I so appreciate this community and each of you. I hope we can meet someday. If any of you are attending the ERCL Conference in Dallas next week please let me know. A group of women are getting together for lunch on Saturday after the conference is over and would love for you to be included.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Can I give you each a challenge? Would you go to your church leadership and ask if they have anything planned to address this problem during October, as 1 in 4 Christian women report being in a destructive marriage?
If they would like more information on the whole topic of how churches handle abuse, both marital and sexual, give them the link to the new video series, www.churchcares.com to watch as a staff. Just raising awareness can be a huge help for a woman whose church leadership may still be in the dark about this subject.
Also on Monday, October 7th I will be doing a free workshop on the topic of How Long Should You Keep Trying to Keep Your Marriage Together and How Will You Know If His Change is Real. For more information or to register click here
Today’s Question. I recently discovered that my husband has been not only viewing porn on the internet, but also “chatting” with multiple women. I even found e-mails where he refers to me as his “soon to be ex” and exchanged phone numbers, and talked about times to meet, etc.
When I confronted him, he swears that all of this is fantasy and that he has never done anything physical with these women. He says he is deeply sorry and will give this all up. But I don’t now what to think. How can I trust him again?
How will I know if he is really sorry or just sorry for the moment? He has been very emotionally unavailable to me in the past and verbally abusive at times. But now he’s being very attentive. I don’t know how to respond. Help!
Answer. First, let me tell you how sorry I am that you have experienced this in your marriage. Internet pornography as well as chatting with the opposite sex is a huge temptation for men (and women) these days.
It is perfectly normal now that you’ve discovered his secret life that you’re struggling to trust your husband. Once broken, trust in a relationship is difficult to rebuild and it takes time and effort. Your recent discovery isn’t the only problem in your marriage but it can be a wakeup call for your husband to work to change his ways.
I’m glad you’ve confronted him when you discovered the pornography and chatting. In order to invite a deeper change in your marriage, you might want to say something along these lines:
“I appreciate that you want to work on restoring our marriage. I can see that you are trying and now doing some of the things that I’ve always wanted you to do (mention some specific ways you see him trying to win you back). However, my trust in who you are and your honesty with me has been fractured and it will take some time for you to rebuild it.
Right now, I can’t believe what you tell me and I’m not sure you really care about me and my feelings. When I’ve told you before that your emotional distancing and angry words hurt me, you didn’t care enough to change them. Now you’ve disrespected me and dishonored our marriage vows by what you’ve been doing on the Internet. Being charming and buying me flowers is nice but it's not what I need from you right now.
I am willing to see if our marriage can be restored, but I am not willing to be disrespected and abused any longer. I am not willing to live with a man who connects with other women online, even in fantasy. It would help me if I saw you take your own steps to set personal boundaries on your Internet use, learn how to handle your temper and figure out why you’ve been emotionally unavailable to me all these years.”
Don’t tell him how do to that. Do not give him a counselor’s name or phone number to call. Don’t give him an ultimatum or a deadline. Simply state what you need or would like for you to feel safer and then watch and wait. It will be tempting to remind or nag but hold back. See what he does on his own. Jesus tells us to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). Your husband can start to rebuild your trust when he shows you he is willing to do these things and takes the initiative, time, and energy to actually do them.
As your husband does his part, your part (and battle) will be to learn to trust him again. Your truer enemy is not your spouse, but Satan, who wants to destroy you both. He will use every opportunity to taunt you with your husband’s sin. Don’t let him. In these moments, remind yourself of the positive things your husband is doing to earn back your trust and that you are fully loved and deeply valued by God.
Remember, honesty and accountability are the cornerstones for rebuilding trust, not perfection. Click To Tweet
However, if your husband does not make strong efforts in these areas, regaining marital trust is not possible.
Finally, consider attending a support group for wives whose husbands share similar problems. If you can’t locate one in your area, use the Internet to find one. Here are a few resources to get you started, Newlifepartners.org, PureIntimacy.org, or Faithfulandtrueministries.com. Please know many women share your struggle. You are not alone.
Friends, what shows you that your husband is serious about rebuilding your shattered trust, and what helps you to trust again?
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Topic: My adult daughters verbally abuse me. How can I get them to stop?
