Morning friends,

You should see my house. Boxes everywhere. Piles everywhere. We are having our CONQUER conference VERY SOON and I have two houseguests. I know they will understand but a girl sort of likes her house to look pretty when she has guests. NOT this time.

But the good news is we have an amazing turn out for our CONQUER Conference. And, it’s not TOO late for you to sign up. We have close to 600 women attending and it is just a week away. I promise it is going to be one of the best women’s conferences you have ever been to. You will be loved, nourished, encouraged, prayed for, and blessed – plus fed very well. I hope you can come. Click here to register.

I spoke at Bethany Wesleyan Church this past weekend on Destructive Relationships. First time EVER speaking on this topic on a Sunday morning church service. Brave pastor. Write him a note telling him how great it was that he put this right out front. Thought you might like to watch it. https://vimeo.com/185231406

CONQUER registration is open from October 5-October 8th. If you are interested in being a part of this amazing support group click here.

Today’s Question: My question involves a scenario that has been happening for 30 years in my marriage. When I approach my husband to discuss any form of concern or issue, if he does not agree that there is a valid issue he becomes extremely defensive, accusatory, and denies the need to discuss anything. He then does his best to start an argument claiming that I am trying to force him to agree with me. The original issue I was hoping to discuss falls to the ground and never gets dealt with.

In other words, in my husband’s mind, he must agree that the issue is valid. If in his mind the issue is not valid then there is zero discussion (except for a major conflict erupting – he yells and denies whatever the issue is; for years I literally thought I was going insane and it turns into this ridiculous power struggle in his mind).

He then attempts to engage me in an argument about whether what I'm saying is even accurate or true. It is frustration times 10, and many issues don't get discussed and cannot be addressed and dealt with because of this crazy cycle.

I want to take responsibility for my portion of this but I'm not even sure what that is. I only know I feel frustrated and invalidated and not heard or valued. Any insight or suggestions or tools you could offer would be deeply appreciated.

Answer: This has been happening for 30 years, over and over again, the same song different verse. What I mean by that is no matter what the “issue” the pattern remains the same. You approach with a concern or issue to discuss. He is the judge on whether or not it is a valid issue. If he deems it is not, then for you to push or continue the conversation he flips out in a variety of ways. Most of the time it works, you back off and the conversation is over. Nothing gets resolved but it feels like he wins and you lose. If you continue to press on, then a huge argument ensues where his strategy then is to undermine your confidence in the validity of your concerns. What happens then is instead of talking about the issue anymore, you are now defending your own mental health and character. Yep, it’s the crazy cycle.

But you said, “I want to take responsibility for my portion, but I’m not sure what that is.” Your part of the crazy cycle is doing the same thing over and over again (trying to have a normal reasonable conversation) with someone who does not want to have that kind of conversation. You know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results. It’s time for you to change your own dance steps dear.

You didn’t give me any “for example’s” at the end of your question so I’m just going to make something up so we can visualize the changes you must make. Let’s say one concern for you is that you think that the bedroom needs painting. Or pick another issue, for example, you think you need to save more for retirement, or put the kids in Christian school, or watch less television, or work fewer hours or talk nicer to you, whatever it is. He doesn’t want to discuss it because for him the issue is invalid, the bedroom does not need to be painted, he doesn’t talk harshly to you, etc. If you push he says, “you’re trying to get me to agree with you that the bedroom NEEDS painting and I don’t agree.” If you push some more it gets ugly.

Here are some new dance steps you might want to try. I don’t guarantee they will give better results, but at least you will stop your part of the crazy dance cycle AND you will gain some new insights into the pattern itself.

Step 1: Present your concerns differently. Instead of saying “We need to paint the bedroom” or “the bedroom needs painting” or “we need to talk about your work schedule” say “I want to paint the bedroom” or “I want the bedroom painted.” Or “I want you to be home earlier at night.” Or “I don’t like the way you talk to me.” Do you hear the difference?

It’s much harder to argue with what you want than what “we need to do or what he needs to do.” He may still respond with his part of the dance by saying, “The bedroom doesn’t need painting.” But now you have a new statement. Now you say back, “that’s not the issue, I would like to have it painted anyway,” “I’m tired of this color,” or “it looks worn to me.”

Step 2: If he says, “It doesn’t look that way to me,” your next statement is, “Are you saying that what I want/need/feel/ doesn’t matter to you?” Because from what you wrote, that sounds like the deeper, more root issue to what’s going on here. At least that’s what you sense it is. So the only way to get confirmation of that is to go there.

Step 3: But in fairness to him, (go back to other conversations over the past 30 years where you have expressed your wants directly. For example, perhaps you’ve said, “I want pizza for dinner tonight.” Or “I want to see this movie soon.” Or “I want these earrings for Christmas.”

Does your husband hear what you would like to happen or is important to you? Are there times he does try to please you or make you happy? If so, then it might not be that you are not important or valued, but it might be he has a lot of internal resistance to being directed on what he should do from you.

Some people are naturally contrary when it comes to taking directions or suggestions from others. They are not easy to live with because living successfully together requires both people to give up much of their natural self-centered orientation.

Step 4: When you present an “issue” to him, if he is this kind of person, it’s critical how you present it. When you say “I have a problem I’d like to talk with you about” rather than “We have a problem, or worse yet, “You have a problem I’d like to talk with you about.” How does that land? Is there still resistance and defensiveness? Is there an interest in “your problem” or still an unwillingness to hear you?

For example, if you said, “I have a problem with how late you come home every night, I know you work hard but the kids need you and I need a break,” is his response any different than if you said, “You have a problem, you’re a workaholic?” If not, then the deeper issue isn’t the inability to solve problems together. Instead, the problem is his indifference. What you want or how you feel doesn’t matter to him. As long as things are good for him, there is NO problem in his mind, even if you feel differently.

You may find my recent Facebook Live talk on indifference helpful to you. Click here to see the Facebook Live Emotional Abuse video

On the other hand, he may be a highly defensive, and easily feels shame (not your fault, but it is where he’s at right now), and when you imply that he has a problem, or he IS the problem, he just can’t or won’t hear it. It threatens his own picture of himself to sense that you are unhappy with him for any reason.

Some men that I’ve worked with who have this problem are all or nothing, black and white thinkers. They think along these lines: If she says she doesn’t like something I do, or that I did something wrong, that means she doesn't like me and I can’t bear to hear that so I shut her down. It’s just too painful and I won’t go there.

Therefore the crazy dance begins where he makes it about you. You’re crazy, unreasonable, unrealistic, not seeing things correctly. Your part is that you start dancing your crazy dance steps by defending yourself and arguing with him and guess what? The conversation is no longer about the issue but about you. It works well, but it doesn’t lead to resolution or a problem or a better relationship.

