Three Essentials to Thriving Marriages













Morning Friends,


This weekend I had the awesome privilege of ministering to the wonderful folks at The First Baptist Church of Glenarden, MD as well as speaking at the Sunday morning service at Loudoun Bible Church in Ashburn, VA. I feel so blessed to do work I truly love.

I want to make you aware of the ministry of the Red Flag Conference that The First Baptist Church holds each year, partnering with community law enforcement, judicial, legal and social services to help women who are victims of Domestic Violence. This church is cutting edge. They are doing what every church should be doing to educate their members and their leaders as well as providing a partnership with the community to provide referrals, resources, restoration and real help to victims of marital abuse as well as those rescued from sex trafficking.

Also, I have a new video up on my home page for you to watch. It’s the Five Common Mistakes People Helpers Make and you will want to be sure to take the time to watch it. It’s about 15 minutes.

Thank you for your prayers last week. I surely needed them and this week too. I’m thankful for this community who is there for one another and for me. I hope you know that you minister to me as much as I do you.

I’ve had a number of questions recently from those who want to know what a healthy marriage looks like. Obviously in a blog I cannot do this question full justice, but I thought a short excerpt from my newest book, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”,  perhaps says some things in a way you haven’t heard before.

One more thing. My newsletter will be coming out on Tuesday and I am going to be offering a six month group coaching class starting in January. Watch your e-mail on Wednesday for the specific invitation as spaces are very limited.

Three Essential Ingredients for A Healthy Marriage

Many of us have grown up in homes where sinful attitudes and destructive behavior are accepted as normal. We’re so used to being mistreated or disrespected, controlled and manipulated we don’t recognize it as such.

On the other hand, some of us grew up on a steady diet watching Hollywood and Harlequin’s version of love and marriage. They portray unrealistic and distorted ideas around love and marriage as well. They want us to believe that if you have enough sexual passion, the rest of the relationship is easy. It’s a lie.

Let’s look at what are some of the foundational ingredients for a marriage to be healthy and why these basics are crucial if a marriage is going to flourish.

Essentials to Thriving Relationships

Every grown-up relationship requires three essential ingredients to thrive: mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom.

Mutuality means that both individuals contribute specific qualities essential for the care, maintenance, and repair of the relationship. They are honesty, caring, respect, responsibility, and repentance. In marriage, both individuals make efforts to grow and change for the welfare of the other and the preservation of their relationship.

Destructive relationships lack mutuality. Tim Keller, in his book on marriage writes “The Christian teaching [on marriage] does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.”  When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing and working toward being a better spouse, or having a good marriage, you are a godly wife but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage.

Paul writes about the importance of mutuality in healthy relationships throughout his teachings. For example, he wrote, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV).

Paul also emphasized mutuality throughout his teaching on marriage. Husbands and wives may have different roles and responsibilities but he calls both to mutually fulfill them. Paul explains the mutuality of the sexual relationship. He writes, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4 ESV).

Peter too speaks of mutuality when he writes, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” And, “Likewise husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:1-2,7 ESV).

These instructions to husbands and wives work great only when they are practiced by both the husband and the wife. Both are to give, both are to sacrifice to meet the needs of the other. When these directives are not practiced mutually, it is a very different picture. That does not give wives permission to give up or to disobey God’s instructions although that path is tempting when we feel mistreated and angry. Instead, talk to God about how to handle this lack of mutuality and your hurt feelings. You do not have the power to turn a bad marriage into a good marriage all by yourself. But Peter reminds us that by our godly attitude and actions we can behave in ways that can influence our husband to surrender to God’s transforming work of change in his life (1 Peter 3).

This brings us to the second essential ingredient of a thriving relationship: reciprocity.

Reciprocity means that both people in the relationship give and both people in the relationship receive. Power and responsibility are shared and there is not a double standard where one person gets all the goodies in the relationship while the other person sacrificially does most of the work. The apostle Paul validates reciprocity when he gives guidelines how to give our resources sacrificially but not foolishly. He writes, “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14 ESV).