Hello friends, Thank you so much for your prayers for my week away and the speaking event this past weekend at Cowgirls of Faith in Texas. It was a great time of fellowship and ministry and I felt your prayers throughout my speaking times. God is good. Here is a picture of the wonderful music…
Do I dishonor God if I initiate a legal separation because of my husband’s refusal to take his medication?
Question: I am a stay at home mom of two young children. I have been married for over 12 years to a spouse who developed late onset schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. He claims to be healed and he no longer will take his medication. He says he feels great and is no longer plagued…
How To Be a True Friend To Someone Going Through Marital Separation
Morning friends, Thanks for your prayers while speaking in San Diego at the American Association of Christian Counselors International Marriage Summit. I gave the keynote talk at Saturday’s luncheon on Three Critical Mistakes People Helpers Make Working with Couples in Destructive Marriage and as I spoke I could feel your prayers. Now continue to pray…
“Don’t tell him how do to that. Do not give him a counselor’s name or phone number to call. Don’t give him an ultimatum or a deadline. Simply state what you need or would like for you to feel safer and then watch and wait. It will be tempting to remind or nag but hold back. See what he does on his own.”
I don’t know that I agree with that. This may work with some men, but not most because they don’t know what they don’t know. I’m going to assume that we are dealing with someone who genuinely wants to do better. Someone who is a sinner just like all of us and seeks to do better, but doesn’ tknow how and it would take a lifetime to figure it out on their own.
Telling someone to build a doghouse, who has never before seen a doghouse, and giving them no tools, no plans, and no raw materials; and then sitting back and watching what happens will result in an unsuitable doghouse while you lean back and can then say they did poorly.
At the same time you can lead a horse to water, but not make it drink. There needs to be some balance I would think?
If he expresses asking how he can do better you could lead be example, “I think you should seek professional help consistently, that will show me that you are actually interested in changing, like a licensed counselor.” “I think you should seek accountability in a person and with your internet usage, that will show me that you are actually interested in changing.”
I’m no professional, but siting back and seeing what kind of doghouse they build seems like a waste of time. If they are genuinely interested in building a doghouse, they will ask how, and then go about the work. If they are not, then your suggestions will be completely ignored.
Yes and No Amy. If her husband really wanted to learn how to play golf, or fix a toilet, I don’t know that his wife would need to say, “Why don’t you contact a golf coach, or watch a YouTube on golfing or call your friend Tom who is a great golfer. I would give him more credit than that. Although I’m not against her suggesting those things, but then let HIM take that action. When a wife overfunctions for her husband, he underfunctions, does the bare minimum and then often says, “I did what you asked, or what you told me to do. It’s never good enough is it?” Then it’s her fault that she’s too picky or too critical rather than he just never was very committed to his own growth. If a man wants to build a dog house and does’t know how to build a dog house, I believe he is resourceful enough to seek information on HOW to build a dog house without his wife handholding him through it or finding a book for him or the YouTube channel to watch. On the other hand if SHE wants him to build a dog house, but he’s not all that invested in building one and she gives him a book on it or a dog house building manual or gives him the name of someone who knows how to build dog houses, that may work if he wants to please her, but he’s building a dog house for her not because HE wants to build one himself. Personal change can’t be to please another person or it won’t last. You don’t put in all the work to learn golf just to make your boss happy. You do it half heartedly if your boss says it’s mandatory to learn golf in order to mix with customers. You don’t learn to do golf well unless you want to learn play golf well. Someone doesn’t do the work to personally get healthy – physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually unless he (or she) wants to.
Leslie, YES! In addition to everything you just said above I would add something you explained in an earlier blog post and that is he wanted to watch pornography and figured out how to do it. He also wanted to talk to other women and figured out how to hide it from his wife for a while, why? Because those were HIS goals. This is my ex, he plays naive, but is anything but.
Exactly, they can find what they WANT to learn or do. So if they want help, I think they can find that too.
I am seeing that same “over functioning/under functioning” playing out in my current (2nd) marriage. My counselor and I discuss this at almost every session. I’m sorely disappointed when the doghouse doesn’t get built because I thought he wanted to please and cherish me and I know he knows that a doghouse is the way to my heart. (We don’t have a dog, I’m just using Amy’s analogy). I have a lot of work to do in my life and heart. Boundaries. Expectations. All of it.
