Hi Friends,

Please pray for me. I need to carve out more time for God, more time for solitude, more time for exercise, more time for quality writing and yet, my plate is full of wonderful opportunities that are hard to let go of or ignore. Pray I have wisdom to know what needs to go, so that I may not get distracted with the good that becomes the enemy of the best.

Today’s Question: I just joined your ‘community' and have been married 33 years. He is emotionally and physically abusive (has physically hit me 11 times which are documented, once breaking my rib, where he admitted it in the presence of our family physician). He has always raised red flags with me in how he relates to other women and has been “caught” in adultery two times, once after 10 years of marriage & most recently in July of this year.

His power over me is finances. He controls all the money. He reacts with indifference when I ask (like a daughter asking her father) for money to do things like join a gym or get facials, for example. We are financially well off, but he has always acted as though we cannot afford anything like this. Now I'm in counseling after learning from a text message of his affair with a co-worker in July.

He is in denial and always turns the blame for his behavior onto me. He takes no responsibility or ownership for his wrong doing. Due to the fact I had no father in my home as a child, I've stayed with him “for the sake of our two children”. Now they are grown and even though leaving him would still have painful effects on our family (which now includes two lovely grandchildren), my health (memory & focus especially) and my relationship with God are being adversely affected by this emotionally destructive marriage.

Yes, I have read your new book and have asked him the 3 questions from chapter nine. What next?

PS-his personality is charming to all who know him, a ‘classic' profile of an abuser…nobody would ever suspect him to be who he truly is behind closed doors.

Answer: You said your husband admitted to hitting you and breaking your rib in front of your family physician yet, you believe “nobody would ever suspect him to be who he is behind closed doors?” Who do you think your physician thought your husband was – a nice guy? What did he or she advise you to do when this happened?

You said you have asked him the 3 questions from chapter nine but now you wonder what to do next? After the chapter on asking him the three questions, did you read further about having a safety plan? About implementing consequences? About consulting with an attorney, gathering together evidence of the documented abuse and adultery as well as possibly separating for your safety and well-being? What’s kept you from doing these next steps?

He’s hit you 11 documented times and committed adultery twice and you’re still living in the same home with him? Why? Is it worth sacrificing your safety, sanity, and mental stability for a comfortable standard of living? I can’t answer that for you, but you must really think about what you are enduring and why.

You say his power over you is financial as you are quite wealthy yet you indicate you feel like a child and have no money to actually spend or do anything without his permission. Have you consulted with an attorney about your legal rights to alimony and half your marital assets?

Now you are in personal counseling after finding out about his second affair. Good. This is crucial for you right now. Apparently he’s willing to pay for that or your insurance will cover it, but I’m glad you’ve taken this step. It is imperative that you are 100% honest with your counselor about all the abuse that is going on in your marriage and why you have been too afraid or confused or comfortable to flee this dangerous, toxic and destructive person.

Your husband may never take responsibility for anything. Because he’s capable of making a lot of money he may also believe he’s entitled to “break the rules” without consequence. Your collusion in this delusion has not helped you or him. The consequence for breaking your rib should have been some jail time, or at a minimum, a legal protection order for you and mandatory counseling time for him. How come you did not push for that?

I know I’m pushing you to think through a lot of questions and it may feel overwhelming. Your pain–physical, mental and relational–is meant to wake you up. Phillip Yancey writes, “Pain exists not to make us miserable but to force us to pay attention to something that needs changing.”

Believe me, I wish I could wave a magic wand or say just the right prayer to have your husband come to his senses and realize the damage he’s caused and be broken hearted and willing to do what it takes to change. But I don’t have that kind of power and neither do you. My bigger concern right now is why you haven’t done what you need to do to build your CORE Strength, get courageous, and make the necessary changes you need in order to stop being a continuous victim of his destructive ways. Now that you’re in counseling, please recognize that you have been as unhealthy as he has, just in different ways. God has so much more for you than to be a target or punching bag for your husband’s rage.

Don’t allow the deceit of wealth lull you to sleep. Francois Fenelon, one of my favorite authors writes, “Golden chains are no less chains than chains of iron.”

Friends, share your experience of what helped you break free from the idolatrous chains that kept you placating or pretending in your destructive marriage or relationship?

