Do I Have To Reconcile

Morning friends,

Thanks for your prayers. My week in Mexico was amazing. If you want to hear a little bit about it as well as see some of the paintings I did while there, you can watch my most recent FB live here.

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I know holiday times can be difficult for many of you. The family drama, the rejection, the criticism, the lack of warmth or reciprocity can drain you. Please take good care of yourself. Don’t push so hard to make it wonderful for everyone else that you are struggling with sickness or resentment yourself. 

Today’s question: I’ve been married 25 years – to a confessing believer that went to seminary, was a pastor for 3 years and is back doing his PhD. We had marital problems in the beginning of our marriage that resulted in me changing to be more affectionate.

We have 4 kids and my husband pretty much works or studies all the time. He blamed me for everything, had anger issues etc. I just tried harder to submit.

This past year he was more angry and had severe rages everyday. I begged him to get help and he refused. I hated life, prayed God would take him away, dreamed of a better man and finally 4 weeks ago I told my pastor’s wife and they outsourced counseling.

I scheduled it and he said he wasn’t coming but ended up coming. The first session, counselor ended saying he was codependent and I was his idol. We left, I was sickened and he was furious and said I was ruining his life. The second session ended with him having narcissistic rage and  I have PTSD.

Now we counsel separately. My husband met with our pastor and our pastor said if you don’t change you will lose your family. So that day he repents. Then he became soft spoken and sweet. I found him repulsive, kids think it’s weird and he was never around. He is a workaholic so he doesn’t know them, they don’t like him. My oldest who is 17 hates him.

Two weeks of his new self and he wonders why I’m angry and haven’t forgiven him. He was told to give me space and didn’t. Now this week – he became a new believer. When he told me I felt furious.  I thought that’s convenient. So we just forget the last 25 years and live happily ever after? My counselor told me to study Jonah and the prodigal son. 

I’m angry that God will make me take him back. I was done and thought I finally was free but now I’m stuck with him because biblically he didn’t cheat on me. Which I thought besides death that was my choice. I hated it. 

Now week four and I’m hysterical, crying, angry, full of hatred towards him. 

I have served him through everything. Years of school, raising our kids only to hear him tell me how worthless I was, wished he hadn’t married me, how disappointed he is and much worse things. But he says he doesn’t even remember half of it in his rage. And now says he never knew he wasn’t a believer. 

My question is does true forgiveness mean I have to reconcile? I think the church will excommunicate me if I leave him. And I should be able to heal with boundaries set up at home. But when I see him I’m a mess and want to throw up when he’s so nice to the kids. 

I’m begging for help and maybe I’m wrong and it’s truly me fearful to trust God because I will have to live the rest of my life with him. 

Answer:Although I have answered similar questions before I think this question is an important one because it shows how complex and multilayered some of these issues are.

I’m not sure your husband is as ignorant or unaware as he portrays himself to be. Studying for a PhD and not remembering his angry episodes don’t seem to go together.  Also, his resistance to getting help all those previous years shows that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he didn’t want to be accountable for it. It was only until you exposed him that things started shifting around. However whether or not he’s truly changed, only time will tell. Being nice isn’t necessarily a sign of repentance or change. It may just be a different strategy of control since now he has people he has to answer to.

Being truly repentant of his past angry rages and indifference towards your feelings and the children would show up in giving you time to heal, and encouraging you to do what you need to do for your own growth and well-being right now. He wouldn’t keep putting you down and telling you how disappointed he is in you. From what you write, it still sounds like it’s all about him and his feelings rather than how he can care for and attend to yours.

However, the bigger challenge you have right now is not him or your marriage, but your own self. You’re feeling not only victimized by him, but also by your counselor, your church, and even God. You feel trapped and angry, forced to forgive, forced to reconcile, and forced to love.

I think you nailed it when you said you are fearful to trust God because you see God every bit as much a bully as your spouse. You don’t have a picture of God as caring about your plight or what you and your kids have been through. In your mind God only cares about keeping your marriage together – at all costs – but that’s not true.

Right now your counselor has told you that you suffer from PTSD. I can only imagine how reactive and unstable you feel with all that has gone on. You need to give yourself time to heal without deciding on the future of your marriage right now.

God knows everything you and your children have suffered. He knows every cruel word your husband has spewed. He knows every tear you have shed. He knows every prayer you have uttered and every fear you have. He loves you and cares about what you’ve been through. 

God is not in the arm-twisting business. He will never force you to do anything, even things he knows are best for you. He tells us in Scripture what is good for us, but it is always our choice whether we will trust him with our well-being or not. Click To Tweet

I don’t know what God wants you to do with your marriage relationship right now but I do know this: God doesn’t want you to continue to live in fear and hatred, gritting your teeth with resentment simply enduring. He wants you to live in faith, love, and hope.  

But choosing to let go of your hatred and live in love does not necessarily mean you will ever be able to trust your husband or fully reconcile your marriage. That depends on many other factors, some yet unknown. However your personal healing and growth depends right now on you and whether or not you can trust your Creator with your path forward.  

Living for years in a marriage like you describe has taken its toll on you. You’re feeling it. You’ve lived it. Please be patient with yourself. However, bitterness and hatred will never be the way for you to gain strength and stability.  

When Jesus tells us to love our enemy (Matthew 5:43-48), he’s not asking you to have a close reconciled friendship with your enemy (including a husband or relative that has acted like an enemy (See Micah 7:6; Matthew 10:36). Otherwise, he or she would no longer be labeled your enemy.