Step 5: If trying the earlier changes doesn’t make a difference, try talking about the issues in writing via e-mail. Perhaps giving him some space to read your concerns without having to respond right away may help him be more reasonable and less defensive. It’s also important for you to add, “just because it’s not a problem for you, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for me.” Or “I'm different than you are. Just because this doesn't bother you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me.”

Sadly some men (and women) think that their spouse is supposed to think, feel and want, exactly what he or she thinks, feels and wants. That's not possible, but again it’s the lie they believe which keeps them stuck in the crazy cycle (Click to tweet).

As you insert your individuality without being shaming or punitive of his, perhaps he can create some space to hear you. And, if not at least you are not participating in the crazy dance.

But if nothing changes with your ability to resolve important issues or communicate your feelings and needs to him…..what does that mean for you? And for your marriage?

Friends: When you recognized you were in the crazy dance, what steps did you take to stop and dance different steps? Were they effective in opening up a different dialogue?   

81 Comments

  1. Michelle on October 5, 2016 at 9:43 am

    This sounds a lot like my story. I have tried often to stop participating in the crazy dance. I have been been a little successful over the last couple of months I think. My big thing is letting him own his words, feelings, and actions. And I tell him so. Then I leave the conversation with that. I try hard not to defend myself anymore. He doesn’t hear me anyway.

  2. Beth on October 5, 2016 at 9:46 am

    One thing I do with my “black & white” husband is recognize that he can (or prefers to) deal with only one topic at a time. Multi-tasking and multi-thinking are hard for him. Therefore, if he is concentrating on something, even just a TV program or ball game, I don’t interrupt with an “issue” or a question on an unrelated topic.

    I also deal with only one item per conversation and keep it as simple, as clear, as possible with a suggested resolution up front. That way he can consider it easily and doesn’t feel responsible to come up with his own “solution” immediately. I even say at the beginning, “I don’t expect you to solve this right away but I want your thoughts.”

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing your tips.

      • Sandy on October 11, 2016 at 5:43 pm

        I am married for 36 years and we still are unable to communicate or be honest and open with each other. And when I try to voice my opinion I’m told to keep my opinion to myself.

  3. Susan on October 5, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I am still trying to figure that out…I used to try to softly introduce the subject…”I want you to know that I’m not mad, but I want let you know how that made me feel”..This was followed by him with a huge huff and sigh…then he might listen but not really respond…then give me the pseudo-silent treatment for awhile (even days)….or….he erupts into a “Why are you even married to me if I’m such a terrible husband?” or “I can’t do anything right with you…you just keep setting the bar higher and higher”….(We have been in counseling for awhile, and my right and need to communicate what has hurt me to him while the issue is still small has been established as appropriate and useful, yet he would rather not have me say anything. I definitely want him to communicate when things are at this stage, but he gets some personal satisfaction and martyr points by feeling like he’s being the bigger person not to mention things…then it simmers, gets issues added on to of it, or adds to the exploding volcano of the another larger issue at a future time. I was helped by a suggestion that I think was made by Leslie about sandwiching a communication like this between something like “I want you to know you are a great dad, and you do so many things well, and just because I need to talk to you about (>>>>>>) doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all those great things about you, but I do need to talk to you about…” (I will need to check back on wording, but I do see how it would prevent the total diversion of the topic with the explosion about I can never do anything right, or why did you even marry me? (we’ve been married 32 years…37 years together). However….I now realize that he really doesn’t care how I feel, he only cares about himself feeling uncomfortable, and these conversations are his opportunity to blow things into a long-lasting fight while blaming me for causing constant drama. I’m pretty sure that no matter what dance I do with him to help him understand how his interactions hurt me, it won’t really matter. I think the change I need to make is to quit trying to tell him as if he cares. Each time I do, the only thing I accomplish is hurting myself more by displaying and reinforcing how much he just really doesn’t care. Not sure why I can seem to know this, but then each time think that if I explain nicely, then he will want to fix it….Once in a great while, he will act like I would expect someone to, and listen and agree to try to do it differently next time….then for a period of time, resentment builds against me and I realize that he still really doesn’t care about me, and now I’ve just created another animosity he has for me. Why is it so hard to just “get it” and move on…maybe because these incidents are all about small things?

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      I think he does get that you’re unhappy with him, but his own ego can’t stand that he has disappointed, or hurt or failed anyone in even a small way. He’d rather not know than to have to be an ordinary imperfect human being and apologize for what he’s done and fix it.

      • Sara on October 11, 2016 at 7:59 am

        Leslie,
        I believe I am dealing with the same scenario: my husband is reactive (his go-to response is that I always come to him wanting to talk about me and my issues). After reading your book and other similar books, I know we are in an emotionally destructive marriage. I know abusers may have a “Cluster B” personality disorder. Would you associate any of those disorders with this type of reaction or his type of feeling this way?

  4. Barbara on October 5, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I am going to read this at least 3 more times. I am married
    22 years and this sounds just like me and my husband.
    There are so many big unresolved issues that have continued
    and that he refuses to discuss. I will try the other approaches
    and see if it gets me anywhere. My husband is a black and white guy who doesn’t like to be questioned and sounds like this lady’s husband. Thanks for the help.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      Let us know how it goes.

  5. Connie on October 5, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Nah, mine doesn’t start arguments. He just mumbles something I can’t understand and goes away, avoids me for a few days and then acts as if all is well and nothing was every said. I’ve accepted that, and do my own thing. He likes to live as if single with a maid, and that’s what I do, too. In fact, I was amused to wake up this morning and remember that I’d dreamed he married a second wife. In the dream, I was puzzled but my daughter said, “I think you’ll like her, mom.” So sure enough, she took no guff, knew how to handle him, and we were friends. At least I had some company and someone to do stuff with! ha!
    I’m pretty sure many wives in history have had to do that sort of thing. Emotionally detach and get on with life. Go over his head and let God be your husband. Tell God you want to paint the bedroom, or go on a date. (one day I said to God, “Do you dance?” You know, He does!) You’ll be surprised how things come along. God has a way of arranging things or taking the need away. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” is not just a cute song.

    • Aleea on October 5, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” is not just a cute song.” . . .Exactly!!! I am totally convinced that we never really know that Jesus is all we need, until truly He is all we have. —How could we? If you can really sing/ say (—no hedges, —no unconscious baggage), “Christ is all I want,” you’ve got it made! . . . . When enforcing our boundaries, first and foremost, we are caring for ourselves, but we are also helping others to have a clear understanding of what we consider acceptable behavior. We are reflecting back to them what is not acceptable and, therefore, providing them an opportunity to consider that information and make necessary changes. . . . . A chance to make the necessary changes before, with Christ’s help, we restructure that entire situation. Ask Christ if you are worth more than the indifference, the inattention, the crumbs people throw you. See what He says to do, then do it. You know your relationship with Christ carries power with it. Don’t be shy of using it.