 

15 Comments

  1. Mountain Lady on November 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I wasn’t ready to give up my belief system that divorce or separation was not an option until it came down to standing up for my disabled child. When his father told me we should have our developmentally adult child take responsibility for the marriage breaking up, that is when I realized the “white line” I had allowed to grow wider and wider, contending for hope of changes, was definitely crossed without a shadow of a doubt. It took great friends and family to repeatedly point out specific examples of his destructive behaviors in the marriage for me to stay the course and not go back to the familiar when I took action to get end the destruction.

    • Brenda on November 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Mountain Lady, That is about as low a snake’s belly as he could have gotten. Accusing any child of breaking up a marriage is beyond contempt, but one who needs you possibly even for life….well I believe there is a special place awaiting people who think that way and it won’t be pretty. My X has been calling my oldest daughter names, accusing her of guiding my attitudes, being disrespectful, amongst other things. It isn’t bad enough that he does these things to me, but bringing my child into his evil, even though she is 34, is like waking up a mama bear when someone is after her cubs. A new familiar is coming.

  2. Brenda on November 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    My standard response: “I would rather live in a cardboard box than live with a man who is abusing me.” You have put up with far too much for finances. I have to echo Leslie in saying, “He’s hit you 11 documented times and committed adultery twice and you’re still living in the same home with him? Why?” There is nothing he can give you or is giving you that is worth that. You say you have wealth–that means get a good attorney and take all of that documentation and a list of anywhere he may have money stashed with you. You are indeed intitled to it and if you’ve been married long enough perhaps spousal support depending on the state you are in. If he has done all of these things, he will do it again. Perhaps the next time you won’t make it through it. It only takes once.

  3. Brenda on November 18, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Praying for you Leslie. There is such a fine line between good and best many times. God will lead you. Delegation isn’t always a bad thing. Not sure if that is possible, but it came to mind while writing.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you. XOXO Love you all for your concern and prayer for me. Believe me, I need the prayers.

  4. Cora on November 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Wow, I can certainly relate. It is hard to break the bonds of many years of marriage even when there is abuse and manipulation. I know because I’m living it. My husband and I have been married 47 years and he has always been manipulative. For most of those years, as Leslie puts it in her book, difficult, not necessarily destructive. However, the last 4 years have been destructive. He reconnected with a former girlfriend he was going to marry out of high school but she broke it off. When they reconnected she convinced him she always loved him (even though she’s married as well) and she was always sorry she broke it off and he fell for it. After a 4 month fling, I found out about it. He cut it off and begged me to not file for divorce – he promised that ‘he would spend the rest of his life proving to me how much he loved me’ (manipulative words I’ll never forget). We went for counseling and of course the male counselor pinned our issues on my inability to communicate properly – so we spent a lot of money and time on learning to ‘communicate.’
    Two years later they reconnected and it’s been hot and heavy ever since. He has lied to me over and over again in order to maintain his comfort zone and yet keep her in his life. He’s bought multiple phones to stay connected. He has used every trick in the book and I fell for all of them. He is retired and I’m still working so he had all day long as play time – and play time it was.
    My daughter introduced me to Leslie and gave me the destructive marriage book for my birthday in October. I wondered how Leslie knew my husband so well because the whole book was my life – but reading the book was an eye opening experience and it all came together for me.
    I was also privileged to be able to attend one of Leslie’s seminars at a nearby church and after listening to her I knew what I had to do.