Destructive marriages are not reciprocal and therefore don’t thrive. One person demands power over the other and relegates their partner to the status of a slave or a child. For example, John required Mary to be accountable for every penny she spent yet John did not hold himself to that same standard. He always had an excuse as to why his spending was more justified than Mary’s and often spent large amounts of money without telling her. Mary worked a full time job as did John. Mary was required to direct deposit her entire paycheck into their joint account. John only deposited an equal dollar amount of his paycheck into their joint account. The rest of his income was put in a separate account with only his name on it. Mary had no access to it, nor did she even know what John’s income was. There was no “we” to their financial decisions, John held all the financial power, Mary felt like a child being given an allowance.

To rebalance their marriage and create a healthier relationship Mary will need to speak up and require more reciprocity from John. And John will have to change how he sees and treats Mary. She needs to become his partner, not his possession if their marriage is to become healthy.

Something to keep in mind is that there may be seasons in every marriage where one person gives more than the other due to illness, incapacity or other problems, but when that happens, as soon as the individual is capable, the relationship is rebalanced and power and responsibility are again mutually shared.

Lastly, our third essential ingredient of a thriving relationship is freedom.

Freedom means that in your marriage you are allowed to make choices, to give input, and to express your feelings without fearing you’ll be badgered, manipulated and punished. When freedom is present, we’re not afraid to be ourselves nor are we pressured to become something we’re not.

Freedom is an essential component in all healthy adult relationships. We’ve all witnessed the results in world history, in fundamentalist religious groups, and in families where freedom is squashed. Members are not free to question, to challenge, to think differently than the group. They are not free to grow or to be themselves without fear of retaliation. Instead they have to do and say and be what the group or person in charge tells them. That is not healthy or God’s plan.

Although God wants unity in a family and in the family of God, he created great diversity. We are to be ourselves and be of one mind all at the same time. This one mind idea doesn’t mean melding ourselves into the desires or demands of another individual but together living for a common purpose and goal, the kingdom and glory of God.

Married couples need freedom to thrive. I do not mean the freedom to do whatever you want regardless how the other person feels. When you commit to someone in marriage, you freely choose to limit some (not all) of your choices. But all healthy relationships need freedom to disagree, to respectfully challenge someone’s decisions and to be the person God made them to be. Having your freedom of movement, choices, friends, and emotional expression restricted by your husband sends the message that you are not allowed to be a whole person in your own marriage. Instead you are to become what your husband tells you to be. This is not healthy for you, for him, or for your marriage.

Below are 16 traits of a healthy marriage. Answer the questions to see whether your marriage is relatively healthy.

1. My spouse shows care and concern for me and my needs.  Yes    No

2. My spouse has my best interests in mind.  Yes    No

3. My spouse asks my opinion on things.  Yes    No

4. My spouse trusts me.  Yes    No

5. My spouse works with me as a partner to parent our children.  Yes    No

6. My spouse is willing to get help for our marriage problems.  Yes    No

7. My spouse takes responsibility and apologizes when he’s wrong.  Yes    No

8. My spouse asks for my opinion on things in our marriage.  Yes    No

9. My spouse is considerate of my feelings.   Yes    No

10. When we have a problem, my spouse is willing to talk about it.   Yes    No

11. My spouse uses the Bible to correct his own life.  Yes    No

12. My spouse listens to advice from wise people.  Yes    No

13. My spouse allows me to be myself.  Yes    No

14. My spouse allows me to make my own decisions.  Yes    No

15. My spouse allows me to disagree.  Yes    No

16. My spouse is a good steward with our finances.  Yes    No

If you answered these questions with mostly yes your marriage is relatively healthy. One or two no answers indicate some weak areas in your marriage. More than three no’s indicate an unhealthy marriage. More than five no’s indicate a destructive marriage.

Adapted from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick by permission of WaterBrook Press, division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.




