I so appreciate your prayers. I was in Virginia Thursday and Friday morning and then drove to Maryland to speak at a women’s event Friday night and Saturday. What was supposed to be a 4 to 5-hour drive turned into a 7-hour drive from getting lost and dealing with Washington DC traffic. I was physically exhausted but God kept my energy high and my mind clear. It was all due to the prayers you sent up on my behalf. Thank you so much. It means so much to me.
For those of you who are interested in joining CONQUER, membership opens as of this evening after my webinar and will close again for another 6 months on May 12th. CONQUER is an ongoing educational and support group for women in destructive marriages. If you’d like more information about joining CONQUER click here.
Question: I am thrilled to have discovered your book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, after months of searching for a Christian perspective and understanding of what is happening to me. But still, even now, I have to ask… is the abuse real? Or am I just going crazy?
My situation has a particularly messy spiritual element to it. My husband has spent most of his life studying the Bible and theology, went to an ultra-conservative seminary, and regularly dissects God’s word as an academic/ scholarly pursuit.
In the course of our marriage I have been very submissive, have followed him to church environments that feel comfortable to him (even when I disagree with some of their beliefs, or I don’t align well with their culture and community). He has essentially rendered it impossible for me to have an opinion about anything, because he is the one who studied it, who knows more, and he stands on the side of truth. It is all very black and white to him.
I feel so many spiritual threats hanging over me. When I felt called to try a different church one time (and rightly so, as it deeply ministered to my crushed spirit)— he told me that I would have to face potential church discipline, perhaps be officially declared no longer a Christian. I have gotten to the point where I believe that as soon as I step “out of line” I will be sent straight to hell. For a while, I became terrified of God, terrified of all church leadership, and I subconsciously began to equate all of these things with my husband. It was as if “his word was God’s word” and it left me unable to defend myself or have an opinion. It was after that church incident that a friend of mine suggested that spiritual abuse is happening here, along with the many years of emotional abuse.
The thing is, I really believe that he loves me in his own way and doesn’t intend to harm me. He believes he is standing on the side of truth and that everything he says and does is for my own good. He doesn’t believe that he is attacking my personhood; he believes he is attacking my beliefs and ideas that need to be changed, according to him. I don’t know what to do. I’ve become such a shell of a person. I visited my mom recently and she observed “you used to have so many thoughts and ideas, you used to share with me everything you were learning and thinking…now you don’t even feel comfortable speaking.” It’s true. My voice is gone, my spirit is crushed.
I don’t currently have the support of the church in suggesting that he is abusive. If I were to consider leaving him, I would probably be excommunicated and as outlined in scripture, I’d be expected to return to him. I did read your book and felt a huge weight lifted, now that I’ve seen a name given to my experience and finally understand that I have choices within it…but the only support in my life right now is long-distance family and friends. I don’t have a local support system, and definitely can’t go to the church over this.
I am completely shackled and don’t know how to convince him that he has hurt me. He has said that if I feel like I have no voice, it is my fault I’m not using it, he would never take away my voice. Yet I only feel like I actually have a voice as long as it conforms to what he wants it to be. He really does not believe he is at fault in any way. He believes he is on the side of truth, on the side of God’s word. The abuse feels like such a gray area because there is no physical abuse or petty name-calling.
Is the problem all in my head? Am I going crazy? How do I know if God is for me or if he just wants me to stop complaining?
Answer: You ask, how do you know if the problem is real or is in your head? Look at the results. You say your spirit is crushed. Your mother said you are not the same person you once were. Your friend suggested that you’re a victim of spiritual as well as emotional abuse. What do you think God might be saying to you?
The problem is that your husband wants to be your god. He does not want you to have a relationship of your own with God, but only the relationship he decides for you to have. That is controlling and soul destroying.
Your husband’s problem is spiritual pride if he thinks he is always right and you are always wrong. He also desires to control your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions through spiritual intimidation. Implying that if you disagree, or choose to think or believe different than he does, you are not only wrong, but you are so wrong that God will send you directly to hell. You have no freedom to think for yourself what God might be saying to you since he does the thinking for both of you. You are not allowed to function as an adult but only as a small child. That is not God’s plan for you as an adult woman or as a wife.
You said that if you chose to attend a different church, you would be up for church discipline, even declared an unbeliever. That’s pretty scary and intimidating. It sounds as if the church you both attend also believes that their way is the only way and anything other than their way, is heresy.
You also say that you believe your husband loves you in his own way. If you call smothering someone to death love, then perhaps he might love you in his own way. But he is not encouraging you to flourish. He is not encouraging you at all because there is no you in the relationship. You exist to affirm his beliefs.
Here is what I’d like you to do. I’d like you to start reading God’s word for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to show up.
God is for you and not against you. – Click To Tweet
He doesn’t love men more than women or your husband more than you. He wants you to know Him for yourself and have your own relationship with Him, one that is not mediated by your spouse.
If you are to love your husband, what is in his best interests right now? Is it to submissively collude with his idea that he can do all the thinking for you? Is it to silently stand by his side and throw the stewardship of your own life and mind in the trash? Or, is it to take him up on his own words and use your voice to calmly and clearly say, “I disagree” or “No” or “I don’t want to” or “I don’t like that” or “I don't believe God’s word says that.” Perhaps his biggest need right now is to see he can’t be God for you. That is idolatry for him and for you.
He will want to argue with you because in his mind he is the expert and he’s always right. When he does that, tell him, “I’m not debating this with you. You are entitled to believe your way, but I am also allowed to see it differently. I am not you and I don’t see it the same way. You told me to use my voice and I am using it. If the Holy Spirit shows me I’m wrong, I will listen.”
Let me ask you a question. Do you have a voice in non-spiritual matters – such as what you wear, what you eat, how you spend money, where you go, who you are friends with? Does his control over you extend to these things as well? You said you’ve always been submissive, but does that mean you get no choices? No freedom to do what you want to do or spend your time like you’d like to spend it?
I suspect his control extends beyond the spiritual domain of theology. Again, your personhood is being squashed under the guise of Biblical headship. But as the expert, he surely knows Christ’s definition of headship does not include a leader squashing and controlling those under him. In fact, Jesus demonstrated to his disciples what he meant by leadership and headship when he showed them by washing their dirty feet.
Does your husband demonstrate a servant's heart? Does his head knowledge of theology translate into the application of service towards others? If not, I would question how “spiritual” he truly is. Satan knows more theology than you or I do but he does not follow or submit to God. As studious as your spouse is, his application of Biblical truth seems selective to the things that serve his desire to control and to judge.
Bottom line. You need some support, you need some fresh air and you need to gain CORE strength. I would highly suggest you start by attending my free webinar tonight or Friday afternoon – Click here to register for 5 Red Flags That Indicate You Are In An Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Also, consider joining CONQUER for added support (Click here for more information).
Friend: If you were being spiritually controlled, how did you break free of that oppressive control and the fear of God’s wrath if you disagreed?
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