    All that to say, that even as the breadwinner (I’m not dependent on my husband for finances) I’ve done everything, made every excuse – to try and fix our marriage. I took all the responsibility for everything. Lived on anxiety for 3 years. I hate the word divorce and swore it was not in my vocabulary. I refused to bow to it.
    But there comes a time when you just can’t do it anymore and peace is so much more important than the word ‘divorcee’ – an even more hated term.
    Because I have been comfortable with manipulation I know it will be hard to force him to leave when the divorce papers come. He will try everything I’m sure – but when I hand him the criteria that Leslie has in her book- I suspect he will turn away with his head hanging. He insists that he will not spend the rest of his life ‘groveling’ to me.
    I know it will not be an easy road. Fortunately I have a lot of support, including Leslie, and I plan on taking advantage of every offer of help anyone gives me. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Don’t worry about what other people think. Dig into the Word more than ever and listen to the leading of the Spirit. I love Leslie’s CORE – I’ve been able to get past C (the lies our husband tells us is not nearly as destructive as the lies we tell ourselves) and I’m doing O – but I have to admit I’m struggling with R and E. I can take responsibility, but the respect is coming hard. And Empathy????? Not there yet, but I’m working on it.
    So my advice – reread the book!!! Talk to a lawyer – most of them give a free consultation. when they hear your story they will take you on because they will know there is a nice settlement coming. Don’t allow him to manipulate you anymore and stop listening to the lies. And stop telling yourself lies. Truth, truth, truth. Pray for wisdom to discern between lies and truth, and ask God to see with His eyes and hear with His ears. You’ll be surprised at what you will begin to see and hear.

  5. Terri on November 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Awesome Blog post Leslie! I have had the priveledge of coaching with Leslie. That helped. I finally asked myself why am I staying? Why am I putting up with being treated in a way that Jesus would never do. The kids are gone now. His tactics of intimidation and bullying worked. NO MORE! I still am battling fear. But, I’m getting moments of clarity as I work on my CORE and realize I have SO much more worth and value than the way he treats me. AND I’m learning when I stand up to him—he backs down. The caveat on this is that I am cautious about what little I say to him===he escalates quickly and I too have a history of physical abuse in the home. Not as many times however. Please use caution and do only what the Lord shows you to do. For instance, he always wants accoutability for where I’ve been and he wants to give none in return. I’ve starting just ssying I’m going out to “do stuff”===like he does. It’s so freeing. I have more power than I thought.I’m still working on the steps Leslie mentioned. I’m ticking them off. You can do it too! Get some friends who also have similiar problems and be supportive of each other. God bless you!

  6. Terri on November 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Praying for you Leslie! Thank you for standing ont he frontlines!

  7. Shirley on November 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Be smart as a fox and gentle as a dove while you plan your freedom. I was married 25 yrs. Everything I said or did was filtered through him. When I caught onto the second affair that I knew of, I already had the scar from the first time and sought Christian help. Fortunately the pastors wife was very familiar with the narcissistic personality and warned me of what was likely to come. I thought she was blowing it way out of proportion, until he insisted I go on a trip out of the country with him. With radar up, I refused.. I had not confronted him but started photocopying documents and tallying up the accounts, which had some surprises ! Within 10 days and my ‘waking up’ he knew his time could be short and came home witth knife for himself, the chef. . . A very special knife which he wanted me to hold while he put his hand on top of mine. I prayed for calm, played dumb and locked myself in a room to ‘be alone’. I had been warned and could have been killed. I left ‘for my mothers’ for time alone’, while I made a plan and list of what I had to get out of the house, after a visit to the bank. God covered me with perfect timing and courage.
    Don’t wait, the time it takes to heal and ‘find your own mind’ takes more time than you think. But it is so worth it to be free to pray and think your own thoughts.

  8. Melissa on November 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I pray for the poster of this question and all that struggle on this website. I am trying to sort out my own marriage of almost 21 years. My husband is active duty Marine Corps. He joined a few weeks after we married.

    I was told by my counselor this summer that my husband was being financially abusive and to contact the local domestic violence hotline. I was able to find a local support group. They go over the power and control wheel, which Barbara Roberts also mentioned in her video a few weeks ago. Understanding that there are cycles to the abuse is helpful. My husband is verbally and mentally abusive. He has not hit me but has hit a wall. There is absolutely no ability to talk or have a healthy conversation with my husband. He is extremely good at manipulating and twisting words around. He denies he’s abusive in any form. I feel hopeless trying to talk to him. I’ve told him and have given examples of his selfishness, entitlement, manipulation, etc. and he will still say he wants to talk and have me explain when I already have. It’s maddening to say the least. I have asked him to go to personal counseling but he doesn’t understand even after trying to talk why he needs to go. I’m really concerned that he might be more narcissistic and does not accept anything negative. And we did go to 3 different marriage counselors that did not recognize his behavior. It has been so frustrating. My current counselor was helpful in identifying the financial abuse, she’s not a Christian counselor and doesn’t have the training for abuse. I’m confused because she told me yesterday I didn’t have the right to ask my husband or tell why he needed to go to counseling. I understand that it is ok to ask for change. So I may need to find a new counselor. I realize I’m not perfect. The counselor I had prior was Christian and did not recognize the verbal and mental abuse I described to her. Leslie points this out too about well meaning counselors, pastors, etc.

