Can Behavior Change be Enough?

Morning friends,

I am in count down mode. Four weeks from now, all of our worldly goods will be loaded into a pod and our car and we will be moving down to the Phoenix, Arizona area. I’m having some moments of overwhelm. We’ve sold a good deal of our things. Yet there is still so much left. What do I throw away? What do I take with me? What do I really need? What do I really love? These questions take time to answer and with so much “stuff” to sort through, I’m afraid I’m not doing a very good job. Twenty-seven years in one house has a lot of memories and a lot of stuff.

One minute I tell myself, “I don’t need this” and put it in the discard pile. Then while I’m packing, I wonder, “I might use this” and then pull it back out. The good news is that most of this kind of stuff is easily replaceable if needed, so not sure why it is taking me so much time to figure out. And if figuring out these minor choices takes so much time and energy, imagine how hard it is to make life- altering choices such as whether to stay in a destructive marriage, or whether to go. Sometimes it can feel like there are no good choices.

This week’s Wednesday FB Live, Chris Moles, a pastor and Batterer Intervention Specialist in West Virginia will be discussing the question, Can a Destructive Person really Change? We start at 7:30 pm ET. Simply go to

Today’s Question: What should my response be when the responses I receive to sharing with my spouse how I feel about our marriage are all the classic responses from your article “How to Know When Someone is Truly Sorry“?

I can ask for behavior changes, but what is really desired/needed are heart changes which I'm powerless over.

Answer: Actually, you’re under a bit of a delusion if you think you even have any control over someone else’s behavior changes. You are not. The only person you are in any control over (and sometimes it even feels like we don’t have that) is our own self.

Please don’t dismiss behavior changes as inconsequential. Sometimes a change in behaviors can make the difference as to whether you can stay well or not. For example, if your husband stops yelling, or throwing things, or stops driving like a maniac, or stops spending recklessly, those behavior changes could make a huge difference in the entire atmosphere in the house. He still may not be as humble or grateful or teachable or loving as you might want, but changes on the outside can make an improvement for everyone at home.

In addition, behavior changes can lead to more heart changes over time. For example, when I told my children that they would be donating some of their time and money to help less fortunate families over the holidays, they weren’t exactly excited about it (heart). But as they did it (behavior), they began to experience the joy of giving and not just getting. Their hearts began to change. Same with cleaning up their rooms. What kid loves to clean their room? But when forced to do it, the results of a neater, more organized room, may make some kids want to keep it cleaner on their own.

And what woman hasn’t forced herself to do something she didn’t really want to do? Whether it was driving her child to the movie or mall, or watching something boring on television with the family, or playing a board game she wasn’t too thrilled about, but after starting, her heart turned around too.

Therefore, if your husband demonstrates that he is sorry by making some behavior changes, I would welcome that and thank him and not force the heart issue at this time. Be careful of your own heart attitude during this time. Sometimes a wife is so angry by the time she confronts her spouse, that attempts that her spouse makes are met with cynicism and contempt, which kills good will in any marriage.

I think consistent behavior changes can rank much higher than profuse apologies with promises to change, and no change.

Some people have a hard time putting their repentance into words. However, if their repentance shows up in changed behaviors, I think that counts. John the Baptist said to the religious leaders, who were very good with words, “Prove by the way you live (behavior changes) that you have repented of your sin and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

However, what I think you might be getting at is that your husband is making excuses for his behavior, not really owning it or apologizing for it. We all could find a million excuses for why we do what we do or say what we say. Some of those excuses (or reasons) might even sound legitimate.

For example, if you forget to pick something up at the store that was important to your husband, he might justify lashing out at you. It’s your fault because if you had not forgotten, he wouldn’t have acted that way. So in his mind, he’s not “wrong” or abusive for the way he spoke to you. You were wrong to forget what was important to him. Sadly many abused women identify with this thinking and believe that if they could only try harder not to “make him mad” then somehow his abusive behavior would stop. That’s not true.

Hear me: Wives will disappoint their husbands and husbands will disappoint their wives and abuse isn’t the outcome (Click to tweet).

As fallible human beings we will let each other down at times, we will miss the mark, fail to meet needs, or forget to do something important. This is an opportunity for apology, forgiveness, and constructive conversation not a verbal tongue-lashing, a rage attack or worse.

When you share with your spouse about how you feel about the state of your marriage and you are getting nowhere, stop sharing. Instead, ask some simple questions.“Does it matter to you that I’m feeling ______ ? Do you want our marriage to work?” If he says, “Yes” then your next question is, “What do you think you need to change to make our relationship better for me?”

He will probably deflect and say, “Well what are you going to do to make it better for me?” If he does that, just say, “I’m happy to talk about what you’re not happy about in a bit, but right now I’m telling you that the way our marriage is right now is not working for me and I’m not feeling loved or safe or protected or (whatever word fits your situation). What are you willing to change to make it better for me?”

Don’t spell out the behavior changes or the heart changes you’d like to see or they can become a checklist that he does just to get you to shut up. If he comes up with a suggestion like, “Have more sexual intimacy,” ask yourself whether that change will make a big difference in the way you feel. If not, you can say, “That’s a nice idea and generally if our relationship was better I would love to have sex more often, but the way our relationship is right now, I don't feel ______, so more sex won’t solve that for me. Any other ideas?”

Your goal here is to invite more mutuality and reciprocity by asking him to come up with solutions to the marital problems as well as take ownership for the changes he is willing to make in order to make your relationship better. If he doesn’t want to make it better, or doesn’t care to do the work, then you have different decisions to make.

Friends: Have you seen behavior changes lead to deeper more permanent heart changes from your spouse? When you’ve had this kind of conversation, what has been the outcome?

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  1. Lewis on October 26, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Provided that a marriage relationship is not abusive, I would propose a different approach to ‘getting what I want’ out of a ‘broken’ marriage relationship. I’d propose drawing a circle around me and then working on everyone inside the circle. It’s easy to see the problems with our marriages as due to external circumstances or ‘our spouse’, when in reality the problem typically begins with our own selfishness and sinfulness. Recognizing my brokenness and the reality that apart from God I can’t fix things on my own is the point of James 15:5. As I walk with God, learn to love the way He loves (1 Cor. 13:4-7), and trust in Him to make me a better spouse, it frees Him up to work on my spouses heart. A ‘heart change’ is required before any lasting ‘behavior change’. Communication is certainly important – but alone won’t ‘fix’ my relationship with my spouse.

    • Teena on November 8, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Thanks for your reply. My relationship with my husband is no longer abusive because I’ve gotten the courage to talk to him in a civil way where it gets results. I’ve learned many truths about the marriage relationship from Leslie. My husband still has ways that reflect an unfavorable upbringing from his mother. He did not like her, though he made amends with her during the last years of her life, to where he grew to love her. This is partly due to me telling him about our roles as women. But I can say he still does not always respect that role and has in fact spoken unwritten rules of how my role should play out in our marriage. I have a relationship with Christ where both my heart and behaviors have changed. My husband has a relationship with Christ but he believes the leader of a home can do (mostly) what he pleases, and as his wife, I am to fit into his image of what he wants instead of studying God’s Word and really understanding his role in Christ. So when I approach him, I can not appear that I’m accusing him, or tearing him down (similar to the way his mother damaged his esteem), but rather, that I’m asking him for his suggestion, and we talk through the issue as he IS the owner of that issue. I’m still a student at this but marriage is not one sided. It takes two. And even though I’ve changed my approach, yes, I’ve changed me; it’s not because my heart isn’t right, it’s because his isn’t.

  2. Nancy on October 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    “When you share how you feel about the state of your marriage and you are getting nowhere, stop sharing.”

    That took me sooo long to learn. I kept doing the same thing over and over, feeling as though I was banging my head against the wall, and getting nowhere. Not sharing my heart with my husband resulted in me crying out to The Lord in a way that I never had before.

    That was the beginning of allowing The Lord into the centre of our marriage. I was keeping Him out by making my husband the centre. Way too much pressure on a man.

