Morning friends,

How many of you set a New Years Resolution for 2021? Maybe to get into shape or lose weight? Those seem to be the #1 goals most people set. Did you know that most people who make New Years Resolutions don’t keep them? In fact, about 3 weeks into January, they are back to their old habits. That’s why it’s so important for you to build new habits, not make new intentions. Remember, our actions are what changes us, not our good intentions.

What small action step could you take this year to reach one of your goals? For example, last year I realized that because I sit so much (working) I was losing some lower body strength. But I know myself. My intentions to regularly exercise at the gym, or even with a video never happened. I was always busy with something else. I knew I SHOULD, but I didn’t. So what COULD I do?

This was one small step I did take. Every morning when I brushed my teeth (which was already a habit I practiced), I would do 50 squats while brushing. Every night while brushing, I would do 50 lunges for each leg. That’s it. I added these two-minute exercise sessions while doing something that I already did, brushing my teeth.

For a whole year, I squatted and lunged, twice a day, 7 days a week. And guess what? Those small changes made big changes over time. My legs are stronger. I have better balance. My core got stronger too because it takes some coordination to brush and lunge or squat at the same time. 

Friend, you don’t have to take big steps to make big changes. What small change could you commit to that would help you get closer to where you want to be? 

Maybe it’s reading one chapter in the Bible every day. And then doing it. Maybe it’s standing on one foot while you brush your teeth to improve your balance. Maybe it’s making your bed right after you get up so that your environment feels more orderly or beautiful. Make it small enough that you can do it, no excuses. And then do it, do it every day and watch over time what happens.   

Todays’ question: At what point when a husband feigns fights that result in lengthy and innumerable separations with ABSOLUTELY no contact, do I consider it ‘abandonment’ and file for divorce? 

When I mention divorce, he says he doesn’t want a divorce; however, his actions are not commensurate with his behavior (stonewalling) the last 10 years of marriage. PLEASE HELP.

Answer:  I’m going to respond to your question because it’s a very typical question I receive where you already know the answer, but you’re afraid to take action on it. You ask others so that you can gain validation or confidence and that’s fine, but you are still the one who will need to take action.   

Your husband does not want a divorce he says. But what does he want? And what do you want? That’s the question. And is he (and are you) willing to take action to make that happen?

Wanting something isn’t enough. I may want to get in shape or change jobs or read my Bible through in a year or save more money. There is nothing wrong with my wants, but they will not become a reality unless I take action steps towards doing what’s required to get what I want. Click To Tweet

Your husband says he wants a good marriage, but then avoids dealing with problems or conflicts and runs away or stonewalls. It’s like a smoker saying, “I don’t want to get lung cancer.” Of course, he doesn’t, but is he willing to stop a habit that will make getting lung cancer more likely?

You want the same thing but you can’t make a relationship work with someone who doesn’t want to take actions in line with healthy relationship patterns.

There is one word in your question that caught my attention. You said he feigns fights and then separates and goes no contact. What do these fights look like and what part do you play in this fighting? Does he provoke you to rage and then have an excuse to leave you? What is his rationale for leaving after one of these fights? Is there some work here for you to do in order to be healthier in your interactions with him during these fights? 

Your husband doesn’t want a divorce, but what don’t you want? You don’t want to continue this crazy ten-year pattern of avoidance, indifference, ignoring you, and him telling you he doesn’t want a divorce. You do want closure. You want peace. You want to go forward, not keep spinning or sinning in the same cycles over and over again.

The Apostle Paul addresses the idea of abandonment in 1 Corinthians 7 when an unbelieving husband wants to leave the marriage. Paul tells a wife to let him leave for God has called you to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Your husband has left the marriage and he’s left you. Multiple times. He doesn’t want to legally end the marriage through divorce, but he has left the covenant of marriage by refusing to work on what needs to change to make the marriage better. 

What next steps do you need to take to move closer to what you want?  

Don’t confuse yourself by thinking, “I want him to do his work.” You have no control over the action steps of someone else. Of course, you’d want him to change, but that’s not your work to do, it’s his. 

He may want you to change too. And you can self-reflect if there is something you are doing in these “fights” that make things worse between you.   

