Morning friend, I’m spending a few days in Santa Fee, New Mexico this week. It’s my first visit to a place rich with history and art, two things I love. This is our first official “vacation” since Covid and we took our dog, Addie, on this road trip. She’s doing great. The weather has been perfect and we’ve eaten some of the best food, seen beautiful landscapes and, most enjoyable for me, enjoyed seeing the work of amazing artists. 

Did you know that you were created to create? To co-create with God? Paul reminds us that we are his workmanship created to do amazing things (Ephesians 2:10). How are you partnering with God in creating your life story?

This week’s question: How do I heal from being mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abused by my husband? It was also getting physical too. He's a Christian who seems to be narcissistic, and we were going to have 2 years of being married in August. I recently separated from him two months ago and still looking for a place to live with my two daughters. 

We are going through marriage counseling once a week, which is the only way I speak with him since he's very manipulative and persuasive in his words. He is trying to set up visitation to see his daughter (who is about to be one year old this weekend) and tries to convince me that God doesn't like divorce. He is very keen on his words and says things but doesn't really mean it. I don't trust him and feel hopeless that he will ever change. I'm feeling so hurt by all this and am seeking Godly advice on how to move forward. 

Answer: First I’m so relieved that you have recognized that things are dreadfully wrong in your marriage after only two years. This community is amazing and will give you a lot of support. Sadly, many of the women here waited until they were married 22 or 32 years to take a stand. There wasn’t a lot of support for an abused Christian wife to take a stand for herself and for the integrity of a truly biblical marriage. I’m glad you are doing that now. Yet I sense you are a bit conflicted. You want to learn how you can heal from what you’ve experienced, and you want Godly advice moving forward. I wonder if you fear that those two desires are in conflict? Do you fear that God may ask you to go back to your abusive marriage without you seeing any sign of substantial repentance and change from your husband?

[Tweet “The start of your healing is not by looking within but by looking at God and seeing who he truly is and what he says.”]God is not a God who loves men more than women or husbands more than wives. He is not a bully, nor does he sanction the behaviors of the oppressor over the oppressed. He cares for the weak, the downtrodden, the bullied, and the oppressed (Psalm 9:9; Psalm 34:18, Psalm 146:7). To heal, you must come to know deep within your heart and soul the God that loves you. The God that created you. And to know without doubt, that it is God’s will for you to be safe, sane, and strong. (Proverbs 27:12; Psalm 89:17; 2 Timothy 1:7)

God tells us that bullies, abusers, and oppressors do exist in this world. But he also clearly tells us that they are never to be protected, sanctioned, or supported by God’s people, especially within an intimate relationship (Isaiah 1:7; Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19). Your husband confuses you by proclaiming God doesn’t like divorce. He’s technically correct, but he neglects a huge part of what else God hates. God doesn’t like divorce generally, but God also doesn’t like what’s been happening in your marriage and the sinful ways your husband has been treating you. In fact, God hates that. (Proverbs 8:13; James 3:13-18; Psalm 5:5; Proverbs 6:16). 

The marital relationship is the most intimate relationship God has ordained. In God’s design for marriage, being married should never lead to less safety, less sanity, or less strengthening for the individuals in that relationship but rather continue to nurture and nourish those qualities. Safety and trust are the most important foundation to maintain a healthy marriage. You say that you do not trust your spouse. Not his words, nor his actions. You no longer feel safe with him because of his manipulations and abusive behaviors. The Bible supports your lack of trust. We are not to put our trust in untrustworthy people (Proverbs 25:19).

Once you truly believe that God is for you and not against you, that he supports you speaking up against abuse and up for what’s good, true, and right, your husband’s manipulations will lose their power over your heart and mind. The Bible tells us that words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21), and right now your husband’s words hold more power over your mindset than God’s words. To heal, this must change. The psalmist reminds us, “He sent forth his word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:20). Begin your healing process by rooting out the lies you believe about God, about marriage, about yourself, and about what you’ve been told God’s will is for you regarding what’s happening to you right now. That will take time and effort, but it’s the best place to begin your own personal healing. If needed, find a trusted therapist or coach who can work with you through this process.

