Am I Being Equally Deceptive?

Morning friend,

Thursday, August 17, I’m giving a free webinar: I’m not Okay when You’re Not Okay: Defining My Problem, Your Problem and Our Problem. If you are getting frustrated or feeling stuck because “his problem” is not changing and it’s continuing to impact you in negative ways, it’s time for you to change directions. It’s time to stop trying to fix his problem and start working on your own. Start with the magic question, “What’s my problem with his problem?” Make a list.

Now you have some things you can work on. Better yet, sign up for the webinar and attend. Learn the things you CAN do to work on your problem, so you get healthier and stronger, even if your marriage doesn’t. Hope to see you there. 

Today’s Question: I have been in a destructive marriage for 17 years and our challenges began 3 weeks after our honeymoon when I found him looking at internet dating profiles, his response to my asking why remained “I don't know”, years later he finally told me he wasn't sure he made the right choice in marrying me. We have had intermittent problems like this over the course of our marriage, for example, he will put me down or do things that are purposefully hurtful in front of friends and family, is very controlling from finances to food, we should comply with his way, he has been physically aggressive with our children (never me) but has told our oldest who has special needs that if we ever get divorced it will be his fault. He has struggled with porn, he blames the children for his behavior (he had to “get their attention”), we walk on eggshells and are constantly monitoring his body language, looks or gestures, etc.

He will place his wants above our needs regularly and has an alcohol addiction that is getting very serious. The one place I have been so submissive (out of fear) is in our marriage but otherwise, I am a strong woman, blessed with 2 amazing children, a rewarding career, and strong faith. 

Despite this, there is so much to be thankful for! I have since found a new church home that is amazing, the boys and I are thriving, we also changed schools and have a hybrid homeschool environment that is wonderful. I have been pouring into Leslie's material I know God has a plan and his timing is perfect. I am working on my Core, particularly speaking in love and truth, working hard to have a softened heart, but have struggled to understand what God's will is – surely he does not want us to have to endure in this destructive environment but is separation what is best? 

There are apologies but no repentance, he has not changed his destructive behavior or followed through with help. We attended marriage counseling years ago; she gave me a book on verbal abuse as I left her office one day but never addressed his behavior during sessions. It took years for me to realize she was trying to throw me a lifeline but I hid the book and eventually donated it so he wouldn't find it. 

He had a very similar childhood; he is following his father's destructive life choices. I know that I have a lot more work to do and the reasons for staying are fear-based. Fear of not honoring my commitment, of my son thinking this is his fault, of losing my security or our home, and especially fear of what I know he is capable of. 

But staying and enduring I see it may not be possible for the three of us to stay well. I am learning to set firm boundaries and let him choose to be the man he wants to be without intervening with help or rescuing. Writing this is eye-opening. I am working on healthy detachment and building a financial nest egg – he has set up an alert system so that any of my credit card activity, any account inquiry, new account creation, etc. all sends him an alert. 

I recently learned that I do not have access to our credit card statements because I am an authorized user, not a primary account holder. He opened a high-yield savings account that I am unable to access and moved a significant amount of money from our joint account to it. I have struggled to build this nest egg and have little to show for my efforts. Am I just as deceitful by working so hard to hide money from him?

Answer: First, I want you to know how happy it makes me to hear that you are doing your own work and growing despite things not changing in your marriage. It’s very easy to stay focused on your hurt and your anger at him not changing. Or trying harder and over-functioning to fix his issues. You’re learning to grow yourself as well as find things you can be thankful for in the midst of the hard things you are going through in your marriage. 

To answer your question regarding your secret nest egg. I wouldn’t call your behaviors deceitful; I would call them prudent and shrewd considering what you have reported. I am not an attorney and I believe this is something you should get legal advice about. Marital assets are considered jointly owned. What you are putting aside right now is still considered joint marital assets, but you are “controlling” them just as he is “putting joint assets in the high-yield account” and not giving you information or access. 

My biggest concern is that as long as you stay married, the State or court does not get involved in what’s going on with your joint money (unless you are doing something criminal). Therefore, if your husband has access to the larger pile of joint marital money or assets, with you having no access or no knowledge of how much is there, he can choose to hide, spend, squander, gamble, or give away joint money, take out loans, credit cards, home equity loans, liquidate his life insurance or retirement account, etc. You may not even know what he is doing or that the money is disappearing. It is only after you file for divorce, or if your state allows file for a legal separation (which most states do not have), does external accountability come into place around your joint assets. Marital money spent before “filing” is not something the courts usually get involved in. 

You said you comply (I wouldn’t call it Biblical submission) with him out of fear. Most women or “victims” of oppression comply because they feel afraid. But that is no way to be in a long-term relationship like marriage. It’s like being held hostage or being a slave. As long as you are in this place, compliance is your best way of staying safe. But is that God’s best for you? Is it his will that you live in fear, and subject yourself and your children to your husband’s controlling, demeaning, abusive, ways if you have a choice not to? Does God hate divorce more than he hates what’s happening to you and the kids?

You do have some things to be concerned about, not least his retaliation if you leave him. But is there less danger if you stay and he finds out you are putting money away? Over the years your husband has fed your children lies. For example: You said, he’s told them they’re responsible for his temper. And he’s told your son that if the marriage fails, it will be your son’s fault. I hope you have already privately told your children that their dad’s thinking is incorrect. If not, it’s not too late. We are called to teach our children to think truthfully and it’s especially challenging when one parent feeds them lies to cover up for their own sinful behavior. You fear leaving because your son will blame himself. All the more reason to correct his father’s narrative. Here is the truth: whether your marriage is restored or fails has nothing to do with your son. He’s a child in this home, not the lightning rod for your husband’s sin and immaturity.