    • Sherry on October 5, 2016 at 11:49 pm

      You are right! I’ve learned how to be married alone. Sounds sad but I am much happier this way since I finally figured out that my husband doesn’t have any interest in my needs or changing in any way. I have learned to keep growing and changing while he stopped maturing at age 12. Sad for him.

      • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:47 pm

        It is sad for him.

      • Sandy on October 11, 2016 at 5:52 pm

        Married alone. Sounds familiar after to after 36 years

      • Jean on December 20, 2016 at 11:45 pm

        I’ve been married for 34 years, and I too, am married alone. I’ve no trust or faith in my husband due to his history of lies, deception, manipulation, neglect, pornography issues…I could go on but I’m sure y’all get my drift. I no longer go to church with him bc my spirit can’t tolerate hearing my husband teach another SS lesson. How do you sit quietly and accept a Sunday School lesson from a husband who won’t pray with or for his family, nor initiate any devotional? I can’t afford to leave bc we have an adult son with a debilitating disease, & bc of my own health issues. I still attend worship services on occasion but feel so stupid, used and hypocritical sitting beside this man that appears to be the perfect husband. I feel as if I’m drowning in huge black waves that wash over me. I feel as if my home and family is cursed because of this man. I still pray for him, but I feel as if living with him is killing me slowly.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks Connie for sharing what works for you.

  6. Susan on October 5, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Connie:
    Do you think that the new wife is the new you? You like her, your daughter approves of her, she manages the situation well…maybe you will become that woman with the strength you get from using the tools on this website….I am looking forward to that for me.

    • Content on October 9, 2016 at 12:15 am

      That was my first thought when reading about the second woman, too. 🙂

    • Connie on October 9, 2016 at 1:21 am

      Thank you. I like that interpretation. 🙂

    • Tawnya on October 11, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Susan, I was thinking the same thing.
      Connie, I also wonder if your husband truly desires to be disconnected from you. It might be worth pursuing what his experience of how you approach him is (since it doesn’t sound like he’s aggressive with you). Perhaps a professional counselor could help you reconnect again.

      • Connie on October 11, 2016 at 1:05 pm

        We’ve spent more money on counseling than he likes to think about. Four rounds with Caring for the Heart, one intensive in Florida, a few months with a local pastor, he’s studied books……in fact, when things look tense, he likes to hide behind a book….one more way of ignoring me and pretending that he’s working on it. But if he doesn’t put into practice what he’s learned, what’s the point? CFTH has helped a lot, or I would be long gone. He has said that he wants to live like a bachelor with a maid (with benefits). We used to do some things together, but since the pastor talked him into giving me an ‘allowance’ that I don’t have to give him every little receipt for, he ignores me except for talk about politics and other people. Gets up at 5:30am, comes in for breakfast, and home at 9 or 10pm for supper. I want to go to counseling for myself, but the money isn’t there, and he has a firm policy about not being in debt, which is good, but I often wonder if he likes to keep the income low as another control thing. He keeps his financial records so confusing that I’m not sure if he’s telling the truth…. farming is not an exact science. Guess I’m just tired, you know? “A man persuaded against his will is of the same opinion still”. I’ve learned that convincing him of the rightness of one thing against his will just comes out in a passive-aggressive way somewhere else. No, he doesn’t like me to be detached because then he has far less power over me. He schmoozes up to me when I’m detached, but that only lasts as long as until I get reeled in again. I’ve learned my lesson. He needs a call from God on his heart, that’s it.

        Further down on here, Beth gives some links to articles about silent divorce. That would be us.

        • Tawnya on October 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm

          So sorry to hear that Connie. Sadly, I’ve heard from many of my counseling clients a similar story after seeing their pastor for marriage counseling. They usually offer “simple solutions” that don’t address the cycle of disconnect between spouses.

        • Liz on October 23, 2016 at 11:30 pm

          Wow – I think my marriage is headed in that direction!

  7. Aleea on October 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    “. . . . and I have two houseguests. I know they will understand but a girl sort of likes her house to look pretty when she has guests. NOT this time. . . . we have an amazing turn out for our CONQUER Conference. . . . We have close to 600 women attending and it is just a week away. . . . .” —Truly astounding!!! —That you can actually deal with a major move, major conference (—600 people is unbelievable logistics), houseguests, et.al. If I had that type of pressure, I would be in my closet all the time just constantly praying to reduce my anxiety.

    “Friends: When you recognized you were in the crazy dance, what steps did you take to stop and dance different steps? Were they effective in opening up a different dialogue?” . . . . Fortunately, I only had that mental craziness growing up (child abuse/ crazy dance / utter chaos) but what happened is still internalized and lives on as PTSD now. . . .Yes, bad enough, but I have been thinking a lot lately about how if we ever conquer, we conquer by conquering ourselves. And one conquers by getting conquered by Christ, otherwise what we have is about equal parts comfort myth and revenge fantasy. . . . It takes unbelievable courage and strength to heal and not just “bury” the wounds of my abuse. Also, it brings serious change and I am so inclined to hold on to the little stability I created in the total, utter chaos of my past experiences. . . .To me, healing is about collecting as many of the pieces as possible. Just finding them is hard enough and picking them up is even harder but gradually I find words for what I am seeing and feeling in counseling, even when it sounds just crazy. Next is daring to speak the truth until it makes sense. . . . .I can run away but the only way out is in and through. . . . False guilt is used to control. It is never right to think our guilt is from God when actually/ really it is from another person! False guilt is manmade (or in my case mommade). . . Only true guilt comes from God. True guilt, to me, is the urging or prodding from the Holy Spirit that we have gone astray in our thinking or conduct. You know, that gentle nudging to get back on track. Not the punches like I received from my mother. It is people that use harsh, manipulative guilt not God. . . .One thing I have seen modeled so well from my counselor is how showing love leads to more love. If all else fails, she even has nonverbal ways of saying, “I care about you, and this is going to be okay.” Bracketing off (terminally interpersonally exploitative, psychotic, emotionally unavailable, terminally devoid of empathy, etc.) issues, these types of responses can get you out of that dance quickly. When we learn how to translate responses as types of pain and respond in ways that help normal people feel safe and loved, we have amazing relationships. Trauma does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams, for me, continue internally. . . . When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin even though it is two steps forward and three back.

