Morning friends,

I’ve relocated to our summer cabin. Since all my May speaking/travel schedule has been postponed until Fall, there was no reason not to move up to the mountains now. Phoenix heat has been near or at 100 degrees over the last ten days. It’s wonderful to enjoy 80 degrees, sunny, dry, beautiful days. Even the dog is happier without having to walk on the blazing hot pavement during our 10,000 daily steps. Here she’s anxious to go for our walks and I love sitting outside on our deck and enjoying God’s creation. Everything is closed up here too, but at least it’s a change of scenery.  

Question: You’ve helped me understand boundaries and consequences these past few years and I’ve taken steps. I realized I’m stuck facing a new step. My husband has had ongoing problems with narcissistic behavior, anger, conflict issues, and avoidance. He’s taken small steps here and there but has not taken responsibility for the roots, patterns, impact, or addressed some strained relationships. It is not an open subject.

I want him to address this seriously. In the past few years, I keep feeling like I want some separation. I don’t want to bear all the responsibility for addressing this; it is hard. He has avoided knowing and seeing over the years. I wonder about the distinction between me being specific, and him taking responsibility to go after this. I don't want to be passive, neither do I want to be burdened by this and not trust God.

I feel like I currently have a window of opportunity and if I miss it, things will just slide on. 

If I tell him this is serious, we need some separation, I need to see specific acknowledgment and action before we move on…what does a step like that look like? How do I prepare? I don't know what else to do to break through the avoidance. If the decision is to separate, we could not communicate toward a good resolution. I’m not sure how to navigate this; in house separation or one of us living elsewhere? Or, if there is another step that I am missing before that? I feel unsure of this step. Can you help me with clarity?

Answer: I hear you asking two different questions in your question so let me break them down for clarity.

First, from your perspective, your husband avoids “seeing” himself truthfully. That’s been his pattern over the years. He doesn’t want to hear from you, yet you want him to work harder on himself to change his selfishness, anger, and avoidance of conflict. Yes, there have been some small steps but you don’t think it’s enough. You’re struggling with your role here. Do your push for more? Is that your place? You don't want to be passive but you don’t want to take God’s place to wake him up or make him change.

Second, you have not liked the way things are between the two of you for a long time. You can’t talk to your husband about your feelings. He doesn’t want to hear. He avoids conflict like the plague yet you don’t want to pretend anymore. You don't want him to think that just because you don’t talk about the elephant in the room that it isn’t there. It’s a big deal for you even if it’s not a big deal for him. You don’t want to do pretend “marriage” if he doesn't take ownership of his stuff and work to change it. How do you broach the topic of separation and when you do, what does that look like?

Let me start by answering your first question. Your God-given role and responsibility in your husband’s life are to be his most trusted friend and advisor – his helpmate. That involves telling him the truth, not just stroking his ego. I know that goes against some Christian teaching that encourages wives to be encouraging and uplifting to their husbands (which is a good thing). However, this same teaching says when their husband is doing something wrong or dishonorable, a wife is to keep quiet and pray God will show him his mistake or sin. I disagree.

Remember the children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes? Some fast talking tailors tricked the King into believing his newly woven robe was made from special threads that only the “wise” could see. Not wanting to look dumb, the King refused to see what he saw – that he was naked. All his trusted advisors did the same. They told him his new royal robe rocked, while they all saw the truth, he had no clothes on at all. They were too afraid to speak the truth to him. If you recall, it took the honesty of a child to wake people up to know what they knew and to speak the truth.  

In truth-telling, it’s important that we are not harsh, demeaning, or shaming. Truth without love is like a noisy gong or clashing cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1). The hard truth is always given in love if we have our spouse’s best interests in mind. Just as you might whisper to your husband that his zipper is down or that his breath is bad so that that he could quickly make corrections, it’s important that you do him good by helping him see himself more accurately.

Hebrews 3:13 reminds us that we all are prone to the deceitfulness of sin and therefore we all need truth-tellers in our lives. Click To Tweet

That said, the book of Proverbs instructs us about interacting with different kinds of people, especially the wise and the foolish. One of the most distinguishing features between them is that a wise person learns from his or her mistakes and listens to instruction and feedback from God and from wise others. A fool refuses correction, mocks those who try to give him feedback, and does not learn from his or her mistakes.  When you are married to someone who consistently refuses to value your input or feedback, does not self-correct when he gets negative feedback from others, or does not learn from his mistakes, there comes a time when you have to face the truth. You are married to a fool who does not want to change. For you to continue to hold the light up to the darkness only infuriates the darkness. That takes us to your second question. Now what?

Separation may be the next step for you. The mechanics of how you do it is something you will have to decide based on your financial picture and whether or not you have children living in the home. But what I think what you might say to your husband is something like this: 

“I accept that you don’t want to hear what I have to say. I accept that you don't want to change or deal with the issues that have troubled me in our marriage. I am no longer going to beg you to look at these things. If you are comfortable with the man you are and you don't want to change anything I will accept that even if I don’t like it.  