  1. Mary on November 25, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I have ten no’s to this questionnaire. I left in July after 23 years in a very emotional, verbal and spiritually abusive marriage. He professed being a Christian all his life. The things I endured lead me to contemplating suicide at the beginning of the year. It was that or being told that I wouldn’t go to heaven and be with Jesus as I broke God’s covenant marriage by leaving. At this point I was at the lowest of lows one can be. My Christian counselor angel pulled me through. I told him I was leaving for a respite for @ 6 months to get myself together with counseling and he do the same thing and we could come back to our marriage with Jesus and see where we are. The thanks I got was a divorce filing. He never before or after my leaving did one thing to help our marriage. He has never taken any responsibility for his problems or what he has done in this marriage.I am to blame for all things. I He always said he loved me, and he did, but with his other problems not announced here, he can’t be “abandoned” and left alone. He filed to take back control as I stood my ground with boundaries and he couldn’t take it. I never knew that what I was enduring for those 22 years, until June, was domestic violence. He’s very intelligent, and a “people person” so no one knew. He never wanted anyone to know as that would not be correct in telling our problems to the outside world. It’s not what Christians do. I bought that because I was a “dutiful, submissive wife.” It’s been most difficult for me and with Jesus in my life now, the way I need, it’s helping. I’ve read Lesley’s new book on marriage and The emotionally destructive relationship and they have answered so many thoughts I had but had no answers. She is another angel for me. He’s 62 and been this way all his life. Only God can heal him but he has to reach out for Him. God Bless you all for the posts you submit as they help us all here. Lesley may God be with you as you continue to help all of us suffering in these sad marriages.

    • Maria on November 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Dear Mary,

      It sounds as though this man is a Narcissist…You having left for a ‘respite’ was the ultimate Narcissistic wound and he retaliated with divorce papers. Yes, they are very charming and diplomatic…. toward others, outside the intimate relationship. I’ve had a difficult time myself accepting that I too was in an emotionally if not on some level ‘abusive’ relationship (I don’t dare call it a marriage as it lacked mutuality and reciprocity). Thank God for your “Angel” who has help you sort things out and try to make sense of the perplexing, bewildering behavior of the one who proclaimed to be a “Christian”. I believe that these men do not know/understand the true definition of love beyond self-love. Perhaps they are actually incapable? Maria-Elena

    • Beth on November 26, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Dear Mary,
      As I read your post, I identified so many characteristics of the closet narcissist with borderline personality tendencies. Why do I recognize it? I have lived it but did not have a term, a definition, or a list of characteristics to help me understand what I have lived with for 38 years. A good Christian counselor directed me to Leslie’s website and the veil was lifted. Only my “angel” Christian counselor, myself. and our now adult 4 children are the only ones who know know the pain of what goes on and how a calm orderly person becomes a drama king at any hint of identifying and addressing problems in the relationship or of the constant criticism that my oldest son and myself are subjected to. The people at church and in his business would be shocked, if they knew. His facade is impeccable to the outside world, which includes the extended family on both sides. He is so kind, considerate, well mannered, and generous with everyone else.

      In many ways, they are not capable of loving in intimate family relationships (which includes their own children) as these behaviors are a result of a severe wounding in their childhood. It is not self-love, it is self loathing so they must keep a facade as an armor to prevent anyone from seeing the hurt, pain, and how they really view themselves. The facade of perfection, never admitting wrong or accepting responsibility in the relationship is the result. Therefore, they never seek counseling.

      If they end up going to marriage counseling with you or if you seek the help of church leaders, you will find that it is a guise that allows them to tell everyone else that you are crazy. To anyone who is dealing with this, make sure you have a competent counselor who understands narcissism.

      Unfortunately, I experienced professional abuse by a Christian counselor and professional abuse by a doctor who is one of our church leaders before I found and good one and went alone.

      DON’T WAIT TO SEE A COUNSELOR WITH YOUR SPOUSE. GO FOR YOUR OWN HEALING AND UNDERSTANDING. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of life and intimacy, so that you can move forward. Do not get involved with anyone else until you totally understand how you got into this relationship in the first place. I had to go back and see how my relationship with my older sister set me up of accepting not having my needs considered.

      Give your children “permission” to recognize the dysfunction in the marriage and in your response to this pattern of behavior and help them seek help ASAP. They are suffering as much as you are.

      Blessings to you as you seek HIS comfort.

