Morning friends,

If you missed the RBC Ministries broadcast of Shepherding An Emotionally Destructive Marriage it's not too late to listen AND receive a free copy of my book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage (must be requested before April 11), a download of an e-book I wrote on The Church's Response to Emotionally Destructive Marriage as well as a free download of my new 2-part DVD series, Effective Counseling Strategies for The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. There are lots of resources here for you if you are a ministry leader, pastor or just curious. Please pass this on to others who may benefit: http://helpformylife.org

Today’s question is from a woman who wants to know how to respond to her pastor who challenged some of the things he heard in my first webinar. She writes:

I am in an emotionally destructive marriage. One year ago after an argument turned physical (3rd time in a month) I took our 2 sons and left my husband of 22 years. We have been separated for that year. He's had little to no interaction with our sons except during the periods where we have attempted reconciliation. He's paid no child support and I'm working 3 jobs.

We have seen our Pastor who has advised that I have no grounds for a divorce. And only should be separated while praying & seeking God as the Bible allows. In the last 6 months my husband has been counseling with our Pastor on a weekly or biweekly basis and he's joined Celebrate Recovery a Christian 12 step program.

We have tried reconciling 3-4 times since November. Those have included dinners, evenings and a couple overnight stays. The same pattern continues where it's all good for a few days until I apparently open “my big mouth.” I'm exhausted from the roller coaster.

When I watched your RBC webinar, I forwarded a link and note to my Pastor. And below is his response.

I'm not sure how to respond, what to do or where to turn. I don't want a divorce but I'm not returning to what I left.

Below is a portion of her pastor’s concerns. I do want to add that her pastor found much in the webinar helpful and spot on, but for the sake of space, I want to address the things he questioned and wanted her to think more about:

He said, “The part of the talk (in the webinar) that concerned me was what I perceived to be a view on divorce that does not accurately address God’s ideal for marriage from the beginning, Jesus’ teaching on marriage or Paul’s teaching on divorce.

I know Leslie’s view on divorce is what a lot of women and a few men want to hear, but I think it is wrong and in the long run will hurt marriages. She asks the question, “Is it glorifying God to stay in a relationship?” Jesus said it was.

Paul even taught if the unbelieving husband was content to live with the wife, she should not leave him.

Vernick also states, “Biblical love acts in the best interest of the other person.” First, only God ultimately knows what is in my best interest and what is in another person’s best interest. What He has revealed in the Bible, no matter how difficult to me it seems or contrary to common opinion it seems, is always in my best interest.

I also wonder, “What is in the best interest of the children?” I don’t know of one marriage in 25 years of ministry in which divorce was in the best interest of the children. In each case, they struggled growing up and struggled greatly in their own marriages.

I’m also curious to know the percentage of emotionally destructive marriages where the spouse “stayed well” as compare to “leaving well” under Ms. Vernick’s approach. My guess is that under her teaching many more leave than stay.

I agree that the church needs to speak out more and more against controlling spouses and destructive power plays in the home. We need to teach Scripture that allows women to speak out when a wrong is being done without fear of repercussion. We also need to confront the husband and hold him accountable to stop controlling his wife. We try to do this through CR, personal counseling and Stephen Ministry. I am never soft on any man who acts in an unloving way toward his wife. I always point out his warped way of thinking and try to get him to focus on Scripture that addresses his issues, never his wife’s.

Answer:  First let me applaud your bravery for leaving a physically abusive marriage that was increasing in frequency and standing up for the safety of yourself and your children. I do not believe God asks you to stay in a situation where your physical safety (or that of your children) is at risk.

I’m not sure your pastor understands my view on divorce without reading my material. I always say divorce is the last option but it is an option when repeated attempts at true reconciliation are made and there is no repentance or no significant change in the destructive patterns.

I don’t know if I can spell out God’s ideal for marriage completely, but in a brief sentence I believe God’s ideal is for marriage to be a permanent covenant of loving partnership between a man and a woman.