Yes. My husband and I are undergoing counseling on my recommendation, both together and separately. This struck me hard because I was very guilty of this and didn’t realize it, and I was about to do the same to him. He had complained and whined and tried in dozens of bad ways about my ignoring his desire for sex because I had no desire for a long time. And I wanted a good marriage, a good relationship, but I didn’t know how to fix myself, and I didn’t know where to start, and if I’m going to be honest…I guess I wasn’t being convicted then and didn’t really want to do the work. This eventually led him to pornography, which was entirely his choice, and his fault, and not mine.
I guess I am sensitive to this because after some talking with my counselor and soul searching, I realized I was guilty of the very same thing I was trying to do to him…expecting him to know what to do and how to do it and be convicted, but not knowing how, and being too ashamed or prideful to seek help or know how to seek help.
Amy, don’t feel guilty about wanting to help. Instead recognize that you stopped yourself from doing it again! You also recognize that God will give you the resources when and if you are willing to look to His guidance! And you recognize that his sin is not your fault! We often don’t see our own sin Amy and sometimes there is a wake-up call and are called out on it, again don’t feel guilty, instead repent, give it to God, and live in freedom! We are all learning here!
My husband promised me last week he would contact a counselor. He still has not and I was about to remind him until I read this. He talks the talk but rarely, if ever, follows through. I just signed up for the webinar on the 7th. How long do I give him? P.S….Thank you for all you do, Leslie!!
Sometimes seeing a counselor isn’t even enough. Mine loves seeing his counselor. He loves the attention. There are many counselors who do not understand the abusive dynamic and are easily manipulated by the abuser
You know what changes you want to see and why you need to see them. Like some have written in the posts above, if the abuser wants to change they will engage rapidly. You will see an immediate and long lasting change. You be the judge. The change would be so transformational that you wouldn’t have to question if he changed.
A gradual change is not a change. An abusive person’s gradual changes in behavior is an adaptation towards a new con. It is nearly the next strategy to manipulate you until you stop nagging him. Contritiom, repentance and transformational change is a whole different thing.
I agree with Free, and this is where the boundaries are so important. These abusive spouses want the marriage to stay the same because they are the ones who get all the benefit: a cook, housemaid, child minder, sex partner….until they don’t get it anymore. Once the salve decides to stop the gratis service, then either the abuser decides to change (because he really does love his wife), or they bail.
Real change has to begin in the heart.
Or there’s a third option – total indifference… Then what do you do?
Leslie has wrote about indifference I believe or there may be a video post on her website.
I think Leslie explains indifference really well and I’m sorry if that’s the behavior of your spouse.
Indifference to me shows just far neglect can go and in some ways it can be a result of deep contempt.
Not a safe relationship to be involved with at any level.
Bea, to me indifference is abandonment. Abandoned the relationship. Abandoned the commitment to grow imarriage. Abandoned any attempt at love.
My husband doesn’t want to change. His more deceived all the time and now having an emotional relationship with a friend from college has wife as he takes on the new hobby of photography which she does as a second job. My doctor told me I need a new knee at 39. I texted him and zero reply zero empathy, but found out later in the evening that he had been messaging her back and forth all day. Even while at work when he’s not supposed to be on Facebook messenger. This is nothing wrong with his relationship with her and can’t believe that I think there’s anything wrong with it.
I have a challenge for you. You say your h doesn’t want to change and that he’s surprised you think there’s anything wrong with him carrying on wth this woman. Have you gotten to the point where you realize that it’s not your job to change his mind?
If so, do YOU want to change? If so, what are you willing to do to no longer tolerate him treating you this way?
I agree with your comment and challenge here.
Jamie, it’s enough that YOU are not ok with what he is doing!
Based on your sacred role as his wife!
And if he was a indifferent about that then you have even bigger mountains to climb.
Thank you for your helpful thoughts and insight. Rebuilding trust is indeed a huge issue in my home. I have read Leslie’s Emotionally Destructive Marriage book and found it, as well as her webinars, to be a lifeline. (Thank you Leslie!!) After years upon years of deceit, my husband is seeking personal counseling. I see my own counselor as well and am trying to set healthy boundaries. I have my own bedroom now, but my husband occasionally pushes for that to change and reverse back. I struggle with feelings of guilt as I do see he is attempting change, but he has most recently violated my trust by breaking into my phone and watch to see all my texts and emails. I feel like I’m just trying to live with this constant feeling of dissonance. My husband apologizes for harsh words and uncaring remarks and then acts syrupy sweet for a few weeks afterward. However, this cycle does repeat. I’ve found sadly that I function better when he just leaves me alone, not harassing me nor acting syrupy sweet. It almost feels like he has this checklist of books to read, “sweet” things to say, and counselor appointments to attend and then accepts changed feelings from me. His harsh words typically come as he expects me to let him back in the bedroom.
