Morning friends,

I am back in Phoenix for the week and boy oh boy is it hot. I forgot how hot it can get here. I can walk our dog for about 5 minutes and then we both are seeking shelter. She’s not used to it either. We both miss our long evening walks in the cool mountain air. But I will be heading back to Pinetop in another week. Haircuts and doctor’s appointments are local here, so we have to come back occasionally.  

But one highlight. We went to a Hugh Jackman concert last night and it was absolutely the best show I have ever been to. He is a fabulous entertainer and seemed like a genuinely good man. I loved how he honored his wife and marriage right at the beginning of the show. If you get a chance to see him, go. If you loved his movie The Greatest Showman and Les Misérables, you will not be disappointed.  

Question: Sometimes I was verbally abusive towards my husband. This came after mountains of neglect, rejection and emotional abuse. I sometimes doubt my reconciling on this matter. I think my response makes sense under my personal circumstances and yet I acknowledge it is my responsibility to amend those “reactions” to the abuse. 

I am unsure if this is healthy to do especially with an abuser. In fact, I know it is not a safe idea but in the past, he used these moments as evidence of my weaknesses and it was a weakness, but weakness that came from neglect, rejection, and abuse. 

Am I an abuser because I responded to his gaslighting and other tactics with sometimes intensity? Would you consider speaking to this in an upcoming blog post? 

Answer: I think you bring up some areas we need to consider and talk through in our blog community. There has been some discussion here about awareness and intent of abusive individuals. Some have said there can be immaturity and a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) that sometimes leads to people behaving poorly and being afraid of or resisting personal growth. 

Others see abusive behavior solely as a tactic to gain control, with an abuser having full knowledge of what he or she is doing. I believe Nancy defined that kind of individual as an evil person with the intent to do harm, where the foolish one might be more ignorant or immature, yet still capable of doing great harm.

You bring in a third category, a caring person who loses control of his or her tongue or temper when repeatedly being oppressed, abused, attacked or gaslighted and neglected. In my interactions with my mother (as I’ve talked about before), I think I had emotional and spiritual immaturity coupled with poor boundaries that allowed me to get so provoked, I would lose it and sometimes lob some verbal bombs back at her, which always left me feeling bad about myself and made only a negative impact on her. 

The roots of abusive behaviors might be different, but all these behaviors damage our human dignity and well-being as well as relationships, even if the reasons for doing so seem valid. Click To Tweet  

There is an interesting verse in Proverbs that says, “Excuses might be found for a thief who steals because he is starving” (Proverbs 6:30), yet it goes on to say the making of amends and/or restitution for stealing that bread is still required, even if he has to sell everything he owns. Those are strong words and serious consequences, even for someone who has a very understandable reason for stealing.

So to answer your question, yes there might be understandable reasons why we act a certain way, or your spouse acts a certain way. Yet the outcomes can be just as lethal regardless of the reasons. For example, if I drive drunk and end up killing someone, not intending to cause harm, I still do. If I drive reckless, texting while driving, I’m foolish and I don’t intend to cause harm, but I still do. Or I might have road rage because someone provoked me and I plow my car into their car because I’m upset. All cause someone else harm. Three different reasons and intents but the same outcome.

But I’d like to camp out a little more on reason #3. When we are provoked and provoked and provoked and exhausted and hurt and emotionally abused or shamed what are we to do? It’s certainly understandable that we would be tempted to hurl some of our own big rocks back towards the person who is doing us harm, but is that God’s way? Is that how evil is stopped, or does that just continue the evil and darkness to grow, to get stronger and more powerful in our heart, in our home, and in our world?   

This past Sunday my pastor gave a sermon on how to handle being unjustly treated. He used the movie Forty Two – The Jackie Robinson Story as an illustration of what Christ meant when he told us to turn the other cheek. In case you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend you watch it although it’s not suitable for young children and may cause some triggers. Jackie Robinson was the first African American man to be invited to play baseball in the major leagues. Harrison Ford played the Dodger’s owner who recruited Jackie. He had a heart to heart with him before he signed him on. 

He said something to the effect, “I know you can play amazing ball, but can you control your temper?” Because, he knew that Jackie Robinson as the first African American on a major baseball team would suffer from people’s prejudice, racial slurs, verbal abuse, and even threats to his family. Would Jackie be able to show the world that was watching all of this take place something they didn’t expect? Could he show a black man who, when mistreated, even when provoked, didn’t retaliate but overcame that evil with good?  

Jackie was a Christian. He knew that his mission wasn’t just about baseball, or defending his honor, it was about a movement. A change God wanted to make in the culture, in humanity and the way people viewed African Americans. Had Jackie retaliated with his own verbal abuse everyone would have understood, but no one would have been impressed. His strength of character showed up by not retaliating but by turning the other cheek and walking away. Continuing to fight for justice and the rights of African American’s to play sports, but not returning abuse to abusers. Today he is still honored and celebrated in baseball by all. 

Yes, it’s hard not to let evil, shaming, manipulative, demeaning people get the best of us. But when they do, and we stoop to their level, we become like them instead of showing them and our children and the community that we are NOT like them. You are not an abuser because you have woken up and recognized your wrong and stopped engaging in abusive behaviors. Had you instead justified or excused them, then how are you different from abusers who do their own excusing making? 

But your other question was “should I make amends if I know the person will continue to use that against me?” That’s another interesting dilemma. In Alcoholics Anonymous, steps 8 and 9 speak to the importance of amends making in your own recovery and growth. AA says, Step 8: Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

This 9th step has an exception. If the amends would do the other person more harm, such as retriggering them if you sexually abused them. Or would harm someone else in his or her life, then don’t make amends directly. But you could still make amends, by donating money to a domestic violence center or a rape crisis center or volunteer your time in helping someone else as amends.  

However, your question was, if making amends causes you more harm should you confess wrongdoing or make amends? The verse in Proverbs would indicate that at least sometimes it’s important to make amends even when it costs you to sacrifice financially.  

