Morning friends,

I was in Chicago recently visiting with my family. This past weekend was my 50th high school reunion, but sadly it was canceled due to COVID (Of course – I graduated at 10 years old). It was a little eerie going to the airport and sitting on a full flight for almost 4 hours wearing a mask. But I’m ready to start doing normal, regular things again, are you?  

Today’s Question: I have been married to my husband for 17 yrs. We have an 11-year-old daughter & I am a stay at home mother (SAHM). Over the past few years, however, I have come to realize that I am dealing with a very skilled covert abuser who is dismissive, avoidant, emotionally unavailable, has intimacy & sexual anorexia, and prefers porn & masturbation. My husband had issues with alcohol until almost 2 years ago when a family member convinced him to check into a four-day detox program. 

Miraculously, I have not seen or been aware of him drinking at all since he came home. He refused to speak to me or discuss anything about ways that I could help or support him or even the core reasons he drank other than to claim it was purely “situational” and that I & our relationship were the reason for his alcoholism even though that is absolutely not the case, as he had these issues before we met. He never officially entered any formal rehab or treatment facility after detox other than a few follow-ups. He claimed that they also agreed that he was an “exception to the rule as a classic alcoholic” and that nothing further for “recovery” would be needed. 

Interestingly enough, not drinking, which all through our marriage was an enormous struggle for him, now seemed to be a miraculous NON ISSUE! With the absence of his drinking, our marriage remained void & his coldness & withholding remained if not even intensified more so. 

My husband has been a master at cultivating a parental alliance with our daughter, which has created intense triangulation. About 6 months ago, my husband blurted out to me in front of our daughter that he would be divorcing me & that it would be no big deal & people do it all of the time. This was surprising considering the number of emotions he normally has. 

He is a master at control & conceals, especially his feelings, words & emotions! Months past & nothing came of it after I tried to convince him that we are all under extra stressful times during this pandemic & it was not right to put any more stress or fear on to our daughter during this transitional time of her life. He is also aware that I was this age when my parents divorced & how hard it was on me. Since then, he has let me know that he does not love me & doesn’t want to be married any longer. He claims that there is no one else. When I tell him that things staying the same are not an option, he ignores me. 

So my question is: Am I wrong to try to get well and stay well in a marriage that never was and looks to never really be any different? I know that I am not in complete control and that God is sovereign. I wonder if by staying, which is more in my comfort zone, as I have no income, that I’m not actually going against what God calls me to do? I feel a bit like a sitting duck just waiting for my official papers & replacement to ensue. 

My other question is about the confusion of feeling like I need to learn how to treat him in the covert ways he has always treated me. 

To detach, disengage, show no affection, have no sex, act like a robot! That’s an intimacy anorexic’s dream come true! He would have his ideal outcome a wife to complete his superficial image of a married man & I remain with the absence of a loving, intimate human spousal relationship! I know I have a lot of work ahead of me & it has been my greatest struggle to work on this while not focusing on him & our situation as well as trying not to have it take away time from my daughter when she wants the full-on constant interactive play & attention that my husband devoted to her from the minute he gets home until she is asleep. 

I know it sounds crazy as most of the ladies here would love nothing more than that from their husbands. I put God first, husband second, children third (within reason) because the best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother/father & model a good healthy relationship. 

It’s bittersweet that my marriage issues are so invisible & that leaves me feeling even more confused. I have been treated & felt so invisible for so long, and I came to believe that I was of no value. 

Answer:  First, let me tell you something you probably have already heard before, but you’re struggling to believe it for yourself. You have value. Great value. Maybe not to your husband, but to God, you do. That has always been true and will never change. However, the person who needs to start valuing you more right now is not your spouse. It’s you. 

You seem to be struggling with some hurts from your own parent’s divorce, which may cloud your ability to deal wisely and strongly with your current situation. Your husband has clearly told you he’s checked out of the marriage from what you have said. He’s said he doesn’t love you, nor does he want to be married any longer. His behaviors are consistent with those feelings. 

You described him as an intimacy anorexic and completely shut down. However, from what you’ve said he does put a lot of energy into his relationship with your daughter. This could be healthy or not healthy; I don’t know. But you’re concerned that alienation has already begun.