  8. Sharon on October 5, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Sometimes I just want to scream at how hard we women seem to have to work to either help our husbands “grow up” or just stay out of their way. Though I know that I’m responsible for me and my behavior, it does seem, very lopsided that I need to keep figuring out how to “dance around” his irresponsibility and immaturity. And he’s never satisfied. For some reason, I always have to be the “problem”. Seems he just likes an excuse to blow up and release the pressure building inside of him that he doesn’t want to honestly deal with and dismantle!

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      I think the abuse cycle describes that – abusive behavior is a release of tension – vomiting, exploding, over the other person. They feel better, you feel horrible, but it’s your fault and you dare not complain or say how you feel or you will just get more of the same. You don’t have to help your husband grow up – that’s not in your power to do, however, you can invite him into healthy change by not indulging in his immature behaviors yet still treating him respectfully. Hard balance, I know, but that is CORE strength.

    • Aleea on October 7, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Sharon,
      . . .When I read your comment two days ago, I cycled from: take even better care of yourself, become even more healthy internally, that may actually galvanize him into action. . . i.e. The thought being: What we are speaks so much louder than even what we say. . . . I cycled from there to: men and women are completely incompatible (Evolving out of Eden: Paperback –2013). —Deceiving others, that is what the world calls a romance. . . . I cycled from there to: If we don’t find a way to screen/test for terminally interpersonally exploitative, psychotic, terminally emotionally unavailable, terminally devoid of empathy, etc. issues, this can never, ever be avoided and we are just left with a vast damage control operation. . . .It is so sad, I see it at my church. . . .expensive outfits, perfect makeup, loads of jewelry, et.al. cannot disguise a woman’s emotional condition. If she feels loved and adored, her hormones push blood into her cheeks, making her “glow,” and she will radiate warmth. If she feels unloved and ignored, however, that’s so easy to see, too. . . . I am not so sure that Christianity itself doesn’t inject a nativity (re: How cruel other people are) into these situations from early on. I mean the Bible puts us on high alert but the church structures are very different. Many women raised in the church do not even have the basic teaching about predators that a wolf mother gives her pups. You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world but you do have some real say in who hurts you. . . . .I try to keep Christ as the captain of my own ship, for if He is not at the helm my ship, I have learned the hard way I will very soon be at the bottom. Keep thinking, keep learning, keep praying.

  9. Leonie on October 6, 2016 at 2:02 am

    “The conversation is no longer about the issue but about you. It works well,”
    I discovered that if I stumbled upon a truth my ex became very volatile. We could not deal with anything because he would always make everything about me and he would “skate” on the real (& serious)issues.
    Obviously nothing could ever get resolved, things got crazier and crazier and I discovered there were so many issues that had nothing to do with me that were serious deal breakers and things that had I known, I would have never ever dated or come close to a man with a character like his. We have been separated for 1.5 years, there is no way to address anything in a way that would lead to a resolution with him, it truly was the crazy cycle!!
    Now that we are separated he is always upset about every action I take, I chose to parent our daughter well and advocate for her health and safety regardless of his continual unhappiness.

  10. JJ on October 6, 2016 at 8:21 am

    That cycle has been my life for a long time, but thinking about it I’ve seen both responses. He’s definitely defensive and has a high level of shame, but I have seen him respond in a caring way many times.

    However, there have been other times he was cruelly indifferent – no doubt about it. He even told me he wanted what he wanted and didn’t care about me.

    It’s like he’s two different people – perhaps depending on the level of hardness in his heart? He has told me he has minimal empathy.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      It’s amazing that he’s even aware that he has minimal empathy and would confess that to you. Does that bother him or not?

      • JJ on October 6, 2016 at 7:11 pm

        It does bother him, for a while, and he really tries to care for others, he is repentant, and his stated goal is to be loving and humble. He even had the insight that he needs to stay open to conviction and soft-hearted before God – that it’s not about a goal of fixing our marriage but of always seeking to do what’s right in God’s eyes.

        But that insight and effort might last a few weeks, and then he flips back to his old perspective and doesn’t care about any of those things.

        • Free on October 6, 2016 at 8:07 pm

          He flips “perspectives” in a psychologically strategic manner to gain power and control over you. It is not his perspective, that would take empathy, which he doesn’t have. His claim of not having enough is only because people have mentioned the concept to him and he has no idea what it feels like. Abusers are incapable of empathy, that is part of the sickness. They missed that development stage of growth.

          • Heather on October 7, 2016 at 11:43 am

            Free is 100% right!!!! I gained so much by reading books by George Simon and his articles on his site http://www.manipulative-people.com I also looked up traits of a sociopath and went to many sites,blogs, forums. My husband has been in counseling many years and also states he has no empathy etc…He doesn’t change his destructive behavior and can not feel feelings. It is just like scripture states. It’s very sad when a person blows another off and begins to not hear the pain they are causing. This all leads to indifference and a seared conscience.



  11. Helend on October 6, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    These conversations are all too familiar for me! I know I have tried some of these steps in the past and was never too successful…or he would change his response just a bit so that it would initially sound different but would ultimately be the same. Other times he would be very straightforward and say…I don’t care what you want!

    What puzzles me is that he DOES care about what I want sometimes and DOES try to please me…but under one condition..as long as it does not interfere with what he wants and/or inconvenience him….

    should I be puzzled by this? does it mean he still cares?

    • Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      I think you nailed it. He cares as long as he doesn’t have to sacrifice anything he wants to do it. So you can’t count on him caring for you if you’ll ill long term, or caring about your feelings if he’d have to apologize or caring about your needs if it would cost him his time, energy or money that he didn’t want to give up. HOwever, when we truly care about someone, it does cost us something and we ARE willing to sacrifice.

      • Helend on October 7, 2016 at 8:36 am

        Thank you Leslie! I am still so amazed.. With all you have going on how you find the time to respond to our comments so promptly!

        I hope to one day be as strong and healthy as you to help and guide other women through this difficult journey. ..

      • Lynn on October 11, 2016 at 2:38 pm

        When he vomited a LONG, UGLY tirade on me at a time I was seriously injured and dependent on him is when I realized how destructive (and dangerous) the relationship had (and could) become. I now have a friend (a plan!) who will gladly accept my call for help at any hour should it happen again (I recovered from that injury.) and I won’t worry about embarrassing him, me, or our children. He crossed a new line and I now know I can’t trust him at all. (His brother was physically abusive to his 1st wife so there is a family history.) But I am learning to thrive with God as my leader/husband and am trusting in His timing and praising His ABUNDANT provision which enables me to do things to encourage my weary soul and heal my broken heart – like lunch at a restaurant with supportive friends. I sometimes can’t believe it has come to this but am grateful for how my relationship with my Savior has deepened. He alone has promised to NEVER leave me and He goes before me to show me the path; I just need to seek, trust, and follow.