      • Sandy on December 2, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        Its as if you are describing my husband the outside world he is a perfect loving man and even in the home we spend lots of time together and his way of showing love is sex however there is no mutuality or reciprocity . everything is has to be done his way hes never wrong hes had several affairs and all apparently my fault and one of the reasons is apparently i had been trying too much to be a perfect wife a housewife and he has made it clear his money is his and his properties and cars are all in his name . he cant even bring himself to write a will for the sake of the children because he regards his wealth is his. hes brilliant at work and complains to me all the time about how everyone else in the office doesnt know what they are doing and how his bosses are not suited for their jobs. the only time he complements a workmate is when he is involved with that workmate which is always a red flag. my faults have been laid flat on the table and ive ben told im not good enough ,not deserving and basically i feel like a failure . i have lost all confidence and finally decided to move myself out of the house . whats just difficult is that the kids have never seen us fight and to them our relationship is perfect and i dont even know how to explain it to them ..they are 10 and 4 i fear i am going to look like the bad guy because currently i am unemployed and cant take them with me . However i cant stand living like this anymore and yes after the affairs i suggested counselling but everytime he claims he knows he messed up and he doesnt need to be told so by someone else .its never about me or us its always about what he wants

        • Leslie Vernick on December 3, 2013 at 9:40 pm

          Sandy, It breaks my heart to hear what you’ve been through. Your husband is a prideful man who is not willing to look within. I’m sad that you have had to leave your children behind. My counsel for you is to find a good counselor to help you heal and a good lawyer who will protect your rights.

  2. Brenda on November 25, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    My marriage was destructive, which was not a surprise to me. I got the divorce decree on Saturday. I promptly started to get emails from now X telling me how I could change my name now and pretend he never existed. Not a bad idea from where I stand. We had a legal separation which said I could not change my name–he demanded a divorce after I found out that he was rekindling a relationship with his X of 30 years. Even though he demanded that I file for divorce and I complied he still found ways to make accusations that I left him for another man, twisting the divorce being my idea, tell me that he is the one that is hurt and making my life miserable for the entire weekend. The topper was telling me that “his life was going to be too short to wait around for me.” He actually hasn’t been waiting or doing anything to make reconciliation possible. He said that having to go through counseling was my way of trying to control him. Even knowing all of that, I felt worthless. I am not worth waiting for or making an attempt at counseling. I am not worthy of a healthy relationship. Then my daughter reminded me that he would say anything to bring me into the pit with him. Anything he says is false and I am a beloved child of God.

    Today, after spending a couple of hours crying. I began going from place to place changing my name back to my maiden name. It is a major hassle, but I believe it is well worth it. After the Secretary of State’s office I had a feeling of having erased my entire adult life. I haven’t used this name since I was 17 and am now 56.

    I praise God for his rescue and all His provision since I left 6 months ago. I am beginning to embrace my singleness but it is not easy. I do find it difficult walking in places alone. Last night was the church Thanksgiving Dinner and I looked around until I finally spotted 2 ladies who I know are widows. I was overjoyed to see that I was not the only one who was single in the room. I was tempted not to go because I would be walking in alone.

    I honestly don’t know what a healthy marriage looks like even with the descriptions. I’m not sure I would recognize it if I saw one. To be a part of one would be a dream come true, but I am very happy knowing that Jesus is the only husband I truly need and he is faithful and loving in all things.

  3. Dora on November 25, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    I am wondering if you have come across Narcissism? I think that is another area that is not understood unless you’ve experienced it. Mine wasn’t in my marriage, but with a friend where she “groomed” me or love bombed me to quickly pull me into the best friend relationship, but then when a problem occurred, she began devaluation giving me the silent treatment and getting a new friend and sitting right in front of me at church with her all the while ignoring me and refusing to talk until she finally just discarded me.

    That’s the quick chopped version, but the mind games etc.. are extremely abusive and destroy one’s self esteem. It’s ugly and painful and they project their feelings onto their victim .. like she rejected me but she said she was rejected… crazy making behavior and they feel no empathy. I had never heard of such a thing and thought I was crazy till I found information and videos on the web about it. It was really freeing to realize the whole relationship was fake from the beginning. The person was an emotion vampire, devoid of feeling. I don’t say that lightly at all. I blamed myself for the longest time till the video woke me up to what had happened to me.