Studies have been done with doctors who have made a mistake in surgery – like cutting off the wrong arm, or with a patient who died during a routine surgery due to some physician error.  

They found when doctors went into self-protective mode after their error (I probably will be sued for this so I’m not going to talk to the patient’s family about what I did wrong), they were more likely to be sued.  However, when a doctor was humble and honest, even with his or her mistake, a lawsuit was less likely, but no guarantees.

I understand that an abusive person who does not own his or her own wrongdoing finds great joy in rubbing salt in the wounds of another’s confession. And it may not be safe for you or a former victim to have any contact whatsoever with her abuser.  

Therefore, I think this is a question you will have to wrestle through with the Holy Spirit guiding you, without allowing the condemning spirit of Satan make you feel afraid to do it, or not do it. If you make amends, do it for you, not for him.

If he rejects it or makes it ugly, that is on him, but you know that you have done what God called you to do. And if making amends would tempt him to do more evil towards you, then perhaps for his welfare and yours, it’s best to stay away from him and ask God to help you make your amends in a way that is good for all.

Friends, how have you made amends when you know you have caused harm, even if you felt provoked or justified in the moment?

74 Comments

  1. R on July 17, 2019 at 7:58 am

    This is excellent. It would be so easy just to excuse ourselves, saying, “After all I’ve been through, it’s justified.” But God doesn’t let us justify sin, and as Leslie indicates here, it sullies our own hearts. I needed to read this because I’ve recently been convicted about having a sharp tongue.

  2. Janice D on July 17, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I was convicted to ask for forgiveness from from husband for losing my temper and yelling at him.It was wrong and I knew God wanted me to see this.It didn’t improve our relationship and I separated from him last year.I allowed my hurt and frustrations to build and that was my part to own. Unfortunately he hasn’t owned his part,thus the separation.I think it is part of how God grows us.We shouldn’t beat ourselves up especially if we are in survival mode in a destructive marriage.We also shouldn’t make excuses for our bad behavior.God doesn’t condemn but he does convict.It is for our own health and well being to look at our behavior in a gracious and truthful manner.

  3. Me on July 17, 2019 at 11:21 am

    I can do relate to this. Last fall, I blew up at my husband. He was just being so… He had been regularly telling me that he thought he should leave as a manipulative tactic and had accused me of inappropriate relationships with men at church and then making a mock of it in front of the children. Our oldest daughter and my dearest friend had just married and moved away. I cracked. It was ugly and I was ashamed to say the least. I apologized to my children, and my husband… later. I also told him that was when I realized things were really not OK, I was going to get help and counseling and was going to seek it even if he wasn’t going to with me. I also started to learn to stand up for myself, respectfully and walk away. “Talk to the hand…” Things aren’t any different, he still gets angry if I ask him to put gas in the car, money for groceries, etc., or blows up, but for the first time in a LONG time, I am starting to be able to think clearer and focus. I can respond and not react, I can walk away. I am so grateful for good and godly counsel. Love and prayers to you all.

    • JoAnn on July 18, 2019 at 12:05 am

      Dear Me, the next time he threatens to leave, perhaps you should agree to help him pack! Call his bluff to let him know you are not affected by his threats. Don’t cave in to threats; that just encourages him to continue to use them to manipulate you. congratulations on getting clearer about his tactics! Good for you!

    • Jo on July 20, 2019 at 11:21 am

      When my husband threatened to leave, I answered him calmly. I told that I was going to keep him home if he didn’t want to be there. I said he was free to choose. He threatened the same thing a few months later. I gave him the same response. It’s been about a year, and he hasn’t done it again. It was a victory for me, because these times I kept my composure and responded maturely. It also took the power out of his threats. However, his behavior toward me is worsening over time.

      Both he and my dd say I am scariest when I speak calmly and definitely. It is not because I am behaving badly, but they both know I mean what I say and am telling them firmly where my boundary is on the situation at hand.

      • Jo on July 20, 2019 at 11:23 am

        wasn’t going to keep, not was

        • JoAnn on July 20, 2019 at 6:33 pm

          Jo, you handled that really well, but you said that his behavior has worsened over time, so I wonder: what are your long range plans? Are you putting more boundaries in place? Why are you tolerating worse behavior? If it’s not getting any better, do you have support in place if you have to leave quickly? Are you documenting the behavior so you can use it in court if necessary? If his behavior is escalating, then it sounds like you need to be making some plans.
          Please be careful.

  4. Kristi Holl on July 17, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Sometimes I have apologized in a note so that no mud-slinging in return could take place. Also, I have made it clear that I was NOT taking full responsibility for the fight or absolving him of all responsibility, but just apologizing for my part. Once I said that I was not apologizing for the words I said (they were right and true), but I had no business yelling and interrupting (when he started in with his blame-shifting). It didn’t change anything with him, but I felt “cleaner” and was able to stop reacting. There’s nothing like having to eat humble pie as a motive for controlling one’s tongue!

    • Barbara B on July 17, 2019 at 6:19 pm

      I agree with the benefits of a brief written note or text. It prevents the argument being restarted and protects from salt rubbed in the wound by gloating or by a “gotcha” response. I think it’s important not to give the abuser a voice in the apology, though. As Leslie said, make amends for you, not for him. The abuser doesn’t get to complain about the way you react when he abuses you. If he abuses you and then doesn’t like your response to his abuse, there’s a simple solution: He can stop abusing (duh!).

  5. Mary on July 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    I apologized to my daughter’s abuser, after I had said something hurtful about him. And, sure enough, he used it against me. In that sense, by humbling myself and verbally apologizing to him, I enabled him to continue his abusive ways.

    I don’t know the answer to this conundrum, other than to pray and seek the Spirit’s guidance, as LV recommends. I do know that forgiveness comes from a sense of compassion, but that’s often what is missing in an abuser’s psyche.

    Would I do it again? I honestly don’t know.

    • Nancy on July 17, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      This sounds to me, Mary – from what you’ve written- that Leslie’s last piece of advice applies: if you apologizing to him then tempts him to do more evil towards you, then for his welfare and for yours, you find another way to make amends.