    We have 3 children: 17, 15 and 11. Monday of this week my husband moved out of our room to the empty room across the hall. Said he was looking for a place to live. He wants me to accept who he is, doesn’t see a need to change anything. He places everything on sex, like it’s the focus of our marriage. I told him sex is not the real problem. He seems to believe if we had more of it things would be ok. He changed passwords again to our online banking and justified “well you know why”. He changed the password Sunday night and Monday after work he said he wanted to talk. So again I felt that was more of his manipulation. Then he moved across the hall to the empty bedroom. I had to call the bank and set up my own log in. Our 11 yr. old takes this the hardest. But I want to get support for all of them. We live in Virginia and once a legal separation is filed then it can become a divorce after one year. Financially for my husband to move out is a strain. I have a hard time actually moving toward the legal separation. I guess it makes things more certain toward divorce. And I feel like I’ve been trying to fix and save the marriage the last 3 years. My husband has been critical of my personal counseling and has minimized any changes I have made in myself, he actually says I’m not changing or doing anything helpful for our marriage. I guess my getting stronger and healthier is not something he sees as positive or helpful. I know I have to keep moving forward and not enable my husband’s behavior. This has been one of the hardest realizations for me. Separation and possible divorce is not something I ever imagined. I am relying on God and my faith in him to see me through. I haven’t reached out to my church, I talked to a lady this summer. However as many have noticed, abuse is still overlooked and unrecognized by many.

    This online community has been helpful to read of others experiences. Thank you to all who post.

  9. BrendaJ on November 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Good question Leslie! I did not want to fail at a 2nd marriage. It’s very difficult when in relationship with one well versed in spin, manipulation and deception to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground in the midst of the whirlwind of accusations and character attacks. I had to learn who I was (not who he thought I was). I had to take back the power I had given to church leadership to speak into my life since my husband had strategically endeared himself to them – had become one of them. It’s true I needed to work on myself and I did. I learned boundaries, how to speak out of who I wanted to be and not react. I used my time with my “relationship terrorist” as a type of workshop until I knew I had learned all I could from the relationship and I was now free to go. Looking back I think I could have left that relationship at any time and been “free” as he had sexually abused my daughter. We were separated for many years as he went through the court appointed system and classes. We attempted family reconciliation with much prayer and support from all of the counselors involved. I and my children worked hard at reconciliation only to find out a few years later that he had been seeing at least 5 women secretly during that same period of time. Because he was a felon he told me on numerous occasions that he was “handicapped” and could not work. Looking back now things become clearer and clearer. There are even moments now when I hear his accusations in my mind and feel his disapproval though we have no contact. I often ponder how men who claim an identity with Christ can illustrate so vividly the embodiment of evil and the workings of a fool. It’s very difficult to answer your question simply – I do believe though that as we find those answers we can use them as bricks to pave the way to a new places that are safe and full of light – I know I have.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks Brenda – and hopefully use those paved ways you’ve all fought so hard to clear for other women to walk through in a clearer, brighter light.

    • Cora on November 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Very well said Brenda. My heart goes out to you as well. Your statement ” I often ponder how men who claim an identity with Christ can illustrate so vividly the embodiment of evil and the workings of a fool.” is so excellent and perfectly describes my situation as well. That is a ‘keeper.’ Thank you for sharing.

  10. NJ on November 24, 2013 at 7:12 am

    God divorced Israel because they broke the marriage covenant. (1st. Divorce mentioned in the bible) Was God in sin? “God hates “put away” not divorce . Check the original language. They were separating and remarrying without a certificate of divorce , which was required by their law.

  11. Joy on December 3, 2013 at 2:29 am

    I stayed for 40 years and finally escaped 2 years ago. In Australia where I live, 1 woman every week DIES at the hand of her violent husband/partner. Leave!

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