But we all know that God’s ideal isn’t lived out. Because of sin, God made provisions for that through the animal sacrifices in the OT and Christ’s death in the NT. He also instructed Moses about divorce since there were times where women were being mistreated and unprotected. A great little booklet that you can give your pastor to read on these issues is God’s Protection of Women: When Abuse is Worse than Divorce (www.discoveryseries.org). It’s written by the producers of Our Daily Bread devotional and so I think it will hold a lot of credibility with pastors and it’s not too long.

But let’s go a little broader. I find it interesting that in the Bible the Apostle Paul never spoke against slavery nor is it outlawed in the Old Testament but most people today would agree that slavery is wrong and not a way a human being, created in God’s image, should be treated. However, Paul did speak out about the way slave owners should treat their slaves and we see how Paul exhorted believers to stop the imbalance of power and the hierarchical perspective when he said in [truth]Galatians 3:28[/truth], “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In the same way Paul spoke indirectly about the poor treatment of slaves, he also spoke to change the way marriage was viewed in his culture. In Jewish culture, men were the ones in power. Women had no rights or say about things. So when Paul speaks about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, he is giving husbands a message that they have a responsibility to their wives to care for them. He wants men to know that marital duties go both ways.

In the well-quoted passage in 1 Corinthians 7 about sexual relations, every woman in Paul’s time already understood what her conjugal duties were towards her husband. That was not new information. But what was radical in this passage was that Paul taught that likewise, wives had the same rights and same power over their husband’s bodies. It was shocking and radical teaching.

Your pastor said that Paul taught that the unbelieving husband who was content to live with his wife should not be dismissed, however in your situation we’re not talking about an unbelieving husband. We are taking about a husband who claims to be a believer yet is acting in violent and abusive ways towards you. Paul definitely has some things to say about believers who are unruly, undisciplined, and unsubmissive to authority throughout his writing. To advise you to go home when you have not seen enough evidence of true change is wrong and dangerous.

You and your pastor are not disagreeing on some important issues. He doesn’t want you to get divorced (says you have no grounds for it) but you state you don’t want a divorce either. But that you are not going back to what was. You indicate that when you’ve tried reconciling (even after his counseling with your pastor) once you open your mouth, trouble starts again. Yet your pastor affirmed that he agrees you must be able to have a voice in this marriage without fear of punishment.

So it seems to me that your husband still has work to do in learning not only self-control over his temper, but also to value you as a separate person that God has also given a voice to speak into his life.

Your pastor is correct. I do say Biblical love acts in the best interests of the other person and I would disagree with your Pastor that we don’t know what is in your husband’s best interests. For starters it is for him to repent of his sin and turn to God. It’s to treat you with consideration and love so that his prayers may not be hindered ([truth]1 Peter 3:3-4[/truth]). It is to train himself to be godly and learn to control his own body (which includes non-violence ([truth]1 Thessalonians 4:3-7[/truth]). It is in his best interests for him to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry ([truth]James 1:19[/truth]), and for him to put off the old man with it’s deceitful desires and to put on the new man, created to be like Christ and learn to not sin when he gets angry ([truth]Ephesians 4:17-28[/truth]). I could go on and on about what is in the best interests of your husband straight out of the Bible. God’s will is not a mystery, it is spelled out clearly. Paul says, “It is God’s will that you mature and live a holy life.” If your husband is calling himself a believer, than these step are in his best interests. If he is not a believer, it is still in his best interests to repent of his sin and turn to God.

Therefore, the things you do towards helping him (being his helpmeet = ezer) to find God’s plan and purposes for his life are loving him Biblically. And the things you do that enable his sin to be hidden and destructive are not loving. It is not Biblical love to continue to prop someone up and allow him or her to grievously sin against you (or anyone) without protest or consequence when you have a choice not to do so. That only allows him to stay deluded in the belief that his abusive behavior is no big deal.

Your pastor said that divorce affects kids and he’s right. But what negatively affects kids even more than divorce is living in a home with violence and abuse. You have two sons. What are they learning from their father about how to treat women? How marriage works? How to use power and violence to get their own way? Is that godly? Is that helpful to them? Absolutely not. I can’t tell you the number of women who said they stayed too long and their kids are now repeating the sins of their marriage either as victims or repeat abusers.