      I think for many abusers, a person humbling themselves is too strong a temptation to not treat as a wide open target.

      • Aly on July 18, 2019 at 10:14 pm

        Nancy,
        Well said!!
        I have experienced this on many levels.

      • JoAnn on July 20, 2019 at 12:32 am

        For many situations, receiving the Lord’s forgiveness by the cleansing of His precious blood, is enough to cleanse our conscience. In my opinion, the only time it is necessary to make amends, or restitution, is if there has been actual damage. I think the “gray area” is whether or not an apology is necessary, and that, I think is a difficult area to discern. I agree with Leslie and Nancy and Aly, that if it gives fuel to the abuser, then it is best to leave it alone. Maybe this is an example of casting one’s pearls before swine. Confessing and repenting to the Lord Himself should be enough.
        I know of a situation where a man was engaged in an emotional affair (I don’t think there was ever any sex involved), but the fellowship was that it would do more harm than good for him to tell his wife, since she didn’t know anything about it. He made amends by severing his relationship with the other woman, and he remained faithful to his wife for the rest of her life. I think she would have been destroyed to know what he had done.

  6. Ann on July 17, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    I believe the key is Holy Spirit’s guidance, as Leslie stated. I have said things to my husband that I was convicted by God on and needed to apologize for. And, yes, he became very smug and took it as justification for his behaviour. But there have been other times when I felt guilty about something I said but God told me not to apologize, very clearly. If we carry a false sense of guilt, as I have, then we may feel we need to make amends for something unnecessarily.

    • Nancy on July 17, 2019 at 10:10 pm

      Seriously apologizing for everything used to be a way of life for me. So many of our family interactions were just so HEAVY. Then one day, I started to notice my daughters doing the same thing. Serious guilt ridden apologies over things that were simply human mistakes.

      It felt so good to begin acknowledging mistakes in a much lighter way, “oops, I forgot to pick up the milk on the way home” instead a heavy apology. I remember my h being very confused by this change (especially when I would openly say to our girls, “you don’t need to apologize for that, a simple “oops is plenty acknowledgment”)

      That ‘false guilt’ you speak of, Ann, is invidious. I need the Holy Spirit to discern because it seems to be my fuel when I’ve been triggered.

      • Aly on July 18, 2019 at 10:17 pm

        Nancy,
        I’m glad you touched on this word-fuel.
        It can also work towards the abusers ‘fuel’ of entitlement and expectation from someone they are used to walking all over and someone who tolerates their ‘junk’!

  7. Ann on July 18, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    I identify with what you describe Nancy. Learning the difference between God’s conviction and false guilt has been a huge part of my healing process. I was raised with lots of false guilt. It was already deeply ingrained when I married.

  8. Mary Betsy on July 20, 2019 at 12:48 am

    I have been married 31 years and after his many betrayals I am leaving the relationship to him. If he wants to talk and work things out he know where to find me (so far he doesn’t). But I can’t seem to be anything but cold to him and I don’t feel right about it. He likes a shallow relationship but with physical intimacy. I don’t want a relationship at all without trust. It seems to be a stalemate. I don’t like that I can’t seem to be “civil”. I want to honor God even in a bad relationship.

    • Moon Beam on July 22, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      He wants sexual activity not physical intimacy. They are two different things.

      It is natural to feel repelled when you are treated badly. I find it more concerning when spouses are attracted to someone who harms them. I think those cases are harder to treat.

      Your responses are normal and healthy. You have honored God by valuing yourself. He has a purpose for your life and it is not to be ignored, used, mistreated and manipulate under the guise of Your are stuck in a contract that was labeled as marriage when it is nothing like a marriage at all.

      • Moon Beam on July 22, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        under the guise of marriage. You are stuck—

    • JoAnn on July 22, 2019 at 11:48 pm

      Mary Betsy, are you still living together? If he has broken trust “many” times, then your coldness is a natural response to the lack of trust in your relationship. If the betrayals include infidelity, then you would be fully justified to leave the relationship. Your heart has been wounded, and the coldness is a normal defense mechanism to protect you from further harm. You must learn to protect your heart. If you do not have a counselor, that would be a good first step.

    • Aly on July 23, 2019 at 9:21 am

      Mary Betsy,
      Moonbeam and JoAnn gave you some really good feedback and questions.
      In your comment, you wrote you want to honor God in a bad relationship.
      How you are defining the relationship is really important to your posture of wanting to honor God.
      If you define the relationship ‘as bad’, this seems pretty general but you also touched on ‘many betrayals’ and trust issues. With these things in the relationship it doesn’t just make a relationship ‘bad’ in my opinion, it can often make a relationship-not a real relationship, where you are being used. It can also make an Unsafe relationship given the trust issues on your spouses part.
      Maybe the question is -Is it good and wise for me to be in a relationship that is unsafe and is this honoring God?

      A relationship where you are being used is not a relationship in essence and therefore you are Not honoring God in a fake one or loving a spouse well who has continued to abuse the trust that a relationship should have and especially in the context of covenant marriage.

      In my own situation with wanting to honor God in relationships, it came down to realizing that individuals who want to use me and are not wanting a relationship where two people exist… does not honor God at all. Sometimes not having any relationship is the safest way to honor God in these circumstances.
      This isn’t simple or with little pain, it’s excruciating to face things where we have at some level been in denial about for a long time. But I continued to find my answers and truth in the Scriptures. Look at Jesus’s commands and how they are aligned.
      I hope His love, commands, and truth give you courage and strength!