      • Antoinette on December 15, 2016 at 2:06 am

        Wow! it is amazing how I am reading about my life here. I have felt lonely thinking how I wish someone would understand. Helend hit it on the nail for sure and said exactly what I have said to my husband. And it is so strange because whenever I say it he is untouched. He doesn’t even answer. I have learned in these later years of marriage that is his new tactic. He is quiet and just doesn’t respond. I new form of control. Enjoying frustrating me. I don’t show it though but instead say “I can see you are thinking right now how to get out of this”.

  12. Leslie Vernick on October 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks for being so vulnerable Aleea.

    • Aleea on October 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

      . . .Oh Leslie, I’m still so, so guarded. I’m only saying the “safe” vulnerable things because, in the main, folks here have open hands and very caring hearts. They love right in the places I feel most unsure and most vulnerable. . . . If I strip my heart, you’ll see all the unsightly scars, I’m afraid. . . .Of course, it is far better to feel and to suffer than to go through life isolated, insulated, and lonely. . . . It finally dawned on me why none of the things I ever construct ever make me feel safe. Safety can’t be created. It can only be found. And the only thing I’ve found that’s never been created is God. . . . And I know the path: vulnerability leads to humility on the way to courage. From there, courage allows us to let go of shame and rise higher into the person Christ meant us to be, not the person that needs to be right (-I still have issues with that!). This is the road to confidence and self worth. . . .Anyways, I am so praying for everything you have on your plate that God will do exceeding abundantly above all that you could ask or even think. I love to see God overwhelmingly bless His people, it always increases my faith.

  13. Sherry on October 6, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I did finally get my husband to stop blowing up in rage attacks. Once he began I grabbed whoever of my kids was home at the time and left the house without saying a word. I would go hang out at a favorite restaurant or store for an hour or two. After doing this at least two or three times the rage attacks stopped. I so wish I had learned this much earlier in our marriage.

    • Free on October 6, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Sherry, this sounds terrifying for your children. Are they in counseling?

      • Sherry on October 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm

        No unfortunately not. I tried to protect them by keeping them busy in activities like sports and volunteering and out of the house. My husband also seemed to hide out from them in his room quite a bit too. They all acknowledged his anger however.

        • Free on October 10, 2016 at 12:34 am

          Some ministries have teen programs with topics such as safe dating and discerning good character in a mate. Without intervention children of abuse often seek abusive partners because it seems normal to them. Life skills International has teen curriculum as does Focus Ministries. I would consider the book “When Dating Becomes Dangerous” and “If i am Missing or Dead” is a good read for family member who suspect their loved ones are in violent dating relationships. Another good author is Dana Gresch, she has written books such as “The Bride wore White” she and her husband have written character based dating books for girls and guys. Best Wishes! Don’t forget all the resources as Focus on the Family. They are not afraid to tackle difficult subjects.

  14. Nancy on October 8, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    “On the other hand he may be highly defensive and easily feels shame.”

    This is what had been behind the crazy dance in our marriage. I thank God for your book and the step by step instruction on biblical confrontation. The Lord has used our seperation to bring exactly this to light.

    He is taking responsibility and He is growing in The Lord. He recently went on a 4 th musketeer extreme character challenge week end – awesome!

    It was only in applying tough love that his hardness was broken. It was a well constructed, highly reinforced wall that could only be taken down from the inside. When I disengaged, he tested me for sure. But then he went to work on himself.

    I’m so glad I didn’t just throw in the towel when I learned his behaviour was abusive. I was told by a friend ( whose x is controlling), that all abusers need to be in control and that that would never change. Yes, my husband was controlling, but it was based in defensiveness.

    That wouldn’t have come to light if The Lord had not encouraged me and supported me ( with your books) in changing my ways.

    Our marriage is turning the corner. Thanks be to God 🙂

    • Robin on October 8, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Amen Nancy, we are so happy for u!

      • Nancy on October 9, 2016 at 7:57 am

        Thank you Robin.

    • Free on October 8, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      I have never heard of the 4th musketeer program. What is it?

      • Nancy on October 9, 2016 at 7:59 am

        Hi Free,

        You can google it – they have produced videos on YouTube. It’s all over the world- a movement of God among men.

      • Leslie Vernick on October 9, 2016 at 10:15 pm

        I havent’ heard of it either. I’d be curious about it too.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 9, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks, good to hear.

  15. Sophia on October 8, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Girl on the Train is a good picture of the main character changing from believing she was crazy to pursuing and being transformed by truth. Recently I was able to redo a situation that happened with my husband, by dialoguing with my counselor DIFFERENT DIALOGUE and DIFFERENT OUTCOME and it was hopeful and eye opening. It is SO helpful to see how I contribute to the unhealthy patterns.

    • Free on October 8, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Girl on a train sends chills up my back. I can’t even watch the movie trailer. Read the book, but the movie is deeply disturbing. How did you endure it?

      • Sophia on October 9, 2016 at 8:04 am

        I can identify. In my own life I have been physically beaten AND blamed for being emotionally messed up in how I responded. Then I started to believe that lie and allowed others (in a different way) to walk on me. If I struggled at all emotionally it was because I WAS BROKEN!?! Not now! There is a journey toward truth that is slow but freeing and worth the fight.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 9, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      I read the book – powerful but haven’t said the movie yet.

  16. Robin on October 8, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Sherry, try as she might, a Mom cannot hide her children from abuse by keeping them busy outside of home. I commend you for trying and doing the best you knew. But It is critical to protect our children and when we know damage is being done because they are living in an abusive home, counseling is something they need to help them learn to think healthily and not soak in the pain of abuse . Please consider what they might need.

    • Sophia on October 9, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Amen Robin! Counseling sends the message that these things are NOT okay.

  17. Ann on October 8, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    The last time I tried to address an issue with my husband, he told me that as long has he doesn’t beat me or cheat on me, I have nothing to complain about. That I have it better than most women. That his coworker told him that she wishes her daughter had a husband like him.

    When I’ve asked him to not yell or call the kids names, he has told me that I’m refusing to let him discipline his own kids and that Americans think everything is abusive.

    What to do?

    • Robin on October 8, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      Ann, sounds like same words my exhusband would have said. In my process I learned, I wasn’t going to convince him differently, because he didn’t have ears to hear. He only valued his own words and opinions. What I had to do, was take charge of me and grow and learn how to live with him and confront him even when he didn’t agree. I am now divorced because he did not value one word or opinion of mine.

      • Robin on October 8, 2016 at 10:30 pm

        Ann, I would add to that, everything he said was to justify his actions. If he can distract you– then he has the power to do anything he wants.