But what that means for me is that I will no longer pretend we have a good marriage. I am not willing to function as husband and wife in a fake way when we cannot even have an honest or constructive conversation about the issues facing us. I’m going to separate myself from you….(and then you say what you’re going to do – move into another bedroom, or move out of the house) so that I am not continuously subjected to hurt and frustration by the way you treat me and our marriage. This is not done to punish you. I’m doing it because I cannot do marriage with you the way you are, and you do not want to change the way you are.” 

You must be ready to take that specific action once you say these words. These are not threats. They are the consequences of his choices not to receive your feedback or learn from his mistakes. Let him feel what it feels like to have you removed from his life. It may be just fine with him and that’s where your own grief work will need to take place. You will need to let go of the dream that your marriage will change, the hope that in the end he does love you and cares that his behaviors have hurt you. But as I’ve said again and again, as painful as truth and reality are sometimes, healthy people live in truth and reality and not in fantasy.  Once you accept that he doesn’t want to change, you are more clearly able to make good choices for yourself.  

Friends, sometimes it takes more courage and faith to let go than to continue to hang on.  What helped you finally let go of your hope for change?  

64 Comments

  1. Lea on May 6, 2020 at 8:56 am

    My relationship with my husband is very similar to this description, so much so that I could have written the article. What I have often felt, but didn’t truly realize is that, based on this description, we are already separated–we live apart in the same household–separate bedrooms, separate TV rooms, separate interests, etc. Although we do share meals some days, conversation is relegated to superficial topics or it leads to arguments. Basically, we’re roommates. So, for me, this “separation” hasn’t resulted in positive changes. (And I think this sweet lady should be prepared for that possibility before she makes her decision.) Although nothing has changed for me, I don’t want a divorce. I have accepted this existence. I love him, and I pray for him daily. Some would say this is no way to live, but I truly believe that in my situation divorce would drive him farther from God, result in immense pain for my adult children, and present new struggles for me. So, I pray God will help me persevere and I hold out hope for my husband. Compared to eternity, this life is so very short so I believe with God’s help, I can endure, and I believe the rewards will be worth the pain.

    • Free on May 6, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Have you asked your adult children what they think about you divorcing an unloving man? Sometimes we think we know what they might say, but have not asked them. May I suggest you ask them what they think and then make the best decision that benefits you. As you are not responsible for anyone elses happiness, salvation, testimony, healing or walk. You ARE responsible for what you are doing with YOUR life. Are you living a life worthy of Christ sacrifice for you? Or are you living in fear, compromise, convenience and compliance? Christ came to set us free.

      • Beverly Schmader on May 6, 2020 at 7:29 pm

        Amen. I have been as above separated in house, my husband is not violent, but is completely indifferent, & avoids taking responsibility for anything, puts it back on me or says “ya I am one dumb son of a bitch”. What ? I never said that but was raised with physical & verbal abuse, so I blamed myself for years. Which allowed the cycle to continue & get worse with gas lighting. We were both raised in alcoholic homes, his passive, aggressive. Mine more aggressive with physical & verbal abuse. I went into emotional shock when I asked him to stop drinking ( he binged with friends on weekends & when working with friends). He told me no “I will never give up alcohol”. Anyway, 30 years of frustration & prayers, I felt the Lord was telling me to divorce, hmm could this be ? Maybe I was finally loosing it. I cried out to God saying, I know you could change his heart, why don’t you change his heart God? Very clearly in my head I heard because you won’t do what I want you to do. WOW. I have never believed in divorce except for being unsafe. Well , I gotta tell you, I have trust issues, always thought because of my childhood, but I am seeing so many things I took the responsibility for. Financial, physical safety, health, but he is a workaholic so that makes up for it, right? I have moved out for months at a time, but the youngest of 4 was a senior & his grades dropped as his behavior. Our 4 children have always seen me as the bad guy, of course as I was the only disciplinarian. At times I think wow what have I shown them? My boys do not know how to respect women. With that being said I get a lot of compliments on my now grown children. 3 out of 4 drink. They just gaslight & disrespect me & when I point it our they put it all back on me. I am very guilty of reactive anger & badmouthing my husband even to the kids, but I also stick up for him with the kids. Cant remember a time he supported or stuck up for me.I filed a year ago & am trying to divorce in the kindest way possible & make sure neither of us is financially bereft . Almost there and as usual he is still acting as if nothing is wrong & it isn’t going to happen even though he was served papers a year ago & given a one year time frame to either go to counseling or stop drinking. Refuses to do either. Hurts my heart but I am trusting God although it is easier just to bury my head & stay living like this another 30 years.My hearts hurts so bad at times I feel like it is going to explode. I support & encourage prayerful work through conquer & when strong & safe prayerfully ask what God’s will is for your marriage . Making that decision after working through conquer & finding yourself again & becoming God centered (not marriage centered) I feel is tantamount receiving & understanding God’s answer. I always wanted to write a book, haha. . Thank you all for sharing your life stories Beverly

        • Free on May 6, 2020 at 10:49 pm

          Beverly, your life will be so wonderful without this relationship. You need to detox from the poison you lived in..it will take your brain awhile to think straight. You will need counseling and a chance to reframe what you think. You will need to learn to discard all the old lies you were taught about yourself and your value.

          I am excited for the life ahead of you!