  9. NLA on July 21, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    My husband and I just had our 20th anniversary. We have had some really great seasons and some really ugly seasons. I have come close to separating on three different occasions during those years. This has been horrific and tragic for me because my dream has always been to have a happy, peaceful and loving family for my kids. I didn’t have that as a child and more than anything I have wanted to give that to my children. This website has been life changing for me and given me strength and conviction during times of complete anguish and confusion. Recently, we went through a period of emotional separation including a complete lack of physical intimacy. Of course I was fine with it but he didn’t enjoy it at all and one day decided that he wanted to reconnect. I was honest with him and said that because of his behaviors that I felt no desire to physically reconnect and that I needed time. Since then, he has been super nice and loving and I have given in to his desire for intimacy. However, I still don’t feel motivated to be intimate with him and I have been secretly resentful of having to be intimate to keep him happy. Also last night, he was expecting to be intimate and I was almost unconsciously sabotaging it by being impatient and rude. I feel SO SELFISH for this and I don’t know what to do to “fix myself”. This is the text I sent him this morning because he is not home right now. “Hi honey, I’m sorry about the way I acted last night. I understand completely why you may be upset. I love you. I have really enjoyed our time together lately and hope that we can reconnect soon. ” He didn’t respond for a while but then said he didn’t want to talk by text and that we would talk about it later. I’m so torn up about what is going on in my head. Am I just frigid, cold, and prudish or am I selfish, rude, and unforgiving, or all of the above? He believes that I punish him by withholding sex and what if I am doing that unconsciously? I just truly want to do the right thing but I am fighting my human nature. And on top of that I don’t even know what the right thing is anymore. I am a ball of confusion and am tossed around by the waves of his loving behaviors and his unloving behaviors. At times, I am so sure that he is emotionally abusive and at times I wonder if I’ve been too sensitive because of my childhood. I am desperate for God to tell me do this and do that, etc. but I’m just not hearing anything. I could probably write for hours on this so I better quit now before I turn this into “War and Peace”. Haha. Actually that’s a good description of the last 20 years. Anyway, I don’t know what I hope to gain by writing this as I have never ever put a comment into a blog but I thought it couldn’t hurt to see if anyone has any words of wisdom for me that could clear my head and conscious a little. Thank you for reading this post and Leslie, thank you for this blog and community.

    • Free on July 23, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      What are some of the reasons you felt the need to protect yourself from your spouse emotionally? Has he permanently changed any of those behaviors? It seems from what I gather that what he cares about most is sex. It took your withdrawal from him sexually to “act nice.”

      The confusion you feel is manipulation. Your spouse is manipulating and asserting his control by dismissing your text communication. He is probably emboldened now that he conquered you sexually.

      I hope you are in counseling. The loss of the fantasy relationship you hoped to live is a difficult loss. We often deny the truth when we really want something to be as we dream. Abusive relationships are complex to navigate wisely. Information is power. Study the subject, pray and get a few trusted people speak truth into your life. Glad this site is helping you.

      • Nancy on July 30, 2019 at 6:42 am

        NLA,

        Free put her finger on what struck me most about your post -from what you have written, you have worked for years to create your fantasy family.

        Stepping into truth will force you to lose that, and that will hurt. This is why you need good counselling because the motivation to avoid this pain is plenty to keep you in fantasy for another 20 years.

        You need someone to walk alongside you as you grieve the loss of what you never had.

        The good news is that truth is where Christ operates. As you deal with reality, He will become more and more real too.

        • Corie on November 11, 2019 at 10:48 pm

          “as you grieve the loss of what you never had.” THAT’S where I’m at. Finally, words to express my heart… a dream, an illusion, expectations based on promises that never materialized, or just materialized briefly as a means to an end… And though I recognize it, I still grieve…

    • Libbie on July 23, 2019 at 1:44 pm

      Wow. You are living and describing my life. This is exactly what I’m dealing with. The roller coaster of emotion…..the being nice, and then being mean. I deal with this too, and have felt like a ping pong ball bouncing everywhere. Sometimes I feel like I should give him just one more chance (we separated in Feb), and other times I realize that it will never work. Prayers for you! I know it’s hard! I pray for God’s strength for you. I have asked and asked God what to do as well, and haven’t heard His voice or nudging yet either.

      • JoAnn on July 23, 2019 at 11:21 pm

        Libbie and NLA, your confusion is normal under the circumstances, and you really are not going to be able to sort it out without having a therapist to work it out with. Free’s advice is spot on. This kind of situation is difficult to navigate without help. Read Leslie’s book, watch Patrick Doyle’s YouTube videos, and learn what you can about the nature of abusive relationships. God’s relationship with us is steadfast and immovable; a marriage that is a roller coaster does not express what God wants for a relationship.

  10. Autumn on July 21, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I think it is important to remember that some of us have no amends to make. We were victimized thru and thru.

    There is no need to place blame upon ourselves when none is warranted. Of course we need to examine ourselves if God is convicting us of guilt. However, it is very likely that our abuser has just invaded our brain with a hefty dose of blame shifting.

  11. Free on July 28, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I am thinking this morning about the slain college student from Ole Miss. Fellow students have begun to speak out about her on again/off again boyfriend who has been accused of murdering her.

    What stands out to me and what motivates me to post is that friends of the victim say there were many times they comforted the woman and pointed out the concerning behavior of her boyfriend. She is reported to have replied that she saw the good in him.

    It is the phrase “saw the good in him” that I want to park on. What? Why do we do this? Partner A is horrible over and over yet, at certain times partner A is kind of likeable.

    Ladies and gentlemen, partners don’t hang on to the miniscule episodes of good and over look the prevalent and ongoing terrible. See the log not the speck so to speak. Over and over I have heard the defense of terrible actions by romantic partnerst and convoluted into good people by their mates.

    I am wondering what kind of person or personality continues to defend their abusive spouse? Why do they do that? What is wrong with their brain? Are they groomed for such a thing or just naive and too trusting?

    I would like to end by saying, if I just described you, you deserve better. Find a person who is upstanding and good all the time. Find one who apologies when they are wrong and then changes their behavior. Stop trying to explain away foolishness or evil and find a partner that the slightest hint of such behavior is non existent.

    • Free on July 28, 2019 at 9:21 am

      Should read:

      Over and over I have heard the defense of terrible actions by romantic partners somehow convoluted into a report of good by their mates.