    Jesus, though, He can handle it!

    • Free on October 27, 2016 at 11:50 am

      I agree not to continue sharing. They will use the information about you by selecting the most strategically advantageous time, to advance their agenda to control you. Expect the same thing to happen in the marriage counselor’s office. They may look as though they are cooperating, but really they are gathering vital information about your vulnerabilities like quivers in a bow to shoot through your heart later. Like a hunter on the prowl the sniff their prey and weight to strike at just the right moment.

      • Nancy on November 1, 2016 at 5:45 pm

        Hi Free,

        Thanks for the warning, I’ll keep it in mind when The Lord directs me to enter back into marriage counselling.

        My Hope lies in The Lord, not my marriage.

        Keeping our eyes on Him is the best thing any of us can do (wether we are happily married, in a destructive marriage, separated, divorced, or single).

  3. Aleea on October 26, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    “. . . Have you seen behavior changes lead to deeper more permanent heart changes from your spouse? . . . .Yes I have. . . . . I really like the verbiage “ . . . . the way our relationship is right now, I don’t feel ______, so. . . . won’t solve that for me. Any other ideas?” The “any other ideas” is a really smart conversation starter and everyone feels more ownership when they initiate ideas. Also, the goal to “invite more mutuality and reciprocity”. . . .that is so much better than lecturing, which is always my downfall. . . . .But, on the other hand, I wonder why this approach feels like we are using asset bases, in whatever form we have them, to negotiate the relationship contract details. It reminds me of one huge closing transaction where everything is negotiated. It’s like that book “Sex For ______: A Book of Trades, Money and Happiness by Elizabeth Horsley” . . . Now, I have not read that entire book but it appears to be a book about trading things in marriage for other things we want. Maybe we are forced to do this. . .but it feels to me no different than contract negotiations: the same skills, the same tools and the same best practices. . . . Anyways, I guess in some situations it has to be done. . . .Maybe, because of my job, the thought just totally repels me. Everything at work is negotiation. And when the final result is expected to be a compromise, it is prudent to start from an extreme position. I deal with people who probably bartered their way out of the womb. . . . What’s mine is mine and what’s the governments is negotiable. If I had to deal with that at home, I would probably just file for divorce. By all this negotiating you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected and if you don’t, well, then you already have your answer. If just being nice (expressing appreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals in Christ) is not a winning strategy then what do you really have? Negotiation is permissible for mediocrity not for excellence or maybe I don’t really understand marriage. But I do agree that we can’t simply address behavior without dealing with the root of that behavior. When we draw near to the Lord in relationship, He actually changes our hearts. When our hearts (the roots) have been changed, our actions (the fruit) will more permanently change as well. All I know is that the more I actually experience God, the more I see His love; the more I see His love, the more I love Him; the more I love Him, the more I draw near; the more I draw near, the more I am empowered; the more I am empowered, the more I am able to obey, and on and on and on.

  4. Trina on October 27, 2016 at 2:37 am

    So I’m starting this journey after 26 years with a suspected Narc (low end of spectrum). My pastor was great but referred me to a Christian therapist. I had two sessions and then two with h. I wanted more heart change immediately but I am getting behavior changes. It’s very hard to trust and accept just behavior changes but I am determined to seek God’s will in my marriage and do the hard work to see where it gets us. My pastor is very supportive of my decision to leave if things don’t improve (he has seen the abuse) but I’m finding he is also a good sounding board and gives me honest feed back on my own heart feelings. I encourage spouses to try to find a good Christian sounding board that will support you but also give you honest feed back on your own attitudes and heart. It’s really giving me a place to know I’m being heard and encouraged but also grounded. I’m so blessed by my pastor and his wife. To know the love and support me and my children unconditionally really helps get me through each day. I couldn’t walk this journey without them and God.

    • Free on October 27, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Sounds like you are in the trenches. I am glad you have support, yet how will you know if you are being manipulated. i guess time will tell. Certainly their must be some benefit to his good behavior or it wouldn’t continue. Remember everything is really about HIM.

      • Trina on October 27, 2016 at 1:07 pm

        God is my leader. I am struggling big time with what is reality and what is fake. I’ve prayed and asked God to show me clearly the truth. Our therapist is just giving us assignments that force communication and I think the goal is to make him see where his triggers are and hopefully we can work it out or his true colors shine through and give me the opportunity in front of the therapist to say this is why I can’t stay. I’m hoping… Im also struggling with the secret things he does to punish me. I can’t prove he’s doing it so it could be the kids or just coincidence. It’s always been that way for those things. Is it in my mind or is it real??? I’m highly allergic to poison ivy. In the last three months I don’t believe I’ve had any contact but I keep getting it. I’ve been extremely careful but I now have it all over me. It’s beyond creepy to consider he’s putting on my towel or clothes. How paranoid and ridiculous is that????!!! Is it real or coincidence? He’s really backed off on the blatant disrespect like tracking mud in or leaving his empty wrappers or cans laying around but does that mean he’s doing covert things??? I can’t prove anything and it could just be in my head. I think he puts grass seed In my flower bed and sprayed roundup on my flowers. The will be healthy and thriving one day then just shrivel up and die. Could be chance…. Can’t prove it. These are the real struggles I can’t get over. Is it real or paranoia? I don’t know and it makes me feel crazy.

        • Trina on October 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm

          Anyone else going through anything like that?

        • Free on October 27, 2016 at 8:40 pm

          Trina, you are in danger. The behaviors you describe are evil. Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book? I suggest you get in contact with your local domestic violence shelter. This is a dangerous, dangerous man you live with. Communication is not the issue. Trust your gut, he gave you the poison ivy. I know it is seems hard to comprehend, but healthy loving men, don’t ever, ever abuse a woman. Remember his one and only objective is power and control. He wants power and control over you! Manipulation is his survival tactic. He needs it like air. He doesn’t know you exist other than an object to get his greatly needed power over. Like a cat toy he is batting you around psychologically, he can eat you at any time he likes. He just doesn’t want to yet. He is tickled pink about the poison ivy. He loves watching you squirm.

        • Leslie Vernick on October 29, 2016 at 11:01 am

          I imagine it would make you feel crazy and scared.

        • Teena on November 8, 2016 at 10:10 am

          Trina, he could very well be doing those things. My husband used to sabotage anything I tried doing that was good. I KNOW this because as our relationship is now getting better, after 36 yrs., he has told me there were times he was jealous of my relationship with Christ. He has said he wanted what I had but he physically abused me in the process. Here’s what I do often: Say the Word of God out loud. Maybe not to your husband, but into the atmosphere. “No weapon formed or fashioned against me will ever prosper, and every tongue against me in judgement, I will prove to be in the wrong” and watch the change. Also, as you are doing, continue to learn from Leslie. My husband no longer abuses me. God bless you!

          • Trina on November 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm

            Teena, do you think your husband was saved while he was abusing you or did he get saved?

          • Teena on November 8, 2016 at 4:08 pm

            Great question! I don’t know. Sorry, I couldn’t reply directly to you. I know my husband did not have the same immediate life-change that I had when I got saved.

          • Teena on November 8, 2016 at 4:27 pm

            I want to add that I was with him when he accepted Christ. He did it after he had an affair and got the woman pregnant. Speculating, I think he came to Christ out of guilt. Where I heard the Gospel and accepted Christ and was estatic and could hardly sleep because my world changed. This is sort of important because he continued to be angry and feel condemned.

  5. Free on October 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Is anyone else getting terrible virus warnings from this site? I think it is being cyber hacked.

    • Remedy on October 27, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      Yes…..a link and app to a porn site!!! It took a few tries to get it off my page!

      • Clean on October 27, 2016 at 11:06 pm

        I got the warnings and link to porn site too. Leslie are you aware of this?

        • Leslie Vernick on October 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

          Yes, I became aware of this from your posts. We been hacked two weeks ago after my CONQUER conference and we “caught it” and thought we removed it but it just regenerated itself with sneaky maleware. So I think we have it fixed, but thanks for your warnings.