Next, as far as what God wants for you moving forward, I would look at it this way. Both you and your husband’s healing are important to God. Is it possible for you to believe that God is using this situation right now for your husband’s good as well as your good? As you stay strong and refuse to cave in to his manipulations and threats, he will have the opportunity to self-reflect and to do his own work. Perhaps your marital counselor can help him look at his own attitudes and behaviors that broke safety and trust in the marriage. Regardless of what he does or the marriage counselor does, as you speak the truth in love during your counseling sessions and stand in that truth, you will get to observe how he handles your voice. Your opinions, Your truth. God’s truth. Does he hate the light? Or does he start to realize his own darkness when you and God’s Holy Spirit shine the light? 

Don’t get sidetracked worrying about whether he is going to change, whether he can change, or whether or not you have to reconcile this marriage. Stay focused on seeing the evidence before your eyes, today, tomorrow, a week from now, when he’s upset, when you say no, when you don’t do what he wants. What do you see? Not what he says, but what do you see?

Currently, you say there is no evidence that he’s changing or doing his own work. He continues to coerce and manipulate you by trying to get you to back down. That’s what you see. Please don’t back down from your stand just to pacify, placate, or peace make. That is not healthy for you, nor is it healthy for him if you do that. [Tweet “It only keeps you both in the same destructive dance you’ve danced and that is not God’s will for you, for him, or for your marriage.”]Continue to heal, grow and strengthen yourself. Keep your eyes on God and put your hope in him and not in your marriage or your husband or even your counselor. That will make things clearer for you going forward (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

Friend, what steps have you taken to heal from the destructive words and actions of another person? How have you gotten safer, saner, and stronger?

19 Comments

  1. Pam on July 21, 2021 at 8:17 am

    Happy travels to Leslie and family! I love this article because it reminds us of main things! Healing starts here with these teaching Words from God.

  2. JoAnn on July 21, 2021 at 10:07 am

    Leslie’s advice is spot on! We must keep our eyes on the Lord and His Truth in all situations. I love the hymn “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.” That’s where you will see His love for you. Soak in it. Let His love heal your soul. Then you will see clearly your path forward.

    People like to quote the verse in Malachi 2:16: “‘For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel.” But they usually leave off the second part of the verse that says, “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” If you read that whole section, verses 14-17, you will see clearly that what the Lord is dealing with here is a husband who deals treacherously with the wife of his youth. That’s what the Lord really hates.

    Dr. Ramona Probasco has a web site and a book for helping victims of marital abuse to heal from a destructive relationship. As Leslie said, working with someone who can help you move forward on your own path is important, and Dr. Probasco’s book will help with that.

    May God bless you and give you His peace as you move forward.

    • me on July 31, 2021 at 6:42 am

      I also think this is great encouragement AND a devotional…
      I titled it “Healing” and wrote out the many Bible verses given and underlined and commented.
      My clarity the last two months have landed me in the “Vortex” again and have emotionally set me back where I was 2 years ago learning about the depth and reality of my situation. 26 years….
      I am definitely struggling to hang on and not be sucked in….

      I am also grateful for Leslie sharing a bit of her own life and what is going on with her !
      Love and prayers to you all.

  3. Autumn on July 21, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    I thought Leslie’s response to this question was great.

    The first thing I would do is stop marital counseling. Start individual counseling and communicate with your abusive spouse via email only. Find resources; lots of them. Visit a lawyer. Visit your local domestic abuse shelter. Call the national hotline. Read Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does he do that?” Stay with Leslie’s site and learn more.