    • Barbara B on July 28, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      Free, these are such good questions about the concept of seeing the good in someone. Do you think this is kind of a romantic ideal in our culture? I’m thinking of movies like The Breakfast Club. Molly Ringwald’s character became romantically attached to a clearly antisocial,
      angry boy but it was portrayed in the movie as a wonderful thing for both of them. It seems that our culture glorifies “follow your heart” and everything will turn out roses and butterflies.
      I think seeing the good in people is a beautiful concept up to a point but it has to be in conjunction with wisdom and common sense. And you’re right, we shouldn’t date or marry someone whose good is so deeply hidden.

      • Free on July 28, 2019 at 8:30 pm

        Thanks, Barbara. I just keep wondering about this idea. I recently spent time with a college friend. She has just started living with a man who is separated from his third wife. That wife claims he is abusive. I googled his name and found a number of charges against the man.

        Another friend and I did a kind of mini intervention with her. She defended him thru and thru. She said she sees the good in him. What?!

        So for whatever reason, I am pondering this concept. A 20 percent good rate isn’t enough for me. How is she blind to the other 80 percent? I think for her, it comes down to not valuing herself. At one point during our girlfriend intervention she said, “So what, I’m a loser and he’s a loser. We are a good match.”

        How do we help people embrace and honor their value? I can’t figure that one out either.

        • Barbara B on July 28, 2019 at 10:16 pm

          Lord help. I’m really sorry to hear that about your friend. I will pray that God will open her eyes to see the truth you spoke to her!

        • Nancy on July 29, 2019 at 7:42 am

          HI Barbara and Free,

          The Beauty and the Beast. He’s an angry abusive beast, until her love saves him and he is transformed.

          So….what are they thinking? They want to save him. They want to be ‘the difference maker’.

          Unfortunately, it’s pretty normal.

          • Free on July 29, 2019 at 9:14 am

            Good comparison with Beauty in the Beast. I would add pretty common, not pretty normal.

            I just wonder how we change that kind of thinking? I guess the answer to everything is studying God’s word, believing in it and applying it to our lives.



          • Libbie on July 29, 2019 at 3:00 pm

            I hate to say it, but I see myself in these comments. I keep thinking if I love him better, understand him more….He can transform into the man that he was meant to be. Maybe my husband has put that in my head though…..saying I don’t “lift him up enough” to be a better man. He says I make him feel beaten down, by the “tone” that I set in the house.



          • Barbara B on July 29, 2019 at 3:01 pm

            Look at these awful lyrics from the song “Something There” from Beauty and the Beast:

            There’s something sweet, and almost kind
            But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined
            And now he’s dear, and so unsure
            I wonder why I didn’t see it there before

            New, and a bit alarming
            Who’d have ever thought that this could be?
            True, that he’s no Prince Charming
            But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see



          • Nancy on July 30, 2019 at 6:46 am

            I agree Free, reading the Bible and applying it. What I meant by ‘normal’ is that it is the norm.

            So yes, common. Not one bit healthy.



  12. Ann on July 29, 2019 at 10:08 am

    As I read the discussion, my heart aches for those of us who hurt ourselves in believing in the good in someone else. Looking for the good is not wrong in itself, it is the blindness in not seeing the truth. God wants us to see the best in others but as Leslie teaches so well, it doesn’t mean being blind to sinful behavior. Speaking for myself, as a child, I was told repeatedly that my perceptions of people were wrong, that I was too negative, not a nice little girl. I grew up believing if I saw or sensed anything negative in someone, I was the guilty party. Fast forward, I can see where that groomed me for my current marriage and inlaws. I grew up with a self absorbed mother, not outrightly abusive but emotionally absent. I turned an emotionally starved blind eye to the negatives in people, hoping for affection. If I was nice enough I wouldn’t see the negative in people then I would be loved. Couple that with a man who is excellent at putting a good front on when it benefits him, Jekyl and Hyde, and you have a mess waiting to happen. So, is it possible that others who blindly believe the best in people, despite abuse, are emotionally starved children inside as well?

    • Barbara B on July 29, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      This reminds me of a passage in the book Boundaries that goes something like this: What happens when an overfunctioning boundaryless person meets an underfunctioning person who disrespects the boundaries of others? They get married!

      • Ann on July 29, 2019 at 5:24 pm

        Sadly, too true!

        • Corie on November 11, 2019 at 10:56 pm

          My life right there…

      • El on August 2, 2019 at 12:10 pm

        Oh wow, that is so true! Too bad I didn’t read that book before I married my ex-husband…funny thing is, when our marriage was falling apart because of his abuse, I talked to his sister about it, and she recommended that book!

    • Free on July 29, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      Ann, there must be lots of voices in your head. Patrick Doyle calls then the committee in your head. They are the erroneous messages you were taught at various times in your life. One by one kick them out of your head.

      When you identify a thought, try to remember who the speaker was. Who taught you this nonsense? Imagine you taking your foot and giving them a good firm boot out of your mind. Say to your self, Now what do I think about that subject? Harness every thought as the come up and replace them with what you think today.

      • Ann on July 29, 2019 at 5:26 pm

        Thanks Free! Learning to work on that. Patrick Doyle’s videos have been a huge help!

  13. Free on July 29, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Barbara, I felt the same way about Phantom of the Opera. Abuse and stalking.

  14. Free on July 29, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Libbie, God doesn’t need your help to transform your husband. Let the creator of the universe handle him. You dear, are only responsible for yourself.

    • Free on July 29, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      Oh, and you can’t make him feel anything. He is 100 percent responsible for his every word, thought and deed. Not you!

      The “lift him up” means he thinks you are there to serve him and are responsible for his emotional well being. Don’t buy into it. Again, only God can fill your husband’s empty spots and twisted thoughts. Surrender him to God’s ultimate wisdom, power and authority. Get yourself out of the way and then realistically assess your life situation. Make a plan for your life, not his.

