he would not pay the bills like he should. When I did work , we were always short. My money was used to pay the bills, because he did whatever he wanted with his money or he was chronically changing jobs and broke. Just another form of economic abuse. When I stopped working , he was forced to carry the load. I have prayed to God to direct my steps and give me clarity. Any feedback is appreciated.

    • tamara on January 12, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      i get Carol. Your husband sounds as if he has the same PATHOLOGICAL, NARCISSISTIC, WICKED, SEIf-CENTERED mind set and heart as mine does. Please try to keep focus on God! He is your only hope!!!!!!

  48. Carol on September 7, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Sorry about typos! Too distraught!

  49. tamara on January 11, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    i can’t even talk i’m so numb inside.

  50. Timothy Payne on April 8, 2021 at 8:22 am

    If Marriage counseling is not the answer. Should they get a divorce. Where does the destructive spouse go for help. how does a couple go from destructive to healthy. What do they do?

    • Leslie Vernick on April 20, 2021 at 11:35 am

      Marriage counseling is not the answer because the problem is not a marriage problem, it’s a personal sin problem and must be dealt with as such before healing or repairing broken trust can take place. If the destructive individual is unwilling to own his own problems (sin), repent and change then there is no hope for healing the marriage. So he first must do his own work. She too must do some work of healing her trauma, whether she will be able to trust him again is up to her and God, and seeing true change in her spouse. I know typically pastors want to save the marriage, but I firmly believe that God cares about the safety and sanity of the people in the marriage more than just duct taping a sick marriage back together.

      • Timothy Payne on May 1, 2021 at 10:48 am

        What are indicators of an emotionally destructive spouse?

        What type of therapy do you recommend for the spouse who has been the abuser and what type of therapy do you suggest for someone that has been emotionally abused?

        Thank you!

        • Leslie Vernick on May 3, 2021 at 8:36 pm

          The indicators are where there are patterns of abuse, controlling behavior, including misusing scripture to get control OVER his wife, deceit, disrespect, demeaning and degrading behaviors and attitudes which diminish her God-given dignity and personhood, reducing her to a role, an object to use rather than someone to cherish and love.
          I have a test at the end of chapter 1 in my book which a wife can take to show these things.

  51. Tosha Godbold on April 20, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    I agree!!!

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