    So I wanted to throw that out there because I couldn’t understand why it hurt so bad and I had such a hard time walking away from someone who was so mean to me. But there are many people out on the internet that are hurting and overcoming this very thing and sharing their stories.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Yes I did write a blog on Narcissism. It is a very difficult marriage to be in.

      • Mary on November 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

        Yes my marriage was to a professionally diagnosed Narcissist Personality disordered man. He also has another personality disorder that has been diagnosed by two professionals but they can’t claim it on paper. No doubt in my mind or theirs. It’s HELL and when you add verbal and emotional abuse along with the spiritual abuse card for control and manipulation….one wishes death and that’s where I was at. Jesus pulled me together along with my counselor and got me out! Jesus does answer prayers. He sure did mine! I’m crawling back with Holy Spirit at the helm.

  4. Brenda on November 26, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Please pray for me this Thanksgiving. I will be totally alone for the first time without friends or family around me. I am feeling a little blue, but want to give thanks in all things.

    • mary on November 27, 2013 at 7:46 am

      Hello Brenda
      You may want to think about volunteering at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving.I know it’s very rewarding and on this day it’ll take your mind off your pain as you’re giving to others who are in their own most difficult situations. Prayers to you and I KNOW what you’re going through. God Bless Mary

  5. Kim on November 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Wow! Mary and Brenda, I am so glad you are sharing your pain. My heart hurts for you as I read your posts. I want to say that it has been 10 yrs. since I left my abusive marriage. The first thing I noticed and that I want to share with you is that, very shortly after I left, I noticed the “knots” in my head begin to “untie”. I surrounded myself with strong Christians, counsel, etc. The “twisted” comments and things that abusers say are just that…”twisted”. I could not see that as clearly until I surrounded myself with people who spoke the truth…God’s truth, His Word, in to me. For me, it meant leaving him geographically. Being in his presence, hearing his twisted words, literally made me sick. I want you to know that THERE IS HOPE AND A LIGHT IN YOUR TUNNEL! I purposely did not say, “at the end of your tunnel”…because God will/is with you RIGHT NOW!

    I have since gone back to school and have an education as a paralegal. God has used my ugly past to bring good things in to my life and He can do the same for you! I started by seeking Him DILIGENTLY. I did not walk with Him or hold His hand…I RAN to Him and allowed Him to ENVELOPE me. I wish that I had Leslie’s site back then, but the Lord still rescued me and my children…He will you, also. Even though I have not fully arrived, it feels so good to have those “knots” untied! My hope is that this has encouraged you and motivated you to continue to go deep with Christ. It is ESSENTIAL for your healing process and your ability to taste freedom!

    I am praying for you!!!

    • Mary on November 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Very insightful Maria-Elena. I can’t say enough about your comments here!

      • Maria-Elena on November 26, 2013 at 8:06 pm

        Thank you Mary for the validation. These insights were gained through a deep soul searching, lots of reading, and I praise God for Leslie’s insights through her books. I only wish that I would have known or heard about the Emotionally Abusive Relationship while I was enduring! I think the Christian principles are profound! I never labeled my husbands actions as “sin”. My divorce was finalized on 9/11 (very appropriate) and I feel for the women who are where I was at. I’m so glad that the Lord has carried me through.

    • Mary on November 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks Brenda for your support. I was a happy, independent, vibrant woman when I met this man. I am now dependent, no self esteem, no core, have PTSD and am pretty depressed. It’s like my personality was peeled off layer by layer through the years and now there isn’t one. My 3 children, except for one, were pre teens. My oldest was 15. They have scars from their early years as he was the “family head.” They are in their thirties now with children and they are fiercely protective over me in my departure. I moved out of state to be with them. I’m fortunate as I’m in counseling with a woman who does understand these issues and my pastor is a supporter of women’s abuse issues. It helps that his wife is a Christian counselor whose specialty is abuse and teaches at the local college! He’s counseled me NOT to go back as he sees from his numerous e-mails that he shows no, repentance, no humility, no responsibility and all blame on me! Validation is healing. Brenda I will pray for you on this holiday as we all here know the feelings we possess from these relationships. God bless each and every one of “us”

      • Brenda on November 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm

        Oh Mary, I remember being a independent, vibrant woman for a short time in my life. I know we will both be there again. It is good to hear that you have been delivered into a wonderful environment full of supportive people. God has truly blessed you. I have plenty to keep me busy through the holiday weekend.