      • Leslie Vernick on October 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

        Glad you got it off. It’s so upsetting what these hackers do to someone’s site.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Yes we had a cyber attack, thanks for bringing it to our attention. It has been fixed.

  6. Pauline K. Ceprish on October 27, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Hi! I’ve not exactly posed to my husband what he thinks he could do to change our marriage and make it better for me, but I could almost surely say he would come back with what am I going to do to make it better and how I should change to make thinks better. He would put all the changes on me and blame me for his behavior. I can’t see him trying to make changes or seeing anyway in which he needs to change. I had changes occur short term when I come to the end of myself and flat out say I’m moving like he suggests all the time when he is upset with me and verbally very abusive to me and against my children. His changes are short term just to keep me where I’m at and give me false hope. The same as every time I have moved out and he has promised things would be different. He proudly pats himself on the back for not doing any physical abuse thinking verbal don’t really count and he can hide it. I’m at my end to seeing change and I just have been bearing with it knowing the truth but it get very wearing at time. Like a yo-yo.

    • Free on October 27, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      If he hasn’t changed with all these chances, do you really think he ever will? The only person that can change is you. Do you want this in your life? If not, you have to get away from him permanently. Abused women get stronger and stronger the longer they are away from their abuser. Be brave. Make the move today!

  7. Trina on October 27, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    That is why going to counciling makes the change because my therapist has seen all the tactics and is trained to combat for you. He can keep the attention on the abuse.

    • Free on October 27, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      I think it will beneficial for you to recognize the abuse, yet please know it is almost impossible to treat abuser. Their recidivism rate is astoundingly high. In addition they are notorious in manipulating their counselors. Once again, I refer you to Lundy Bancroft’s writing about attributes of programs that have any affect on abusers. First off, you should never, ever be counseled together. Secondly, abusers rarely show any interest in change without strict consequences. Jail being statistically the most affective motivator for break through the entitlement thinking of abusers.

      • Leslie Vernick on October 29, 2016 at 11:09 am

        Yes consequences are the most effective “wake up” call and I think it depends on a lot of different factors whether or not someone can effectively change. But most do not change, not because they can’t but because they don’t want to. Their behavior works for them. They want power and control and they get it.

  8. Ann L on October 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    From the opposite side of Leslie’s question, the answer is yes. The more my husband and I engaged in the dance of him lying and me accepting the blame for his hidden spending, the more he did it, and the less willing he was to build trust through transparency. The last time he did it, the time that led me to divorce, his behavior/heart had changed so much that he agreed to transparency by giving me the password to his credit card, then within two months quietly changed the password and conducted all his spending on it, paying lump sums against the debt from our mutual bank account.

    We’ve only been separated two months. I took a look at our joint account today (we kept it so that I can see that he’s making our car payment and other large, joint debts). He’s back to drinking, and he’s back to moving money around from one account to another. Back to paying multiple large sums to that credit card. It makes my heart hurt. He makes enough money that he can live a quite decadent life and still get by. How far down will he go this time? I’m going back to Al-Anon for the support to help me cope as he engages in these self-destructive behaviors.

    Off-topic, I know, so thank you for your patience. Seeing that he is returning to old patterns is hard and sad.

    • Free on October 27, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      This is such a sad post. I feel for you. The betrayal turns our hearts inside out. The truth hurts. Yet, now you know. Be strong and take action. You don’t deserve to live like this, you are God’s precious daughter, set yourself free from this nightmare.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

      It is sad, and that’s why you must not take early behaviors as true signs of change. It is LONG TERM behavior change that does coincide with eventual heart change (I don’t want to act like that anymore) versus I’m just getting more sneaky and covert in the way I abuse and try to control you.

  9. Ann L on October 27, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    It can drive you crazy, when you suspect, but don’t know, what’s going on.
    In my first marriage, my husband punched me in the abdomen hard enough to bowl me over and then swore (a) he didn’t and (b) he had to because I has lost my mind and he had to snap me out of it. This happened the day we learned I was pregnant. Later, when he broke my nose he said that it “was no big deal, because his was broken playing football.”
    Second marriage, lasting 30 years, I was like a frog in a pot of boiling water. My husband lied a lot to cover up his mis-behaviors and I was so unsure of myself that I never had the courage to take a stand. Porn charges on the credit card? I got them removed. Secret credit cards and debt? I directed him to low-interest loans. Secret speeding tickets? Unpaid bills? All my fault. I couldn’t see how that made sense, but he was so sure, and I was so unsure.

    In the end, I accused him of things he may or may not have done. Today, I know that nothing he says is valid unless I see proof, and if there is no proof, I accept that either of us could be mistaken or one of us could be lying — I’ve chosen divorce, and with that comes the freedom of knowing it doesn’t matter anymore.

    The emotional abuse sites and the many resources I’ve found say “trust your gut.” I say, if your gut says something’s off, go with it. Maybe he didn’t kill your flowers, and maybe you’re allergic to the fabric softener. You don’t have to prove that he is lying to know / accept that your relationship is seriously damaged.

    You don’t have to figure out what’s true and what’s not true. That will drive you crazy, imo. Instead, work on trusting yourself and valuing the feelings that tell you something is wrong. As long as you search for irrefutable evidence, you’re locked in that game, and that’s hurting you both.

    • Aleea on October 28, 2016 at 6:58 am

      “. . . nothing he says is valid unless I see proof, and if there is no proof. . . “
      —Exactly, and it could be that these lying husbands are put there for you as object lessons because this applies to everything in life. Even faith claims are knowledge claims. Faith claims are statements of fact about the world. The only way to figure out which claims about the world are likely true, and which are likely false, is through sound logic, reason and especially evidence. There is no other way that I see. No amount of belief makes something a fact. The pretending-to-know-things-you-don’t-know approach has hurt untold millions and millions. Believing things on the basis of something other than evidence and reason causes people to misconstrue what’s good for them and what’s good for their communities. “Those who believe their husbands on the basis of insufficient evidence create external conditions based upon what they think is in their best interest, but this is actually counterproductive.” re: Getting Out: Life Stories of Women Who Left Abusive Men by Ann Goetting “. . . . This was sound Christian advice from my mother-in-law, who knew God like no one else. So I knew it must be what God wanted.” Obviously, Goetting details why this was not true, even faith claims are knowledge claims. Faith claims are statements of fact about the world that need to be checked on by primary source evidence, no matter how time consuming, no matter what we have to take the time to learn. Without sufficient evidence how do you know what to trust? If the response is, “There’s sufficient evidence,” then you don’t need faith. It seems to me that in all things, evidence that scales with the claim is the way to evaluate situations correctly. At worst, trust but verify re:For example, I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, “I love you”. . . . God gave us super-strong, rational, critical reasoning abilities so we could survive, we should never selectively switch them off. . . .I don’t know, maybe I’m just afraid from my past, I could never trust my mother to tell the truth but even independent of the past, it seems evidence that scales with the claim (the bigger claim, the bigger the evidence needed) is the only way to evaluate claims. What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. . . . People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive, that is how the real trouble starts. If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic, reason, evidence? . . . .Bancroft is right, we have whole institutions abusing people: “The central attitudes driving the Drill Sergeant are: I need to control your every move or you will do it wrong. I know the exact way that everything should be done. You shouldn’t have anyone else — or any thing else — in your life besides me. I am going to watch you like a hawk to keep you from developing strength or independence. I love you more than anyone in the world, but you disgust me. (!!)”―Lundy . . . .The same holds for when people advise you that you shouldn’t read this, investigate that, and consider that this is not really based on evidence, etc. Many pastors are just Drill Sergeants too, telling people to stay in rotten marriages and telling them all manner of things they have never verified. Mind control is built on lies and manipulation of attachment needs. . . .I’ll have to think and pray more about it, however but why not consider everything, how else can we come to the truth?

    • Content on October 30, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      “It can drive you crazy, when you suspect, but don’t know, what’s going on.”

