Morning friend, There is still a lot of confusion and misinformation on whether or not emotional abuse is real. You may be told by your husband or even your pastor that “you are too sensitive. Toughen up. Don’t take it personally. There is no such thing as emotional abuse in the Bible.” I want to show you something different.

On February 17, I’m doing a free webinar on Four (4) Beliefs that keep you Stuck, Afraid, and Miserable in a destructive marriage. I’ll be doing this LIVE two separate times. Please sign up to attend.

Today’s Question: What exactly constitutes verbal or emotional abuse? My husband denies being verbally abusive but I believe he is. I feel it. Can you give me specific examples that are considered verbally or emotionally abusive? He never uses four-letter words towards me but his words, tone, and constant criticism feel emotionally abusive to me. Am I just overreacting or being too sensitive? Does the Bible speak of emotional abuse? My Pastor says it’s not in the Bible. 

Answer: Cursing someone out is bigger than just using four-letter words. Cursing someone is condemning him or her as if you’re their judge or even their god. When someone does that he (or she) believes they’re the superior one and as such have the right to cast “judgment” on another’s character, personhood, or even actions in a demeaning or derogatory way. The Bible speaks to this kind of person when Jesus says, “If you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:22).

First, it’s helpful to make a distinction between an abusive incident and an abusive relationship. Since we are all sinners, we are all capable of some verbal abuse. (James 3:2). James also cautions believers that our tongue can be misused as a weapon to hurt other people. (Yes, the Bible speaks of emotional and verbal abuse). James describes it this way. He says the tongue is “restless and evil full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:8-10). He also warns that if we “claim to be a believer and don’t control our tongue, we are lying to ourselves and to others” (James 1:26).

Therefore, when someone who claims to be a Christian sins and verbally curses someone out, or just says something hurtful, he or she should immediately recognize that he has crossed a line and used his tongue as a weapon for harm. James clearly says this is not right. As does Paul in Romans 13:10 when he says, “Love does no harm”. 

Once that line has been crossed, a sincere apology should be given, repentance before the Lord should occur and a strong effort to never repeat that kind of abusive speech should be made. However, when abusive behavior/speech happens again and again and again, then it’s not just simply crossing the line and being a sinner. It is being an unrepentant sinner who refuses to submit himself under the authority of God which begs the question as to whether or not he or she is a true believer.

Here are a few examples of cursing kinds of comments, without using four-letter words. When they are a regular pattern in a relationship, they are considered verbally abusive.

You’re never happy

You’re just like your mother/father

You’re making things up

You love to blame others, don't you?

You’re treating me like …a jerk, incompetent, 

You’re sick

You’re crazy

You’re a foolish woman

You have a Jezebel spirit

You’re not thinking right

You’re a piece of work

You’re high maintenance

No one else would be able to live with you

You’re the one with the problem

You’re a control freak

You can’t forgive

You’re too much.

You’re not enough.

But cursing or judging/condemning is not the only form of verbal abuse. The Bible (especially Proverbs) talks about slanderers, mockers, scoffers, liars, and revilers. Each of these descriptors has a slightly different definition but they all cause damage to others by their words. The psalmist cried out, “Your insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair” (Psalm 69:20).

Here are a few ways your spouse may regularly use his words to undermine your confidence and hurt you. (Remember any one of us may use these things occasionally, that does not necessarily make them demeaning or abusive. But when they become a regular pattern of communicating, they are destructive and abusive.)

1. Regularly questioning or challenging your thinking and decision making – as if you are not thinking correctly, wisely or Biblically or making good choices. 

A raised eyebrow, “Are you sure you want to do that? I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” 

Questioning your judgment or decision, “What are you thinking?”

2. Subtly undermining your authority or credibility. He/she can do this with the children, or with other people you both know and value. 

Mom said you can’t watch TV but you know mom, she’s wrapped up too tight. 

I know she seems like a lovely person but you have no idea what I live with at home.

From the kids' eyes, Dad looks like the fun, nice, rational thinking dad and you look like a control freak or religious nutcase or an emotional wreck.