        The Lord sent me an angel, the second within about a week. This one was in the form of a man in my building that I had not met before. I have been here for 6 months and this is the first we have met. Odd, because there are only 8 apartments in this unit. Tom introduced himself and asked if I played the organ that he saw when I moved in. I told him my “piano”, I do indeed play, not well as I was without one for 25 years and after having foot surgery it still bothers me to use the pedals. He told me that he’d love to hear it and he was sure that DJ from across the hall wouldn’t mind either. I have talked to DJ on many occasions and I give him tomatoes from my patio garden and he brought me banana bread. Both very sweet people. Well anyways, Tom’s encouragement was all it took. I sat down and played for an hour. I am in dire need of practice, but it felt so good to hear the old southern gospel tunes. I pray it touched someone’s heart and God enjoyed it to. I know that I did. I am going to make it a point to play a bit each day. Mary I hope there is something in your life that you can get back to and bring you back to that vibrant woman that is still inside. God bless you and all on this site. Leslie and all of the ladies here were God sent in my time of need. Let’s all climb up out of the valley and head for the mountain tops!!!!!

    • Brenda on November 26, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      Thank you Kim for your loving support. Most days I feel completely rescued. 2 steps forward, 1 back, but I keep my eyes on Jesus both ways. The downs are much shorter than they used to be and soon I know it will be 3 steps forward and half back. It is getting better day by day with God’s help and all of the people that he has blessed me with along the way. Happy Thanksgiving.

      We all have much to be thankful for. If you’ve never read A thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp, it is a good read. The idea is to right down all of the the things you are thankful for no matter how small. I started my list today after receiving a coffee mug from one of the mutual fund reps that my office works with. It was so thoughtful. He said he did it because I called him back to give him information and no one ever returns his calls, he has to keep calling and continue asking the same questions. For me it was the only thing to do. I was also thankful for spinach dip and fresh baked salmon. Keep going in your list until you reach 1,000 different things. I have done this once before. It is amazing how blessed you feel once you get started on how many things God provides for you throughout every hour of every day.

  6. Robin on November 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you Leslie for this article that reveals the 3 things that help a marriage go from destructive to healthy. I received alot of good information. I have lived in an abusive marriage for 30 yrs plus, feeling very confused why I couldn’t make things better. I spent alot of time focused on his abusive behaviors and that was a necessary part of my healing; to define and understand what had happened. Recently my counselor has pointed out to me, I needed to also see my part in allowing the abuse. Even tho I would never intentionally harm my family, the truth is, I did. I stayed in a destructive relationship, and allowed it to happen, even though I would have given anything to stop it. Reading this article, helped turn my heart around. I don’t love my abuser anymore than I did before as I havnt forgiven him yet- I just see my part and acknowledge it, and understand my choices I could have made, by insisting on certain things as listed in your article and growth steps I myself could have taken…. Thank you for sharing the whole truth, and not just the part about the abuser/narcissist. You also showed that I could become healthy at anytime, I was ready. That is GOOD NEWS!! There is no peace when we only focus on the other spouse, we will walk in terrible darkness if we choose that. Thank you for continual truth spoken on this website/blog. It is freeing me and I’m sure many others. Robin

  7. Robin on November 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I just want to add…….. the verdict is not out yet, whether we will separate or move forward. After reading Leslie’s bks on destructive relationships and marriage, I became much more willing to see the need for consequences. My husband has been miserable in his consequences for some time now, and just recently began counseling as a need to respond to my confronting him to do so or separate. my hope is not in what he might choose. I just continue to walk as the Lord leads and guides me, and realize myself the things I must do to become a healthy person who is taking personal responsibility for the life she lives. I am thankful for all imput into my life, that is increasing slowly but surely, the quality of the life I get to live now.

  8. Kari on December 3, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Oh, Mary, I wept as I read your story, and again as I read many of the replies. Your pain hits me hard, as I can relate. Only I am in the middle of the mess again.