      “In the end, I accused him of things he may or may not have done. Today, I know that nothing he says is valid unless I see proof, and if there is no proof, I accept that either of us could be mistaken or one of us could be lying — I’ve chosen divorce, and with that comes the freedom of knowing it doesn’t matter anymore.
      The emotional abuse sites and the many resources I’ve found say “trust your gut.” I say, if your gut says something’s off, go with it. Maybe he didn’t kill your flowers, and maybe you’re allergic to the fabric softener. You don’t have to prove that he is lying to know / accept that your relationship is seriously damaged.
      You don’t have to figure out what’s true and what’s not true. That will drive you crazy, imo. Instead, work on trusting yourself and valuing the feelings that tell you something is wrong. As long as you search for irrefutable evidence, you’re locked in that game, and that’s hurting you both.”

      Ann L, I needed this today. Thank you. I thought I was the only one. This is exactly how I feel. There are so, so many little events/pictures/memories from our marriage that just are NOT right, but I have accepted my husband’s explanations and rationalizations for years. Even though God is teaching me to trust what I see (yes, isn’t that crazy that I have to be taught to trust what I actually see with my OWN eyes?) and the clear facts, I am still struggling with all of this.

      And, I know and am sure it’s possible that I have suspected or accused my husband of things that aren’t based in reality. But, I think like you…now that it’s come to this point where you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t….how can I stay in this any longer? I can’t.

      Anyway, this comment helped me today and brought me back to reality and peace.

  10. Aleea on October 29, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Leslie, I forgot this from my post above: re: “. . . . most of this kind of stuff is easily replaceable if needed, so not sure why it is taking me so much time to figure out.”

    “. . .not sure why. . .” Because you are human and driven by emotion, fear, confusion, and guesswork. Maybe slow down and understand the emotional attachment you have to the replaceable items and even the clutter. Maybe identify and unearth the items and attached obligations that really energize you and have true value for the next chapter of your life. Separate the treasures, just take those. . . .And maybe recognize/realize that you are who you are with or without your “stuff.” Maybe see it as an opportunity to reconnect to your most authentic self and pull your identity from within. . . . I can’t really do it either, when I moved to California, I just took like almost every last thing but toward the end I was getting pretty good at deciding. It was very emotional for me. . .but you can do better, maybe fill the POD thing with only the items related to your theme for the future, whatever you and the Lord have decided. Many prayers.

  11. Wendy on October 29, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I love that you said God is your leader. I totally understand your heart and what you are going through. He does show us the truth but it can be so awful to accept that we keep pushing it down.
    No one can advise us on how to accept the truth we just must be strong and say the words. ” I know I’m not safe what do I need to do?” Seek to understand and believe God is leading, like the ladies said focus on your healing. I had to separate and find a safe place to allow God to speak to me through His word as there where so many voices in my head. Do you have family you can ask for help for a time? Is there a women’s shelter you can go talk to just to get advise?
    Lundys book is very very helpful to see the mental crazy making you are going through. But don’t talk about the book or bring it home.
    This is a very hurtful situation and unbelievable for us as well. But it did happen to us and is happening to us so we must get all the information we can. Keep this to yourself until you know it is time to stay or separate.I also will follow your words of wisdom and let God continue to be our leader!!!
    I’m praying for your wisdom and safety!

    • Trina on November 8, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      I have read Lundy’s book. I went back and reread. I’m anxious to meet with our therapist as he suggested we have “business meetings” to discuss important issues. Last night h was intricately going over our finances, which was good, but I ended up feeling intimidated and reprimanded. I was trying to point out how he was making me feel but I just couldn’t put my finger on exactly what he was saying or doing that made me feel that way. It was an exact example of gaslighting! I want to try to bring it out for the therapist. At least let the therapist know I feel gaslighted. I know everyone keeps saying don’t go to therapy together but it’s marriage counciling. How do I get him diagnosed with NPD if a therapist can’t see him doing it?

    • Trina on November 8, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you so much for your positive feed back!!!! It’s so hard to talk to anyone when they just say, “He’s evil, leave!”
      Was your husband saved and abusing you? Or did he get saved? I’m truly seeking God’s will and trying to make this work. I’m struggling very much with anxiety issues. You know the feeling when it’s time for him to come home, you need to talk or spend time together but you’ve developed that automatic sick anxious response? Even though he’s acting better I still can’t shake those feelings.

  12. Wendy on October 29, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Teach me to do your will, for you are my God, may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Ps 148:10.
    I have come to see that true faith is placed only in the very powerful words of God Himself!
    I take His word and apply it to my situation and believe He will lead me.
    This is the only rock solid, powerful and never failing truth I can lean on with all my heart, soul and mind.
    He then will show me the next step.

    • Sandy on October 30, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      Amen Wendy!

  13. Content on October 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I have a question that’s probably not related so much to the content of this blog… But maybe I can get some feedback. I recently asked for a separation and my husband is showing a lot of emotion especially as it relates to not seeing the kids as much, etc. My counselor mentioned something about validating his feelings when he does express them (can’t remember if that was the exact language he used).

    So, how do I do that without taking responsibility? Can someone give me some examples of language to use? I’ll admit, right now, I’m rather ice cold to his emotions as I almost have to be to take this next step (hardest thing I’ve ever done – to watch my kids’ hearts breaking)

    • Free on October 30, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      Do you want to validate his feelings? Why must you do such a thing? Isn’t that just a gateway to him getting to control you? Why is the focus on him? My vote is, no validation. I think you have you hands full managing your own emotions and helping the children through this time. You don’t need another man/child. He is responsible for his own adjustment, not you.

      A plea I have often heard from my abuser is that he is not getting enough affirmation, aka: focus of attention. Remember these men think they are entitled to be the center of every and any discussion and should be the sole focus of every individual around them.

      Let him get his affirmation from God. His shoulders are big enough to handle his needs, not yours.

      • Content on October 30, 2016 at 8:27 pm

        Free, yes, I do resonate with a lot of what you’ve said. I certainly haven’t felt conviction or guilt over not feeling sorry for him. The reality is I *want* him to feel some godly sorrow and conviction and what he’s showing is just more remorse over how this affects *him*.

        Yep, I’ve heard a lot of that not getting thanked enough, validated enough, etc. from my husband. Which is crazy because for a few years, I was trying so desperately to fix our marriage and went overboard on that stuff and it *still* wasn’t enough.

        God showed me that I was feeding into something very unhealthy with that and so I stopped doing it and only showed gratitude for things he did – and only when I really felt it, rather than going out of my way to try to boost his self-esteem or ego.

        “Let him get his affirmation from God. His shoulders are big enough to handle his needs, not yours.”

        Love that! So true and lines up with the things God has been saying to me. I cannot be his source. God has to be His Source.

    • Aleea on October 30, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      “. . . . showing a lot of emotion especially as it relates to not seeing the kids as much, etc.”
      “. . . .So, how do I do that without taking responsibility?”

      I would get what you want to say down and run it past your counselor, they know your situation. . . . .but context free (always dangerous), here are some thoughts, about maybe what to say, if as Free says you decide to say anything: I can understand why this arrangement with the children would be very upsetting to you. You have been used to seeing them much more so it probably seems unfair to you when you don’t see them as much. I see you_________, I’m trying to understand you_________. I hear you. I appreciate how hard and upsetting all this must be for you. You probably feel ________ and __________ and __________. I care about you but please realize that opting out of an __________ unhappy marriage was a duty toward God, myself and my future. . . . . Just be completely (radically) genuine. Maybe ensure you are not remedial, blame absorbing and don’t marginalize/minimize, . . . .you don’t want to treat him as fragile or any differently than you would treat anyone else in a similar situation. According to my counselor, feelings are not to be suppressed or very importantly, fixed by us —they’re to be acknowledged. I don’t really, completely understand that but. . . .

      . . .Anyways, I have/will pray for you and your entire situation. . . . .I think living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking the truth and your truth, and that WILL create conflict and tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values and making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe is right.