        • Ann on October 8, 2016 at 10:52 pm

          Thank you Robin! I agree with your comment that he’s trying to justify his actions/words. That’s the impression that I get from him.

          He’ll also leave newspaper articles around. One of the last ones was an article about how overprotective parents have kids that are less resilient and prepared for the real life. I’m not an overprotective mom. I simply don’t like my children being called idiots and worthless. He also recently left an Ann Landers article on the kitchen counter about a woman who didn’t appreciate her husband. I catch the title, but then refuse to read them and leave them laying there until he throws them away.

          I have been praying that God will expose his heart to me. If there is abuse and contempt in his heart for me and our children, that it’d be obvious.

          I’m so tired off these games and tired of feeling crazy. Maybe Jesus will come soon!

      • Shalom on October 11, 2016 at 5:34 pm

        Robin, this sounds an awful lot like my husband, only valuing his opinion. He wanted to take the kids to the park this past Saturday (during hurricane Matthew) and I took a screen shot on my phone of the weather report (we were not in the direct path of the hurricane but had high winds and rain predicted for the entire day). He wanted to ARGUE about the weather report???? His response was “it’s not supposed to hit until later in the afternoon” – he took the kids to the park b/c it “wasn’t raining” and they ended up getting soaked from the rain. One of my son’s just got over a upper respiratory thing about 5 days before….so draining to deal with someone who is never wrong, and even when they are proven wrong (in this case, not by me but by “mother nature”) there is still no acknowledgement of their error in judgement.

    • Aleea on October 9, 2016 at 7:53 am

      “. . . . Maybe Jesus will come soon!” —Yes, He’s our Great Reward!!!!! That would be absolutely wonderful but until then He commands us to “Occupy”. . .

      “. . . . my husband, he told me that as long has he doesn’t beat me or cheat on me, I have nothing to complain about. That I have it better than most women. That his coworker told him that she wishes her daughter had a husband like him.”

      1st thought. . . That is so, so, so infuriating. —This level of infuriating: re:”Mother, Daughter Describe Killing Husband With Anti-Freeze in Never-Before-Seen Interrogation Tapes” . . . and you know Wal*Mart, at least mine, always seems to have the Prestone Antifreeze on sale. . . .

      2nd thought, after I ask Christ to help me repent of my initial reaction. . . She who fights is powerless, but she who really loves is actually power itself. . . . When we aren’t curious in conversations we judge, we condemn, tell, blame, shame, often without even knowing it, which leads to even more conflict. . . . So, to clear my mind of that “husband” example, here is a case where I personally would never, ever have asked further questions to try to repair the relationship but would have instead just said nothing while getting angry and totally bitter. . . I know for me at home I don’t ask nearly enough questions, probably because I love just one-way lecturing. . . But when we aren’t curious in conversations it just leads to even more conflict. . . .Here is an example of being curious at two levels 1) asking questions instead of being bitter 2) doing research so you have some insight as to why (—I mean WHY??? A husband that would say that to his wife, for sport, has unbelievable levels of depth psychology-style issues.) . . .From Leslie’s chapter on conflict in “Praying Through Life’s Problems”, page 69: “. . . . Immediately tears welled up in my eyes and I blurted, “Sharon, this is so hard for me to say, but why haven’t you invited me over for dinner?” Stunned, Sharon answered, “I just don’t do dinners. I never have anybody over. My house is so small, I don’t like to cook, and I could never make anything as nice or as fancy as you, Leslie. I feel so inferior and insecure about those kinds of things. I never entertain.” . . .page 71 (the research): “. . . .When these girls were young, they were outspoken about their beliefs. They weren’t afraid to share what they felt even if it caused conflict. But as these young girls navigated through adolescence, they began to lose their identity. Niceness had become more important than honesty, and going along with the crowd was far more critical than conviction.” . . . . .Research gives us tools and insight, healthy face-to-face conflict forces us to be fully present because it shatters our egos, it strips away all hope of escaping or sugar coating things. It removes everything that is nonessential to our authentic being. It removes all superficial layers. Conflict is painful because it wakes us up out of our created illusions (. . .like my “husband” cares about me.) . . . But if we lean into it (I hate that too!!), conflict can be the catalyst to our relationship/spiritual enlightenment. . . . I say, if you choose to, do your research, seriously pray, ask questions, have more healthy face-to-face conflict, and pour God’s love out of you in pitcher fulls, not thimbles. ―Maybe, try various different controlled experiments, new approaches.

      . . . Now, as always, I’m bracketing off terminally interpersonally exploitative, psychotic, emotionally unavailable, terminally devoid of empathy, et.al. situations. There you are beyond behavioural tools, you need legal tools and even then the system is often frankly hostile. It is organized like this sick-o battlefield in which strategies of aggressive argument and psychological attack replace those of physical force. Even those who are well prepared are placed at a disadvantage by the systematic legal bias and institutional discrimination against them. It is just a fact that the legal system is designed to protect men from the superior power of the state but not to protect women or children from the superior power of men. . . .Anyways, there is even a higher place to go. . . As my counselor is forever telling me: “You cannot fix a problem in your world unless you’ve already resolved the underlying conflict within yourself. . . .Aleea, on the way to discovering everything that we love, we will find absolutely everything we hate, everything that blocks our path.”. . .And most of it is internal. If we can become healthy internally, in the very factory of ourselves where everything is being produced (the CORE), it will not matter as much that others are unhealthy. In fact, again, it may actually galvanize them into action. . . i.e. Again, the thought is this: What you are speaks so loud, I can’t even hear what you say. ―Oh, that so applies to me.

      . . . When your husband makes compassion, kindness, respect an option, you can be sure he has made you an option, as well. That’s a serious prayer concern.

  18. Robin on October 8, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Ann, it doesn’t sound like he has a genuine heart for you. When it comes to your children, I would not listen to his words. I would follow my heart.

  19. Remedy on October 9, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Hi Leslie…thank you so much for your teaching in this topic and for continuing to reach out to churches.
    Is there a transcript of the message you gave at the church, or would you be able to make it available? I would love to be able to give it to leadership of the church I attend, as the denominational leadership has been struggling for 3 years over this exact issue. Your message was so complete and articulate, yet brief for the initial seeker of answers. A written transcript that can be read and reread, along with Scripture references would be very helpful.
    Thank you and may the Lord continue to use you as a voice crying in the wilderness.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 9, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      I do, contact me privately and I can send it to you.