    My husband (a professing Christian) and I married 11 1/2 years ago. The ‘real’ him showed up only 3 days after the wedding. He had been kind, caring, gentle, considerate and loving. But after the wedding he began blaming, manipulating, telling me things about myself that weren’t true, all to shatter my self confidence and make me believe I was the one responsible for any of our problems. Within a few months he was telling me I didn’t believe in God and many other lies. I actually began to question all my beliefs and wonder if I was crazy. I could go on and on.

    To make a long story shorter, we have been separated 5 times. He left for 2 weeks the first time. All other separations have been me leaving. One time I came back after a walk to find my bags packed and at the door. He told me to get out, and then told everyone that I had left him. That separation lasted 8 months. The longest was 2 1/2 years, ending this past April, just 7 months ago. During this last separation I grew so much as a person, and so much closer to God. I rediscovered who I really am and started a home based business with confidence. I felt “free”. So why did I go back? We were making progress, I thought. I truly believed he was sincere in the openness and self control he had been showing. We were praying together, studying God’s Word together, and had been making progress through marriage counselling for about 7 months. I felt like we were headed in the right direction and believed that we could make it through the difficulties we still had. There was light and hope.

    Well, as soon as I moved back to the house we stopped going to counselling. Then we stopped studying God’s Word together. Then, when I commmented that praying together at bedtime wasn’t the best time for me (because I was already half asleep by the time he got to bed), that ceased also.

    He refuses to admit that he has any part in our marriage problems. Says that I am planning to leave again, that I hate God and worship myself and serve the devil. Says that I am having emotional affairs with everyone and making them my “allies” so he is made out to be the bad guy.

    He follows me around the house whenever he is home, accusing me of everything under the sun, belittling me, blaming me for everything. He even said I am responsible for my brother’s divorce a few years ago and my parents’ marriage struggles when I was a teenager! He is like the “accuser of the brethren” who spews lies day and night.

    Today he came home at lunch time to spout more garbage. When I told him he was wasting his breath, that I didn’t get what he was trying so hard to make me understand, he put on a crying face and said to me, “To HELL with your religion!” (Meaning the religion he thinks I have made up.)

    Out of the 16 questions given above, I could only answer 1 YES – he is responsible with money. There were a few I almost answered yes, but followed them up with, “Ya, but…” For example, he may ask my opinion, but then he’d emotionally beat me into the ground with why my opinion was wrong, or how horrible my motive was, or something like that.

    Leslie, in your opinion and experience, where can I go from here? After 5 separations I just don’t know what more I can do. I really don’t want to leave again (I have no plans to, despite what my husband believes), and I can’t imagine that he would actually leave the home since he appears to have me under his control while we are under the same roof. He will not listen to anyone, since he thinks he knows best. He has left our church of 7 years and gone to a fundamental church where no one knows us. Any advice would be helpful. I trust the Lord in all things, but sometimes I wonder, “What is our future?” Please help!

    • Leslie Vernick on December 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      Where do you go from here? It sounds as if you have done what you can to make your marriage work. Paul says, “As much as it depends on you…. be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12) But true peace does not just depend on you. You can make this toxic relationship less stressful by yourself (by not retaliating, or paying back evil with more evil) but you cannot make this marriage a God-centered, good marriage all by yourself. So if you chose to stay – how do you stay well. And if you choose to leave, how do you leave well?

      • Nikki on December 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm

        That is the question.

        In the 24 hours since discovering this site, I’ve read the Destructive Marriage ebook, watched every chapter on YouTube, scoured the blog posts, and read the Nine Tactics of Manipulators PDF… I’m desperate to understand how to restore my situation through any means necessary, but I just don’t know how to stay well OR leave well.

        Staying well means take care of yourself, don’t harbor bitterness, don’t engage in behavior that matches or retaliates the abuser… But we’re also to show the law of consequences… How? How do you show consequences to a man that disdains your existence? Who is just as happy to lecture you for five hours as to ignore you entirely for weeks? I’ve demonstrated sacrificial love and perpetuated this cycle deeper every time, so what does the balance of good behavior and consequences look like?