His continued rejection of you as his wife, his life partner, is not a statement about your value or worth, but it is painful. Rejection always is painful. When your own parents got divorced when you were 11, it hurt. You probably felt scared and uncertain about what was going to happen to you. But their marriage problems and divorce said nothing about you or your value, lovability, or worth. It was about their sin and immaturity and their inability to work through and grow through their personal problems. It impacted you greatly. Sin has far-reaching consequences on others, but their problems, weaknesses, and sins were not a statement about your value.

That all said, your first question asked me if it would be a good idea to try to stay well in a loveless marriage. I don’t think that is a wise goal when you already know he’s checked out and ultimately planning to leave, even if he puts divorce on hold right now.  

My advice to you is to start living in “what is” rather than “what if.” Living in “what is” means facing reality, not wishful thinking or worst-case scenario. It means that you regularly remind yourself that he has clearly told you and daily shows you that the marriage relationship is over. He doesn’t love you and wants out, even if he hasn’t finalized the ending yet. 

What that means for you is that you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable if you want to grow and get stronger. Click To Tweet

Reality says he’s going to be gone sooner or later, and therefore learning to stay well is not your highest priority. Rather it’s paying attention to what you need to learn to live without him and be able to support yourself and your daughter. That doesn’t mean that you must leave him now, you are not ready to do that, but your goal is to get yourself ready. When he leaves, you want to be prepared and capable of handling yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. 

To do that, I’d encourage you first to make sure you make copies of all your income tax records, savings accounts, financial records, bank balances, investments, etc. Make an appointment with an attorney for a consultation and find out if your husband was to leave you, what would be your next steps to be financially safe. If you have considerable financial assets, this is even more important. If you have very little then less so. You want to know and have a record of what you currently have so that you don’t naively give him the power to drain everything before he leaves without you knowing what’s going on and getting legal help to stop it.  

Second, although you would love to continue being a SAHM, that may not be the wisest choice for you right now. I’d encourage you to think about what kind of work you can do and get yourself credentialed or prepared. You might need to go back to school, take some online courses, or re-license yourself if you previously had a career you enjoyed. Maybe you don’t have to work right now, but reality says that you might have to support yourself and your daughter at some point. Depending on the answer to your first step (financial safety), that will help you make better decisions about how much money you will need to live on if he does leave you.

Third, I’d work hard to make sure your bond with your daughter is secure, and you can support her relationship with her father without badmouthing him to her. However, if he is putting negative ideas in her head about who you are, or having an unhealthy dependency on her for support, you must get as healthy and strong as possible to counter those tactics in the wisest way.

In your second question, you asked how to learn how to treat him in the covert ways he’s treated you. That would not be God’s best for you. We are not to repay evil with evil but rather overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). You may not overcome your husband’s evil towards you but doing the same back to him makes you just like him. How does that help you grow? More importantly, that is not what God wants for you.

Detaching your heart from your hope that he will love you or treat you decent is not being covertly abusive back; it’s simply accepting reality. You can still be a decent person and even kind to him where appropriate. You can treat him with respect (as a polite stranger or even an enemy) because that’s the kind of person you want to be. You need not resort to demeaning, snide, snarky, or covert attacks in retaliation for how he’s treating you. That only diminishes you. Your daughter is old enough to watch what’s going on. Don’t give her any reason to believe what her dad is saying about you. Don’t give him new ammunition to use against you with her if he’s already trying to alienate her affections.  

I know this is not the reality you want, but it’s the reality you’re in. Just like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not what we wanted, but it’s where we are. Facing that reality and preparing wisely for your safety and growth through it will be the best way for you to use your time and energy to get stronger.

Friends, when were you facing this kind of unwanted reality, how did you let go of the “what if” and live in the “what is” space? 

44 Comments

  1. Brave Rabbit on September 30, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    “I remain with the absence of a loving, intimate human spousal relationship!”

    I can relate to that. I’ve been married 41 years and no children. When it finally sunk in that I was not in an intimate, loving spousal relationship, I also became aware of the covert emotional abuse I’m living in, I grieved first. It’s been a bit of a process. I have to stop myself from giving him an affectionate pat on his behind, or trying to reach for his hand to hold. I wasn’t aware that I was starting to detach. In my mind, I was trying to protect myself from further rejection. Then I came across Leslie’s teachings and the rest of the puzzle started to fill in.