Lastly your pastor agrees that you need to have a voice and that you need to be able to use your voice without fear of the consequences. But it seems that every time you open your mouth, things deteriorate between the two of you when you’ve attempted reconciliation. So perhaps your pastor is not communicating that important part to your husband in his counseling with him.

I would encourage you to invite your pastor to watch my two part DVD series Effective Counseling Strategies for Emotionally Destructive Marriages which is a free download for a limited time with the information on the RBC webinar I referenced at the beginning of this blog. I believe he is open to learning, he just has to learn how to think with a new paradigm.

31 Comments

  1. Linda@Creekside on April 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing all those fabulous resources at the top of this post, Leslie! I’ve let my counseling colleagues know about this fabulous opportunity!

    Warmest blessings …

  2. Chuck on April 9, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Leslie is giving you sound advice. I am a ruling elder and a biblical counselor who has been involved in several counseling situation with emotionally destructive marriages. And I grow increasingly impatient with husbands and others who fail to consider the entire calling and obligation to individuals within a Christian marriage. This begins with understanding Christian marriage as a redemptive witness to others. Paul’s sense of the profound mystery of biblical marriage is that before the Fall, God ordained marriage to be a redemptive witness to the world.

    In Ephesians 5:31, Paul inserts a quote of Genesis 2:24 into his discussion of the marriage analogy, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” thus connecting his discussion of marriage in Ephesians with the creation of marriage by God in Genesis. When he deliberated with the Pharisees, Jesus himself pointed to Genesis 2:24 as God’s personal declaration on the establishment of biblical marriage (Matt 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12). Paul said this was a “profound mystery,” referring to Christ and the church (5:32).

    Previously in Ephesians, Paul said that a “mystery” was a secret of revelation made known through a special dispensation of grace (Eph 3:2, 3). Usually it embraces the totality of God’s purposes in Christ (Eph 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 6:19). But it can refer to a particular truth within that wider revelation (Rom 11:25 and 1 Cor. 15:51). Paul was not diverted from his analogy in saying, “but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Rather, he is asserting that when God established marriage in Genesis 2, He meant it to be a representation of what would later be fulfilled between Christ and the church. A. S. Woods, in his commentary on Ephesians contained in The Expositor’s Biblical Commentary, vol. 11, on Ephesians, said this: “In other words, Genesis 2:24 enunciates a more profound truth than was [not] realized till Christ came to win his bride, the church, by giving himself for her on the cross (v. 25).” It was a statement of God’s plan for salvation in Christ; the hidden “protoevangelium” (first gospel) is Genesis 2:24, and not Genesis 3:15.

    So what should the relationship between Christ and his church look like to the world? Look at the marriage relationship of two believers in Christ. The oneness of husband and wife should be a visible representation of the oneness between Christ and the church. The discussion on husbands and wives, masters and slaves and parents and children in Ephesians 5 are applications to particular relationships of the discussion on unity within the body of Christ beginning in Ephesians chapter four. What is the “love and respect” of Ephesians five in marriage supposed to look like? Study Ephesians 4:1 through chapter five.

    Just as our individual call in Christ is to grow progressively in sanctification, believing husbands and wives should be progressively growing in oneness with each other. There is not a biblical option in marriage where a husband and a wife can settle for living separate lives together; living merely as a brother and sister in Christ because they have given up on the struggle of living and growing together as one in Christ. This is as abhorrent to God in biblical marriage as sexual immorality or desertion because it is just as much a violation of their calling to be one.

    You and your husband are called to progressively grow in oneness with each other. That is the ongoing calling in a Christian marriage. Someone who is not willing to do that has violated their marriage covenant. And it sounds like your husband’s behavior has compromised that oneness at times. If he’s not being Christ to you, and striving to progressively show the Ephesians commands to unity in the body of Christ in your marriage, he is not fulfilling his professed call as your husband. Is that being addressed with him?