    • Moonbeam on May 6, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      I thought like you too. I endured. I put my trust in a better life in eternity. Yet, my theology was wrong. I found out I was taking on responsibility that wasn’t mine to bear in error and without truth to sustain my thinking.

      I ask you, before you met this man, did you ever think such suffering under another person’s sin was yours to bear? Who told you that you have to life a life oppression and martyrdom? Christ came to do all that suffering, not you!

      I think you are living in fear and are devaluing yourself. What advice would you give to a young woman who was considering marriage if you learned she planned to live like you?

      • Karen on May 8, 2020 at 7:03 pm

        Well said. I agree totally.

    • Aly on May 6, 2020 at 1:37 pm

      Lea,
      Wow! I do agree with Free that you are not responsible for his relationship with God. Sometimes in ‘loving someone’ we can have the strength and power from Christ to dust off our shoes. Sometimes what we ‘call love’ isn’t real love but a way of keeping us from facing the realities of rejection and the health of any relationship for that matter.
      I think a good exercise that many great counselors in this area give is – What is Love? How are you loving him? What are you hoping for? Or is this hope more wishful fantasy?
      Also, you are not responsible for your adult children’s’ coping skills -if they were to see changes in your marriage.
      By no means am I saying divorce etc. but what you describe of your marriage dynamic is not glorifying God.

      • Free on May 6, 2020 at 1:49 pm

        I agree. Sometimes what we “love” is the fake persona we pretend our spouse could be….if only…

        We deny reality and “love” the Godly wife and mother role. It is a beautiful role. Yet, in the case of a destructive marriage, the “love” is based on a lie and the “love” is for the dream of a man, rather than truly selfish man before us.

      • JoAnn on May 9, 2020 at 2:07 pm

        Actually, it appears that the marriage has already ended. A “divorce” is simply a legal statement that the marriage is already dead. Please see that. Living together in the same house is not a marriage. And faking it does not glorify God.

        • Moonbeam on May 9, 2020 at 2:36 pm

          JoAnn, I have heard this perspective before, yet I struggle with it. You see all the marriages in my family were just platonic. At some point the love died and people just stayed together for the kids. It’s all I saw modeled. Is that really wrong. It is still a marriage. It is still legal, it is just an arrangement, like many cultures have.

          • JoAnn on May 10, 2020 at 9:41 pm

            Moonbeam, it takes work to keep a marriage alive and vital. Too many people drift into complacency after the honeymoon. I have been happily married for nearly 53 years (next month is our anniversary) and it still takes effort to fan the flame of love and take care of each other, and a lot of spiritual exercise. So, a person has to decide what kind of relationship do you want? Yes, two people can live together in a kind of comfortable “room mate” arrangement, but does this honor God? If our marriage is to reflect the way Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her, then there must be more than comfortable coexistence. We give ourselves up for each other, and we do it in the power and energy of Christ’s love for us. So, you asked, “Is that really wrong?” If we take the biblical view, then yes, it’s not a marriage that honors God or each other. But comfortable coexistence is what many people have, and as long as there is not abuse, and both partners are truly comfortable, then we aren’t going to jump in and say they are wrong. However, as believers in Christ who are called to a higher purpose, we need His power and love to operate in our hearts so that our living honors God.
            I hope what I have written doesn’t confuse you.



          • Aly on May 11, 2020 at 10:39 am

            JoAnn,
            Sorry could not post directly under yours. I agree with what you wrote. Sadly, too many marriages are walking around complacent and calling it a ‘Christian Marriage’ because they are sticking together under one roof. However, the posture of their hearts are not where God calls us in marriage and often the ‘church’ has fed this type of-settling as a way of keeping families together (for the kids etc/ or finances or just plain (saving face-depending on your culture upbringing)

            I was told my expectations were to high to want a Godly marriage where I felt cared for and cherished by my spouse and also for me to reciprocate to my husband. This does take work in a healthy dynamic. Some things are simple & natural and some things are challenging.

            I believe Christ overcomes cultures and norms that are not part of his glory.

            Who we hang around and what is modeled -impacts us more than we realize.
            Complacent ‘arrangements are not fulfilling vows of a biblical marriage that glorify the Lord.
            I think this can extend to other sacred relationships as well when it comes to our Christian love and calling.



          • Lea on May 12, 2020 at 8:07 am

            While I agree with many of the points made by many of those posting, help me understand how to address the promise we make to God “til death do us part” when we marry? Regardless of what a spouse does, we made that promise to God. And, what do we do with verses like 2 Cor 12:9-10, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.