Other people begin to wonder what you are “really like”

3. Misrepresenting what you said to your kids or other people. 

For example, telling the kids: “Mom said she doesn’t want to be married to me anymore. She wants to be free to do what she wants.”

What you actually said was: “I can’t stand that you control every decision and thought. There is no room for me in this marriage.”

Or he says to you, “You said you would co-sign on this loan” when what you actually said was “I’ll think about co-signing on the loan”

4. Subtle jokes that hurt and that are at your expense. There is no apology and the jokes continue. He enjoys getting a laugh at your expense.

For example: Making lewd remarks about the lack of sex life or your “prudishness” when watching something provocative on TV.

Make sarcastic fun of your cooking in front of the kids or company.

Making disparaging comments about a weakness you have “he can’t fix anything around here to save his life,” to incite laughter from others.

5. Privately maligning your character to others. 

“You have no idea what I have to live with at home.” – saying this to a relative, a church friend, small group leader, pastor, or counselor.

Mommy’s/Daddy’s no fun is she/he.

Mommy’s mean, sick, needs help, trying to make you feel scared of daddy. 

6. Shaming, guilt-tripping, and minimizing what happened or your feelings

I can never do anything right in your eyes, can I?

You are so negative. You are always critical of me.

I try so hard and this is the thanks I get? 

OR when you set a boundary or say no, he looks wounded, crushed. And says something like – Wow, I thought you were different. You’re so mean, selfish or unloving.

7. Veiled threats

You’ll be sorry. Don’t cross me. There is nothing more said but by the body language, you know that it is a threat.

In addition, there can be disrespectful non-verbal behavior such as a pattern of falling asleep, frowning, ignoring, yawning, and sighing when you’re trying to have an important conversation. 

Words impact us and can sometimes infect us with their poison (1 Corinthians 15:33). The Bible is very clear about the power of someone’s words and warns us, “Reckless words pierce like a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18). “Life and death is in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). 

Paul tells us to distance ourselves from anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people.” He says, “Don’t even eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:11). 

It’s tempting for someone who is reckless with their words to blame their sinful outbursts on the recipient of their wrath. “You made me so mad.” Or “You pushed my buttons” or “I was so stressed out” 

And all of that may be true. People (and life) provoke us all the time and push our buttons. Stress is real, and we do feel angry. Yet when verbal abuse happens over and over again the Bible is clear we need to look within. [Tweet “We are responsible for what comes out of our own mouths even when we’re stressed, provoked, or angry.”] In fact, Jesus tells us when ugly words spew out of our mouth, it’s best we pay attention to what’s going on inside of us, rather than blaming what’s happening around us. Jesus says, “Out of the overflow of your heart, your mouth speaks.” (Matthew 15:11) 

All that to say, please do not take any responsibility for how your husband talks to you. His tongue and his temper are his responsibility to control. You are sensitive because God made you sensitive and most people are sensitive to harsh, cruel, mocking, sarcastic, critical, and hurtful words. But the question I want to ask you is what are you going to do to take care of yourself?

It’s interesting that Paul encouraged young Timothy not to allow others to intimidate him or treat him with contempt because of his youth. Paul realized that the religious leaders might not respect Timothy but told Timothy not to allow those people or their words to “define” him or make him feel worthless. 

Paul himself put some boundaries around those who were seeking to undermine his authority and credibility (see 2 Corinthians 10, 11). Proverbs remind you to “Guard your heart, above all else for it is the wellspring of your life.”(Proverbs 4:23) 

Therefore, what do you need to do to protect yourself against the reckless words of your spouse? Leave the room? Put earplugs on when he starts up? Verbalize a boundary and say, “I’m not listening to you when you talk to me like that.” 

The bigger marital problem you have is not his words but his attitude that justifies his belief that he’s entitled to use those words to hurt you, to punish you, and to control you. It’s also his lack of empathy for the pain he’s caused you. Instead of caring, he criticizes you as “too sensitive”. 