    • Shalom on October 30, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      Maybe you see the emotional display as manipulative or typical “poor me” mentality and perhaps there are reasons you are not impacted by his emotions. I will pray for you to have wisdom as to your response. I wouldn’t be too concerned about saying just the right thing to validate his feelings. You have enough to sort through and think about especially with the children. Maybe you can acknowledge briefly what you think he is feeling with something like, “I imagine this is hard on you and I’m sorry you are struggling.” Watch to see what his behavior shows over time rather than his words. Is he willing to do what you need him to for your sake and the children’s?

  14. Content on October 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    “I hear you.”

    “I care about you but please realize that opting out of an ________ unhappy marriage was a duty toward God, myself and my future.”

    I like both of those. Mostly the “I hear you” because it affirms I’m listening, but doesn’t go much further. Which is kind of true to what I’m feeling right now, because I don’t have much more to say to him than that right now.

    Living with integrity in your relationships….that’s one I’m wrestling with. It was incredibly painful to tell our children this weekend. I’m experiencing a lot of peace sometimes and a lot of confusion at other times. When I’m confused, I’m wondering if it’s worth hurting my children’s lives and whether I should just suck it up and learn to live in my marriage by suppressing my emotions. But that is SOOO not how I’m wired (are any of us? But some people seem to do it). I’m wired as a bold truth-teller and I can’t imagine living in this marriage as a shut down person towards my own husband. Even though I’m a bold truth-teller, it still took me 24 years to get brave enough to start speaking the truth because I knew there would be ramifications. And they’re here. (God started opening my eyes to the dynamic of my situation about six months ago, probably longer really….)

    Anyway, thanks for your prayers. We all need them. I need to find a job after not working for 24 years, have no idea where and how to start this process.

    I’ve already gotten some negative feedback from one of my best Christian friends (the one that taught me how to hear God’s voice and was actually a part of this whole process of getting to where I am today). I guess it’s safe to hear God’s voice until it’s different than what others’ opinions and long-held traditional religious beliefs are. 😉

    • Aleea on November 1, 2016 at 2:53 am

      “. . . . .I’m wondering if it’s worth hurting my children’s lives and whether I should just suck it up and learn to live in my marriage by suppressing my emotions.”

      . . . .So, so hard to know. Sacrifices made for your children are good, unless the sacrifice is you. . . .At the same time, I understand that we find ourselves in the sacrifices we make —so I just don’t know what to think. . . . Hiding how you really feel and trying to make your children happy doesn’t make us nice, it makes us liars. Truth never damages anything God wants us to really have. . . .But the shadow side of truth is that it is a total wildfire burning down anything not true in its path (—it is truly refining). Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (—out of fear and need for defense, according to my counselor that is where I live, right or wrong, safety is my highest priority) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth). But it is easy to see that all that safety sooner or later means disillusionment, anger and hopelessness. Maybe the only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go. —And sometimes it feels like you have nothing, or aren’t going anywhere, but while we are waiting for Christ to deliver us, there are always lots of things we can do to help ourselves, teach ourselves, better our situations, prepare for our next situation, shift our perspectives, learn more truth. If something is there, you can only see it with your eyes open, but if it isn’t really there, you can see it just as well with your eyes closed. That’s why imaginary things are often easier to see than real ones.

  15. Nancy on November 2, 2016 at 2:14 am

    HI Aleea,

    I have recently come back from a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, which focuses on healing the wounds of abortion- it was an incredible experience that I would recommend to anyone in need. Anyways, Aleea you have come to mind a couple of times after they mentioned a similar retreat called Grief to Grace ( developed by the same woman, Dr. Teresa Burke ). Grief to Grace is a retreat for anyone who has suffered any type of abuse in childhood.

    Aleea, check it out. It’s at I don’t know if there’s one in your area but even if not, it would be worth travelling to.

    The Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat has given me such deep, deep healing.

    God Bless you.

    • Aleea on November 2, 2016 at 7:08 am

      Thank you so much Nancy, I really, sincerely appreciate that. I will look into it and thank you. I feel I have a good counselor, I read all the books but I feel like I will just die over and over again for the rest of my life. The childhood abuse and grief and shame seems forever. It doesn’t go away. Christ doesn’t take it away (The Lord knows I so forgive and repent of the bitterness and that I so love Him but I am just being totally honest Nancy. He doesn’t take it away, that so terrifies me. God is just compatible with whatever wicked, evil things happen. . . .For someone who is supposed to be perfect, we have to make an awful lot of excuses for Him. I told my pastor recently that I find the ridiculous, interpretive gymnastics theologians utilize to get around clear credibility issues just completely alarming. And on bad days I tell God: “God, if I didn’t know better, I would think You a totally silent do nothing that is compatible with just whatever happens.”). . . .The abuse becomes such a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. How will I ever stop grieving my childhood because I will never stop living it over and over. Maybe grief and love and loss are so conjoined, you don’t get one without the others. I have my abusive mother internalized and she is like a cancer spread to my whole body. My other counselor (I have two, maybe that is a bad idea I just don’t know) told me that the reality is that you will just grieve forever. Maybe you never ‘get over’ childhood abuse; you just learn to live with it. Like with your issues, you heal and you rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. Maybe I can be whole somehow but how will I ever be totally healed? Without just saying I am when I am not. . . .And Nancy, I feel so ashamed saying that to you because you have to go on too (somehow) with all the issues and hardships. Nancy, I can’t love or have compassion on myself to save my soul. My counselor, Dr. Meier, says that the reason for that is that love can’t be forced and I am trying to force it (—i.e. force having love and compassion for myself). It seems like everything in my life has been done only by force, certainly my whole childhood. Maybe I only “love” God because I fear hell and maybe I have never really loved anyone because I clearly, internally, feel like I don’t love or have compassion for myself, even when I understand/can say all those words, prayers, etc. . . . I can’t overcome reverting back to bitterness over my childhood abuse. Dr. Meier says I just keep resending that bill (—to my parents, in my mind) over and over and over for all the pain of the abuse. Nancy, I want to so get to that filthy, stinking swamp and drain it but I can’t —or I will not —or part of me does and part of me doesn’t like Dr. Meier always says. It is like I am just dead inside. How do you just keep letting it go, don’t you sometimes, honestly, take parts of it back? —Nancy, I so understand mountain top experiences. No wonder Peter said to Jesus, Lord, it is so good for us to be here, let’s just make camp out and live up here on this Mount of Transfiguration. How, oh how, do I keep the whole thing from not getting retriggered when I observe a mother or father in an airport secuirity line everyone has been rotting in for hours, harshly treating their child and that is nothing compared to what I went through, they are in public. . . . . .Do I really have the peace that passes all understanding? I certainly, consistently do not. Do I really have a victorious life? I certainly, consistently do not. What is it about a warm devotional feeling that tells me it is Jesus of Nazareth? I don’t know. What about the bait & switch of answered prayer; —Oh, He did answer, He just said “No”. I can have my arguments about why God would not do any specific things but what does God consistently do that I know He does and I know that it is Him that is doing it? —I don’t know, . . . . and then I am ashamed when I say those honest things. . . . At those moments (I see someone treating their child harshly) I think Christianity is non-falsifiable stoicism. Why is Jesus never quoted in the epistles, even when it would totally make Paul’s points, maybe because the gospels come much, much later, not before and something is so wrong. . . . I can’t get my mind to stop asking questions and the “answers” are worse than the questions. . . . . —Thank you Nancy, I so appreciate your concern and that you would think about me. I learn so much from people here. You have taught me what could never before be taught. I wish I had more than faith and repentance, and exhaling distress, deconstruction, demythologizing to give back. . . . Fall ten times, stand up eleven. . . .There is nothing to lose by sincerely praying and really trying, I never underestimate the power of action and as much honesty as I can stand, no pretending to know things I don’t know because I just don’t know and I really have issues with false hope which is on-offer everywhere.

  16. Nancy on November 2, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I will pray, Aleea, that all obstacles be removed so that you can go.

    There aren’t words for the healing that Jesus provided me.