    My h has not told me he wants out. It’s me that wants a break and a time to heal. Right now I know I cannot continue with the way things are. I’m learning I have to take my focus off h and find out what My problem is with his problems. 🙂

    I try to just live each day as it presents itself and joined Conquer. Validation and emotional support from this group has helped a lot. I’m beginning to gain self confidence that I’ve not felt in a long time. I’m gaining a great deal of knowledge about myself through the teachings. I’m also more focused on God’s Word and tucking His love for me into my heart.

    Prior to Conquer, I did a lot of thinking about leaving, but was not equipped. Now I’m actually taking steps for my future and actually planning, learning and leaning into God more than ever.

    For me so far, it’s been giving myself permission to grieve, performing self care, learning everything I can to help me and taking steps to prepare for the next chapter of my life.

    • JoAnn on September 30, 2020 at 3:52 pm

      Brave Rabbit, your post is so encouraging. What a difference the Conquer group has made for you! Forty-one years in a loveless relationship is a lifetime, and I am encouraged that you are making plans to build a new, more fulfilling life for yourself. Well done!

    • Free on October 1, 2020 at 8:07 am

      Good to hear from you Brave Rabbit. It is encouraging to hear how helpful Conquer has been for you. It was eye opening for me when I realized other women were dealing with the exact same issues. In my isolation, I thought my problem and spouse were very unique. When I finally spoke with other survivors of abuse, I realized my situation was typical, predictable, pathological and easily diagnosed.

      I look forward to hearing how and when you make your escape. The grief is long and real, but once through it, you have freedom. God will lead you out of oppression and the evil that prevails over you.

    • Lois G on October 1, 2020 at 4:29 pm

      Wow, Brave Rabbit… I have been married to my h who has covert narcissistic traits for 43 years, but it interestingly has been hidden from our 5 grown children and presently our church. I had pretended long enough. I am in an in home separation as I am sleeping on the couch each night for many nights. It is hard to have the right words to give someone who will not “get” what is said. I have focused on getting stronger too and making more friends with godly ladies now that we are drawing closer to being an empty nest. I have found that when a friend and I are not able to get together, that my ultimate need is to truly sense how much the Lord is for me and with me and loves me. I have distanced myself from my h now… and have gone through the grief and acceptance that he has only a 1% chance of change [from a Janet Partial broadcast on narcissism]. I am learning a lot from the Conquer series and videos. I’m now reading the book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” and want to read it again. My h is now trying to get closer to me by various times of talking and patting my knee, but we have not had those important conversations that perhaps I will need to learn how to have. When getting healthier, it is difficult to want to chance getting hurt. I know I need to move stronger in word and boundaries. Yet, I need to conquer some of the bitterness or is it protectiveness too that is obvious to our observing and concerned son.
      I’m still learning….

      • Free on October 1, 2020 at 5:16 pm

        Lois, education is so important and powerful in this dysfunctional dynamic. Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s Books, “Why does he do that?” and “Should i stay of should I go?” I would also recommend you google Dr. Ramona Probasco at http://www.drprobasco.com There is also a site called Confusion to clarity which seems to be helpful to many people too. http://www.confusiontoclaritynow.com

      • Free on October 1, 2020 at 5:20 pm

        Lois, you might also like the Confusion to Clarity site. http://www.confusiontoclaritynow.com Also, Dr. Ramona Probasco has a helpful site and a couple of interesting podcasts. http://www.drroamona.com

      • Lori on October 1, 2020 at 5:46 pm

        Lois G

        It sounds like you are taking the right steps in your journey to me. I pray you are not discouraged and encourage you to be patient with yourself and the process. Everything and everyone has their own time and place.

        Even if no one else is “getting” it, sometimes we need to hear truth and reality for our own sanity even if it only comes from us. God gets it and He’s got you.

        I also believe your h is getting it because he’s making attempts to be close with you. God tells us it’s okay to guard our hearts. You will know when to trust yourself to have those hard discussions. I believe God will present the opportunity.

        God bless and keep you.

  2. Connie on September 30, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    His threat to get a divorce doesn’t necessarily mean that he will do it, it may just be a threat to get you to be nice and compliant so he can keep his maid and be comfortable while continuing to live his evil life. They are liars.