Sometimes when an abused person wakes up to the reality of her situation, she feels her own anger and can start lobbing back some verbal bombs of her own. Don’t let that be you. (Romans 12:21). Instead, learn to walk in CORE strength. BE…

C – Courageously committed to truth, no more pretending

O – Open to the Holy Spirit and wise others to help me grow

R – Responsible for myself, and respectful towards others without dishonoring myself

E – Empathic and compassionate without enabling destructive behaviors to continue

Let me close with the prayer of the psalmist for us all. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Friend, how would you describe verbal abuse and what have you done to guard your heart and protect your mind from it?

46 Comments

  1. Mia on February 2, 2022 at 11:39 pm

    This post was extremely helpful! It took me years to realize that God doesn’t want that for any of His children. The info shared here has really given examples to help determine whether or not verbal/emotional abuse is going on consistently.

    My marriage started changing right after we got married. Weird comments about not matching the socks right or do you really need a hello hug after work ….I can’t do anything right…I didn’t take you to raise… why do you make so many mistakes…you are a moron….then progressing to… who are they going to believe… you? Or me – a police officer. Also I heard I wish could punch you in the face right now. (Often). Once my kiddos were growing older it was time to get them to a safer environment emotionally. Now they struggle with what he says about me when they see him every other weekend. It’s confusing for them and I believe I did the right thing by leavIng to protect myself so I could be a stronger mom and protect my boys. Now my son is acting out in anger. Help for boys with abusive dads would be a resource I am desperate to get my hands on if there are any suggestions? This blog has been a HUGE help for me. (and your books). I read it weekly – always – for the last 5 years. Thank you so much! ❤️

    • Wendy on February 5, 2022 at 9:06 am

      My heart goes out to you & your boys Mia. I’m praying that you will all experience God’s complete healing, wholeness & protection.

      • Mia on February 7, 2022 at 10:55 pm

        Wendy!!! Thank you SO much! It means the world to me that you are praying those words! Let me
        Know if I can pray for anything for you as well!! 💕

    • Elizabeth on February 5, 2022 at 10:05 am

      Mia, I have a son who is 10 and has some big issues from my husband. My son has much to overcome but I have had some success with the following:
      1.Making sure that my dad feels free to mentor/correct my son and trying to find times for them to enjoy things together.
      2. Asking a couple of men at church if they will allow my son to help with a church responsibility.
      3. Enrolling my son in a couple of summer sports day camps with good male examples for the coaches.
      4. I am currently praying about putting him in a sport particularly with a godly male coach.
      5. I have been upfront with a couple of close friends and asked them if they could occasionally have my son over for dinner or just to hang out so that he can see a godly dad in action.
      6. Pointing out to my son things like, “Did you notice how that husband was so kind to his wife at the store?”
      7. When my husband prioritizes work over my son, I try to find something for him and me to do together that’s fun, rather than pleading with my husband to spend time with his son. It’s better at this point, for my son to be around my husband for less time anyway.
      8. Pleading much with God for my son!
      9.There’s an elderly man
      we know who lives alone and likes my son. This friendship has been helpful too.
      I have daily battles with my son and am thinking/praying about how to better handle things. It’s hard!

      • Elizabeth W. on February 5, 2022 at 11:31 am

        Oh, so as not to confuse anyone, I am a different Elizabeth than the one who replied above regarding her divorce. I will try to change my screen name here—

      • JoAnn on February 6, 2022 at 11:55 pm

        Elizabeth, What you are doing is so helpful. For a boy to have kind, godly men in his life can be a game changer….a life changer. Something I learned about the “battles”: (1) pick you battles carefully. Don’t major on minor things. Hair cuts and untied shoe laces are not worth fighting over. (2) Help your child to consider the consequences of his choices rather than telling him what to do. Sometimes life offers its own consequences, so we can just let that happen. (3) Don’t try to “fix” his life. He will learn resilience by having to deal with adversity and the consequences of his choices.
        These are a few of the things I learned, some, by not doing them very well. But mine are grown now and have kids of their own, and they are all turning out very well, thank God! When you are “in the trenches,” it’s hard, but they do grow up, and with love and prayer, they can turn out well.