    May your steps be directed straight into the loving arms of the Great Physician. He wants nothing more than to heal you, Aleea. Completely. Fully.

    • Aleea on November 4, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      “There aren’t words for the healing that Jesus provided me.” —Wow, that is really so, so wonderful! I want healing so good I can’t put it into words!

      Thank you Nancy, I so appreciate that and especially the prayers. I am both happy and sad; believe and sometimes don’t believe and ALL at the the same time, and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be. I am confused but I so want to give people a piece of my heart, not just a piece of what is in my mind. I guess sometimes, the scariest thing we can every do is trust God to fight the battles we can no longer fight.

    • Nancy on November 8, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Aleea,

      Your last statement about trusting God to fight our battles so resonates. The week I was to go to the retreat we studied John 5 in our Bible study. Jesus approaches a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and asks, “do you want to be well?”. At first that struck me as weird but as I considered it, I realized it is so relevant to me. Exposing ourselves to The Healer is a choice- one that I can’t honestly answer ‘yes’ to in my own strength. My patterns and triggers are do deeply engrained, where would I be without them. So my answer has to be, “yes Lord I want to be well but am terrified of wholeness, please help me trust in your plan for me”.

  17. Trina on November 8, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Thank you so much for your positive feed back!!!! It’s so hard to talk to anyone when they just say, “He’s evil, leave!”
    Was your husband saved and abusing you? Or did he get saved? I’m truly seeking God’s will and trying to make this work. I’m struggling very much with anxiety issues. You know the feeling when it’s time for him to come home, you need to talk or spend time together but you’ve developed that automatic sick anxious response? Even though he’s acting better I still can’t shake those feelings.

  18. Teresa in California on November 8, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I have been married 42 years, almost to the day. It has been a whirlwind of a marriage as my husband came from a family where verbal and physical abuse was the norm. But nothing could have prepared me for the mind games I have experienced in this marriage. I had a strong foundation of a doctrinal so-called ‘Christian background, but it was more cult based, and performance based, than Spirit based. My husband had the same upbringing. The doctrine was the usual ‘wife submits, husband has the rule, whether he is right or not.’ So, I submitted more out of ‘the fear of man’ than out of love, but I also believed God’s Word which did guide me through this quagmire of a marriage. The walking on egg shells was the norm for myself and my children, around their dad.. Before there were many books, where I could find help, I would pour my heart out to the Lord, and this was before the Internet, which I finally found info from Townsend and Clark which did help me to set boundaries and empowered me to rely on my Lord most of all. I am leading up to where I am in my marriage today. The verbal abuse is still very much apparent from my husband, in subtle, little put-downs. I am not one to argue but to approach with tact when I have had to confront my husband on issues in his life with his porn usage (which I knew the sites he would log on to as I could see him late at night after I took a shower and was coming to bed and could see his computer through his open door to his study) When I confronted him about viewing porn, he totally denied it, then I told him the one site he had been on. He did not have an answer or any type of an apology. This was not the first time, and that was 15 years ago. I saw his porn usage another time, a year and a half ago, and he again made up a lame excuse. He had an actual DVD porn in his hand the very next morning after I had mildly made a comment to the effect the evening before as I saw something of a porn ‘window’ on his computer, and I made the comment ‘Are you still viewing that stuff?’, So, the next morning, as he was just coming out of the garage and was trying to evade me he apologized on the spot, for something I had seen him watching on his computer the previous evening, and he had evaded me then. He did not acknowledge the porn DVD in his hand, as he had the title turned away from me on purpose. I know this man like the back of my hand. So, when he was found out, on the spot, he was visibly shaking for being ‘found out’, but it was not a heart’s repentance on his part. I sent him a link to a very well known Christian site for men who are struggling with porn, with no response from him, no acknowledgement. This is when only God can hold him accountable. At this point the wife has attempted to lead a sinner from his sins. Years before I had written him an eleven page letter pouring my heart out to him, that something was wrong with our marriage. Physical abuse to my children from him in his rage in order to control them, etc. My children couldn’t wait to get out of the house the minute they turned 18, and they did. In the letter I stated our differences in how our background childhoods had been from each other. He read one paragraph of my letter and stated “This repulses me” and he shredded the letter in his paper shredder right in front of me. I had a copy of the letter, as it had taken me prayerful consideration to compose it, and because it had addressed violence in his own home life, of course it would repulse him, but he could not address it in his own marriage. So,in that regard, attempting to cause a change in him did nothing. And as I type this, I finally realized, just this past year, that I needed to ask God to reveal my husband’s heart to me, whether he was truly a believer or not. He had the knowledge of scriptures, but it was mostly ‘we’ believe this, and never “I” believe this on his part. The spiritual conversation in our life has mostly been absent with the exception when he wrote letters to his children after they left fellowship where we met with other Christians. He could ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ but was the typical Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde personality, the nice man, successful man, in front of people. Actually, my two oldest children, my daughter and my son, talked to a couple of pastors at our fellowship, and did have a talk with my husband, but my husband never did divulge to me what they talked to him about. And the ‘talk’ did not help him as he was still the same verbally and physically abusive man with myself and the children, as usual.
    My husband is now on his good behavior, with me, as at one point I asked him if he wanted a divorce, after an incident where he could not control a particular situation, instead of resting in the Lord in which my husband could not have controlled the serious situation even if he had wanted to. I was basically done with his out-of-control behavior. When he is not in control of a situation he has rages. The OCD/Sociopath personality. When I talk about things of the Lord, the conversation lags on his part. He seems to only be able to answer in an analytical concept, not a spiritual one. I don’t believe God’s Word is hidden in his heart, therefore, no amount of talking to him is ever going to change him. I have tried in vain, and the reason being, he is not receptive to the Holy Spirit. He is the typical successful man who is in control of his own life. My personality type is to ‘let things go’ as far as confrontations or accountability on his part. I am not one to argue or yell. It is not in my nature to do so. My personality type is empathy. First and foremost I am a Christian, and my traits fit the Empath to a ‘T’. Which is not who I am in Christ. The fruit of the Spirit has to be evident in a person in order to discern whether they are a believer, and sometimes even that is hard to discern because of the religious behavior a person can present in front of others, yet not in front of their own family. Sometimes only God knows the heart of an individual, yet there are apparent red flags when someone is severely lacking in love and peace in their heart. When my husband stays in his study, after dinner, day after day for 34 years in the house we are currently living in, and his words to his family would be “You know where to find me if you need me” after he gets up from the dinner table, where is there any father’s love to his wife and family in that scenario? Never any Bible reading to his children while they were growing up. So, I live with a very lonely man, if he says he accepted Christ when he was thirteen, it must have been only an ’emotional’ experience as there is not much fruit of the spirit, and the verbal put-downs I have experienced from him on a day basis has never let up. It wears down the soul of the person on the receiving end of the verbal abuse, which has also lead to financial, spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional abuse. Physical, because he does not have the care for the wife that he should have. I do believe I am married to an unsaved, unregenerate man, and I asked God to reveal that to me. I went to John Gill’s scriptural site and typed in ‘the natural man receives not the things of God’ and there was an expounding of that verse, and it became clear to me the reason I cannot break that religious facade which my husband uses as his tool to pull the wool over the eyes of those who do not know who he is behind closed doors in his home. And so, I pray, and grow in the Lord, hoping I can lead other men and women to comprehending who their spouses truly are; and wondering, for myself, if there will ever be any release from this mind game marriage, as my husband will never ‘get it’ if his is not truly the heart and mind of a born-again Christian. I did one time ask him “Hasn’t my life meant anything to you?” Meaning, my quite testimony in the Lord, the submissive wife. Oh, he provides ‘things’ for me, with an allowance he gives me, but the financial responsibilities are never in my hands. I don’t even know how much money he makes in one year, but it is a substantial amount. But I am not into ‘material things’. My hope and joy and peace is in my Lord and Savior. As far as change is concerned for him, it is only on the surface, because his angst and temper are right there on the surface too. Quietness in the Lord on my part, and angst and frustration from my husband make for strange bed-fellows. It truly is the difference between night and day, between spiritual darkness, and spiritual Light. I do have your book, Leslie ‘The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.’ And I have found solace and strength knowing that I am not alone in this struggle which so many other women, and a few men face on a daily basis. I did not have the wisdom or the knowledge for most of my marriage, because I thought my husband was a believer, yet it is so apparent he CANNOT change himself, except through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit convicting and causing my husband to acknowledge and to REPENT to the Lord. Then, and only then will there ever be a change. The unregenerate man cannot change. The leopard cannot change its spots. A person can try to change, yet, if there is no repentance there is no acknowledgement of the sins in their lives, which is crucial to the salvation of the soul.
    Thank you for allowing this comment section, and may God bless you in your endeavors to continue to help others through this journey of life in Christ. If we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with Christ, but woe be to the one who causes this suffering, as their own accountability before God will be revealed in the last day, or prior, if God wills it.