      • Libbie on July 30, 2019 at 9:02 am

        Thank you for saying that, Free. I need to read that daily. He was raised with a mother that was verbally abusive, and so he either expects someone to build him up from all that, or tear someone else down to that level. I’m not so sure which it is. He is very structured and routine (maybe control issues), and views my laid back, go with the flow attitude as disrespectful and chaotic. He says I “push his buttons”. Sometimes my heart breaks for him, because I see the hurting little boy in him, and it causes me to excuse or forgive his sins so readily. But thank you for telling me that he is responsible for his actions…..so true! And I do need to surrender him to God. It’s just so hard to do. I pray it all the time, and tell God that I’m handing it all over to him. It is not up to me to try to open up his eyes. But when he comes to me sad, defeated by his own actions….it’s hard to turn my back to him and turn off my compassion.

        What do you suggest to do during these times? Not even answer him?

        Thanks to all for your support, stories, and truth.

        • Free on July 30, 2019 at 8:08 pm

          Yes, don’t answer him. It is a manipulative ploy. If you respond you reinforce the behavior and enable his dysfunction. He is a grown man. He can handle his own emotions.

  15. Sandra on July 30, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    I can identify with so much of what is written in this blog. The roller coaster ride of my marriage, and Jekyll and Hyde complex, walking on eggshells, the wonderful generous caring guy to the outside people and someone quite different in the home and our relationship, the ‘good qualities’ and nice times, and the abusive behaviours and words and silences. This is a 49.5 yr marriage and he has health issues now that have shut off most activities, social outings, holidays, etc. and keep him in the house most of the time. I get so so lonely at times, guilted when I keep busy out of the house, bored and alone in the house, confused..yes, stressed…yes, but I keep praying for a transformation and miracle of healing and deliverance, an awakening to God’s design for him. I am going to an abuse woman’s centre since Dec 2018 for support groiup teachings and advocate sessions. It has been eye opening but I find it hard to apply. The old patterns and thoughts, habits are hard to change, and the wounds deep. BUT God, so I seek His healing, and prayer, and have had Christian counselling in the past. He NEVER agrees to get counselling or tell others what he is really like. I don’t want to leave a generational curse and legacy of divorce on our children and grand-children which, coupled with fear of going it on my own, has kept me here so long. And, I do love him, but also find it very hard to do so often. My home has become a mess, which it never was in the past years but I do not seem able to keep it in order and decluttered any more. I symptom I suspect. I feel so disappointed in the loss of the dream marriage and even, the hope that after he retired from workalholism, things would improve. Instead, he is health compromised and miserable. Well, I have vented and am trying to do whatever I can, and ‘let go of him and leave him with God’ because I can’t help him, change him, or cure him. I am so tired, unsure of myself, and trying to centre my heart and thoughts and life on Christ and asking Him to Change Me. Sorry if this is too long and it is only my second time writing to this site/blog.

    • Free on July 30, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      Sandra you sound very trapped. Can you arrange home health aides to give you respite care? I am glad you are in a support group. That is so important for you because you have had so many years of abuse. It will take time to heal your mind. I am glad you are on this site.

      I think we have to remember not to elevate marriage to something it is not. Christ came to die for individual sinners, not for marriage. There is marriage in heaven either. So let’s keep it in perspective marriage has value but not greater value than your soul. Your present relationship is crushing your spirit. You need to get away from it often and regularly. Erase the guilt, enjoy what is left of your golden years. Listen to your gut, not your guilt.

      Satan condemns, Christ brings life. Live, love and rejoice. You did more than your duty. Let your sick partner feel the brunt of his illness. The consequences of his sin is good for him. Don’t buffer his pain.

      • Free on July 30, 2019 at 9:40 pm

        Should read…there is no marriage in heaven.

    • Ann on July 30, 2019 at 11:04 pm

      Sandra, you are an amazing woman! The guilt you carry is not from God. Guilt comes from the enemy and feels like a massive dark load. This is a healthy and safe place to reach out! The sharing on here has been a tremendous blessing and help to me.

    • Libbie on July 31, 2019 at 8:43 am

      Sandra, you spoke of 49.5 years of a Jekyll/Hyde marriage, and after 6 years of this in my own marriage, and him being 14 years older than me…..it was an eye opener for me. It was like I could see into my future if I let my situation continue. He is in his 50’s and me early 40’s….and he already has many small health issues that could eventually worsen or “snowball” into serious health conditions. I KNOW this will make me sound selfish– but do I want to hang around for that? It’s scary. I love my husband, and hate the thought of him being old and alone. But if he was loving, kind, humble….I would love to be there to care for him. But sacrificing your happiness, emotional health, and life to be there for someone who talks down to you, ridicules you, etc…..That’s not God’s plan. For your life or mine. I pray you find an outlet/hobby to enjoy life. We only get one. Prayers for you.

  16. Michelle Mosher on July 30, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    I grew up always being told not to “rock the boat!” I realized that I was encouraged to give it up or give in to my younger sister ie. front seat of the car, choice of bedroom, or she would have a full on fit. My mother didn’t deal with her behaviors and I was not the priority in any conflict. I realized with therapy that within my marriage I continued this pattern. Not voicing my opinion or standing up for myself. My H did not like conflict and I was an enabler. I too looked for the good in him and make excuses for his lack of boundaries. I was deemed emotional and ridiculous. His gas lighting, lies, and infidelity was in my head. Most people were shocked when having had enough of his emotional abuse, I left. I sent him texts and emails out of anger. I felt I had not had a voice in my marriage and now I did. I am not proud of how I responded. I know it just made me look crazy which is what the narcissist H probably delighted in. I finally realized that it held me to him through my anger.I deleted his contact out of my phone and apologized that I had not had an apology ever from him or the ability to confront him in the marriage and that had left a void of closure. I no longer felt a need to continue and it was freeing to delete him finally from my life.

    • Free on July 30, 2019 at 8:13 pm

      Bravo! Good work. Yes, delete contact and block number. Set yourself free.

  17. Autumn on July 30, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I would like to see the post about how a repentant abuser should make amends to their victim/partner. Ha!