        • Mia on February 7, 2022 at 11:00 pm

          I love all of this info!! Thank you!!! 😀

        • Elizabeth W. on February 15, 2022 at 4:18 pm

          Joann,
          I forgot to tell you “thank you “! I appreciate your suggestions and will think/pray about them. I do think that I sometimes, out of a desire to help
          my kids and fix our lives, have a tendency to
          control them at times. So your suggestions are good to think about.

      • Mia on February 7, 2022 at 10:58 pm

        Elizabeth! I love
        All
        Of your suggestions! That helps so much! My son is also in Counseling and he feels that is a safe place to talk to someone. Open to any resources for
        Children growing up with a narcissistic parent. Thank you again!! 😀😀❤️

        • Waiting on February 13, 2022 at 8:42 pm

          How did you get your son to agree to counseling?

  2. Free on February 3, 2022 at 3:33 am

    https://www.healthline.com/health/coercive-control

    Exploring the concept of Coercive Control is extremely beneficial. Relational Coercive Control has been illegal since 2015 in the United Kingdom. The above link helps a person distinguish and identify abuse. I like this term better Coercive Control better than emotional abuse. It was coined by Evan Stark if one is interested in the origination of this term.

  3. Magda on February 3, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    I have been married for 24 years to a man who has Aspergers. He will say many of the above mentioned things and I have founds ways to tackle this through the years. He operates on a different level when it comes to emotions and understanding how others work or feel. But even though I know his limitations I have now come to a point where I no longer can say that I have an emotional connection with him as a wife ought to have to a husband. I needed to put boundaries in place between us and emotionally detach from him since I was mentally starting to loose it. We now live together like a family, us two and our teenage daughter, but without the romantic relationship and expectations. It is freeing and such a relief to me. I still care for him and I want to treat him well. He does not have many people who loves him and know him since he lacks good social skills so my hope is to still be able to support him and be a good companion without
    being vulnerable with him.

  4. Elizabeth on February 5, 2022 at 9:08 am

    Oh thank you for THIS post THIS morning! My divorce is behind me. I wish it was done years and years ago as my relationship with now adult children is damaged . They were watching the role model- the father- for years while I prayed harder, tried harder, was the buffer…all because “God hates divorce ya know”.
    ALL these above examples of emotional abuse were my experience regularly. The trap was that he would erupt in anger and nastiness then isolate and shut down interaction… then a day or days later would behave as if nothing happened. Conflict was never resolved. Then I thought he made internal changes and he was “nice” again. In time I would assume all was well and the whole thing repeated…countless number of events over 20+ years. Thank you for helping my eyes to see that this reality has a name—-emotional abuse.

    • Autumn on February 5, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      How are you doing now that you are free Elizabeth? There doesn’t seem to be a place in the church for those of us who were abused. They don’t seem to address marital abuse from the pulpit. It is a lonely place to be safe, but marginalized.

      • linda on February 6, 2022 at 12:45 pm

        It’s been over a year and I am still struggling. It is a lonely place. I did find a church that is very nice and accepting, but I have learned people only want to hear your story ONCE! Then you must move on, or they start to question your faith (they don’t do this to someone that has cancer or other sickness, but if you are struggling with your emotional health?)

        So, I guess “lonely place to be safe, but marginalized” describes it well.

  5. Claire on February 5, 2022 at 10:11 am

    Most of the verbal abuse I get from my husband is “well, no”comment. I will say something in agreement with something he is telling me. I am agreeing with him, and he says, well, NO. I don’t have it right. Somehow I am misunderstanding. If he says he is going to get a lot of work done outside today, and I say yes, it’s going to be a nice day, he says well, no theirs a 10% chance of rain at 3:00. It is crazy making. The other verbal abuse is interrupting me. I can’t get a sentence out without him finishing it for me, or interrupting or walking away before I get the words out. I am so anxious if i speak because i feel like I have to condense all my words as quickly as possible or loose his attention. He simply does not listen to me and I am suppose to be his constant cheerleader.