    • T.L. on November 8, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Teresa, for 42 years you have prayed and quietly submitted and tried to change your husband. It’s not working. What do you think that means? That God isn’t listening? Or is it that you are not listening to the facts, and hearing the voice of God saying, “Be strong and courageous.”

      For over 30 years, I was living like you are, so though my words sound hard, I have great compassion. Nothing ever will change for you until you repent of passivity and ask some empowering questions and make some big girl decisions: why am I allowing myself to be treated this way? What do I need to change about me to end this abuse? Who can I reach out to that will help me with my blind spots and support me as I grow and change?

      We have misunderstood biblical submission, my friend. And we have used it as an excuse to hide our passivity and fear of change. God wants to deliver you from this abuse by delivering you from your weakness and passivity.

      Hoping in the Lord that you will follow The Captain into battle. Rise up and fight for truth and righteousness.

      • Teresa in California on November 9, 2016 at 2:39 pm

        Hello, T.L.
        Thank you so much for your spiritual insight about being strong and courageous. That is what I am doing at this point. Also, note Isaiah 54: verses 3 thru 5, although this is pertaining to Israel, it is also speaking from the point of God protecting her, as a husband is suppose to protect his wife. God is who my husband is, in the spiritual sense of the Word at this point in my marriage. I do stand up to my husband and tell him his attitude is ‘not acceptable’ to me. He is a violent man at heart. His rage is so close to the surface that I truly fear for my life if I were to cross him. I am in between a rock and a hard place at this conjunction of my marriage. I do not have a lot of support and am waiting for God to help me to have the courage to escape. Please pray for those of us whose lives are mere instruments of being slaves. There is not an easy escape route for me as I have no money whatsoever to even go to a lawyer. Yes, we have definitely misunderstood Biblical submission along with the vast majority of so-called Christian organizations. My strength in the Lord is what keeps me going. I had no choice when I did not have the knowledge I have today. They say not to leave unless you have a strong plan of defensive legal tactics. I am still in the stages of doing research on this. I do consider myself to be an Abigail who knew the truth, yet it took her faith and God to ‘take’ her husband down from his self-serving throne. All trials are similar yet also have their own scenarios. Thank you again. I do know all of what you were talking about. It has only been this year that I have done major research on personality disorders and how to cope and get out from under that bondage of abuse. God bless you in your life.

        • T.L. on November 9, 2016 at 3:34 pm


          It is hard to overcome 42 years of submitting to abuse. You are being strong and courageous to step out of the destructive dance and change yourself. Keep moving forward. Actively do the research to find the support you need. Women’s shelters can offer you resources and they will keep everything confidential; so give one a call. If your husband is violent, all the more reason you must seek safety.

          I encourage you to remove yourself from your home, even temporarily, while you look for support. Can you take some time to go on a silent retreat somewhere? Or to visit a relative who will give you some space and quiet? Getting out of the toxic environment will give you a chance to clear your head of the lies you are subconsciously believing (this must be God’s will for me, it’s not that bad, etc.) so that you can begin to heal and really hear God’s heart for you, “I love you. You are my Beloved. I take great delight in you. I stand with the oppressed, not the oppressor. I hate injustice and oppression.”

          Keep reading Leslie’s incredibly helpful blog. Read her books, which can easily be ordered online. I even found one at my local library. Listen to videos on youtube by Leslie, Pastor Chris Moles, (and Leslie and Chris together)

          Also check out Patrick Doyle and Lundy Bancroft on youtube.

          Here are a couple of helpful videos by Patrick Doyle:

          Also this website:

          If you can tell me what part of California you live in (southern, central, northern) I may be able to help you find some help and support.

          Teresa, I am praying for you, and I am rooting for you. God will strengthen you as you step forward in faith and trust in Him and in His heart of love and care for you. He is with you. Do not be afraid. He wants you, His beloved daughter, walking in faith and freedom and joy.

          • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2016 at 8:48 am

            Thanks for all the helpful resources.

  19. Valerie on November 8, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    This comment is for those of you who are in a relationship that you were questioning if it is abusive. There is a recurring theme that I have seen in abusive relationships: The target of abuse feels crazy or confused.

    In a healthy relationship…not just an ideal one, but any relatively healthy one… it is not natural to feel consistently confused. Confusion (persistent that is) is indicative of being manipulated. Confusion arises from inconsistency. Behaviors are inconsistent or words and behaviors are inconsistent. There is not persistent inconsistency in healthy relationships.

    I wish someone had told me earlier to trust my instincts. I knew something was wrong early on in my marriage. But my ex made me believe I could not trust my instincts. So-called friends told me I couldn’t trust my instincts, jusifying or minimizing his crazy making behaviors.

    It was amazing to me how clear was that my instincts were correct once I was away from the abuse and the toxins that clouded my judgment. I would like to encourage anyone who is feeling crazy in their relationship to heed that inner voice. Do you feel crazy in all your relationships as well? Likely not. If not, what does this tell you?

    There are also a lot of comments about an attitude or heart change that is necessary. It’s what God looks at, so that tells me it’s pretty important. Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God yet God did not look upon Cain’s sacrifice with pleasure. The outward behavior was not what God desired and so He made a distinction between the two sacrifices. My ex was good at doing the outward behavior, especially in front of others. Yet his heart was hard toward both me and God. His behavior meant nothing other than the fact that it proved he was manipulative enough to know he needed to do the behavior in order to mask the true state of his heart. I have had people hurt me for later truly repentant. This was evidenced not only by their behavior but also by their attitude. In these instances it was not difficult for me to forgive or reestablish trust in time because their attitude showed repentance. I think there’s something to be said once again for the inner voice within us that tells us someone has not really changed and therefore is not safe. It doesn’t mean that we are correct 100% of the time with our instincts, but I believe we would do well to not dismiss them and see what truth is revealed with consistency… One way or the other.

    • Veronica on November 21, 2016 at 3:10 am

      This was really helpful, validating and somewhat healing for my heart. In recent months as I surrendered to God’s will and was still directed to divorce papers, I learned how my separation for the sake of my husband’s soul is an act of love.
      I have yet to complete the papers, but think I may have been prompted today. My husband does not appear to have a heart change. In fact, what God showed me is that my husband never entered this marriage with his heart to begin with. I consider myself legally married, but am open to honoring the vows I made…this would only be provided that we date and remarry. The way things are going, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  20. Trina on November 8, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    That’s my same situation Teena. Thank you.

  21. Ann L on November 8, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Valerie — spot on with the comments about confusion. I was so confused that I thought that the confusion was just more evidence that I was confused.

    The issue of confusion ought to be taught to young girls as a signal just as meaningful as outwards signs such as violence, theft, on-going disrespect, etc. And it should be taught in church youth group settings, too. “Are you confused? Then run. It IS you, only it’s a good thing. Confusion isn’t a sign that you “just didn’t understand.” Confusion is your mind and body warning you to get away. It’s valid and it reflects your unique ability to recognize a warning without having to understand the danger you’re being warned against.

    • Valerie on November 11, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Yes!!! I totally agree with you Ann!