    My opinion is that the biblical door on divorce and separation is not as shut as it seems your pastor believes. Here is a beginning of my thinking on that issue.

    In Matthew 19:8 Jesus said that Moses permitted divorce for hard heartedness, but that it wasn’t like that from the beginning. Jesus’ allowance for divorce in Matthew 19:9 was for sexual immorality, a broader concept than adultery: “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (porneia), and marries another, commits adultery (moichaõ).” Jesus is saying that divorce for any other reason than sexual immorality means that the man who then remarries commits adultery, because his first marriage is still biblically valid.

    Craig Blomberg noted in his commentary on Mathew how Paul seems to have added another exception for divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:15, an unbelieving partner who wishes to leave a believing spouse. He then suggested that what both Matthew 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 7:15 had in common was that both “destroy at least one of the two fundamental components of marriage, either the ‘leaving and cleaving’ or the ‘one flesh’ unity. Both leave one party without any other options if attempts at reconciliation are rebuffed. Both recognize the extreme seriousness of divorce as a last resort and as an admission of defeat. . . . Undue attention to the exception clause of v. 9 risks losing sight of Jesus’ overall point that divorce is never desirable.“

    It could be argued that verbal, emotional abuse is a violation of the “one flesh” unity in biblical marriage. Again, a demonstration that one or both parties have failed to do their best to be Christ and the church in their marriage.

    I would argue that divorce would not be desirable, but permissible as a last resort if reconciliation is rejected; or if the above described purpose of marriage is rejected. This is an abandonment of the clear calling to oneness in marriage.

    One last comment. If your husband’s attendance at Celebrate Recovery is because of problem drinking and/or drug use, part of his calling to be Christ to you would be striving to establish and maintain abstinence.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 9, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks Chuck for your perspective and additional Biblical references.

  3. Patty on April 11, 2014 at 12:25 am

    I am getting the word out to my church and counselors there as well. I ordered 10 of the RBC booklet to pass out to all interested. We need to all pray for Leslie and for us all to have the courage and love to speak up for the truth of this message and ministry to protect women and all the future generations that can be affected by a very unbiblical model of marriage. Pray for me, I plan to speak to the head of counseling at my large church next week.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 11, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Thanks Patty for spreading the word. So important that women and men start speaking up and speaking out. I’m reading a book right now called The Invention of Wings. It’s a novel about two sisters who began to speak out against slavery in the 1800’s in the south – when it was culturally accepted and “Biblically” acceptable to own slaves and treat them like property. Hopefully as we begin to be brave and speak out, it will no longer be Biblically acceptable to treat wives like objects and property and expect her to believe that this is God’s will for her.

  4. Stacy Vargas on April 11, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I just finished reading ‘Why does he do that?. Before that I read The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I see many examples of my life written in both of these books even though neither author knows me or my husband personally. Amazing, it’s like there are a few molds for abusive type of personalities.

    My conclusion? The church does not make the rules for my life. God does. Thankfully, I do not believe God calls me to be continually abused.

    I want to encourage the women who read this blog to also read Lundy Bancrofts book ‘Why does he do that’. It is written by a male who counsels abusive males. As Leslie points out in her book ‘The emotionally destructive marriage, there are three types of marriages with difficulties: The Disappointing Marriage, The Difficult Marriage and The Destructive Marriage. I would say that the Destructive marriage is a synonym for an abusive marriage. All abuse is not physical, it can be mental, verbal and emotional.

    As I read your pastors comments about divorce, it feels to me as if he is continuing the abuse of the husband by enabling it and again putting the wife in the position of being ‘wrong’. Wow, we as women have to come out from under this continued type of abuse and not by dissecting scripture alone, how about regular old common sense? Really, stay with a man who is abusing you because your pastor believes you should???

    I’m proud of you for not folding. We need to start trusting ourselves and believing in our value as people made in the image of god. We are valuable and we need to start living it.