          • Aly on May 12, 2020 at 10:11 am

            Lea,
            I agree that God has made it clear in scripture that our holiness and purpose is far more important that our happiness.
            However the dialog in the posts are not about seeking happiness but honoring God while navigating the realities of (some) in a destructive relationship.
            I made a commitment to God to love and honor my husband and many times I failed in not doing that because I was allowing myself to be ‘his enabler’ (my short term happy comforts) rather than his helpmate as I was called to be.
            We make a commitment to God and that doesn’t mean our spouse has the same level of commitment toward God and the sacred covenant of marriage.
            It only takes one spouse in the marriage to break a covenant. This doesn’t always mean it is separation or divorce but the person committed to the marriage covenant has the freedom to chose – safety, sanity, a healthy life that can be free to give true honor to the Lord -not one pretending to have a covenant marriage or staying in an abusive marriage that doesn’t glorify God.
            Many who are victim-survivors in these relationships can look at many scriptures to validate their reasonings for continuing a destructive relationship.
            Many of the victim survivors are not concerned or seeking help because they are looking for happiness! They are seeking help for their own well being, often safety and most definitely sanity. When someone is in a destructive relationship it’s difficult for them to see all of what is at the cost to their soul. This is very personal because of who we belong to as Daughters of the King!



        • JoAnn on May 12, 2020 at 11:03 am

          Lea (Posted May 12), I think the context of Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. relates to his being persecuted for his faith and his being called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. While it is true that God’s grace supplies us in difficult circumstances, I believe that the marriage covenant is on a different plane. As Aly said, that covenant is between two people, and while the promise is made before God, the covenant is between the husband and wife. What do we do when one person breaks that covenant? Then there is no marriage, and as Leslie says, it does not honor God to allow another person to continually sin against us. We need to honor ourselves enough to say, “I won’t allow myself to be treated (sinned against) this way anymore.” We can honor God by taking ourselves out of harm’s way. As many here have testified, once they got out of the toxic environment, their hearts healed, the fog in their minds cleared, and their relationship with the Lord got richer and happier. Even that God blessed their move and supplied them with what they needed. While we acknowledge that God hates divorce, it is because of what causes the marriage to be broken, the hardness of hearts, not the act of separating. Phil. 2:5 says , “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus…” So, would you, as a parent, allow your child to be treated the way your husband treats you? Then what do you think your Heavenly Father thinks about how how you are being treated?

          • Nancy on May 12, 2020 at 6:19 pm

            Lea,

            Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Christ and the Church. This is indeed- as Joanne pointed out- on a very different plane than how those being persecuted for their faith are to behave.

            Christ is ALWAYS about freeing the oppressed. ALWAYS.

            If a husband is enslaved by sin then as his ‘helpmeet’ it is the wife’s job to stop enabling that sin. She needs to say ‘no more’ to the oppression. That process of saying ‘no more’ is what varies greatly, but what is the same in all our cases is that we chose LIFE. Life for ourselves. How the husband chooses to respond is entirely up to him.

            The best thing we can ever do for one we love is to stop tolerating (and worse enabling) sin. If it’s our spouse who is trapped by sin, well then…that’s what we signed up for, isn’t it? (Certainly not what we dreamed of, but what we in fact committed to….loving him well)



          • Aly on May 12, 2020 at 10:22 pm

            Nancy,
            Would you expand on how one could love someone well – if they are trapped in sin?
            I think this area is where it can get merky for many of us who have been taught a load of ways in what is looks like and often it can be enabling destructive dynamics to continue or get even worse over time.



    • Beverly Schmader on May 6, 2020 at 7:39 pm

      Or drive him to his knees & seek God. I am learning to stay our of God’s way. I am not responsibility for his relationship with God. That would be playing God myself. It is scary though & have had that same mindset at times, thank goodness for Leslie’s biblical clarification on these things
      .

      • Aly on May 6, 2020 at 10:08 pm

        Beverly,
        I think many of us have been brought up or been instructed with this mindset or posture you noted above.
        Personally, I think it can create even more difficult strongholds and creates a level of enabling.
        I think I good rule of thumb is when you see individuals who feel entitled for (fill the blank) or show lack of empathy for how another is impacted by their behavior… believe their behaviors- in that they are behaviors reflecting a heart either far from God and certainly not surrendered to Christ. These types of people are not safe for close relationships let alone a marital one.

      • Autumn on May 6, 2020 at 10:53 pm

        I would stop concerning myself with his actions, thoughts and most importantly, his words. You can’t change another person and you can’t live their life for them.

        As this post recommends. It is time for all of us to accept the fool is a fool and move on. Shake the sand from your sandals and go pursue your giftedness in the Lord. Spending our energy on a fool is a waste of our life

      • Nancy on May 7, 2020 at 8:09 pm

        Beverley,

        Learning to stay out of God’s way was a key concept for me to embrace. When we do not allow the consequences to happen, we are in God’s way. Practically, I started to be very sensitive to my own ‘gut’. I started to recognize that ‘turning myself into a pretzel’ to accommodate others was a very bad habit that paved the way for him to disregard me. Learning to speak up and say ‘ouch’ when I got hurt was an important step for ME to recognize that I had been disregarded.

        My limits were something for me to bury, rationalize, minimize, deny. That was me turning myself into a pretzel. A boundary is ‘a limit that promotes integrity’. Acknowledging, accepting, speaking and standing firm in my limits was KEY for me to regain my personhood.

        Limits really do promote integrity

        • Charlie on May 14, 2020 at 7:41 pm

          Nancy, thank you! What you are writing resonates with me! I am in process of trying to figure out what is my next step! I am in separate bedrooms but it has only been a week! I have serious back issues and probably need another back fusion, haven’t worked in 3 years and most likely can’t go back to doing hair. I have no computer skills and no other training. I do believe no matter what God will take care of me! Just hard to make a move from where I sit right now.