    • Autumn on February 5, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      His “No” is entitlement. It is a characteristic of narcissism. He sees his view as the only correct view. He lacks the ability to self reflect and can not empathize. It is part of the personality disorder that will never change. Save your breath and your energy. He enjoys the chance to prove his superiority and you talking to him with your opinion is valueless in his eyes and annoys him. His thinking rules, you are to be dismissed and disregarded as usual. In fact, in his mind, he wishes you would just stop talking.

  6. Karen on February 5, 2022 at 10:42 am

    Every woman who has lived with emotional abuse should share her testimony of the reality of it and how it destroys you and your children so hopefully someone can find their way out sooner than later.

    My adult daughter is mentally ruined. Our relationship is ruined. The church denied abuse. Even when I finally came to. I came to a few times. I got not only no support but pushed to stay. I would hope more women would find ways to check on their neighbors and families in churches where the woman seems to be not mentally right or upset a lot. You could perhaps help her rescue herself from unending hell. I wish I’d had that support instead of being told to be a better wife. That I was always the problem. I almost died from the abuse. My life is still unsettled 5 years out from the divorce because I stayed too long.

    • Chris on February 5, 2022 at 11:32 am

      I want to let you know that I have been where you are, especially about the pastor’s siding with my abusive
      ex husband. I was called a witch with a jezebel spirit and more. My son learned to hate me as his father spread his lies. I actually ended up marrying another abusive man who I am now getting the pastors support in dealing with. I am also being supported by some of my church ladies that I have been able to confide in.
      All this to let you know you are in the right place with Leslie’s teachings and trainings. Please do not give up hope. My son just recently visited me and totally heard what really occurred good bad and ugly and our relationship has begun to be healed. Something I kept praying for. The healthier I got the better my son’s relationship was. Hmmm?! I felt the same way as you when my world exploded with the truth of lost wasted years…but there is redemption even if only found in the Lord. Please don’t give up on yourself, God hasn’t. Keep fighting for your healing please. Do not let a sick man steal the rest of your life.As one of God’s loved child let Him define your life, we are not victims when we give all of our pain and heartache for Him to turn into something good –Beauty from ashes. Suffering to Hope. You are loved and do not forget that.

      • Free on February 6, 2022 at 7:08 am

        “Please don’t let a sick man steal the rest of your life.”

        There is a tweet! Yup and thanks!

    • E on February 7, 2022 at 8:47 am

      Karen I feel your loneliness about the the church. We were alienated, even my children, because my husband had “rubbed people the wrong way” with some of his words and actions. I get that, he does it to me all the time, but it’s a lonely place when the pastor won’t even look at you and hard to start fresh during COVID and when I’m still in the marriage. My kids see me as simply “not wanting” to go to church because I can’t really explain what happened, for fear it will just make them more hurt and angry. I’m seeing the damage to my kids and struggling with what is the least horrible option moving forward. I have the support of my family and friends but my former church was a rookie fail.

  7. Chris on February 5, 2022 at 11:14 am

    Verbal Abuse in my marriage mostly consisted of lies and deceptive words to pretend he was hearing me. And the dismissive silent treatment, and the looks that were meant to kill.

    What I did was realize that I was living in a constant state of anxiety and fear which I denied feeling. I woke up one day putting my hand on the doorknob of the bedroom knowing he was in the living room and felt fear. Now he was not loud abusive with his words or even quiet abusive, there was never any physical abuse, he was a great provider,etc. Why was I feeling fear? I mean real fear!?! I called my sister who is married to an obnoxious oaf and asked her if she ever felt fear leaving her bedroom thinking if anyone should it would be her but she said No, not ever. And I realized I had felt it for so long it became my normal feeling around him in my own house.
    I got help from a therapist who just wrote a book on abusive marriages and followed his instructions to go “no contact.” Thank God my husband went along with it because I put all the heat on the therapist.
    We are both working this out but I know it will be a very long and hard uphill battle. Don’t know where this will lead but I am following along with Leslie’s many support paths: books, blogs, webinars, podcasts, along with others and I do have my pastor’s support. Thank you because I now know my fear was justified and I am beginning to feel real peace and have hope for whatever happens.