    As I read through the Lundy Bancroft book, I continued to notice many ways my husband continued to be abusive during our first and second separation that I didn’t even think was abusive. I hope to be in a position to help and validate women as I come into contact with them. I am currently in talks with the head of my womens ministry as well as a church elder about these things and hope to spread the word about abuse of women, spousal and ‘spiritual’.

    I am thankful that my own pastor encouraged me to ‘not turn back’ once i made the decision to separate. He seemed to respect me and trust that i was making a wise choice.

    I am also thankful to Leslie for her groundbreaking work on this topic as well as my own counselor who immediately decided to see us separately and not together for couples counseling.

    I pray that this topic continues to become untangled in our churches and we free women who are being oppressed by their husbands and their churches.

    Stacy

    • Robin on April 12, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Wow. Stacy well-said!!! I love how you spoke about women advocating for themselves- and not reliant on their churches. Hopefully, in the future, more churches will comealongside women and men in destructive relationships, but until they do, may we all be prayerful for discernment and wisdom, in who we are taking advice from.

  5. L on April 11, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I’m a mother of several young children. My husband and I recently started attending a new church. While our new elders don’t know us well, they are godly men whom I respect. I’ve reached out to them with my concerns. However, in our meetings, my husband has called into question my salvation and has denied his harshness toward me and physical harshness toward our young children.

    Since the elders don’t know us well, this can appear to be a he-said/she-said situation. I don’t have any witnesses who can vouch for things that have happened in private, though I have written down the incidents as they occur.

    A couple of the elders have since met alone with my husband several times before bringing us all back together again. That will be happening in a few weeks. They would like me to voice my concerns again to my husband in front of them. Does anyone have suggestions for how to speak at these meetings in a way that will help me to be credible?

    • Leslie Vernick on April 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      I would love to hear from others but my advice is pray hard, stay calm, present facts, when where, and specifically what he did or said that you defined as harsh. If he flat out denies these things you have to calmly say,”I know you must feel embarrassed by me having to do this but you are not being truthful and I am afraid of you” If you fear for your safety if you have to ride home with him or go home with him make prior arrangements for the children to be elsewhere and don’t go home with him if it does not go well. You do not need more abuse because you told the truth.

    • Brenda on April 11, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      L,
      I agree with Leslie’s advice 100%. I would like to add, write it all down before you go in and take your notes with you. This can help you stay focused on what concerns you want to address.
      You said that the elders have met with him several times, has anyone met with you? Has anyone asked how you and the children are doing? Have they asked if things are better or worse? Being credible is in the eyes of the beholder and their outlook on any given situation. Even godly men can be deceived by a wolf if his sheep suit is on properly.

  6. Robin on April 12, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I’m so sorry for your fight to try and tell the truth. I think my advice would be to get a good counselor you trust, and bring her in to session with men leaders, to help a husband not be able to minimize, and deflect. I would not feel very safe in a room full of men. Especially if they are not trained in ‘destructive relationships’. I have been involved too many times with elders and men leaders, who did not understand abuse and stood firmly against me. I will be praying for you!!!

    • L on April 13, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      We will just be meeting with two of the elders, and another woman whom I have confided in and trust will also join us.

      I have typed and organized my concerns with general dates, specific things that were said and done, how I responded, and how that was met.

      Since I first reached out to our leadership, there haven’t been as many incidents at home. But I do see glimpses of the same anger here and there, which concerns me. I will continue to pray. God is the God who sees!

  7. Betty on April 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I am learning that the question of staying or leaving at the end of the day is the abused person decision. She gets to a point where she cannot take it anymore and to be told to go back is like throwing her into the lion’s den. The breaking point is probably different for each person and everyone’s scenario is a bit different so how can anyone else draw a line. yes, of course, advice should be sought and given, especially when she is in danger, but pastors etc need to LISTEN to the one suffering. I find leaders want to solve the problem, but they are seemingly not interested in the sufferer’s emotions and how she is coping. The person is more important than the problem.