However, if he does not want to do his own work, what do you want for yourself? To get healthier? To get some closure and peace? Only you can decide what you want and then take action towards that end.

Friends, what small action steps have you taken to change you, that has made a big difference over time?

16 Comments

  1. Kristen on January 6, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I’m struggling with the idea of being provoked to rage. I’ve experienced this numerous times over the years – but is it only me being lazy over my emotional regulation? Looking back on our 18 year relationship he used to use physical aggression and verbal abuse to get his way by turning the problem into ‘me’ and his outbursts ‘wouldn’t happen if I was more submissive.’ Since having kids the physical abuse has lessened, but I’ve noticed a pattern where after we argue, I start to have rage outbursts that really feel uncontrollable (but I know anger is my job to control.) I have a friend who insists that if I behave more Christ-like during arguments my consistency will bring his heart around, but I feel I get triggered so quickly and either freeze/cave or I tolerate things and stay flexible until I can’t take anymore. That’s when I give into sin and react angrily. But I was told no one has to give in to their anger, and while I agree biblically, I can’t seem to control it. When I give in he then claims I’m not a fit mother because of my anger and I’m not supportive of him. And he’s right. I’ve begged God to take away my anger for years and I’ve been working on it. I just can’t figure out if he’s intentionally doing this or if it’s my own sin getting in the way.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 6, 2021 at 12:18 pm

      Kristen, God’s word tells us we are to have self control and not sin when we are angry. But here’s the part you are missing. You also ARE human and have limits. When you allow yourself to stay in a situation where you are continually provoked to reach your limits, it’s like being in a situation where you have to go to the bathroom but try to keep holding it in and eventually you can’t and soil yourself. You can only hold things so long BEFORE YOU must take care of YOU and not continue to listen to him. So I’d encourage you to set some boundaries around these conversations like, “I will only listen to this for 3 minutes.” Or “I will not listen to you when you scream or curse or blame me for everything. If you want to talk about a solution, I’m listening, if you just want to rant about everything wrong with me, I”m not going to stay and listen.” And then leave and take care of your emotions- your heart, just as you would take care of you if you knew you had to vomit or had to use the bathroom and tried to keep holding it in. You can only hold it in so long. So don’t let yourself dishonor yourself and others by not caring for your own needs in those moments.

    • Free on January 6, 2021 at 12:32 pm

      Kristen, if he was loving and kind, you would never be agitated to respond in any of the ways you mentioned. He has the problem, not you. I guess you need to decide if it is worth the effort to endure abuse silently so you minimize the trauma to your child. It would seem, since you fight back, that this relationship is too verbally and physically violent for anyone’s safety. Are you pursing separation or other consequences? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

      • Kristen on January 6, 2021 at 2:04 pm

        I filed for divorce after returning from rehab for PTSD from the marriage. I’m wishy washy about it. But I’m hanging onto some hope that he is changing but I get confused if it’s change or manipulation. I don’t typically fight back, I’m more of a ‘freezer’ but sometimes I can’t take it and explode. I’ve hidden the kids from everything I can. He can be loving and kind. That’s why I get confused. Thank you for your above reply, I appreciate the advice.

        • Aly on January 8, 2021 at 10:33 am

          Kristen, Leslie,
          A small step I made in my journey was to step back and try to assess my situation from a Far View, objective way as it wasn’t my personal life, a way of stepping out of the inner place within the destructive relationship and asking myself what would I suggest for this person?
          Asking myself critical questions about what would 6 months look like, 1 year from now? What really are my children being exposed to even in less obvious ways and what are my children MiSSIng out on that are rightfully theirs to have in their everyday life of safety and peace.
          Kristen,
          For you to suffer from PTSD because of your marital dynamic should tell you just how bad the situation is.
          It sounds like your h has serious emotional regulation problems going on and usually there is more underlying that you know. If he is just being ‘nice or calm’, know that this is a temporary thing until he decides to unleash (again)! For the things you have described, he needs serious interventions for you to even be considering another chance in the future.
          He is not sounding like he is mature or healthy enough to be a marital partner.
          Some people have so much emotional disregulation that they can’t even be good friends to someone because they are not safe to invest in.

        • Autumn on January 10, 2021 at 7:24 pm

          Have you been to Dr. Denise Dart’s site? You might like her you tube talk on inside the mind of an abuser.