    • E on February 7, 2022 at 8:32 am

      I’m with you on the doorknob but mine is more a sense of dread. I moved out of the bedroom because it took him 18 years to address his snoring but I still have to walk through there to get to the bathroom and everyday I tiptoe because I don’t want him to wake up and destroy the peace. I get the teens off to school hopefully before he ever wakes up but that dread is there every time with opening the bedroom door and every time we get home and his car is still there. Which is pretty much always since he’s been working from the living room “temporarily” for the last 6 years. Like with you it’s not a physical abuse or even insults, just impulsive/insensitive statements and getting everyone tense and upset the moment he comes in the room.

      • Moon Beam on February 8, 2022 at 3:40 am

        There is an excellent non fiction book called, The sound of Gravel.” It is about the dread the woman in polygamous cults felt when they hear the men coming to their homes. Comparing their stories to any of ours might help some of us get out of denial.

      • Moon Beam on February 8, 2022 at 3:44 am

        “The Sound of Gravel: A memoir.,” By Ruth Werner.

        In my life it was the sound of the garage door opener pulling up the door. It still sends chills up my back.

  8. Autumn on February 5, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    His “No” is entitlement. It is a characteristic of narcissism. He sees his view as the only correct view. He lacks the ability to self reflect and can not empathize. It is part of the personality disorder that will never change. Save your breath and your energy. He enjoys the chance to prove his superiority and you talking to him with your opinion is valueless in his eyes and annoys him. His thinking rules, you are to be dismissed and disregarded as usual. In fact, in his mind, he wishes you would just stop talking.

  9. Caroline Abbott on February 5, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    The Bible DOES talk about abuse. Here is a list of Bible verses that describe abuse:
    https://carolineabbott.com/bible-verses-about-domestic-violence/

    • Autumn on February 6, 2022 at 7:04 am

      Thank you Caroline. I agree. Yet, not once, in my lifetime of listening to sermons has it ever been preached in any church I attended. That I see as manipulative patriarchy. As conservative leader after leader is being exposed in their sexual misconduct, I think I speak for a generation of women who sat under false prophets. I long to hear the passages you mentioned preached in a series.

      Why was the truth about abuse not preached? Could it be that It didn’t benefit the men who liked feeling superior to women? They liked keeping the little lady quiet, subservient and sexual? I was counseled that the Bible was silent on abuse and of all things, masturbation. I poured over and over scripture looking for hope and was told to stay, pray and obey.

      I still love the Lord, but church, not so much. I have been wounded by twisted interpretations of the Bible and omissions; carefully constructed to manipulate women to assume responsibility for their partner’s evil. It is criminal! How do we change this? I image God cries tears for us, the wounded, as the church hides abusers and flaunts it’s pious evil.

    • JoAnn on February 7, 2022 at 10:02 am

      Thank you for that list. I have downloaded it as a pdf. Great format. Very helpful.

  10. Cory on February 7, 2022 at 12:48 am

    I agree that my words and actions can hurt someone, initially. But, if I’ve given a true Christian apology for the hurt I caused……and the person I hurt refuses to forgive me……at that point they become their own abuser and allow themselves to be tortured by Satan. See Matthew 18:21-35.

    I cannot be responsible for someone hurting themself with unforgiveness.

    Basically, my wife keeps blaming me for her hurting from my past words and actions. But, she is refusing to forgive even though I have given a proper apology and repented. She says I’m still responsible for her hurt. I totally disagree.

    I welcome any and all feedback, especially correction where I may be wrong.

    • Stephanie on February 7, 2022 at 4:58 pm

      “I agree that my words and actions can hurt someone, initially. But, if I’ve given a true Christian apology for the hurt I caused……”
      My question is have you defined what makes it a true apology? Have you apologized with words alone or words followed by proper actions?

      “Basically, my wife keeps blaming me for her hurting from my past words and actions. But, she is refusing to forgive even though I have given a proper apology and repented.”
      Cory, when you say she keeps blaming me, that is an active present tense, though you say it is for past words and actions. It is perhaps a misstatement but it could be a sign (because you wrote it that way) that the words and actions are being repeated, that the behavior is continuing, that she is being re-injured, and that is why she is continuing to hold back from reconciling.