    • Sandra on April 15, 2014 at 11:40 am

      I agree, Betty. I’ve recently started to attend an independent Baptist Church, and have related to the pastor’s wife that my unsaved husband of 57 years has left me, after I had to set boundaries due to his severe verbal abuse and insane jealousy. The pastor said on Sunday that he and his wife want to come visit me, and I’m not sure how to discuss my situation, since I’ve been told in other churches over the years that I needed to stay and keep praying for my husband, which I did, to no avail. I’ve made a copy of this blog and plan to share it with the pastor and his wife when they visit. Please pray for me, as I pray for you and Leslie and all of my dear Sisters here.

      • Leslie Vernick on April 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm

        Also, FYI, I write another blog for Christian counselors and pastors at http://www.christiancounseling.com and I address many of these issues from the church/pastoral perspective. If you go to that site, click on blog, look for my name, Leslie Vernick and then start reading the various titles of blogs I’ve written, there may be a few that would speak to what your pastor needs to hear from you. They would be great resources for you to share with him.

  8. Betty on April 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you Leslie for your article on Does Love cover a Multitude of Sins on the counseling page. I feel encouraged that through yours and some other counselors teachings on boundaries and accountability in marriage, that the message will get out there to pastors and teachers to show mercy and grace to hurting women in abusive situations. I know I had to rethink, relearn everything I had been taught until I was in the situation myself and started searching for answers. Generally, they are good men, but need to have their eyed opened. I, also used to think that ‘taking’ every kind of mistreatment without murmuring was glorifying to the Lord when in fact, I was allowing him to continue in his sinful, harmful behaviour. I will gladly pray for you, Sandra, for wisdom and strength.

  9. Angie on April 16, 2014 at 1:00 am

    I am in a similar situation. I feel like I’ve done everything out of order in that I found Leslie’s book after I separated. I was desperate and called Focus on the Family. A counselor there told me to get Leslie’s book. I couldn’t believe that there was a book to help me of such power, founded on verses I knew, and yet still I had been blind to the true meanings of the word “wife” and the term “true love.” My husband is now attending two different group therapy sessions – an anger management class, with people who are court ordered to particpate, although he is not, and a pornography 12 step group. We tried sitting down with a counselor at the new church I have joined, and it ended with my husband storming out of the office and the couselor “washing his hands” of us after my husband called to apologize. I also tried going to my old church (ten-year member and active the entire time teaching Sunday School, etc. My husband is a DEACON) and after the meeting with the pastor where he listened to me, he had another deacon’s wife call and give me the name of a counselor in a city 90 miles from where we live. There has been no contact since. My husband is still on the active deacon list. It is so frustrating to not get support, help from the very people you are supposed to be able to turn to. I am now living with my parents. I make more money than my husband, but I feel safer here so he is in the house, and he is letting it go completely, which is another worry, although I know my safety and that of my two daughters is of more importance. I don’t know if I should go back to the counselor who told my husband he couldn’t help us. He is the only counselor on staff at the new church (which I do feel this church teaches a more accurate definition of marriage). My mom thinks I still need counseling. I guess 17 years of trying to keep it together has taken its toll. I am much closer with the Lord, but I do feel like I need some sort of Christian accountability and guidance. I’m basically writing this all because this blog has been that counseling for me, I think, and I want to encourage others. You are not alone. We are fighting for truth. And there is so much joy in the fire. Thank you for posting weekly, Leslie. It means so much!

  10. Mary Leah on April 17, 2014 at 10:20 am

    “Lastly your pastor agrees that you need to have a voice and that you need to be able to use your voice without fear of the consequences.”

    Unfortunately, a woman in a dysfunctional relationship is often NOT able to use her voice without fear of consequences, if by standing up for herself she goes against her PASTOR’S interpretation of Scripture and teaching. How many times has a woman gone to her pastor for help, only to come away as if she’s been verbally beat up again?

    • Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

      How true Mary Leah but we have to start somewhere and if we allow ourselves to be silenced and intimidated, how then will things change? Pastors need help in understanding these things and her pastor seemed able and interested in a dialogue with her about these issues. Therefore I say go for it and see if she can use her voice to facilitate change – if not in her marriage, perhaps in the church’s treatment of these issues. Obviously if someone does not want to hear or listen, it’s like casting pearls before swine, don’t do it.