I really want him to get well for his own sake, but I confess that I have zero feelings for him anymore. I suppose that adds to my feelings of guilt too. He presses for a timeline as to how long this building of trust will take. Ha! I wish I knew. To be completely honest, I do not see trust entering this relationship again.
Again, thank you all for your honest and heartfelt words throughout this blog.
could it be that you are seeing the abuse cycle play out? https://leslievernick.com/he-says-hes-repentant-but-weve-been-here-before/
Anne, can you get an appointment with his counselor, either with or without him? He is probably deceiving the counselor.
Anne I agree with JoAnn. It’s important for you to have your experience presented to his counselor (every so often) most people with deception issues that are in recovery need a lot of transparent accountability in their process.
When my husband was in early stages of recovery I had to be involved with a couple counselors on a regular basis because they would call him out on his junk and not giving the (full) story.
If your husband is unwilling to have you involved or for you to give your input then that’s not a good sign that he’s on track.
Your input does need to be in person so a counselor can be present with you. Your h doesn’t need to be there unless you feel comfortable and there are no threats.
My h told me that him knowing I was going to follow up from time to time and be honest about my experience of him was pivotal because so often with any addiction or character issue they so badly want to hide from themselves and pretend they are doing the work at times.
It’s a process for sure.
He should not be badgering you to get back into the same sleeping quarters. You can draw a firm boundary that states that YOU will be the first one to let him know when you are going to invite that into your situation which will be based on his recovery work and trust building process.
It’s usually a direct ‘reaping’ based on what is genuinely sown. And especially based on where you are in your healing process.
When a husband is trying to rebuild trust and be in a recovery process, the stakes are even higher for him to not fall back into his behaviors, when he does this it creates a greater span and depth of recovery work.
Think of it as ‘offenses’ 1st, 2nd, 100th!!
The counselors need to know about the badgering because badgering is a form of emotional abuse, trying to break down boundaries of another because they want what they want and are careless with how their badgering is harmful.
Check out my comment on Sept 25 at 10:30ish pm.
I talk about knowing he was changed because he respected my limits.
My husband has been living a “double life” for the past 3 years of our 35-year marriage as well, except his revolved around secret drinking and going to great lengths to hide it from me. Much counseling, prayer, and accountability later, I believe his secret drinking is truly over.
However, there have been a few other lies, the most recent of which involved our federal income tax and a very scary notice in the mail which said we owed $219k. It turned out to be ok, but the fact he hid the tax situation from me brought whatever trust he had rebuilt, back down to the zero level again.
We discussed separation, and that will definitely be my response if there is another occasion of deception.
Leslie, your advice helped me to tell him about a month ago “You need to figure out a way, besides just the passage of time, that will show me that you are truly repentant. Don’t ask me to tell you what I want you to do. I want YOU to do the work of having some empathy for me for a change and putting yourself in my shoes. What could you DO that would show your genuine sorrow and that you’re a changed man? Just saying you’re sorry and expecting amnesty from me has only resulted in me getting hurt again. I’m done with that.”
Now I’m in wait and see mode.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you.
Wow! Well done, Mitzi! I hope that produces the desired outcome.
So well articulated Mitzi!
I completely agree, Leslie. My husband and I are in counseling now and I completely believe that the only reason that he’s going is because I asked him to go. He’s very passive and I don’t think that he sees that his behavior in our marriage is hurtful, no matter how much I’ve told him that his being emotionally distant, cold and unavailable to me ( and to our daughter) is painful. I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t suggest going to counseling to him anymore. This is our second try at it. I was trying to wait to see if he’d suggest going, but I’m seeing more and more that he’s content with the way things are in our marriage. He doesn’t seem to think that ignoring his family is a problem, just as long as he keeps going to work, doing his chores, etc. It’s really best if they have a desire to grow and be a better spouse – more loving, attentive and faithful.
What showed me that my husband was serious about rebuilding trust was when he began to consistently respect my limits.