      ” She says I’m still responsible for her hurt. I totally disagree.”
      Here, if my prior remarks pass the litmus test and you HAVE changed your behavior and no longer habitually commit wrongs that you need to own accountability for, I will agree that a person’s emotional status is theirs to own. Other people do not control our feelings. But our feelings work the way they do to clue us in to behaviors. If you have changed and she harbors resentment and refuses to forgive, that is not something you can change by bending over backward. Her response is her responsibility. Our response is always our own responsibility.

      I’m learning that relationships do not exist for us to compare incidents and declare a winner/loser. These incidents occur so that we can measure our growth. A win in this situation is having integrity, humility and good will toward the other person, no matter whether we feel we have done enough changing, forgiving or are justified in our feelings.

    • R on February 7, 2022 at 10:27 pm

      You have SAID you’re sorry. Have your actions communicated that? Have you changed? Do you acknowledge the harm you caused? Are you behaving differently toward her now? Demanding forgiveness shows a lack of true heart change.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 7, 2022 at 11:47 pm

      Cory I’d encourage you to read my next blog on “Does forgiveness mean forgetting?” You say you have given a true Christian apology for the harm you’ve caused. Could you explain exactly what that looks like? It’s more than saying “I’m sorry.” So what are the “fruit of repentance” you have “shown” your wife that demonstrate a true Christian apology? For example, If you crashed into someone’s car in the parking lot and said “I’m so sorry” would that mean that the injured person would forgive you and not ask you to make restitution for the harm you caused? No. And if you were truly sorry, the other person wouldn’t even have to ask you to make repairs or restitution. If you were truly sorry, you would automatically WANT to make those repairs for the harm you caused. Words mean nothing if they are not followed up with consistent matching actions. Perhaps that is what your wife is waiting to see.

  11. L.H. on February 7, 2022 at 5:41 am

    Emotional abuse doesn’t have to be by words. It can be so much more. From my experience you can destroy someone by weeks/months of silent treatment, sneering, eye rolling, rejection, sighing, hands on hips and glaring (by a 6’6” husband, meant to intimidate), manipulation, indifference, all denied and dismissed. When kindly confronted no repentance or apology. All covert, not seen by outsiders.
    A 48 year marriage, 45 of those years in the same church. A coverup by me pretending all was fine, enabling destructive patterns of behavior. Prayed and pleaded with God to show me ways to be a better wife.
    Church leadership is not the answer for my situation. Unless they can see bruises it’s not abuse. Husband created an image of himself that is pleasing to the church community, He is in many leadership roles and highly respected with his Biblical knowledge. Leaders know and yet approve.
    We are both sinners in need of God’s grace. I left 2.5 years ago, not one phone call from husband in that time. Many repeated attempts of counseling and mediation. Legal separation was advised.
    God is faithful and good. It’s vital to turn up the praise music, march around Jericho and Raise a Hallelujah in the middle of the storm.

    • Waiting on February 9, 2022 at 1:24 pm

      Oh how sad… so long suffering and to be alone and not believed.. I am in the same situation. Church leaders raise him up and ignore me. They know what he is and frankly, don’t care. Appearance in the church are more important that the suffering and hurt and myself and my children in private. I’m glad you found your freedom..it is not an easy step to take.

  12. D. Red on February 7, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    OK, i almost forwarded this blog link to my husband, then i got to the list of abusive terms. i can hear him accusing me of saying them! so what is the difference? i mean the man is attending abuse counseling, but if i say, this seems like abuse-well its almost as if mentioning or considering his abuse is off limits! so of course i have said:

    You’re making things up-because he does gaslight!

    You’re treating me like …a jerk

    You’re sick-because he is abusing me and thinks its ok

    You’re not thinking right-again, b/c he deploys abuse and passive aggressive tactics on me

    You’re the one with the problem-see above

    so what’s the difference if i say these things to call out his sick, destructive, damaging, abuse behavior?? how am i supposed to say this is abuse, this is wrong, without telling him he is wrong?