  11. L on April 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I’ve read the Emotionally Destructive Marriage and its section on documenting abuse as you are able. I’ve developed some health issues in the months since reaching out for help regarding my husband’s behavior toward our children. I’m going to a specialist today. In the paperwork, it asks if the patient is in an abusive situation. Would indicating ‘yes’ be a form of documentation that I could use in the future if I needed it?

    • Leslie Vernick on April 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Tell the truth. Whether it is a valid form of documentation since you don’t have a “photo” or “evidence” isn’t really the issue here, your doctor needs to know the kinds of stressors you are under and an domestic abuse definitely affects a partners health.

  12. r on April 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Finding out about Leslie Vernick has been the biggest blessing to me. I have been searching for someone out there that understands what I am going through. I have been married for 15 years and this past year have been separated. I did step out of my marriage and had an emotional relationship with someone for a few months. The verbal attacks by my husband have been unbearable. I have lived in abandonment for years with him. He never put me first, always put everything and everyone before me. There has been years of rejection and abandonment. I have always been told by my husband that I am not worthy. HE has never been one to build me up, just always tore me down. He comes from a world of hurt due to some things his parents did to him that were very vengeful. my husband has never dealt with these issues. We have tried 4 different therapists and he always gets up and leaves about the 4th visit. He blames me for everything. I have repented. Im just tired of the angry outbursts and him telling me what an awful human being that i am. I have no self estteem or confidence. He is controlling me in such an awful way. I have no money except for the little he gives me each month ($500) and that is for all my bills food, and gas in my car. I am currently looking for work but have been out of the work force for 12 years because I have been a stay at home mom. I guess my question is, it is not ok for him to attack me is it?? It is horrible the things he says. The attacks completely set me back for days. I have spoken with my pastor and his response was i needed to just be compassionate and supportive! I am sorry but how is one supposed to be compassionate to emotional abuse?!

    • Leslie Vernick on April 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      It is not okay for him to verbally attack you. There are plenty of people who had rotten childhoods who do not verbally, emotionally, mentally, or physically attack their spouse. Get support. And when he starts his tirade, if you can, leave the room or the house. You do not deserve to be treated this way.

      • r on April 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

        Thank you Leslie. So, even though he says his anger is because of my emotional affair, it doesn’t make it right for him to emotionally abuse me right? I guess i am trying to make sure that I am understanding what is ok for him to treat me like.

        • Leslie Vernick on April 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm

          If he has never been abusive before this and has never had a pattern of being abusively angry and is doing so in response to your emotional affair – you shouldn’t be treated this way but I would give him some space to process and deal with his feelings about what you have done. However, if this is just more of the same but at a higher level and he’s using your emotional affair now to justify his abusive anger, it is not okay. It’s not okay ever, but when someone is deeply hurt sometimes they do things they regret and shouldn’t do. I’d look more if this is a typical pattern in the way he processes his hurt – to attack you.

          • r on April 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm

            thank you. He has always been condescending. He has never validated my feelings and there has never been a time where he listens to my feelings. In the past, when i would tell him he has too many irons in the fire and we are suffering, his response was always “there isn’t anything i can do about it” meanwhile he continued to do things that made him happy and never once in 10 years did he put me as a priority. He would say things to me like i was a kept woman or criticized everything i did just about. I never felt like he was building me up. Now, the words are more intense and have been for a year. He has called me all sorts of names, is having my daughter send me texts that relate to a song that he thinks wasa song i listened to because of my emotional affair. He is trying to punish me in the worst way. so, yes, i understand the anger, but a year later it continues. He says he wants details etc..and I don;t feel safe talking about any details because of what his anger is like, and because he will use it against me. I just want to make sure I am accurate in my thoughts and that this is emotional abuse.