  2. Cindy Kaufman on May 6, 2020 at 8:59 am

    This could have been written by me. I too have struggeled for years to get my husband to see how his refusal to deal with his issues and selfish behavior has impacted our marriage. I am at the same place as the writer, knowing it’s time to make the nesessary changes if he continues to be unwilling to work on himself. Thank you Leslie for you reply and encouragment. And you are so right when you wrote: “Friends, sometimes it takes more courage and faith to let go than to continue to hang on.” May God give courrage to those of us that need to let go.

    • Free on May 6, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Maybe others could tell us what their first step looked like as they began the separation process. Realizing that change is not happening and accepting the reality of a doomed future while yoked to an unrepentant fool is hard to accept. The sooner we take action, the sooner we can grieve and heal. Yes, it is painful, but freedom lies on the other side of destruction.

      So, what did people do first? What worked? What helped? How did you get out of the terrible place and get to the stronger, wiser, safer place?

      • Aly on May 6, 2020 at 5:18 pm

        Getting Godly counseling (individually which is usually the only option because most that are in this situation as the writer for ex. see no need for counseling because they are perfectly fine with being who they are in the marriage) Also having a strong counselor that works as a 3rd party to negotiate whether separation is the next step can be really helpful.
        Our counselor was able to help my husband see his superiority issues and narcissistic tendencies to help wake him to what his future would be if he chose to continue in his mindset and not treat other underlying issues that make marriage (very hard).

  3. Sharon Lee on May 6, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Me counselor recommended Jan Silvios’ book “Fool Proofing Your Life”. This book helped me to get a clearer vision of what is happening here. I feel this book would also be great, not only married women, but anyone to filter their relationships through to see if they are healthy.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 6, 2020 at 12:35 pm

      I love that book too.

  4. Jo on May 6, 2020 at 9:30 am

    Wow! This question and answer is so exactly timely for me. Leslie, your explanation of light and darkness in this situation and of Biblical foolishness is the truth I needed to hear.

    Have you written on getting past the heartbreak and grief?

  5. Amy on May 6, 2020 at 11:33 am

    What wonderful timing to read this today, Leslie! The Lord does indeed give us wisdom when we ask him. I am in this very situation and figuring out the timing right now as I ask the Lord to provide a support group of some sort – as I have read and keep hearing again and again how important that is. I’m also praying for courage and strength to walk this walk and live in truth and expose the darkness. It is HARD. I am thankful for you, Leslie, and your ministry to me through your books, blogs and Conquer!

    • Autumn on May 6, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Have you thought about joining an online group. Patrick Doyle has an online group for $30 a month called Pathway to Hope. Support and teaching.

      http://www.patrickdoyle.life

    • Dora on May 6, 2020 at 2:23 pm

      What part of the country are you in Amy? Support is so important!

  6. Jennifer Miera on May 6, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    What helped me realize I had to leave my 17 year marriage was getting biblical counseling and Leslie’s book; The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Her book completely opened my eyes and helped give me the strength to leave for the well being of myself and my children. It has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do but God has blessed my children and I so much and we continue to trust in Him and walk with Him through this trial.

  7. Autumn on May 6, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    His Narcissistic Personality Disorder makes him incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. That is part of his disease process. That will never change. It is unrealistic to think he could be something he is not. It is like asking a pig to fly. It’s never going to happen.

  8. poppy smith on May 6, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Leslie, Thank you for your books and newsletters. I refer women to them frequently in my work as a spiritual director, a life coach, and a domestic abuse advocate. I appreciate your Biblical counsel that frees so many women who feel trapped in their circumstances because of distorted thinking and assuming this is God’s will for them.

    • Free on May 6, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Are you familiar with Don Hennessy’s book, “How Havee gets into Her Head?” That is an excellent resource for people who care for others like you do.

      • Free on May 6, 2020 at 1:42 pm

        “How He Gets Into Her Head” is the title.

  9. JoAnn on May 6, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    As a follow-up to Leslie’s advice, Redemptive Divorce, by Mark W. Gaither has very helpful advice on just how to present the option of “get help or get out.” Her statement, “You must be ready to take that specific action once you say these words” is right on, and this book offers specific suggestions about how to do that, step by step. The book is “sensitive, biblically balanced and carefully researched” and I got a more balanced view of this whole thing we call divorce.

  10. Janice D on May 7, 2020 at 6:38 am

    It’s about allowing all that energy,tears,time reading one more Christian marriage book to find hope.However,it’s not the change you were ” wanting”ie husbands change/growth.It is what is “ needed” which is our own shift of perspective and leaning on the Lord and growing in ways we never imagined. This is real hope since we are promised that “ He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” and God keeps his promises! Free will can’t be overruled- God won’t do it and we certainly can’t,so it’s so much more productive to be part of a construction project with 2 willing and able participants ( the Holy Spirit and you). Yes,we are called to pray for our husbands,and I do that from the safety and beauty of my apartment which became my sanctuary when I left after 26 years of marriage.Now,almost 2 years later, very little has changed in my husband( if anything he seems more stuck in his issues) That could also be because God has given me clarity and healing and I refuse to accept responsibility that was never mine to take.His issues have nothing to do with me,I was collateral damage in a war that I never signed up for when I got married.One of Gods purposes in marriage is to help each other grow(iron sharpens iron) but again that takes 2 willing partners.My husband fought me on this our entire marriage as he is not interested in giving up his cherished idols.I don’t have everything I always wanted yet I have something stronger and deeper.God will make a way,He is trustworthy and He is completely committed to our wellbeing.