In the past when he’d complain about work, I wouldn’t have dreamed of saying, “sorry but I can’t listen right now” (he could get quite mean spirited about colleagues) I would have been silently punished for that, and at that time I was not strong enough to withstand his covert tantrums.
When I did start saying no, he really did struggle but by the Grace of God, he began turning to The Lord in those moments when I did not do or say what he wanted me to.
It was very hard for him to surrender and it was very hard for me to stand firm, but praise Him who enabled us to grow into a God honouring marital posture.
I agree with what everyone said about ownership but the only caveat I would add is it finding the right counselor is actually extremely difficult. There are counselors that are good. There counselors that are bad. But then there’s also the problem of finding a counselor who shares your own beliefs. And here, the writer speaks about pornography, which is not something that secular psychologists universally frown upon, by any means. Yet many many Christian psychologists give very unbalanced advice about destructive relationships. So in this instance you have the danger of finding a counselor that tells the husband what he is doing is fine, or saying that the wife should be more forgiving. That is just one example.
I was myself against helping my husband find a counselor, but I spoke to my own counselor about my misgivings, because I have found that good counselors are quite hard to find.
I say that for myself—when I tried very hard to find a counselor for myself it was very difficult. It took many, many years to find a counselor who was a good fit ( not just for marriage issues, I would see her for other reasons even if I was single.) I saw some harmful counselors on that journey. I would not have minded having a pointer in the right direction. I sought out suggestions, usually without success. For a start, finding a counselor that recognizes the sanctity of marriage and yet also the reality and severity of abuse can be tricky.
So my therapist gave me a list of counselors that she thought were balanced and I passed that list onto my husband to use as he saw fit, as I did not want to see the same counselor as him. My counselor is not the sort of counselor who thinks I should do his work, yet she was not opposed to making this list. He ended up choosing someone from that list. It actually worked out very well. He’s been seeing that person for years now and has been consistently growing and changing. So while in theory I agree with everything Leslie says, it’s just not that easy to find a good counselor. It’s a lot easier to look up a YouTube video and honestly probably a lot easier to find a good golf coach (maybe)!!!
My husband completely owns his counseling. He makes his appointments. I don’t have to bother him about going. He goes every week. So I would not advocate helping someone find a counselor and then having to remind them to make appointments (Unless they had some genuine serious cognitive health problem.)
Maybe my experience is one of those exceptions that proves the rule kind of things, but I will always be grateful to my counselor giving me that list of her colleagues. I know that God used that list to answer my prayers and lead my husband to the right psychologist. It is one of the best answers to prayer I ever had. It made a tremendous difference in both of our lives and I remain inexpressibly thankful.
Pat, I understand where you are coming from and your perspective is a valid one, however, by you helping, even the smallest of offerings, you made him skip a very crucial step in doing this all on his own. Look at what you said “I tried very hard to find a counselor for myself it was very difficult. It took many, many years to find a counselor who was a good fit”. He didn’t have to put as much effort into it as you had to, regardless if you did this work prior to marriage or not. You say it yourself it is a “journey”. We hear all the time in our culture that it’s not so much the end result, but the journey or process that it takes to get us there. He may have learned some valuable lessons in the process had he given 100% of the effort, both positive and negative lessons. People need to realize that and be willing to give 100%. He could have just as easily gotten a list from your counselor as well…
You know, I did say that it took me many many years, but all those years were not an essential part of my journey or a good thing. I honestly think that if I had had somebody recommend my counselor earlier, I would’ve been better off. It’s true that any difficulty in life can teach us lessons, Including my sometimes traumatizing history of bad counselors, but that doesn’t mean that we should court hardship for its own sake. God can use hardship and suffering, but he is not the author of it. And my husband definitely could not have gotten the list from my counselor because I did not want him to have any contact with her and in fact did not even tell him her name at that time. He was respectful of that. It would have been a gross violation of my boundaries for him to try to find out who she was and ask her for recommendations.
The counselor he found was such a clear answer to prayer. That is of course not anything that I can prove to anybody else, but it is an important part of my history of my relationship with God and His provision. I know that in my heart and it is very special to me.
I also know that my counselor, who is both excellent and very much against doing your spouses work, did not view this is a problem and I trust her professional expertise just as much as I trust Leslie’s. Further, she actually was involved in my life.