        Leaving well means establishing a community of support (which will certainly violate his expectations of privacy and respect) so you can do so safely and sanely. But how do you kick out a man who refuses to leave, except on his terms? And how can you walk away from a home to leave him to destroy everything of value to you?

        I feel stuck, hopeless, and confused.

        • Leslie Vernick on December 12, 2013 at 7:41 pm

          I will respond to your questions in next week’s blog.

          • Nikki on December 12, 2013 at 8:24 pm

            <3 I'll wait in prayer.

        • Robin on December 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm

          Praying for wisdom for you, Nikki.

    • Mary on December 3, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Oh Kari I so FEEL YOUR PAIN! Except for a few things in this letter, I’ve experienced them all. Mine used sleep deprivation ALOT. I worked a regular job and he didn’t. He bought sold and traded for “our” lively hood. I was kept up for several hours at a time. He would go to bed after his rage episodes and I would just get up to get ready for work. I never got to sleep. He would tell me, after I would ask him to stop, that he was keeping me up all night…. and he did. This happened frequently in my 23 year marriage. I was called, “get behind me Satan” I’m from my father Satan the devil, I was never a Christian, a shrew, a jezebel and brumhilda. I became a non sexed person the last two years of marriage. Only the last two months have I gotten my sexuality back. His fights could go on for 2 days. He would wait for me to come home. I never really new WHY, he would just blow up. I just talked with my pastor last night and he said the same thing Lesley said in her comment about having done everything you could in your marriage to make it work and mend it. As I send this off, he has not once admitted to his failures to my leaving. He blames everyone else but himself. He sill wants me back, though he filed the divorce and it’ll be final next month. He doesn’t say this
      but his last e-mail is very frantic and as he can’t live on his own, he only talks about me coming back with my credit(he doesn’t have any)and getting a place and seeing if we can get some govt. assistance. Nothing about how he misses me and “cherishes” me. I could go on and on. I feel sorry for him and pray that he humbles himself( hard for narcissists to do) and God shows him the way. His pastor and other spiritual men are really trying to help him but it’s a very tough battle with them. Pastoral counseling is very helpful…..for normal marriages in turmoil, but for mental health issues, personality disorders and the like….they need a counselor trained in these disorders and that’s IF THEY WANT TREATMENT! All in my prayers and KNOW that God is right there with us. God Bless.

  9. Mary on December 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Just want to add to my reply from Dec 3rd that as of last weekend my ex has announced to his church that he’s not attending it anymore. One of his christian counselors, that has kept in contact with me, told me that he does not like what they are telling him and that God is coming down on him and he doesn’t like it. He also said that he thinks he’s smarter then everyone( he probably is as his I.Q is very high)but that God doesn’t look at book knowledge.He is trying to find anyone that will agree with him. He can’t as what he’s saying are all the lies and incorrect interpretations that he pushed on me in pure control and manipulation! He can’t handle anyone not agreeing with him and so then he leaves. This gentle, loving counselor who is spirit filled also told me that he knows he needs help but no one can make him. This is why I brought this up as these individuals need professional therapy along with pastoral. They never go or follow up with any counseling and blame EVERYONE ELSE for their problems. He had a horrific childhood and finally left home permanently at the young age of 12 years! He’s now on his own without anyone in his life. It’s so sad. I still love him…..confusing I know.

    • Leslie Vernick on December 14, 2013 at 9:48 am

      I believe it’s this unteachable, prideful spirit that hinders so much of the work that God wants to do. The defenses are up and they are unwilling. You’re right – so sad.

      • Mary on December 14, 2013 at 10:30 am

        Amen to that! He’s 63 years old has no relationship with his son and teen grandsons and blames MY Kids for his “filing’ for divorce. The spiritual abuse is absolutely horrible to live with as of course verbal and emotional. Though I have progressed well these last 5 months, I decided this week to enter into a womens shelter to get the treatment I so needed. It’s been a good decision for me. I still have problems in blaming myself and if I could have done “more”. I know this answer though. Lesley, your 2 books on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage have been a God send for me. Please continue the voice you have, with God’s Blessing’s, for all of us sufferers here.

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