    • Alice Miller on September 30, 2020 at 4:36 pm

      Right, kinda like a mom figure and there is no romance because that would be weird. The original poster deserves so much more that what she is getting in her marriage.

  3. Caroline Abbott on September 30, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Great advice. I love that you encouraged her to accept reality and to begin planning for a life without him.

  4. Johanna Boman on September 30, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    I highly recommend getting an AASAT Partner’s Recovery therapist or coach. AASATs are the only certified therapists and coaches trained in Intimacy Anorexia and Sex Addiction.
    You can find one in your area http://www.aasat.org

    • Nancy on October 2, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      Hi Joanna,

      This husband doesn’t want help. There’s no point in giving resources to the wife of a husband who is not seeking help. This wife needs to focus on her own needs. The law of power (in Boundaries biok) says that we have no control over another. We can only change ourselves.

      We should not encourage others to violate the law of power. That is one of the biggest temptations for an abused woman. ‘If only he would change’

  5. Autumn on September 30, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    My first thought was, is she sure he isn’t molesting their daughter? Please investigate that possibility.

    • Johanna on October 21, 2020 at 1:19 am

      Gary Chapman’s Destructive Marriages. (new: loving your spouse when you feel like walking away). Helped me when the abuse started. Everyone should read.

      2 Timothy 3
      PHILLIPS
      But you must realise that in the last days the times will be full of danger. Men will become utterly self-centred, greedy for money, full of big words. They will be proud and contemptuous, without any regard for what their parents taught them. They will be utterly lacking in gratitude, purity and normal human affections. They will be men of unscrupulous speech and have no control of themselves. They will be passionate and unprincipled, treacherous, self-willed and conceited, loving all the time what gives them pleasure instead of loving God. They will maintain a facade of “religion”, but their conduct will deny its validity. You must keep clear of people like this.

  6. Sal on October 1, 2020 at 5:23 am

    When I moved to the “what is” space I couldn’t find myself. That’s when I knew this was not Gods plan for me. I spent a year in conquer, made lots of friends there. Got spiritually strong and really started to pray and truly found God right there telling me what to do and things really changed. I was able to divorce and move on. I healed and found myself. My life is completely different today. I am happy and loved. I have joy and peace. I realize now how so very “stuck” I was. It’s better to teach your kids how to love yourself. Happy parents produce happy kids.

    • Autumn on October 1, 2020 at 7:56 am

      Sal, I found your reply encouraging. What did you find out about yourself when your mind finally switched to “what is?”. Had you been in the destructive relationship very long?

    • Tina on October 7, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Sal, this is so true! Thank you

  7. Free on October 1, 2020 at 7:00 am

    I question the term “intimacy anorexia.” He certainly enjoys being intimate with himself and digital women (men or children?) he objectifies. So, I don’t think he has anorexia of anything.He does exactly what he wants. He wants lust, self gratification and the buzz he gets from thinking he has a secret addiction.

    No, don’t give him a pass with nice words like “avoidant”. Let’s keep it really here, he chooses lust and sin over you and others. He loves pleasing himself. It is hard to face that kind of reality so we adapt our behaviors, and deny (often unconsciously) our deplorable situation. Our minds work like that because we can’t face how horrible the truth of our predicament. Reality hurts, but as soon as you admit it, you can begin to take action to remove yourself from the abuse.

  8. Lori on October 1, 2020 at 8:40 am

    The “what is” moment for me was when I realized I was becoming like my husband in the way I judged and treated everyone in my life including myself. I realized that wasn’t who I was before I made him my focus in life and I was looking at everything through his filter. When I let go of him as my focus, there was nothing there. I was gone.

    I’ve been working on finding myself again for a year and a half. It’s still a work in progress and I believe it will be for the rest of my life. I’m surprised how long and slow a process it’s been but it’s a freeing experience. I’m loving every bumpy and terrifying step because this time God and His purpose for my life is the focus.

    • Moon Beam on October 1, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      Wow, Lori. I can relate to this. It took every drop of energy I possessed to manage my destructive husband. He dismissed my every thought, word and deed unless it was of some benefit to him. I too, am trying to remember how to think for myself, trust my gut and find my own intuition. It does take time. I needed the hyper vigilant behavior to survive. Now I can let it all go. It is strange to have this great big abyss of free space in my brain. Learning to relax is a process too.