  2. Connie on January 6, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    Kristen, I’m pretty sure it’s intentional. Many of us have experienced very similar dynamics. And, your friend’s advice to be nice so he’ll be nice back works great on movies. If you read the book of Proverbs, you’ll find a very different way of responding to a fool.
    Dr. Phil had a couple where the husband was treating his wife like you described. He brought in a financial advisor. The first thing she said was that a man who acted like that was always hiding something, be it financial, an affair, whatever.

  3. Autumn on January 10, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    What small changes did I make that helped over time? I started telling people the truth sbout my situation. I remained silent for 21 years. I was beaten down and no longer had a voice or a choice of any kind in my nightmare marriage. Like a prisoner of war, I was tortured, demeaned and beaten into submission.

    The first person I told, didn’t believe me. The second person I told, didn’t believe me. The third person I told said that the church could not help with that kind of problem. In fact, they had no idea who to refer me to and furthermore, it was a safety risk to have my husband on campus. So, I remained silent again, adjusted to the hardship placed upon me and suffered many years longer.

    However, getting the courage to speak even a few times, was a tremendous psychological victory against my abuser’s power over me. It was an act that spoke of the first brave spark of survival. It was the whisper of truth. It took truth to put an end to the tyranny that bludgeoned my soul, under the false label of Christian marriage.

    • Gail on February 3, 2021 at 2:39 am

      Oh My Goodness Autumn you poor thing! I am so happy for you that you were able to find some Victory in telling your story that is a start. 🥰
      Speak the Truth to yourself! Good lives you! I will pray for you. Do you know about Leslie’s Conquer Program?
      You are Worthy,
      Gail

  4. Renea on January 26, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    I just found Leslie and have started following her teachings about 4 months ago. (Thank you Leslie, you have been a God send) I am hoping to join Conquer when she opens it again!!! My H isn’t physically abusive but I am dealing with control, badgering, jealousy, inappropriate dependency, covert abuse, fantasy wife, manipulation, and a WHOLE lot of crazy making. I have feed into all of these and given him what he wants for years to “keep the peace”. I am working on my CORE and leaving the consequences to God….its a work in process, I am not completely there yet and have some dark fearful days still. Due to all of the crazy making over the years this is something I battle within myself EVERY DAY. One small thing that I do to help that is to re-take the quiz in Leslie’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, every so often, I keep the book unmarked so I can make copies. I pray before taking it that God will give me His vision of truth, I rebuke my husband voice from my head, and I focus on just this section of time, not our entire marriage (26yrs), but still considering what are patterns. To be honest I thought if I focused on the now instead of the past it would show some positive changes….it helps me to see that there isn’t any real change happening. This just helps me to keep myself from feeling so crazy.

    I am working on truth telling and empathy. I try to remember even though what he is doing is wrong and I can’t continue to allow it. He does have feelings, even if they are unhealthy. I will say this, I have truly tried to speak love and truth to him. I’ve said “I’m going to tell you what I would tell a friend who is telling me this story” (One of his favorites is the story of how much I destroyed our entire family 2 years ago when I wanted to separate….which I never left at all. And how I broke a trust in him that is way more worse than anything he has ever done to me, and he has to live with that everyday of his life, his heart breaking and devastated knowing his wife may abandon their promise and leave the marriage….he also threated suicide when I talk about leaving…..and so everything is all my fault) Anyways sorry off track some. So I told him I would tell my friend to keep her side of the street clean, work on herself, that she is only responsible for her actions, and that she needs to pull up her big girl pants and let that go if she really wants a healthy marriage…probably not the best advice but I was truly trying. Needless to say it came back in my face the next day of how much it hurt him that I said just pull up his big boy pants…..that I was just saying his feeling didn’t matter. That I was blame shifting (a word I have spoke to him) So that is all he heard….Many times over the years I have said things like, you are controlling me, you are only happy if I am doing exactly what you want exactly like you want it, if I am not then I don’t love you. You are manipulating me right now, you can’t turn everything around on me. That he doesn’t care about me as a person, but only what I can do for him, or how I can make him feel. Everything I say to him, comes back to me a few weeks/months later as how HE feels in our marriage, he then says I am controlling, manipulating, that I want him to act a certain way and say certain things and if he doesn’t then he is the bad guy. And one of my favorites of recent, is the boundary I set with him during fights, I told him I wasn’t going to “go down the crazy train when he acted this way” (I truly say it very calmly and kindly, I have self checked myself on that multiple times when I say it) so now every time we start to argue, and I try to say anything he spouts out in a high pitched voice “I’m not going down your crazy train!!” When I discussed boundaries I am putting in place , he says oh yeah my boundary is to never leave his wife and go against the vows made before God (I must note, he is NOT a believer, he thinks it is all a bunch of bull, Christians are brain washed, when we die that’s it, and he is very jealous of my relationship with God, that I am dishonoring him by putting another man into our marriage/above him) …….and man all of this just makes me feel crazy!!!