If I had a friend or family member in an abusive or destructive relationship, I might give her a list of resources to call. She would of course be on her important journey which she would have to own, and it is very important not to try to make decisions for people in these situations or rescue them, but I would not feel like giving her a list of resources would be enabling. If I had a friend or family member with substance abuse, and I knew of a good support group, I would tell them about that. I would not pressure them to go but I will tell them. If it was a very close family member, I would probably do a bit of research and offer them a list. I don’t know where I would be as a Christian if all of the other Christians in my life waited for me to somehow do everything 100% on my own. If nobody witnessed to me, or asked me to their church, or recommended a Bible Study, even before I was a Christian and I was certainly not looking for such things. If people just waited for me to somehow figure those things out, I would never be where I am. And that’s not to say that I am not fully responsible for my own sinful nature or choices in that area, yet God has extended undeserved grace to me through other people.
Also, the fruits of this have not been bad. My husband became less entitled, not more. He has never used counseling like a bargaining chip. He has never acted like he had checked something off the list for me. It has not made him under function. It helped him on his journey rather than the opposite. I see no signs that it was a bad decision. But he was already making some changes on his own, so perhaps that is the difference.
Very well said, Pat.
I thank you for taking the time to write all this. It’s important. I like your examples you gave too.
I myself have had a similar journey in counseling and overall getting better equipped to face my life challenges.
I think what you describe above is a good balance of extending help in a healthy proportion as a fellow believer and as a wife/ezer.
Blessings to you! And joyful too for some of the outcomes of restoration.
Pat, That was a great explanation. I think it’s a good example of how we can’t go all black / white on ‘not helping’ or really going to extremes on anything.
I would be leery of any counselor my H would pick. He wouldn’t understand the importance of a counselor being trained in trauma and abuse.
I am so glad you and your H had some Momentum moving in the right direction before your husband started counseling. I hope you both continue to see positive growth. 💗🤗
So here’s my dilemma. Last year I suggested going to a Genesis Process group. I know, according to what we’re learning here, wrong thing for me to do. I realized that pretty quickly. He went to the men’s group and I went to the women’s. I didn’t last long because I felt strongly it wasn’t for me, but he kept going. Well they became his flying monkeys. It is led by the same woman – I know, right? – and she praises him high and low about how much he’s grown, how mature he’s becoming, how she thought he would bail (good way to manipulate him to stay on, right?) sooner. He keeps having these ‘revelations’ (without repentance) and they think it’s amazing. He knows I’m not happy, but it’s like this group is his new way of self-gratifying, if that makes sense. And I’m left out. He realizes I’m not impressed, and is trying to blame me for everything and keeps asking what else he needs to ‘do’ for us to ‘be closer’. I’m so tired of this merry-go-round. If I don’t have suggestions, he throws up his hands and says, “Well then I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing”. If I have a suggestion, he sabotages it thoroughly and says, “Well see, you wanted that, and it didn’t work.” jAnd, he yelled at me last week, “Don’t give me that go ask God stuff!”. But then when it was time for his class, he ‘had a revelation from God’, wrote it all out so everyone could have a copy. Something is so wrong with this picture and I’m not sure what to say.
I just read this: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-self/2018/07/narcissist-delusion/?fbclid=IwAR1NxT87V9xUAGnDiPL4HlSE-44Cx4HeIJc8mZfNYtEeqClDzkZRVwubqYY
Exactly what is happening. He wants me to explain what he’s doing wrong. I feel hounded. Not sure why I’m writing this here, other than to say that Leslie’s advice is very good, as I know by experience.
Yes Leslie, my husband and I separated and when he repeatedly told me he wanted to fix everything he did wrong and asked me constantly for help. I caved in and decided to tell him what he needed to do. After that he then started to ask me about me and if I realized that I too needed to seek help. At the time I hadn’t told him I was seeing a counselor on my own. I agreed to go with him to talk to a counselor and as soon as the counselor asked how he could help us he responded with, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I am trying really hard so I need to know what it is so I can fix it.” The Pastor then turned to me and asked what it was I wanted my spouse to do. Because he seemed like he was willing to make it right.” I had been through this already before. He makes it known that I’m the one with the problem beacuse as far as his concerned his fine. When we spoke at home before we met the Pastor he gave me another version of what it was he felt responsible for but when we walked into that office everything changes. On our way home I felt so betrayed by him because he kept doing this to me and I kept believing him. Thinking this may be the time he really means it. But sadly it didn’t happen. He even suggested sex as an answer to our problems because he said he thought that it would help him relieve his frustration. I didn’t agree to that because I know from past experience that never helped. So I finally had to let go and to let him figure out on his own what is going on with him. I’m still seeing my counselor. We don’t have much contact because every time we do he brings up the subject of forgiveness on my part. He makes me feel like a hurt animal cornered up in a dark empty room and with no one to turn too. I don’t know how long I’ll have this emotional breakdowns but I can’t seem to break free of. I do hope everyone that is in situations as these has someone to talk to because it’s so hard to overcome.