    • Lori on October 3, 2020 at 8:40 am

      Perhaps we believe we need to spend all our time and energy in finding who we are to show ourselves and the world that we found our answer to that age old question to life.

      Or should we focus on the little things we can do each day that makes us feel fulfilled, like we have purpose and that we belong?

      Shouldn’t finding who we are re-energize us and bring us peace and joy in our purpose?

      Is it about what we learn and share during the journey and the relationships we grow not the destination or our legacy?

      • JoAnn on October 3, 2020 at 12:29 pm

        Lori, the process we all need to be in is to mature in Christ. This involves discovering who we are in Christ, and allowing His truth to penetrate our hearts. Abuse teaches us to believe things about ourselves that are not true, so we need to open to the Lord and ask Him to replace those lies with His truth. It is the truth that sets us free. This all is a day-to-day process, experienced in both small things and big ones. So, it is vital that we spend time in the Word each day, praying over verses that touch our hearts, and asking the Lord to make His truth real to us. The Lord said, “The words that I speak to you are Spirit and are life.” His word is our daily food, and as we learn to live by that, we discover who we are in Him and how He wants us to move forward. We also get to know Him and who He is. He is faithful, He is love, He is righteousness itself. Our wonderful God.

        • Catherine on January 2, 2021 at 11:21 pm

          I read your reply and want to say thank you. I am in an emotionally destructive marriage and my husband is an abuser. I agree with you. Are you in the same situation?

  9. Ann on October 2, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    I filed for divorce one month ago after 36 years of marriage. I have separated a few times in the past. What gets to me is that my H tries to make amends and promises that he is willing to change. This same response has happened over and over. I am not going to be fooled again. I have taken him at his word and returned to him but the situation always goes back to being ignored and verbal , emotional abuse.
    Now my husband is seeing a psychiatrist and may enter an patient mental
    Health program. I will not stop the divorce process because he is seeking help. I need time to repair my own emotional health. Maybe, some day my husband can achieve good mental health. He is giving me wisdom now to make informed decisions. I discovered notes my H wrote about divorcing me before he was served with divorce papers. So he though he says he doesn’t want to divorce he was making his own plans. He also accidentally divulged he a had a private bank account in which he had put money. The money came from legitimate work. The fact that he withheld this information is another example of God revealing to me what my husband is up to.
    My H’s sister is trying to get me to stop the divorce because it isn’t the Christian thing to do and I must forgive my H for all the hateful things he has said or done in our marriage.
    I welcome any words of advice or encouragement or caution from you ladies.

    • Brave Rabbit on October 2, 2020 at 1:12 pm

      Ann

      You are being a good steward of yourself. You’ve awoken to the pattern of abuse and are taking positive steps toward self-healing. You can take joy that your H is getting help and smart to not let that derail your plans for you.

      Your sister-in-law may have a bias for her brother. That’s what sisters do. Your H broke your marriage covenant when he began to abuse you. God does ask us to forgive, but it doesn’t mean we need to remain and continue to take abuse. You can still love him, you just may not be able to live with him. Focus on God and take care of you. Leaving may be the opening God needed to get your H’s attention and to build him to be the man God meant him to be.

      May God bless you in this new chapter of your life!