  4. Hope on July 21, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Leslie, I’m so, so grateful for your clarity. compassion and wisdom. Thank you! I’m having to privately plan to leave a long marriage; such a wrenching (and lonely) process. Some days I’m really brave; other days my heart is wobbling! Your blog really encouraged me this morning–God bless you!

    • Brave Rabbit on July 22, 2021 at 5:15 am

      I’m learning to take the focus off of him and instead keep focused on God and what he wants for my life.

      I’m beginning to see clearly the lies and manipulation that has always been our four decade marriage. And you are right Hope, it is gut wrenching, and lonely. And I think; is the staying worse than the pain of leaving? Is it worth a hand full of good times during 365 days of the year to bear the pain and stay? NO.

      Yes, leaving will be painful, but there is health of my mind, body and soul at the end of the path I want to take. I now understand staying will just break me down further in mind body and soul. Staying is unhealthy and harmful.

      And my heart wobbles and then I get my Brave on and feel encouraged that the time is coming.

      I keep hearing other women who have made the painful journey and they don’t regret leaving.

      I’m grateful for this program and that we have one another to lean on for support and encouragement.

      • JoAnn on July 25, 2021 at 11:27 pm

        Brave Rabbit and others, You are so very courageous. It has taken courage to stay in the abusive marriage, and it also takes courage of a different kind to leave. Please give some prayerful thought to what exactly is causing the pain? Is it a belief that you have somehow failed in this marriage? Then, what’s the truth about that? Ask the Lord to reveal the truth to you. In many cases, the pain we experience is caused by lies we believe, so ask the Lord to speak into your heart the truth that will set you free.
        Is your pain caused by fear….of the future? Of how you will survive? Of his reaction? Take that fear to the Lord in faith. Fear is the devil’s calling card. There is no fear in God’s love for us. Open your doubts and fears to the Lord in an honest way. It’s ok even to admit that you aren’t sure you can trust Him to take care of you, so be honest with Him. Then allow Him to be the loving Father to you that He wants to be. It has been my experience over more than 50 years of walking with Him, that He wants to prove Himself faithful to us. We need to learn to not allow our fears and doubts to get in His way.
        God bless you, Brave Rabbit. Stay on the path the Lord has for you, and watch what He will do to take care of you.

      • Robin on July 28, 2021 at 12:43 pm

        Brave Rabbit, it’s good to hear from you again. Do u remember me?? I left in 2013 and divorced in 2015, after 30 yrs of total chaos, confusion, different forms of abuse and much more. In my case I knew I never would feel, ‘this is the right time and thing to do. Just saying it’s hard to pull the plug. Today, 6 yrs later I probably should write a book about my rescue: yes there have been hard times, but the Blessings have been multiplied: I still have a hard time thinking it was possible for the Lord to remove me from that mess- and all the Good He wanted to give me. He truly is the best provider, and has never let me go without one need being filled.
        My cup truly runneth over with Blessing after Blessing. I’m praying for you💜

  5. Dawn Ulmer on July 21, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    Excellent word! I was in a marriage of 35 years when he left. When he tried to get back in, I said NO. There had been too much emotional and spiritual abuse. Your teaching helped me to continue to heal even after 18 years of him being gone. Thank you!

  6. kim on July 21, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    Such great advice to this young wife. Praying she stand firm in Christ, and that God will heal her wounds, as the Holy Spirit convicts her husband, assists him in moving forward in ways that honor God and his wife. Bless you.

    • Autumn on July 27, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      In your experience Kim, How many abusive men get convicted and change? I see this line of thinking as perpetuating “hopeism.” If keeps an abused women in her situation far too long. Spiritualization of the situation often blocks logical thinking. Safety first, get out, run, save yourself from this fool!

  7. Julie K on July 28, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I’m confused by Leslie’s response to the poster. It seems like she’s assuming a number of beliefs the poster has that are not necessarily evidenced in her words here? Maybe there’s a back story that we don’t see?