You have done some good work thus far. I have no doubt you will continue to do your own work. It sounds like you have the support of your church family and I hope you also have some good, healthy female friends. Please take the next step and consult with an attorney. In addition, our Walking in CORE Strength Group Coaching program starts in September and it might just be what you need for you to continue your own growth.

Friend, how did you deal with the fear of “what might happen” as you considered the possibility of separation?

8 Comments

  1. Joanna PH on August 17, 2023 at 9:28 am

    The FEAR of “what might happen” kept me frozen for many painful years. But it did not stop me from secretly planning. It took five years of planning and waiting for “the right time.” What finally empowered me to leave was the day I discovered he was secretly recording my conversations in our home. I was shocked, hurt, and angry. These emotions took the place of my fear and I confronted him. I announced that I was leaving and divorcing him. He tried to gaslight me with mock “shock and confusion” but he did not act violently; nor did he try to stop me. Over the subsequent months he used an intense campaign of hovering, gaslighting, crying, begging, and promising to convince me to return home to him. I am grateful that he did not act out violently, but I am still aware of the possibility of violence even after two years of separation.

  2. Julie Kohl on August 17, 2023 at 10:37 am

    This was an excellent post. Thank you for sharing so bravely! I am sorry you & your sons are having to walk this difficult life journey. I so appreciate Leslie’s responses. I’ve been following Leslie for many years and have done a lot of work also, in the past. I decided to “stay well” several years ago. But recently (realizing that the hidden covert abuse I experience really hasn’t changed and most likely won’t) I am reconsidering my situation and doing work with Natalie Hoffman’s program “Flying Free”. Natalie initially counseled w/Leslie and once free of her toxic marriage, she started a program educating Christian women in hidden emotional & spiritual abusive marriages. These two women (Leslie & Natalie) have helped me so much with their content and wisdom. I will be on the training call today!

    I resonated w/a good portion of your post. Difference being I am in my mid 60’s, retired, in my 2nd marriage of 22 years to a now-retired judge. I have 2 happily married, healthy adult daughters and 4 grandchildren (1 in heaven). My daughters & their husbands have seen and experienced the toxic behavior of their stepdad and are at a point that they are urging me to get out. I have consulted w/4 attorneys and chosen the one I will use in the event that I do leave. Natalie’s program gives excellent tutorials on how to go about this process in her divorce course. I am yet undecided, as we are once again in the “up” part of the cycle where he is very fawning, kind, loving and attentive. This could go on for months until the next tidal wave. But this time I am preparing & so much more prepared with how I will respond. Rather than defensiveness, trying to calm him and make it all right again – and then tucking it under the rug – I pray, with Gods help, I can respond calmly and firmly that this behavior is not ok and then leave. Whether I leave for good or not is what I need to determine. Do I want to separate and leave the door open for reconciliation (which has never been true repentance in the past)or just be done with it already!? I’m not sure I’m ready to blow my life apart yet. I am leaning into Jesus for wisdom.
    All the best to you in your situation. May God lead you.
    – Julie

  3. JoAnn on August 17, 2023 at 11:37 am

    I have a practical comment: you probably need to move your money to a different bank where he cannot monitor your financial activity, and get your own credit card that he cannot monitor. Most banks have provision for locking out the accounts, which is what your husband has done. It is so good that you have your own job and a way to build your own savings. A safety deposit box would also be a good idea so you can keep copies of important papers and a set of car and house keys. You are working hard to take care of yourself, so please include your sons in that plan.

    • Brenda on August 18, 2023 at 5:54 pm

      If you have a retirement fund, it is wise to move it to your own account where he cannot spend it. Your comments may indicate that he may not think twice about moving that money in his own account as well.

  4. Kim on August 17, 2023 at 9:33 pm

    Many lawyers will do phone and internet consultations now. Please start getting solid in-state legal advice to prepare yourself for the legal, financial and tax decisions that you must be ready to make going forward, together or separate. Having a separate bank account and credit card with everything online will help preserve your privacy, security and safety. A private “Christmas”, emergency or vacation account is entirely beneficial for everyone, even if it must one day be disclosed in legal proceedings.

  5. Maria on August 17, 2023 at 11:45 pm

    You are wise to start separating yourself financially. I don’t think that being an ‘authorized’ user counts. toward establishing your own credit. So he is effectively disabling you. Take your power back. If possible, removed from the credit cards as an authorized user. (Hopefully that will also mitigate your responsibility for the debt as they are in HIS name). Even if he found out that you removed yourself as an authorized user, so what? There’s nothing more for him to monitor as far as that is concerned. Open your own credit cards, so that you can also demonstrate good credit. Even if he found out, you have every right/need to establish your own credit worthiness.
    (Has he REALLY set up alerts, or is he using that as intimidation?) You say you have a fear of not honoring your commitment? Commitment to what, abuse and control.? What’s there to honor about that? Don’t commit to any more suffering..
    As Pastor Patrick Wearver reposted: https://www.facebook.com/patrickweaverministries [For] “Better or worse means whatever outside forces come against you, not what your mate does TO you”

  6. Caroline Abbott on August 18, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Leslie has a good point that you should ask an attorney what the laws in your state say about this. However, I applaud you for moving in a direction to get financially safe. I believe this need to be safe overrides the worries about being deceitful. With a person who is extremely controlling, this may save your life.

  7. Arlene McGruder on September 26, 2023 at 11:58 am

    I urge women to establish separate financial independence of their own money.
    Give it to a trusted family member or friend for safe-keeping. Your name isn’t attached. Check with your lawyer for your state regarding this asset. Men fo it all the time. The deceit isn’t yours: it’s his.

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