      • Shalom on October 11, 2016 at 5:38 pm

        Robin, this sounds an awful lot like my husband, only valuing his opinion. He wanted to take the kids to the park this past Saturday (during hurricane Matthew) and I took a screen shot on my phone of the weather report (we were not in the direct path of the hurricane but had high winds and rain predicted for the entire day). He wanted to ARGUE about the weather report???? His response was “it’s not supposed to hit until later in the afternoon” – he took the kids to the park b/c it “wasn’t raining” and they ended up getting soaked from the rain. One of my son’s just got over a upper respiratory thing about 5 days before….so draining to deal with someone who is never wrong, and even when they are proven wrong (in this case, not by me but by “mother nature”) there is still no acknowledgement of their error in judgement.

  20. Susan on October 10, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Leslie…. I found your site several months ago and am so thankful for it.
    I have been severely ill for 16 years and my husband and I have been together now for 27, we have 3 boys ages 28 1/2, 23, 19 and 3 grandchildren.
    My husband drank for everyday, for over 13 years and for a little over 2 years into my illness. His drinking got worse and worse over the years and there we’re so many arguments, verbally and physically.
    I did not know how to deal with it and would get so tired and beg and beg him to stop, but, it was only when I guess he saw that my illness was not going away and he had 3 young enough boys to look after, so he stopped.
    Sadly, he doesn’t see the damage and still has an attitude of not caring about my needs, thoughts and feelings.
    That is the problem.. and I end up being the one who is blamed.
    He is indifferent to everything I try and discuss with him and sits in silence, usually till I am so hurt and angry and won’t ever see or acknowledge any part of what he is doing wrong and never repents.
    I have to ask and ask him for help…. he helps but it seems he is resentful, is hard hearted and it had been around 2 years since I had stopped having sex with him due to his behavior towards me.
    Until I made the mistake in sharing with him “again” how much I want to make our marriage work, but, explaining to him how I feel and what I want from him. He says yes dear, but, it seems like he has to be pushed to show any caring towards me.
    My husband is preparing to go hunting with our son who lives out of town. I asked his wife if she was coming and she said she would decide last minute. Although they don’t stay here because I am ill and really tired of dealing with having to do so much and I can’t. I have also had attitude from them, her especially.
    Well, I want to know if she will come or not, because if she doesn’t then that means our son will be here for 5 days and that means being prepared. Planning, buying and preparing lunches, suppers and work. It seems she doesn’t get this and I told her this and she didn’t even give an answer to me but instead our son sent a text back saying she is NOW saying she will come UNLESS something comes up last minute.
    I don’t want to make assumptions, but, she doesn’t work and has our 8 month old son, I can understand if say she or he comes down with a cold or something. I mean I can understand something that would be understandable. But, I get the funny feeling it is just a “if I feel like it or not” or “if something fun or exciting comes up with her girlfriends”, they she will not come up.
    This caused an argument with my husband and he told me to not worry that I was over reacting, AGAIN>
    Sure, while he’s out enjoying his holidays hunting I’ll just do all the work at home and serve them their lunches and suppers. What don’t they understand and I am so upset that she just ignores me ALSO, as does my husband. I mean my husband knows the work I go through to get meals out on the table and the other stuff that is needed and how ill I am. I go through days where I am unable to do anything or very little and this is the attitude I get. Why doesn’t he think about it? Why does he make me sound like the lunatic?
    Then he gets mad and blames me and goes on about how ridiculous I am because she did give me an answer, but, of course she did, but, I am NOT going to last minute weigh on my husband and son hand in foot so they can have lunches and suppers. ALL I ASKED for was a heads up so I can prepare and no one cares.
    So, why do I even bother….
    So this whole scenario for the millionth time is my fault and he owns no part in it.
    Now, I am not doing anything… I told him. He said they’ll buy their lunches and suppers if our dil decides last minute not to come up. GOOD.
    I also don’t understand how so many in the Church don’t care about a sister who is ill and suffers as I do and many who also do besides myself can go around judging me/us for not going to Church, not doing any good works, when no one, not one person in all these years calls me, visits me for any kind of fellowship, reading of God’s Word and prayer?
    I have dealt with this dil not wanting me to come up with her mother when our grandson was born. I can’t drive and my husband and I would not be able to visit for several months.
    Her mother also was very mean and hurtful to me around our their engagment/wedding… I talked with her a month of so after their wedding and she admitted to her being not very nice and apologized. BUT, then she talked with her daughter, our dil and our dil would not come to our house until I apologized for hurting her mother. I don’t see anything I did to hurt her mother, as I confronted her with grace and love.
    I am tired and exhausted and scared! I am not without sin, as I’ve struggled in my illness, my husbands years of marriage and my own sin in our arguments. But, I have also felt trapped and sick and tired and don’t know what to do.
    I am so ill, I can’t work, I would not be able to support myself and know what my husband would be like if I left.
    I’ve had Christians that I thought I could share with, not many, but their response was that this is God’s will for my life and that I should have faith.
    I have been a born again Christian for 22 years and spend time in God’s Word and He is the One who has sustained me through all. But, I am just such a mess… always a mess… Seems to me the Church does not care much for those who are ill and suffering, for injustice, but they can go around flaunting their wonderful lives, travelling and entertaining themselves.
    Feeling so hurt, angry and lost!

    • Nancy on October 11, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      HI Susan,

      Have you read Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries? It’s based in God’s word and explains why guarding our heart is absolutely essential. When I realized that guarding my heart was not an option, but a command from The Lord, I began to take responsibility for my self ( my heart, my limitations, my needs etc….)

      We are responsible to The Lord first and foremost. If we operate from an empty heart, we are not honouring Him- no matter how hospitable we may seem.

      To be more direct, as an example of this: why don’t you decide what you can cheerfully give ( if anything) in terms of meals, and offer that? Let them know what you are, and not, willing to do. There is nothing wrong with saying no. In fact more than that, we are commanded to guard our heart- which will often result in a no.

      God Bless you!

  21. Beth on October 11, 2016 at 10:34 am

    http://www.healmylife.com/articles/counselling/bonding%20marriage%20&%2http://www.healmylife.com/articles/counselling/avoidant%20personality.html0silent%20divorce.html

    I found these (as well as many other blogs, posts, pages) to be helpful in understanding what was wrong with me. It was always me. “Can we talk? I am afraid we don’t communicate as well as we could” — “well Beth, if you think there is a problem/you’re unhappy, you need to look at yourself, I’m fine.” Of course he was, when one can avoid all responsibility, close themselves off, when the bottom falls out, of course it’s not their fault. Took 20 long years to realize all the red flags I ignored should have been heeded. Especially those warnings from his family. Bottom line, you cannot infuse happiness you have for life into someone determined to be unhappy. We all make our choices. Mine is to free myself from this pain.

    • Beth on October 11, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Sorry, you’ll need to separate those web addresses I order for them to work. Or simply search “the avoidant personality” or “silent divorce” – making sure it is on the “healmylife” website.