          • Leslie Vernick on April 27, 2014 at 5:19 pm

            Yes it is emotional abuse. When someone is angry – that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be abusive. Anger and abusive behaviors often go together but they don’t have to. The Bible tells us “In our anger, do not sin.”



  13. Alene on April 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    I have met with two pastors (current and former) in the last month. I made sure I approached it with humility, as wrestling with this difficult situation. I expressed specifics and that I was wrestling with the on-going situation. I owned what I saw in myself; that I had been too passive in my approach. I questioned if meeting with my husband with someone from the church would be helpful.

    My former pastor said that he felt it could be a Matt 18 situation since we are both believers, he wondered outloud how the church can come alongside those who are weak (I’d told him I hadn’t been strong enough for the long road; he knows of another woman who wasn’t either), he said he felt the church was partly culpable because they did not help sufficiently when they knew of part of the problem.

    In answer to his question of how to help the weak; I think that more real, applicable help can come from the pulpit. My sister in law’s marriage turned around because of how things were addressed from the pulpit. I can hear through Leslie and other things I’m understanding that boundaries, consequences, and speaking up are key. If the woman is strengthened, it can affect the situation. I began to see a change when I got help and learned to speak up. I had been influenced by my desire for biblical submission and my husband’s unreasonable desire for headship. I can remember being discouraged and opening up to a doctor who asked simple assessment questions and I confess that when he told me “you can tell him, I don’t want you to speak to me like that” I really needed to hear it, know that.

    My current pastor I knew enough of to know he leans into a passive approach. I approached it in the same way. He did say that he’d tried to confront in the past and it hadn’t gone well in whatever situations and that he leans into being ‘nice’ now. He did pray about passivity in his prayer as we closed. He did not feel it was a Matt. 18 situation.

    Both pastors knew for sure that it wasn’t wise to approach a husband without seeking the Holy Spirit; nothing could be done without Him. I appreciated that wise knowing in them both.

    I stayed at a pastor’s house while at some training recently and opened some discussion in these regards, lightly, humbly, sharing I’d heard that 25% of women are in a relationship with destructive elements (Leslie’s webinar). In the conversation, I simply let the words be spoken of what can happen as patterns come forward a generation often unawares.

    I advocated. I was a voice.
    That is as far as I am right now.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Good for you brave girl. I’m so encouraged by your humble courage.

  14. Kelly on June 10, 2014 at 10:30 am

    The pastors at my church found out about the abuse I was enduring after my children wrote prayer requests that concerned the elders. I didn’t even know the kids did this. I was in the middle of teaching VBS when the women’s ministry leader pulled me out of class to see if I was okay. I told her what had been going on (already had an incident involving the police whom I didn’t call– my husband did bc he was scared my father would find out he attacked me! He was the victim!) There was no money in the bank or savings bc my husband took it all when the cop told him to leave the home. The church graciously gave me some money (I started my own emergency escape fund with it). When I later spoke to the pastor, I was informed that I should learn to submit and that suffering was good for building character. The pastor was more concerned that my husband had his own credit card than he was about the holes punched in my son’s door or the violence in front of my daughter (getting pinned down while she tried to decide to call 911 for me or not)! I got the courage to move out after my husband repeatedly minimized his behavior, blamed me, & looked our church counselor in the face after being confronted about his sin & refused to apologize. My pastor then used me as an example in one of his sermons; though not by name, it was obvious! Talk about breech of trust! I wrote a letter to the elders about the incident & though many were appalled at what he said to me & apologized on his behalf, the pastor never said a word or ever followed up with me. Not only did I have to defend myself from my husband but from so-called shepherds of God! Ladies, I encourage you: God doesn’t look like this, sound like this, or act like this! Know your worth in Christ & how HE sees you. He is the God who sees your pain!

    • Leslie Vernick on June 10, 2014 at 10:52 am

      That’s awful but sadly too common. You may find it interesting a new blog I wrote Monday for http://www.christiancounseling.com called “Let’s not Call it Abuse” talking about how many church leaders and counselors minimize what’s happening and don’t want to “label” it abuse. You can go there and read it if you’re interested.

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