    I read the question quite differently, and I would feel blamed by all the “you” statements that don’t necessarily reflect what I (as the poster) might be thinking.

    But that’s just my perspective.

    If the poster really *does* think all those things, then Leslie’s words would be excellent. I benefited from many of them.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 1, 2021 at 11:58 pm

      Julie, I only have their words. I don’t personally speak with those who e-mail me questions. But I do try to expand to a broader issue if it may also apply to other women in similar situations.

  8. JENN Fuertes on August 4, 2021 at 3:49 pm

    I left 9 months ago after abuse and a year of attempted couples counseling. My husband says he has changed. He has gotten professional help and counseled with a pastor at church. He is begging for a second chance and I absolutely believe God can radically change a life, even over night. However, I am extremely anxious about going back- like on medications for anxiety and depression with weekly counseling, anxious. I left with a clear conscious knowing I stayed faithful and tried all I could. Do I give a second chance? I feel I have moved on for the most part, but there is still some love there. I am working my way through your emotionally destructive marriage book…

  9. Carol Green on August 8, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    I left my marriage of 50 years last October because of verbal and emotional abuse. It was so hard, but thankful for very supportive family and friends.. God continues to be faithful . ..providing physical, spiritual and emotional comfort. Have been in contact with my husband and hoping to have a healthy conversation. I am anxious but the Lord has been laying this on my heart. I forgive him, but reconciliation seems very distant if at all. He’s a great manipulator and I really want to see change. Any thoughts or advice? Thx for your blog. Really is encouraging

  10. Tina on August 28, 2021 at 10:00 am

    My heart breaks for this young woman, but God bless you for seeing the behavior and calling it out so early on in your marriage. I left my husband last month after not seeing any progress or lasting change in his narcissistic, manipulative behaviors. We’ve been married over thirty years. I thought I was doing the right thing by staying with him no matter what, but I just couldn’t take it anymore & knew that God was not being honored. I’ve been getting counseling from the same counselor for months. My husband has had a different counselor every month because anytime someone crosses him or tells him what he doesn’t want to hear, he goes on to a new one. In an effort to show how serious I am about lasting change, plus offer a time for reconciliation & accountability, I filed for legal separation. The manipulation still continues. I am praying that God would reveal true character in everyone involved, including myself, so that the truth will shine bright and people who have been thoroughly deceived by him will come to see the light. I pray that all the details necessary in your situation will be made clear to you as to how you must proceed. God bless you.

  11. Marie on October 22, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Married more than 25 years, the verbal/ emotional abuse have gotten worse with husband home during pandemic /he has been working at home; he has attended some of the marriage counseling but criticizes me at the sessions. Not sure if I want to continue with this couples counseling; don’t see a lot of improvement from his behavior; counselor says husband is emotionally distant; that it is not ‘fun’ that I feel like I have to be on guard so much in the marriage; I have even been so sad, upset and almost sick from husband’s remarks at one session, yet my husband gave me no solace and neither did the counselor. every online test/book gives me conclusions that this is real emotional abuse and possibly some physical abuse. thanks for your ministry

    • Leslie Vernick on October 25, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Marie, it does sound like emotional abuse and I’m wondering if you can stand up for yourself with your counselor and say, “I don’t think this is helpful for me. He’s disrespecting me right in front of you and you say nothing. I’m not willing to be treated this way by him or by you.” And it also sounds as if you may be depressed, which is very common for women in destructive relationships. Please take care of you right now.

      • Marie on March 15, 2022 at 10:03 pm

        as an update, things got a little worse over the holidays;I am learning to be more assertive and yes, more self care does help. My husband does not want to /does not like to attend the counseling sessions, he gets angry easily, and blames his behavior on me, but I tell myself that I am not responsible for his behavior. I am building my support team. unfortunately my husband says I am playing the ‘victim’ when I speak about how his behavior makes me feel. I tell him that is not correct. I wonder why all of a sudden he is using this term?

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