    • Aly on October 3, 2020 at 10:09 am

      Ann,
      I think Brave Rabbit is right on with her comments to you. I’m very sorry that you have been in the ‘crazy making’ spin cycle within a marital dynamic and for some time now. You are making healthy steps that will result in a healthier you. If your husband gets proper help and can make new ‘brain pathways’ he might be a candidate for a mild baby step relationship in the future? But it takes a lot of work and a long time With interventions to make that turn.
      I’ll share some of my journey with a husband who has made the turn-
      I can relate to the ‘ground hogs day’ lifestyle of sorts and the promises made and intended etc. It was maddening!!! Our therapist finally helped me understand that my husband actually ’Believed’ his promises and his words of change. This helped me not feel like the biggest fool over and over. He believed himself and was very convincing even to the interventions that were in place.
      I think moving on with the consequences of your situation is wise. Your husband has a lot of work to do and a lot of ‘growing up’. There is definitely a pattern with people who can’t follow through with their words and it goes much deeper than many might think.
      I do think it’s positive that your husband is getting some professional help but psychiatrists really don’t address deep character issues like counseling/behavioral therapy. They can prescribe meds and do evaluations but they don’t specialize in long term behavioral work is my understanding.
      Your husband may never be a candidate for a sacred relationship as marriage! You will benefit from accepting this reality-especially given the things you listed about the private bank acct🤦🏽‍♀️
      There are probably many other areas of secrets.
      Focus on you, your healing, the answers you need to move forward and know that you are not alone and God loves you more than you can ever realize.
      Oh, you may experience a few (sister-in-law) people on your path out. Unfortunately, it’s very common that these individuals think they have the right to tell you what you should do with your lying and broken relationship. Your Sister-in-law, has not had to be in your shoes with ‘her brother’ plus her forgiveness advice is ‘horrible’ because it puts everything dependent on you and doesn’t offer anything for her brother to grow-in. It isn’t love, It isn’t forgiveness, it’s more ENABLING if your husband doesn’t experience real consequences.
      I highly suggest getting involved in Leslie’s conquer group here & individual counseling with an educated professional that understands these dynamics.
      This road is not one to walk and try to grow alone. The support needed will help you make your steps and see more and more about your own individual journey so you can be the best version of you and not fall into similar relationships patterns with someone new etc.

    • Nancy on October 4, 2020 at 9:09 am

      Hi Ann,

      I agree with Aly that your sister in law’s advice is unloving.

      Our great God put a law in place that says that we reap what we sow. When we interrupt that law (which is what your SIL is suggesting you do) then we are not loving at all.

      If I rescue my child each time there is an assignment due and do not allow that child to reap the consequences of their procrastination, I am not loving them well. I am interrupting the natural consequences that God put in place. I am working AGAINST The Lord’s way.

      If I do not speak up when my friend is consistently late to agreed upon meeting times, then I am not being truthful that her behaviour is damaging our relationship. If I choose to ‘forgive’ the way your SIL is suggesting, then I bury the truth and operate increasingly in pretense. This denial of the law of reaping what is sowed rejects Jesus each time I choose to ‘forgive’. Forgiveness is not denial. Forgiveness can only be achieved after we are truthful. The first piece of attire in the armour of God is…?

      God has created our world with very consistent laws. Gravity exists no matter how much I may want to fly and convince myself that I can, if I choose to jump off of a building then I will get hurt. No matter wha story I tell myself, I will get hurt. If I choose to then deny that I am hurt, then my injuries may develop complications. More pain. You see, The Lord works to bring us into the reality of the way He has designed our world. This process often involves pain. He wants us to operate acknowledging HIS ways. Not manufacturing our own reality.

      Similarly, when a person is not honest in relationship those choices to hide, manipulate etc…cause damage. No matter how much we may want to pretend that the relationship is just fine. It’s not. And it is untruthful to pretend otherwise.

      In many of our cases, we have been hurt but do not seek help for those injuries. We deny that there is injury. But those injuries then develop complications. Often it is when the pain is so great that we can no longer deny it. We begin to recognize that gravity exists and it is unwise to jump off of buildings (or stand too close to the edge so that someone else can push us off!)

      Frankly, I would arm myself with a clear sentence, or two that puts the guilt your sister in law is attempting to place on you, right back at her feet.

      Maybe it’s something like,

      It is not loving to be untruthful
      Or
      Jesus does not endorse pretense
      Or
      A major theme throughout the Bible is that we give to needs and limit sin. What you are asking of me to do is the opposite of love and forgiveness. I will no longer endorse his sin. I hope that you will choose to love him enough to do the same.

      • Aly on October 4, 2020 at 10:16 am

        Hi Nancy! Great examples and I really think the clear sentences are helpful for so many of us;) I think it’s important as soon as we gain our footing to speak our truth even if we ourselves need to hear it out loud. Some might say, don’t respond to SIL and give many examples as to why not to. But I would pray and seek discernment about a response if you choose to because too many people (Ext family/churched friends) that are misinformed about Christianity are walking around with their beliefs that are not educated on biblical understandings. They are part of the overall problem with what they believe about forgiveness and marriage issues. They are the people that like to throw out ‘sentences that can do great harm‘ to people who are constantly feeling the pressure of enabling unhealthy behavior within marriage and other sacred relationships.