  22. Ruby on October 17, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Your answer, Leslie, is helpful, insightful and describes accurate traits of my husband.
    I have the same problem with my husband, though we’ve been married 7 years I can imagine this will go on for 30 years if I don’t change the ‘dance’. I’ve tried so many ways of approaching him and I haven’t found one that works—it seems it more depends on his mood that how I phrase things (and his mood is rarely receptive), but truly how I phrase things matters too. I will take a conscience effort to practice the steps you gave.

    One thing I’ve learned is that texting him or emailing him is even worse…no matter how nicely I try to write something, he most often reads it in a tone I was far from meaning. It is unbelievable how he twists what I write! Even the kindest thing, it is always sarcastic in his head. It is definitely crazy-making as I start to question whether I am kind or not.

    • Free on October 17, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Ruby, you are kind. It is him!

      • Ruby on October 26, 2016 at 11:55 pm

        Thank you, Free. To be called ‘kind’ feels like fresh water on my thirsty soul. I know I am, yet I long to hear it from him–even though I believe I ultimately answer to God for my actions, not him. What God thinks of me is most important to me, so I continue to seek God to guide me & teach me to walk stronger in the right way each day…and trust God with the outcome (whether I will have to leave or he will change).

    • Aleea on October 18, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      Ruby,

      re:“One thing I’ve learned is that texting him or emailing him is even worse” . . . I have never heard of that before because usually one can be very precise in texting and emailing, avoiding misspoken words. That means you can’t share anything. Re:“Even the kindest thing,. . . .” I would say that competent and very compassionate therapy for you, for any dissociation could maybe help you as a survivor to heal? If he can’t even receive “the kindest thing” as you say, I don’t know that people like that can ever get better, but I don’t “know” that. Professionals are all over the map with conclusions and the conclusions change with the decades, as they should because of newer research. . . . Anyways, kind things cause most good people to heal. . . . Remaining hopeful is essential. And it’s true that everyone has good and bad qualities. But hope must be tempered with a realistic view of the situation and an assessment of the likelihood of change. Everything is about probabilities no matter how hard they are to assign. I think this is a jail whose lock is broken. You can walk free whenever you act on the truth, and by so doing you show others an example of an end to madness. An example of freedom. . . . The damage comes from remaining passive and silent, absorbing criticism while your sense of personal power and self-esteem deteriorate.

  23. Libl on October 18, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    My husband acts similarly, but unlike this wife I have spent my years changing my dance. Most of my new dances still resulted in his same steps….until the last few arguments we had. I stopped defending myself against his defensiveness. I stopped trying to smooth over his anger. I countered his lies of blameshifting with blunt truth. And when he physically threatened me, I looked right into his eyes and told him to go ahead and hit me because then we could get real help. When the argument went in crazy cycle circles, I told him I was calling in a third party from church to mediate. When he tried to walk away, I told him he was going to stay and listen to me. (I am all for walk ing away to cool off and return later to resolve it, but he always walks away and leaves it unresolved, using the need to cool off as an,excuse to deflect and shut down.)

    It worked. He now listens to me better and is more willing to talk. There are still situations where I am darned if I do or don’t, and for those I must make a decision for, I pray pray pray and make the wisest decision I can without him. But, if it is something that isn’t necessary, like painting the bedroom, then I let it go.

    I HATE that in his mind he thinks I just want my way or the highway. No, I want his thoughts, opinions, discussion, input, wisdom, blessing, etc.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Good for you. Sounds like you are learning to stay well.

  24. Ruby on October 27, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Thank you, Aleea. I hear your empathy & compassion in your words. I hear the truth of what you write too. I am ‘changing the dance’. He doesn’t like it, but it is progress in the right direction for both of us whether he can see it or not.

    I don’t know what the future holds. I pray he will start to respect the stronger me–I can’t expect him to change overnight but I must see some progress and desire on his part. I trust God will show me when I have been patient long enough.

    • Aleea on October 27, 2016 at 6:23 am

      Ruby,
      I am praying he will start to respect the stronger you too. . . . You don’t need to know what the future holds, that is a snare. But patience is not an absence of action it is the right “timing” . . . .and Ruby, God will show you that. Patience is power because it builds while it waits for the right time to act and act on the right principles (—out of our CORE strength, with the Holy Spirit guiding, and wise others consulting) and that is the work we are doing while we are patient. It allows us to act in the right way (—out of our CORE). . . . My mother used to say to us kids “Cinderella is a perfect example to be” but I have learned that Cinderella might easily be studied as the worst example of everything. I always thought after the prince found Cinderella and they rode away in their magnificent carriage, after a few miles she turns to him and says, “Could you drop me off down the road please? Now that I’ve finally escaped my life of horrific childhood abuse, I’d like to see something of the world, you know? . . . .I’ll catch back up with you later, Prince, once I and Christ have found His way for my life.”

      There is nothing more sacred or profound than this day (right here, right now) and walking with Christ through it. A thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, those tiny moments of your courage “he doesn’t like it, but it is progress in the right direction for both of us” and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy running through some airport and waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every e-mail conversation, every meal, every meeting. . . .

      I’m not completely sure, but I believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration, not on tomorrow, but on the flowers growing in our own gardens (—you know what I mean), the children growing in our own homes (—or whatever your situation is, I don’t have children), this way of living . . . it opens up the heavens to us and can yield diamonds where a second ago there was coal (—like with your husband learning to really respect you). This way of living and noticing and building can crack through the ridiculous movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin (—right?), and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without ever realizing it. . . . It is like. . . . . The sailor, she does not just pray for wind, she learns to really sail while she is waiting.

  25. Ruby on October 27, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Thanks again, Aleea. I appreciate the things you said that I can ponder. This especially stands out “patience is not the absence of action…”! It’s true, I lean into patience for my situation as its hard to not have the security or peace in my marriage that God intends–yet it’s so true too that each day I must pay attention to be growing in my CORE strength with each moment of opportunity I face. This isn’t wasted time if God is refining me to honor Him, respect myself and love my husband without enabling him.

  26. Aleea on October 27, 2016 at 10:04 am

    “. . . .its hard to not have the security or peace in my marriage that God intends”. Ruby, I know it is. I know. . . . Maybe picture God saying to you –and- you saying this to yourself, “Let me take care of you forever.” Over the last few years, I have given up looking for that person outside of God and myself, I have learned how to say that heartening sentence to myself, especially in times of fear. To hear it from someone else now would be nice, especially from someone who is speaking sincerely but I have Christ and I also have myself. . . . . Ruby, people, generally, are equally insecure. They just show it (or hide it) differently.

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