    Joking aside. Lundy Bancroft takes a great stab at this topic in one of his books. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology, it is unlikely to occur as many abusers are capable of abuse because they are steeped in denial. They dissociate too, imagining that it is not really them being abusive. To them it is their justified personality, not their imagined “real” self. Yet, in reality they are doing the abuse and they are responsible for their actions, even if they pretend it comes from outside of them.

  18. leaningonhope on July 31, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Hi Leslie,

    I have a question- actually I have many questions- about how to deal with my husband. I will try to put this in a nutshell but I doubt I will be able to.

    A little backstory: We are separated, have been for almost a year. We’ve been married for 8 years, and we are a blended family. My children are adults and on their own; his 2 children are middle/high school age and live with him part-time. Adulthood for them is about 5 years away.

    There are multiple reasons for our separation. Just in the year (2018) prior to separating, I confronted him about having an emotional affair with a coworker; he punched holes in the walls of our home; his children were questioned by Child Protective Services as they were so violent with each other and I was blamed for calling in the incident (I didn’t call); we tried blended family counseling and issues were swept under the rug; our marriage counselor encouraged us to separate our finances, which I was against, but we did it. In the span of 2 months my husband depleted all savings that were in his “new” control (including his children’s) and started going into debt with credit cards and bank loans (prior to this we lived debt-free). Then he gave his 2-weeks’ notice at his job and made plans to move out, closer to where his children live. We separated last September 2018. Lots of rapid-fire traumatic events, with no resolution before the next thing would happen. And that was in less than one year.

    Longer-standing issues: controlling ex-wife, withholding his children from him, controlling their visitation schedule, him being afraid to confront her or use the court system to help him. Abuses of money, trying to spend all income and then dipping into the savings I brought to the marriage repeatedly (an inheritance), until I moved the remaining savings into an account he couldn’t access. If he had access to all of it we’d be dug into a big debt hole right now, having nothing for our future and nothing to show for it. It would’ve been squandered.

    I feel like the first year or so of our marriage was fantastic- fun, we had a lot in common, we were building a life together. But after that, I feel like I’ve been hanging on for this wild ride of inconsistency, changing values, chaos, etc. I’ve been diagnosed with ptsd and depression, anxiety, sleep disorders. I’ve tried to be agreeable, but then tried to set up boundaries (like with our finances) to which he would really fight against and it would cause big problems between us. Communication breakdown, emotionally destructive, gaslighting, blame-shifting, etc.
    I’ve been a Christian for a long time, 20+ years. He’s a “younger” Christian, 6 years.

    In the last few years, through the counseling and reading books, articles, and blogs like yours, I’ve learned a lot. I also came across information about mental/personality disorders and impairments that can cause these kinds of marriage issues. I felt that maybe I was dealing with a brain impairment, and my husband agreed to be assessed. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, but I think there is more yet undiagnosed, possibly Aspergers Syndrome. He is currently taking medication and seeing a specialist for it. I see it helping in some ways, but in many ways the meds and therapy aren’t even touching some serious impairments. So then I wonder if it’s ingrained in his character. “It” being the damaging behaviors.

    As you say in this article, the causes of abusive behavior can be many and different, but the effects are essentially the same- damaging.

    So my struggle is, well, umm….all of that ^
    If marriage vows are “for better or for worse”, and obviously this is the “worse”, and what if I’m dealing with a brain impairment that causes all this damage? I don’t think I’m dealing with 100% impairments. I’m hoping and praying that, through our new marriage counselor, the character issues will be made apparent and rooted out. My struggle is also, what is my moral obligation to my vows or to this man whose brain isn’t “firing on all 8 cylinders”? (no disrespect) His brain functions like 20 freight trains all going in different directions.

    It has all been so damaging. I feel like our marriage is so… fractured. Blended/step adds complication. Brain impairments add complication. My ptsd adds complication. Abusive communication and behavioral patterns add complication. It’s all so hard to sort out.

    There is a lot here. Sorry for the long-windedness.

    Thank you for any response from anyone. And thank you so much for your blog and webinars.

    • Connie on July 31, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      I’m sure there are women wiser than I am to help here, but one thing I’ve learned while trying to find reasons (excuses?) for bad behaviour is, does he do this when at work or in public? Or only at home behind closed doors? Does the Bible give excuses for bad behaviour? I think not. Maybe up to a point, but most people can learn a large amount of maturity. What caught my eye in this story was that the first year was good.

      As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. I wish more pastor would emphasize that. What do you think about all day? How do you react in your mind to hard things? Do you bring it directly to God and His Word? If not, that can be learned, especially if you have a loving spouse where you can ask each other these things, pray together, and keep working on it. I think you would have to be very very sick to not be able to do that, and I doubt you would have married him if he was that sick.

      I’m getting tired of diagnosis. Most of these guys are just plain immature and entitled. Period. And not willing to work on it.

    • Libbie on July 31, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Funny that you mention that your husband has ADHD….my husband does too (and takes medication for it). And I do think that is part of the reason he is all over the map, and gets hyper-focused on things. However, as mentioned…..Do they act like this around people at work, church, etc. My husband was married to someone for about 20 years before we married. He was only divorced 4 months when I met him, and things moved fast. Now, present day, we have been separated since February (5 months), and today, I found a charge on our credit card (I gave my card back when I moved out, but still can check it online) for a dating website. It seems he has trouble being alone/lonely.

      • Moon Beam on July 31, 2019 at 7:40 pm

        And it is sure fire way to realize he is not interested in you.

        • Libbie on August 1, 2019 at 7:56 am

          Oh, but he begs for me to make our marriage a priority and work on things. He says he cries himself to sleep at times because he’s lost his family. I am the one that moved out with the two kids, so I think he probably feels abandoned, and the shift in me taking control, and him losing control of my actions is what bothers him most.