  22. A on November 10, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Hi. My husband and I have had more than our fair share of marital issues over the 5 years we’ve been married. Quick snapshot is this:
    – we were in counseling before we got married due to communication issues
    – had pastors and friends around us encouraging us to get married quickly for “purity’s sake”
    – first 6 months of marriage, he was clinically depressed and couldn’t work shortly after we got married due to the depression
    – got healthy again and that lasted about 6 months
    – Shortly after 1 year in, he attempted to cheat on me (didn’t go through with it, but was communicating with someone) so that I would leave. He confessed and repented. It hurt like hell, but I moved forward with forgiveness and chose to trust him again.
    – Lots of major arguments, etc, in between
    – 2 years in, his health declined (anxiety disorder & another medical issue that wasn’t mental health related)
    – Hasn’t been able to work for 2.5 years due to health
    – He confessed at the end of last year that he didn’t want to get married in the first place, but said he was going to marry me so he moved forward with it out of fear (of God, being a man of his word, etc). I wasn’t aware of this when we got married (obviously), but it made many things/arguments/the first 6 months of our marriage make more sense.

    So now, we’re in this limbo stage. I am emotionally tapped out. He can’t tell me that he wants to be married to me, but he says he wants to make sure we’ve done all we can. We’ve been in counseling since before we were married, and have never had a “honeymoon” stage. We are both further from Christ than closer to Him. And I am feeling confident it’s time to move on. He wants to “do the right thing” (in God’s eyes), but that leaves me feeling unimportant personally and devalued as a wife. When asked what he wants, he can only say “I don’t know” but that there are things he loves about me. I feel like he’s too scared to make the decision himself (hence trying to “give me a reason” so early on in our marriage). Am I missing something? He’s a good friend and man. He was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met when I first met him. He does love the Lord, but our faith hasn’t exactly healed our marriage- has just felt like an obligation to stay in it. I feel dead inside and I too want to do the right thing…but not at the expense of my joy. Does that make me selfish? I’m in a Christian marriage (because we’re both Christians- not because I believe my marriage reflects Christ and the church) and it feels like that’s all that keeps us together. But that’s legalism…and I HATE legalism. I don’t think that means I’m “making God who I want Him to be”. What if my heart is already done? Totally broken. Totally confused. Desperate for something different. I’ve done the “attitude change” thing countless times…and it never leads to more. It helps for short times, he notices and reciprocates, but then we’re back into the same patterns. With him not being 100% healthy and also still not working, that also has me feeling so guilty about what I believe God is releasing me from. Ugh. He’s actually suggested that we try being more intimate and having more fun together, but those suggestions make me feel really uncomfortable because there’s not exactly the relational equity it takes for me to feel safe in those things. I don’t think those will solve the root issues. Don’t know what to say anymore. We’ve literally been in Christian counseling since before we got married, so it’s not like we haven’t taken it seriously.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Perhaps the issue isn’t in the marriage but in him and individual counseling would help him sort out his true ambivalence and help him make a firm decision one way or another. However, I do have to admire his desire to do “the right thing” even though he doesn’t “feel like it” Jesus did the right thing, even when he didn’t “feel like it” and it’s called trusting God and being obedient, not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending to do the right thing so that I look good. So he may have some issues to work through in order to come into a better alignment with his feelings and desires. Can you give him the time to do that, while meanwhile work on your own growth through this suffering?

    • Teena on November 11, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Forgive me for being honest, I have not read one problem about your husband except he’s trying to escape life. He seems different than my husband was. My husband beat me if he didn’t like something. As I mature in the marital relationship, I understand that my husband is NOT like my girlfriend. A man’s need is really not honeymooning, but it’s [rather] to feel like the hero. Men generally need to feel empowered to conquer life FOR their families, not with them. And this makes the difference. You’ll find that roles have changed since you’ve gotten married.

    • T.L. on November 11, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Hi A,
      I really empathize with your unhappiness in your marriage. It sounds like what Leslie would call a “disappointing” or maybe “difficult” marriage, due to the mental and physical health issues. But it does not sound (from what you’ve described) like a destructive marriage.

      Don’t give up! You’ll miss out on God’s transformative process that happens when we come to the end of ourselves!

      When we are unhappy, we want to escape. But it sounds like you need to move from disappointment to acceptance so that you can do the inner work necessary to help your marriage to thrive. I really agree with Leslie, that your husband needs some individual counseling to deal with his depression as that is very hard for a partner to deal with. But I think you also need to deal with inner attitudes that make you want to bail out when it gets tough.

      If you think you rushed and moved forward in marriage without waiting on God, repent of that bad choice, but don’t use it as an excuse to run. Learn to love with Christ’s love by dying to self. (This is a message only for those NOT in an abusive relationship, which it does not sound like yours is.)

  23. Teena on November 23, 2016 at 6:49 am

    My last comment on whether behavior change is good enough. The short answer is, No! Here are some truths that are often spoken by my Pastor. He says, “boys lie, and girls believe them”. And, “some girls like the bad boy”. He will say these things in his sermon just to give us wake up calls. Early in the relationship, us girls fall for the wrong boy. A guy with no intention of being good, ever! So how will our marriages to that guy ever be the bliss we desire? If that boy, now man, has not had a serious heart change by Jesus Christ, then oh, boy! you’re in for some bad boy drama as long as it takes. And him accepting Christ ladies, is something you will never control. That breaks it down to 2 decisions: to stay, or to leave. Even coming from abuse in our childhood, we have 2 decisions: to stay connected to that, or to leave. Many of us will say it’s not that easy. There are too many factors involved like children, property, my safety, my mind, will, and emotions; to which I would ask, what’s more important? Your commitment to stay in an abusive relationship because you think Christ will change it all? Or your CHOICE to be safe and live WITHOUT abuse for you and generations after you. God does hate divolrce, but go and read that again. Jesus was talking to hard hearted men that wanted to rid their wives no matter what. So he gave them the only reason and that was if she committed adultry making her a hard hearted wife. God said, choose life so that you and your descendents might LIVE (and live in the newness of the life Christ gives).

  24. Pauline K. Ceprish on November 29, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    This all sounds so typical of my husband. I know I try to fit him into the mold I want sometimes, but a lot of it is trying to help him live up to the image he showed me when we first met. His heart isn’t with the Lord like he has tried to portray when He was singing with me on the worship team. I need to let ho and let God of that area of his life.
    My biggest hurts if I let them hurt me and let them steal my joy is when I hear him talking to his daughter about how every thing has to go my way at our house and that he always has to work around me and my kids. We have a mixed marriage. I didn’t raise his and he didn’t raise mine. My kids have always been the problem so he thinks in our marriage. When I’m there for my family sister who is in an old folks home with parkinsons or plan to do and for my kids he can be like a child and throw a fit by taking the garage door opener from me and not going out to eat Thanksgiving day with me at a church like we planned. I do what I feel the Holy Spirit is inspiring me to do and go threw all kinds of verbal slander to his nephew and daughter saying he should have never married any one with kids and says that is why he tell his son to not remarry anyone with kids. How selfish. Anyway when I came home from visiting my sister and daughter two days Thanksgiving night til Sat later afternoon I pitch in and finish decorating the house with my decorations I brought to the marriage and was feeling hope flu again and positive and excited about Christmas. I even made the pastry rolls he always makes for his family. He was please with me as a wife being I was doing for him and his family and gave me back the Garage door open so I could use the garage when snow comes. Oh Lord, how I trust him to see me through. It is really tough when my children won’t come to my home anymore because of him. He made a scene when my one daughter and grandson were over night at my house, yelling at me and saying terrible things about me and them that they heard. I so want them to come to my home and feel welcome but he is destroying any visits they have made. It is very hurting to think they especially my younger daughter with a 8 month old baby won’t ever come to my home again. She got me a cup once that says Home is where my mom is. It is no longer true. Home has become her home with me or places we go together. She is going to church with me the Sun. before Christmas for the Christmas program, but won’t come to the house afterward even if my husband isn’t there. Must go. LOVE and PRAYERS Pauline

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