  11. Lois on May 8, 2020 at 2:31 am

    The book “Unholy Charades – Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church” by Pastor Jeff Crippen helped me realize the heart of a Narcissist was seared. It really was evil. We also can say their heart is foolish (which is kinder to say I believe). I accepted the true statement that there is no hope for them to change. None. This is where the beginning of grief came for me. To let go of the hope for my h’s heart to be any different. To let go of the Christian dream of a healthy marriage to be a testimony for God’s glory…Then to let go of the responsibility that it all depended on me (beginning of freedom)… Then to let go of the unhealthy and toxic slants of negativity and covert cut downs with hidden meanings (a breath of life is beginning),,, Then to let go of me not taking care of myself and stop thinking of my h all of the time seeking to figure out how to answer his accusations ( perhaps new hope for a joyful life can be real)…
    I think a most pivotal conversation I had with my h was telling him no I am not seeking to have a divorce, but that our relationship needs to be like a friend since he is so nice to others. I moved out of the bedroom 6 months ago. I do not enter in his foolish “playful” comments, I just do not say anything… He sees me changing. He is off his game as I am not dancing the same dance… instead I am guarding my heart, using TED body language of being more confident, thinking my thoughts and speaking up more and becoming real…Presently I am just finding other people to reach out to – online Zoom, texting, calls, etc. I think he may sense my “letting go” and he is trying to figure it all out. I will not let myself trust him nor can I rest from my guard. He finally ordered a book I have asked him to get for about 40 years – “If Only He Knew” by Gary Smalley on how men can be sensitive to their wife’s heart. I think it is just too late for me… Just letting go of what I can not control and having the courage to change me in the Conquer Journey.

    • Free on May 8, 2020 at 7:10 am

      Lois, this post is nothing short of brilliant! I read it three times. You are on to something here, a wave of truth and wisdom. Bravo!

  12. Moonbeam on May 8, 2020 at 7:43 am

    I was so brain washed and enmeshed in my manipulative husband’s grasp that I didn’t even realize there was a possibility of living any other way. I stayed, prayed, obeyed, complied,endured, hoped and accepted my lot. My world was toxic and I didn’t see it. I just accepted my situation and made the best of it. Thousands of dollars or counseling, tricky, fake repentence and sly manipulative changes on his part as he became pathological. Each program, gave him more ideas about how to control me, his victim, his object, his desired sex toy.

    Oblivious is the best word I can use to describe my perspective. I had no clue he could love. He couldn’t think like a normal person. He had/has Narcissistic Personality Disorder with both masochistic and sadistic tendencies. He is delusional ( believes his own lies) and is a misogynist ( by his own admission- hates women.) Yet, I thought I had to stay. Divorce is a sin rang in my ears.

    It wasn’t until he beat me. He threw me all over the house, down steps. Broke furniture, smashing our dining room table to pieces, like a lion tamer as I huddled in the corner, that I tried to escape. He said he could kill me. My crime? Not giving him enough affection and affirmation which he seemed was owed to him. (Narcissistic Entitlement)

    So to answer the question. No, I never woke up. I needed the ER doctor, the social worker, lawyers and the court, to tell me, “No! Don’t go back!” I needed friends to reason with me, therapist to be patient with me as my brain slowly detoxed from my torturer’s brilliant sabotage of my life, spirit and brain. Women like us, we need help. The journey is painful and long. Misapplied biblical principals keep many of us trapped for life.

    • JoAnn on May 9, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      Oh, Dear Sister! I am so very sorry for what you have been through! Praise the Lord that now you are free and in the process of healing. May He grant you much grace as you continue on your journey.

      • Moonbeam on May 9, 2020 at 2:40 pm

        Thanks, JoAnn. Many people live a life just like mine. They just don’t usually get out. Here’s hoping for more domestic rescues and for the church to speak out in support of victims of all kinds of abuse, not only physical.

        • JoAnn on May 9, 2020 at 6:03 pm

          Amen to that!

  13. Lois on May 11, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    What JoAnn says is wonderful and very true. I desired to be at this point in our marriage for 42 years, yet finally I am believing in giving the boundaries I so wish I had long ago – due to lack of knowledge etc… I believe Leslie’s encouragement for us to be healthy may give our h an opportunity to “relearn” how to relate better. It is becoming a new dance for me. Not sure if I should ever hope for him to change… and I really came to a point of letting go of that hope… but it is interesting to see him “maneuvering” differently while I am changing. My eyes see and understand his N ways and with a guarded heart and strength in my mind, his missed opportunities to be a blessing is let go of. I must just keep moving on seeking what God wants me to do. I hope to be my best in this – and I am still learning… It is so helpful to begin a journey of relating to healthier women and waiting on seeing how God will affirm my needs in different ways.