        Ann, I’m curious if you are feeling support from these things that Nancy has brought up?
        These themes or sentences can really help you stand up ‘for what’s right’ and not get twisted by anyone pouring false guilt (and especially the spiritual abuse methods either)
        Ann you wrote this-
        “ My H’s sister is trying to get me to stop the divorce because it isn’t the Christian thing to do and I must forgive my H for all the hateful things he has said or done in our marriage.”
        So in other words, your SIL is telling you that you are not doing the Christian thing if you don’t ‘stop the divorce’…Or that the responsibility for the divorce is yours? (which that isn’t true)
        Again, she doesn’t want her brother to have any responsibility and that is very far from ‘loving someone well’!

        I wonder if you would agree with these postures:
        1.SIL, I have forgiven him for all those things. The divorce is a result/consequences of the choices HE has made to not be in a sacred marriage with a partner.
        2.Forgiveness does not equal trust or a close relationship.
        Trust is earned and can be destroyed.
        3.I can love someone and yet not feel ‘trust with them’.
        4.I love others best ‘as a Christian person, by not participating in UNLoving behavior such as enabling, not requiring accountability for trust issues, etc.
        5. The Christian thing to do here, is the harder thing SIL… it is doing what is Right and what is most loving to your brother and to myself.

        • JoAnn on October 4, 2020 at 6:14 pm

          To both Aly and Nancy, What you have written is RIGHT ON!! Very helpful advice. Thank you.

        • Nancy on October 6, 2020 at 7:21 am

          I like this one:
          ‘ forgiveness does not equal trust.’
          Jesus commands us to forgive, we are not commanded to trust.

          Separating those two can set us free 🙂

  10. Sara on October 3, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Great post and feedback.

  11. Sara on October 4, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Loved this post. Spoke to me

  12. Vera on October 4, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    Keep up the good work Leslie

  13. Donna Henry on October 8, 2020 at 10:01 am

    I’m a new Conquer member, it’s helping me along with way. It’s hard to accept reality and disengage and totally detach. God did not make us that way inside marriage and divorce is a death to us and that marriage,the ripping apart is very painful. There is no way to get through it but to go thru the pain in the hope that once on the other side healing will be worth it.

    • Sal on October 8, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      I spoke those words myself 4-5 years ago. The more I prayed the more I felt the pull to leave. While I stayed, He gave me the strength to detach. Detaching is staying well. If you can sussessfully do it, you will protect yourself from the pain of the abuse. Leslie taught that detaching means to no longer have any expectations. I no longer expected him to love me and support me. I no longer expected anything from him. Yes God did not make us that way in marriage but he also did not mean for marriage to be abusive.
      Looking back there was greater pain in staying married and going through the divorce. I have been richly blessed on the other side. I have discovered myself in the process. I’ve learned that making marriage an idol really kept me lost and stuck. Putting God above all of it made it easier to find my way.
      Keep praying for His will and ask Him what He wants you to do.

  14. ruth8318 on October 8, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    The mom and daughter would benefit from going into family therapy together obviously minus destructive dad. It would be wonderful if the golden child could get some healing before dad pushes thru with the divorce.

  15. Autumn on October 9, 2020 at 6:03 am

    I still struggle to wrap my head around the staying well concept by comparing how Mary and Joseph could have stayed well in Bethlehem. Herod looking for them. So, it doesn’t make any practical or biblical sense that they should just stay well. Mary and Joseph would have had to go grey rock, walk on egg shell and appease Herod’s demands. They would have needed to live in fear and isolation just like us. They would have prayed, stayed and obeyed while Herod abused their son. How would that have helped any of us?

    I know we all have our reasons for staying. But ultimately we enable evil, disrespect ourselves and live a hollow, unfulfilled existence. God didn’t allow his son to die on the cross for us to live such pitifully twisted lives.

    • Nancy on October 12, 2020 at 10:27 am

      I think staying well is a process that a person engages in that will bring clarity to her situation. As she becomes more and more healthy, she will begin to see more and more clearly. As she exercises her responsibility to speak, to take distance, she gains increasing amounts of emotional and spiritual freedom.