    Just putting all that in words helped me feel less crazy too!

    Sorry, thanks for listening!! Any advice would be greatly apricated. And prayers even more so! God speed to you all!!

    • Gail on January 27, 2021 at 10:30 am

      Renea you do definitely sound like you have been on the crazy train 😭
      I understand what your saying and how you are feeling BUT let me give you a little praise here! It sounds like you are already in the right track and have started your work ☺️ That is a very good idea about how you are continuing to retake the test. It doesn’t sound like your husband is ready to do any of his work yet so all you can do is keep working in you. Once you join Conquer you will have much more Clarity on what and how to handle things. You will gain your Stability & Strength from leaning on God as you continue to do your own work.
      I welcome you into our group and would love you have you as a Conquer Sister 🥰 I joined in September 2020 it is such an amazing group to be in. It makes me feel special. Now on the other hand is it so sad 😞 that there even has to be a group like this but what is really nice is the girls get you because we’ve all lived it and some of us are still living it.

      So Leslie is doing somethings different this year right now we have been doing a move challenge for January one more reap of whatever you’ve been doing or one more minute each day. So day one 1 minute day two 2 minutes…… this was to just challenge ourselves to move our bodies to release tension, stress, anxiety….. good for a physical bodies and so on. Jumping ahead to March we will be going through the book of Proverbs one chapter every day to gain more Wisdom. So if you want to start to feel connected to us maybe you could start reading a chapter of Proverbs every day 😊
      When you join you will be in for the ride of your life so hang on. It will change you as long as you continue to do your own work. Looking forward to welcoming you soon but until then stay in CORE & don’t JADE & I say these because I read you have Leslie’s book so you know what I am saying 😘
      God Bless You Sweet Sister 🥰
      Your new sister in Christ,
      Gail

      • Renea on January 29, 2021 at 3:41 pm

        Thank you so much for your kind words Gail. They mean so much to me. Thanks for inviting me to read along with you guys, I’m definitely going to do that. And I agree it is sad that there is such a need for a ministry like this, but God knows we are hurting and gracefully gives this to us so we can grow. I’m working hard on staying in my CORE and I pray that I will love myself enough to not JADE 🙂 I will be waiting to join you in Conquer and will be praying for you all!
        Your new sister in Christ,
        Renea

        • Gail on February 3, 2021 at 2:33 am

          Renea, you are so welcome!
          Yes you are most definitely right God wants us to heal so we can go on to who we are suppose to be for his kingdom. JADE gets me too at times but that’s ok as long as we recognize it so we can stop 🛑. So excited you will be joining us soon.

          With God’s Perfect Love,
          Your Sister Gail

  5. Renea on May 16, 2022 at 7:16 pm

    I keep seeing the verse about an unbelieving spouse leaving. But what about a believing spouse ?

  6. Renea on May 16, 2022 at 7:17 pm

    I keep seeing the verse about an unbelieving spouse leaving. But what about a believing spouse ? Not the same Renea

    • K on September 3, 2022 at 5:17 am

      After reading the text, wouldn’t a believing spouse act in the way Paul describes in Corinthians. Husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the Church? Being willing to give up his life for her? Caring for his wife as he would his own body?

      Those are the fruits of a true believer, according to Paul. For husbands that abuse, demean, or are destructive to their wives, how can they be truly considered believers in Christ? Jesus says that a good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. Just because a man attends church, or reads his Bible or prays regularly doesn’t mean he is true follower of Christ.

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