          • Aly on August 1, 2019 at 11:31 am

            Libby,
            I think you are correct in what you see about his grief and loss.
            He thinks his grief is about losing his family, but most likely it’s about him losing control and manipulation over you.
            From what you briefly described he wants YOU to be the one working and fully committed to the marriage as making it a priority but my hunch is that you have yet to see him ‘work’ or make the right priorities. With someone like him, it will always be an imbalance where everyone else must over-functioning to be in relationship with him.



          • Autumn on August 1, 2019 at 3:52 pm

            If any of his claims were true Libbie he would not have been on the dating app. He is working you. He knows emotional pleas have worked in the past. It’s his favorite form of manipulating you. Healthy men don’t manipulate women with blame shifting and a big old pity party for themselves.



          • Libbie on August 1, 2019 at 4:51 pm

            Autumn — If I call him out on doing things like this, he seems like a whooped puppy dog and says he does it because he’s hurting and feels like he’s lost me. That he’s just hurting and he knows he is handling it wrong, and that he’s sorry. My question is– Does he himself believe this? Or is he aware that he is being phony?



          • Connie on August 1, 2019 at 6:01 pm

            Libbie, a couple of weeks ago I called h on something small. He said nothing, then acted so sad, even talked of suicide, and how his childhood was…..blah, blah……..I started feeling a bit sorry for him and bang! he was happy again. I started rereading parts of Don Hennessey’s book where he says that these men love nothing more than a pity party. And, most of them will talk of suicide if it gets them that party. And, they want to suck us into being emotionally connected to them, but they won’t emotionally connect with anyone. You see, loving someone gives them a lot of control. So they want our love, but will not reciprocate.

            So I realized that he was actually furious that I called him on something, but was using depression as a smoke screen for his anger, to get me to connect.

            This is all an interesting journey. Where are the mature older men who could mentor these guys? I don’t think they need therapists, they need a kick in the rear.



          • Libbie on August 2, 2019 at 12:07 pm

            Connie– Oh my!! You were so right. In our disagreements, he would always “blow up” a few days later and show anger, and I would wonder why he let it fester or build. But he was using a smoke screen of hurt, or forgiveness, or grace, to get me to connect emotionally with him. He ALWAYS says, “please connect with me.” He even uses those words!



    • Autumn on July 31, 2019 at 7:43 pm

      Leaning, at what point do you just say, I made a huge mistake and get out of the relationship? The things you describe are too many and too complicated to even wish they could ever get better. You picked a bad guy, now you know, time to run for your life!

  19. Ann on July 31, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Leaningonhope, you are in good company here. Leslie’s teaching is true to scripture. There are many very helpful women on here who post healthy advice. Take things a day at a time. Pursue Jesus first. He has the best answer for you. Yes, vows are important but you can’t make him want to honor his side of the vow. If he won’t choose healthily, brain issues or not, you have to choose what is healthy for you.

  20. El on August 2, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    This post makes some important points: our first responsibility, even as abuse survivors, is to be obedient to God’s direction, and reacting to our abusers with insults and “verbal bombs” is not right. But I am troubled by the fact that the bulk of this blog post focuses on convincing the questioner that she acted wrongly and shouldn’t lose her temper in any circumstances. But she knows that: she said in her question that she accepts responsibility and knows she needs to make amends…she just wants to know how. So why did the blog post focus on convincing her that SHE did something wrong instead of answering the HOW question? For many of us abuse survivors, the biggest question is how to relate to our abusers in a way that reflects God’s grace on them, even if we no longer live with them.

    I believe in this situation that “making amends” should go no farther than an apology. Model to the abuser how to admit wrongdoing and ask forgiveness. This could even be done in an email. But it’s likely that the survivor has already done this–someone who is put under intense pressure and behaves reactively often knows immediately that her behavior was wrong, and she often accepts responsibility and asks forgiveness immediately…which the abuser probably used as an opportunity to heap more blame and abuse on her instead of taking responsibility for his behavior.

    If an apology has already taken place, the abuse survivor does not need to do anything else to make amends. Let’s not let survivors fall into the false equivalence trap that abusers set for us: our defensive reaction to abuse is not equivalent to the abuse. Self-defense–even miscalculated self-defense–is not the same as offense.

    Also, we should recall that Jesus sometimes reacted to wrongdoing with anger–he threw the moneylenders out of the temple with a whip! He called Pharisees what they were: whited sepulchres and brood of vipers. An abuse victim is trapped in a cycle of evil–if she’s married to her abuser, she’s forced into an intimate relationship with evil. It is no wonder that the light in her rejects that darkness. Let’s be sure not to imply that her truth needs to spend any more time abasing itself to lies.

    My own abuser was an expert at pushing me to my breaking point–he seemed to relish seeing me descend into the same misery that he seemed to be suffering from. He’d namecall and berate me for hours–one day it was 7 hours straight–prevent me from sleeping, follow me from room to room when I tried to get away, and accuse me of actions I didn’t do and motivations I didn’t have. Sometimes, after hours of being forced into a fight-or-flight state, and not being able to take flight, (if I left the house, he’d call me and text me over an over accusing me of cheating), I slipped into a “fight” response and told him what I thought of his actions. Then he’d use that to tell me what an abuser I was. Later, I’d calm down and apologize for losing my temper and calling him names (yes, those things WERE wrong), and he’d simply use that as an opening to begin the abuse cycle again.

    I do not believe that those of us who have suffered like this have a responsibility to “make amends” by giving our abusers new openings to keep on sinning.

    • Moon Beam on August 3, 2019 at 2:43 am

      El, this is the first time I have read one of your contributions on this blog. I would like to hear more from you. In fact I would like to see you write as a regular featured guest on this blog. Your wise and professionally prepared response was so rich in content and truth that I would have gladly paid a fee to read it. Have you considered writing a book?

    • Corie on November 11, 2019 at 11:39 pm

      This blessed me so much! Resonated with what I’m living and the guilt I’ve been feeling after trying to make amends for losing it following the silent treatment, invalidation and contempt, only to have that used against me, time and time again… No, you’re right: self-defense is not the same as offense. Thank you for posting.

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