    • Julie S. on May 24, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      Letting go of the hope, or the wish, that things will change. Almost 2 years of learning what is wrong.. 39 years married now.

  14. JoAnn on May 11, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you, Aly, for your May 11 post. I like this that you said: “I believe Christ overcomes cultures and norms that are not part of his glory.” Yes, in fact He calls us to live Him, be His expression, with His heart and mind. This overcomes culture and all of the dividing walls. The book of Galatians is clear on this. To live Christ in our marriage might look differently from what we think it should, as Beverly said in her May 6 post. In some cases, divorce might be the thing that glorifies God, as others can witness the transformation that takes place when a woman gathers up her courage and says, “No More!” Then she heals from the abuse.

  15. Free on May 13, 2020 at 5:18 am

    Lea, this is what finally helped me. The vows we took were BEFORE God Not TO God. Your husband vowed to you and you vowed to him. He broke his vows, repeatedly in your marriage. ( This applies to a ton of men referred to on the blog.) He broke the vows, God saw it and there will be consequences for his pride. God hates pride. God is to be God. Your husband is to live humbly before him. He is not doing that!

    I agree that there is no direct verse that applies to abuse. I know people pick apart scriptures and throw something to the subject, but really, divorcing for abuse isn’t in there. I wonder if no one thought anyone who be insane enough to stay in such a situation? It is just plain old common sense to flee mistreatment! Our church teachings don’t tell us that. At least, mine didn’t. I was taught to submit to male headship.

    Yet, when I imagine Jesus watching the terrible things my husband did and said to me, I imagine he would have said, “Leave her alone, Buddy. What in the world did you just say and do to that woman? She is my sister! Get away from her. Leave your cloak, you riches and anything else she needs to survive as an act of contrition. You fool. You prideful man. Repent, and change your ways, for the judgement that awaits you in your present state is without mercy.”

    Finally, I believe most good women will gladly and joyfully submit towards the leadership of a Godly man. If He is not behaving as a Godly man. He is the problem, not her.

    • Lea on May 13, 2020 at 9:37 am

      Thank you for your comments, Free. I hadn’t considered my vows were before God and not to God. I will give that some thought and prayer. For the record, my husband has never physically abused me; however, he is certainly guilty of emotional and mental abuse. I am getting away for a few days to seek God’s face. I appreciate all the advice and good intentions, but each of us is an individual and you all can’t fully know my circumstances from just a few short paragraphs. However, God knows me intimately and I have to hear from him what to do. I love my husband despite the way he behaves. And, he has been very good to me in many, many ways. On the other hand, because of his narcissism and his drinking, he can be hateful and unkind and destructive. He’s truly a Jekyll and Hyde. I fully believe it is not within my power to change him, but God can. He can do anything, even help a narcissist.

      • Free on May 13, 2020 at 10:02 am

        Oh, yes Lea. Your life and your choices! No know healing of Narcissists. Rather, a spiritual battle against their evil. It took me a long time to accept that.

        Enjoy your time of refreshment.

      • Aly on May 13, 2020 at 10:31 am

        Lea,
        It’s really wonderful that you are able to get away a find some quiet time to hear from God.
        I think it’s a blessing that what Free wrote you are able to consider.
        While I agree that many of us can’t know someone’s situation totally on point with just a few posts, much of what we do know is that many here at this blog and others are NOT being physically abused yet are feeling the confusion and the affects of emotional/spiritual and mental abuse in marriage or other sacred relationships. This type of abuse is not all that INVENTIVE and many things in these dynamics are predictable.
        Please look up the abuse wheel on line.

        I don’t think anyone would doubt or question your love for your husband despite the way you are being treated. And many of us here who have been in similar places completely understand the ‘good and loving’ things these Jekyll & Hyde personality. It’s usually part of the equation! And often this is why they don’t reap the immediate consequences needed for their behavior.

        As far as God changing anyone, I believe God can but I don’t believe He forces anyone who isn’t surrendered in heart to Him.

        I am married to a wonderful man who did eventually get the necessary help and change with a surrendered heart. I had to change first -regardless of his choices and much of that change came from not tolerating the abuse or thinking (I could only listen to what I thought God was telling me)
        In Proverbs- There is Safety in Multiple counselors. Please ponder how important it is surround yourself around wise Godly people who understand this type of destructive relationship patterns so you can see your courage and give the best choices of hope (REAL HOPE) for this cycle to stop and begin a new journey where both spouses are equally valued and treated with lots of care and sacred promises.
        Praying for your heart and your journey💕

      • Libbie on May 13, 2020 at 11:59 am

        Lea,
        I have been separated from a Jekyll/Hyde husband for over a year now. We would have months of a loving relationship where he was good to me, opened car doors, bought flowers, kind, etc. And then he would drink and explode because I washed the laundry and vacuumed instead of going to the grocery. Or I washed his work uniforms on the wrong day. Or I put too much milk in the baby’s bottle…..Small things would cause him to throw things and call me horrible names. Then, his drinking became daily and his outbursts became every few weeks instead of every few months. I felt as if I had to walk on eggshells, and control topics of conversation to avoid fights. It was exhausting.
        Looking back now, I think these “honeymoon” periods of love and kindness, were all after huge fights. Maybe out of remorse, or maybe to avoid the consequences of his horrible treatment of me.
        Please pray about your situation, and ask God to remove the fog, so you may see what God’s will is for you and your marriage.