      We are healed from the inside out, I think. Eventually, if he is unmoved by her changes, then that freedom will manifest physically. This takes varying amounts of time for each situation.

      Which is the focus needs to be on the process….not the outcome.

      • Susan on October 20, 2020 at 9:52 am

        It’s interesting.
        I don’t think I could get the clarity I needed and am still continuing to get without stepping out of it. I needed the distance to see clearly. It’s like having layers taken away so I can see clearly. That couldn’t happen for me until we separated as I was in too deep and wasn’t thinking clearly, things didn’t make sense, but with time and space they are getting clearer.

    • Suzanne on October 21, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      Good point; I have to keep reminding myself what Jesus died for; and it wasn’t for me to enable cruel behavior.

      • Cheryl on October 26, 2020 at 12:29 pm

        It’s interesting that you spoke about stepping out of things in order to get clarity. While I am not to that point permanently, there was a time about 2 years ago where I was gone from home a lot. We’re empty-nesters so it was workable not having children at home to care for. My mother died unexpectedly and I spent the first 6-8 months after her passing traveling to/from her home which was 800 miles away. I rehabbed the house so that it could be sold. During these times of being away from my husband, I too began to see things a little more clearly and I began to change. So much so, it was noticeable by him upon my return. Losing a parent is earth shattering for some and I am no exception. But the main things I discovered was that living without my own fullness was something I had grown accustomed to over the past 20 years. After several months of working through the grief and realizations of chronic enabling and co-dependency behaviors, my spouse decided we needed some marriage counseling. I was already in therapy and had asked him about marriage counseling for many months to no avail. We had just began making some progress when Covid happened and here we are. In a nutshell, he wants the old person back…you know, the one who lived as a doormat catering to every whim, desire and request he could muster. Well, that person is gone and things are still pretty chaotic in this marriage. I do appreciate the reminder about getting away though because it just confirms my feelings of late being so foggy in the head and unable to think clearly. It’s because of the toxic patterns and behaviors that I’ve found myself immersed so much more so lately due to the restrictions with covid. Ugh! I hate that I feel like I’m back at square one and I know that I’m not. Just a few steps back…

  16. Nancy on October 12, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Going from what if, to what is, is an ongoing process for me. As I grow in The Lord, He continually shows me where to step into reality, next.

    I have found that there is a direct correlation between taking responsibility for myself and the degree to which I am living in reality.

    This involves loving others well by owning what is mine and saying no to the things that are not mine. This process allows the good to flourish and binds evil. (This can work – although not easy- because I live with responsive people).

  17. Suzanne on October 21, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    I was a SAHM for 20 or our 30 year marriage. A violent act by my husband four years ago started me on a path of discovery and healing as I realized that his covert, indifferent and cold attitude towards me all these years was simply the flip side of the same coin of overt abuse. Like how you described your husband, mine was emotionally abusive and used all the tactics I’ve come to learn about emotional abusers to control, manipulate, & keep me off balance. I too thought I could Stay Well since I had seen him for what he was and had no desire to nurture our relationship nor seek reconciliation. We have four young adult children so I wanted to preserve what semblance of family I could since I seemed to be his only victim
    However, four years later, as I have grown stronger, wiser, become more financially stable, been supported by friends who see his cold indifference towards me (now that I’m no longer pretending for him) and been nurtured by Leslie’s ministry and the women of Conquer, I no longer believe staying well is the answer for me.
    I no longer want to dishonor the institution of marriage with this facade that I’ve been perpetrating on myself all these years. I don’t want my children to believe that his indifference and selfishness is OK in a loving marital relationship. God never intended for me to be treated so cruelly and I am finally accepting that I don’t have to tolerate it. I will be OK. He may try to starve me knowing that at the age of 63 my earning days are numbered. But I believe I’d rather scrimp in the light of God than Stay Well in the dark of my husband’s tyranny.
    Get strong, and when you feel healthy enough to Stay Well, you may decide you are strong enough to Leave Well and walk into the light of God’s path for you. Good luck.

    • Catherine on January 2, 2021 at 11:27 pm

      I am in a similar situation. If you don’t mind can we talk. My husband is an abuser

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