He asks about you to gain insight into how he can better control you. The more you reveal of your inner thought life the better he can abuse you and know which of his tactics will most likely achieve the results her desires. His objective is to have power and control over you. That is the mind set of the abuser, nothing else.
I am so sorry you’re being treated this way. You need to emotionally detach from him as much as possible to give your wounded emotions some space to breathe.
Do you still share a bedroom with him? Can you at least have a room for yourself without his hateful intrusions?
Wow! I have been there! At least as far as finding the pornography on the computer. I could not believe it. That was a little more than 10 years ago. I didn’t know what to do. When I found out, he was very sorry, and said he “is fighting against it”. We discussed accountability, covenant eyes, etc., and he had reasons why those weren’t really the answer. He had bought a book to try to help him with it. Said he would stop. Of course, I found it several other times. I did not know what to do or who to talk to. We were very active in our church and he was highly thought of (evidently many broken men are). I didn’t give any kind of ultimatum, as I never had in our relationship that started when we were just teenagers. We were so young when we started “liking” each other, and married just after college. During our on again off again dating in college oh the signs I saw, but ignored – not about porn at that time (not sure when that really started for him, but I didn’t know about it till we were married about 20 years), but about the destructive patterns we had in our relationship – particularly him toward me. Needless to say, those patterns have continued in our relationship. When I’ve sought counseling and they want him to come, he may go once or twice and then he thinks they aren’t “biblical” or extend no grace. Then he won’t go again. I am beginning to see the truth in our relationship and it’s very scary. We have 4 children, 3 of which are young adults. He is very self-focused, very critical of others (although he’s toned that down some the last couple of years as that has been a “hot button” for me), get very angry and with no notice, thinks no one appreciates him, he’s jealous of my parents, sisters, friends. I basically have no friends at this time. We are “looking” for a church – that’s a long story – but don’t know that we will ever find one that will be the right one, which just keeps us isolated. Since reading Leslie’s books and a couple of others these last few years, I have started responding more “properly”. I had over the last few years found myself responding sinfully to him because I felt like everything is really out of control and it would never change. (not excusing my sin, but I just got to where I couldn’t take it anymore.) Kids are almost grown – only one still at home. We don’t have any similar interests anymore. I’ve tried and tried and tried for 30 years to do some things together, to grow together. Crazy as it sounds, the best we did together was when we were in a thriving, biblical church where we were learning so much. We had great conversations. And we had some good friendships. But when we moved, those people kind of dropped us (which has been very sad for both of us) and we have been floundering. I am listening to Leslie as much as possible and reading the blogs, praying for wisdom and courage. I’d like to stay well as it may be possible to do that, but I have already had to take a couple of strong stances – nothing like moving out or asking him to leave yet, but I know that is a possibility in the future. How awful!! God created us in His image, and we treat those we are supposed to love and cherish and lay our lives down for like crap. He is also often emotionally destructive towards the kids. And he tries to make me look bad to them. I’m pretty sure my dad was somewhat (maybe more than that) like this to my mom and I couldn’t see it. It’s pretty awful, and I pray my sons will not do this to their families and that my daughters won’t marry someone like this.
Have you done any research on the subject of Narcissim? The behaviors you describe align with symptoms of that personality disorder.
Interesting you should ask that. I just read something that someone posted yesterday on here that made me think of that. But the question is, if that’s what is going on, what do I do with that? I am gaining strength and courage with what I’m learning from Leslie’s teachings. But if he is narcissistic, does that change how I respond? Is there help for someone like that? Will he always be that way? I do know that God is ABLE to completely change hearts. But I also know it doesn’t mean He will. As I have employed some things I’ve learned from Leslie, I have seen some changes – knowing that I’m not “out of the woods”. I know we will revisit these issues again and again until I am able to put a stop to it somehow. Continuing to pray for wisdom and more knowledge that I need and courage to be able to act on that information.