        • Moonbeam on May 13, 2020 at 1:40 pm

          You describe the abuse cycle well. It is still abuse even if there is no physical contact. What that means is that these men can control with just cruel words and demeaning behaviors. They don’t need to move in to being physical because you still respond to his other tactics. These men move on to physical when you try to get away or if you stop doing what he wants when he uses his other tactics.

        • Autumn on May 13, 2020 at 7:34 pm

          The honeymoon period is to lure you back into the cycle. It is another strategy to control you just like the outbursts. It is all calculated and planned for the abuser’s need for intimate partner control. Let me guess, he doesn’t do anything like this to his co-workers, his barber, his banker, or his chiropractor, he only does this dance with you. He does it to control you and because he believes he is entitled to get anything he wants from you. When he is being nice it is to inflate his own ego. He believes is is superior to others and sees himself as the fake persona he becomes during the honeymoon stage.

  16. Angela on May 14, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    The story about the emperor’s clothes fits the story. A better example that shows that God does not expect women to just “go along” with their husbands is the story of Anannias and Saphirra. They were each judged separately for their part. She was complicit, and was judged accordingly. This passage implies to me but if she had not been in agreement, her life would have been spared.

    • Free on May 16, 2020 at 12:15 am

      Thanks for this application. You are right! Excellent example. She was still responsible for her role. God will judge us as individuals.

  17. JC on May 14, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    My husband and I were separated for 2 years and now back together for almost 7 months. He said last week, “ the most loving thing you have ever done for me was to ask me to leave. I would never have faced myself and found freedom from addiction.” We are building a new relationship it’s still hard in some ways but we are together in it for the first time in 38 years. It can happen but it takes 2. Actually 3. God must be allowed in there. Keep praying keep changing keep learning healthy boundaries.

    • Karen on May 15, 2020 at 8:35 am

      Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement!! You have no idea how much that means to women who have been married more than 35 years and have been dealing with this kind of trauma for decades. God bless your relationship with your husband and make it flourish.

  18. Linda on May 20, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Hello. I left some comments earlier, and I appreciate you all listening. I am discovering that my husband is having trouble with diabetic mood swings. Whenever he exercises in any way, his sugar goes low, and then he jacks him up high. then he is rude and irritable and I have been walking away. This takes great strength because I want to yell at him. Wierdly enough, the urge to yell at him is really going away. Not by my strength. I am committed to this marriage- that is until I end up being committed! I also think that he is scared about the coronavirus. He has diabetes and a heart stent and they are opening up the country now. It is scary. If I am nervous about it, I just imagine how he feels. I really try to talk to him about it. It is so hard. He has so much pride and says that only woman express their feelings. that leaves me feeling lonely. And it certainly does not solve the problem. Unfortunately, I have been thinking about other men and how they might treat me. Softly and gently. My husband rarely looks me in the eye. I picture someone looking me in the eyes and just telling me how much they love me. Is anyone out there married to a diabetic?

    • Autumn on May 20, 2020 at 11:45 pm

      There is no such thing as diabetic mood swings. Diabetes doesn’t cause mood swings. He is making excuses for his bad behavior and not taking responsibility for it. He re-groomed you to fall for another ploy.

      • Linda on May 21, 2020 at 1:22 pm

        Thank you Autumn, for your reply. I agree that responsibility needs to be taken for hi mood swings. I am establishing very strong boundaries. It is not possible to leave right now. I am encouraged by his willingness to participate in marriage Bible Studies. I do know that I basically need to have my own life within my marriage. It is not ideal, but the only practical answer right now.

        • Autumn on May 22, 2020 at 12:10 am

          I liked what you said about imagining how a good man treats his wife. That kind of thinking was a great reality check for me. I compared the behaviors of a normal man to the behaviors of the man I lived with and realized he was a fool. In fact, he was worse than a fool, he was evil hearted.

          Be creative in living a life within your dysfunction and be good to yourself. It is interesting that you truth avoidant spouse wants to go to couples bible study. Will he put on a fake persona for the group? Why do you think he is willing to participate in the study? How does it benefit him?

    • Helen on May 23, 2020 at 11:25 pm

      I am married to a Type 1 diabetic and they absolutely DO have mood swings based on their blood sugar levels. Many of his ‘swings’ are due to carelessness on his part but he is very, very sensitive to insulin – which he has to take to stay alive – and his sugar levels can drop very rapidly. That said, those mood swings coupled with a man who refuses to face up to his contributing issues in a very difficult marriage due to his own selfishness and control and anxiety, creates the perfect storm. I am sorry you are dealing with the same thing. It is no cake walk.

      • Linda on May 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm

        Thank you, Helen. Are you doing heavy boundaries or have you decided to separate? I would love to hear any suggestions. Sorry you have so much to go through also. God bless

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