    • Free on February 8, 2022 at 3:33 am

      Anything you say to him doesn’t matter. Stop thinking and working on him. Take all your energies and work on you. Let the counselors do their job and remediate him. Change should be permanent and life long. The chance of his seeing the errors of his ways or changing permanently are one in a million. Devote yourself to your life and your health. You may find you have some hard decisions to make and will need the education you obtain from multiple resources on abuse to help you.

    • JoAnn on February 10, 2022 at 4:11 pm

      D. Red, Making accusations (you statements) isn’t going to shine on the abusive nature of what he is doing. It’s better to say, “I feel hurt (demeaned, abused, belittled, etc.) when you talk to me that way.” Use “I feel” statements. Then that defines his behavior as being abusive.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 11, 2022 at 11:07 am

        JoAnn, I agree “I” statements are healthier ways to communicate that attack or accusing statements usually starting with “YOU – For example, as you said, I feel disrespected, vs You are disrespectful.

        However, when you repeatedly tell someone that they are hurting/harming you as in “I feel hurt. I feel demeaned. Etc and there is no repentance you are casting your pearls before swine as Jesus warns us not to do. You are giving him the ways to continue to hurt/harm you. Instead you can still use “I” statements, but not about your feelings, more about your boundaries. “I won’t listen to you when you scream (curse, belittle etc) me.” Instead of staying “I feel scared when you drive and you’re angry.” you say, “I will no longer drive in the same car with you unless I am the driver and you are the passenger.” Hope that helps.

  13. Stephanie on February 7, 2022 at 4:47 pm

    Been a CONQUER member for over a year now, and reading this during a time when my husband is on the upswing of the abuse cycle or trauma cycle is a good reminder of the truth. I have more clarity when re-reading this. I can excuse him as he is on a learning curve of personal growth but I see clearly where his work is because of these trademark evidences of what is in his heart. Sometimes there is a reaction instead of a proper response, but when he subsequently rationalizes that reaction by calling me the catalyst for his behavior it reveals his lack of emotional depth and accountability for wrong behavior.

    • Kathy on February 14, 2022 at 8:31 pm

      You are ABSOLUTELY correct!!!

  14. Ruth on February 7, 2022 at 6:43 pm

    Some thoughts on the original writer’s questions-
    Leslie does say there are crushing, harmful words are spoke of in the Bible. Also, think of when someone tries to derail your purpose or squash you. I think of when Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He would suffer and die, but Jesus rejected 🙅‍♂️ Peter’s words. In fact, Jesus was pretty harsh in his response to Peter! We need to be firm when someone is hurtful and sinful towards us and/or our loved ones.

    The person who wrote in to Leslie says her pastor says emotional abuse isn’t in the Bible. This is foolish reasoning. So he thinks only things written in the Bible are real? If he has crushing chest pain and his left shoulder hurts, then is he gonna ignore it bc heart attacks are not written about in the Bible? 🙄
    One of the gospels says that this book could not contain all the things that Jesus did. Along that line of thinking, God did not include EVERYTHING bit of information on every topic for the rest of this age in the scriptures that king James would eventually have gathered up and written down.

  15. Samantha on July 28, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    Hello! I’m not sure how to send in my question so I’ll try it here. I watched your video on boundary setting. I am curious to learn about how to set boundaries for emotional neglect. Specifically, when I share some pain I am dealing with (depression, lack of purpose, sadness), keeping it about me and just sharing my feelings, my husband shows zero empathy, or compassion and takes personal offense – makes it about him by saying he’s not good enough or doesn’t do anything right when I ask him to just reflect back what I am saying. Not offer a solution, not be silent, just active listening. He’s not a total narcissist because he does show true empathy towards other people, just not me when he takes my pain personally.

    This has happened so much in our short 2 years of marriage that I do not want to share my heart with him at all anymore. I never know what I’ll share with him that will set him off.

    What is the appropriate boundary to set? To keep everything superficial? Only share my heart with God and a trusted friend? I don’t know what to do but if I keep forgiving and sharing my heart with him, even when he asks me to, there will be no heart left of mine to break.

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