Carolyn, I am going to encourage you to do your research. All the answers to your questions can be found quite easily when you study what Narcissim entails.
I too am married to a man for over 30 years who also viewed pornography. I caught him and he denied it, and later blamed me. My husband is also very self focused and has no empathy. He is very critical . He is physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. He was physically abusive only once and denied it , and finally admitted it, but blamed me for it. There is never any reconciliation in our marriage. He lies. Yet we attend church, and no one seems to know , because he is totally different at church. He treats me nice at church. He is strangely helpful at times around the house. Helps with shopping and even helps in the kitchen. But he is unpredictably abusive. He denies the abuse. He denies conversations that we had. I went to group and that helped me. Sounds like you love God. Here is a blog that helped me: biblicalperspectivesonnarcissism, or even better get the book titled, ” The First Will be Last”, by DC Robertsson. I had to make many changes in myself. I journal to maintain my clarity and to avoid believing the many lies he tells. I am trying to ” stay well”. I will be praying for you.
I think you have made some amazing steps to remain sane and cope with a horrible reality of a spouse.
Why do you attend church with him?
Like as a couple?
This might be an area to bring to prayer and ask for wisdom.
Many husbands love to compartmentalize. But this is to avoid the truth and not face their offenses.
CAROLYN, I really sympathize with what you are going through, and I am glad you are gathering resources to help yourself get through to wherever the Lord leads. In your final statements, you said that you hope and pray that your sons and daughters won’t “do this to their families,” but I think you need to do more than hope and pray. You need to have a clear and loving talk with them about what they have witnessed, both the good and bad, and encourage them to make better choices for their own lives. Even encourage them that when they decide to marry, they would have premarital counseling to help them get off on the right track. Be proactive on their behalf. Encourage them to begin an intimate walk with the Lord and to find a good church where they will be built up in a godly way. May the Lord guide you as you move forward.
This discussion has me thinking….when I separated from my husband I made a list of very specific actions that I required of him, one of which was that he seek regular counselling. Another was that when he messed up that he take responsibility, when I called him on it. There were other things too, that I can’t at the moment recall.
There’s a fine line here, I think. Manipulators love to get the other person to do the work- we have to avoid that trap. But we also cannot fall into the trap of not articulating our needs and hoping that the other person can guess what they are. Being very specific with requirements was essential in communicating what I would no longer tolerate.
One of the big lessons for me has been taking responsibility for articulating my needs and expectations.
Once I had articulated my requirements of him ( and given him a written letter so that he could not later twist my message) I did not bring them up again. If he tried to draw me in with questions of what he should do, I’d simply say, “re-read my letter, nothing has changed”.
Can you articulate the distinction between making specific requirements when separating, and not spoon feeding?
So, these weren’t boundaries really but behaviors you required of him? Wow, Nancy I am impressed!! You need to teach me your SKILLS!! 👍🏼🤣
Do you remember what the other behaviors were on your list?
Yes, on top of boundaries (not discussing our relationship for example, because I had ended the relationship), only daily logistics – who’s driving who where….etc…
I also had very specific requirements of him. These are very different from boundaries. I had changed and I had to own that. I had to admit that what I required in a marriage had changed. What I now expected from my partner was someone who would take responsibility for himself and for his growth. This represented me asking for a totally new covenant! (I was in counselling and had Godly women in my life on a weekly basis. I was not asking anything of him that I was not willing to do myself).
He was completely free to choose not to do any of those things – after all, I was the one who had changed the rules. If he chose not to, then I could no longer be married to him. My firm stance and trust in God for whatever outcome, came from The Lord. Without the conviction from The Lord, it would have been manipulation on my part.
I also required that he be in a weekly accountability group of Godly men.
I believe that these ‘skills’ as you call them 😉 are all in Leslie’s book (I followed her advice step by step) which is why I asked for her clarification. I agree that we should not manipulate of take control of his recovery, but in her book (I believe) she tells us to outline specific boundaries and requirements to him – that we need- in order for him to regain our trust.
I plan to attend the ERLC conference and I would love to come to lunch on Saturday. I assume you will have a book table and unless I hear differently I’ll drop by there and find out details.
Thanks! I can’t wait!