Enemies are not strangers. They are individuals or groups who have inflicted pain upon you or those you love. They have been cruel, merciless, heartless and without conscience or remorse. And, as human beings we are tempted to hate those kinds of people.

Why does Jesus tell us to practice the opposite virtue of love towards our enemy? We naturally feel hatred, but Jesus calls us to love. The reason has nothing to do with your enemy. He may always remain your enemy. The reason has to do with your own well-being.

When we are filled with hatred and resentment over what someone has done to us, we are tempted to the “dark” side as the Star Wars Movie series calls it. We are tempted to retaliate or execute vengeance in order to “feel” better. But it never works. Hurting someone who hurts us never relieves our pain. It just causes more pain and damage and for those of us who DO have a conscious, as well as years of regret and remorse.

You may choose to not live with your husband or affiliate with your church if they pressure you to prematurely reconcile, but you always have to live with yourself.

Be wise and careful how you process all of your negative feelings. Own them, listen to what they are telling you about what’s going on, but don’t allow them to take control of YOU, your life, your values, your heart. Otherwise, you will become like the very thing you hate, your enemy.  

Your counselor advised you to read the story of Jonah and the prodigal son. There are good lessons in each of these stories. For Jonah, there is an ignorance of his own hard heart. He wasn’t very aware of his own resentment that he felt “forced” by God to give the Ninevites an opportunity to repent. He went through the “motions” but his heart was not in it. God cared about the Ninevites, but he also cared about Jonah and just going through the motions of obeying God wasn’t doing Jonah any good when his heart was still hard and full of resentment. God wanted Jonah to see that.

The story of the prodigal son shows us what repentance looks like. When the son came to his senses and returned home, he made no demands on his father. He had no expectations of being treated like a “son.” In fact, he asked to be treated like one of the hired hands.  

True repentance recognizes that there has been damage done to the relationship and that consequences are not just erased because someone comes to their senses. The story also shows us his father’s heart. He was not consumed with resentment. The consequences were still in place. Do you remember what his father said to the other brother? He said, “Everything I have is yours.” The prodigal son wasted his entire inheritance. There was no more money for him to have. Yes, the Father was glad to have him come to his senses and celebrated his return, but the consequences of his sin weren’t erased.  

And we also see that the older brother went through all the “motions” of being a good son but he was just as prodigal as his younger brother, but in a different way.  He complied with what father wanted, but his heart was full of resentment and bitterness. He felt entitled to more.

The lesson here for you is just doing what you think God says for you to do, with no heart of trust or love for God in those actions, isn’t what God is after from you.

So your question was does forgiving your spouse require reconciliation. Not always. I believe the strongest example that demonstrates this is Jesus. He forgave Judas but they were not reconciled. He forgave those who did not know what they were doing, but I doubt whether those who were forgiven had any reconciled relationship with Jesus. Two thieves were both crucified with Jesus. Jesus loved and died for them both. One was reconciled, the other was not. Not because he wasn’t forgiven but because he did not receive it.

I believe you can forgive your spouse and still not trust yourself to him. Forgiveness does not erase consequences and the consequences of your husband’s long-term abusive patterns has been broken trust.  It will take time and a lot of effort to rebuild that broken trust. Only time will tell if he’s committed to that process. Meanwhile, do your own work so that your own emotional life does not derail your spiritual life and your health.

Friends, when you have been filled with resentment and hatred or stuck in victim mindset, what are some steps you have taken to break free?   

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  1. Aly on December 19, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Your question:
    “Friends, when you have been filled with resentment and hatred or stuck in victim mindset, what are some steps you have taken to break free? “

    For me it wasn’t a case of being filled with resentment or hatred or even that victim mindset.
    Part of my steps were identifying what was a healthy boundary and requirement of trust versus what often abusers do is put it back on the offended as they are being filled with resentment etc.. when really it’s the healthy steps someone is taking to require another to ties steps themselves toward healthier behaviors and accountability.

    I needed a safe place to express my feelings (counseling) which were not about hating a person but being fed up with tolerating the mistreatment by someone who did rage at me when they didn’t want to face their own issues or past.

    I think this is an excellent blog post but I think it’s important to see that this issue is about TRUST and not about having resentment or hatred. You answered this in the beginning of your response when you said time will tell and nothing that this person needs to do immediately.

    The writer is also being pressured by the husband-aka someone with a long history of not ‘taking accountability’ for seeing what’s wrong, to reconcile or to trust him after two weeks of some attitude adjustment.
    Her feelings are valid and not about hatred but about longterm hurt and YES PTSD.

    It’s a *warning flag* when the repeat offender can’t recollect all the rages and destructive abuse that has been dished out over their family over a long long time.
    You Leslie gave a specific example of what his posture would be of their was true repentance and he would be pressuring her to ‘give trust’ in the way he is and calling it reconciliation.

    My h tried this route and he complained he wasn’t getting the reconciliation (or forgiveness) when in fact IT what the trust that he wanted back without having to earn it!
    He just defined it as lack of forgiveness etc.
    This pattern or tactic is SO common with many who abuse and misuse people in relationship. It’s a core character issue of not taking personal responsibility for their behavior against another.

    We resolved this particular issue in counseling in just one session (shocking) and it was a break through for him to see what forgiveness he actually was receiving from me and ultimately from God also.
    Living in proximity of me -was forgiveness.
    Me choosing to work on myself and my marriage-was forgiveness.
    Me choosing to give it time and see what changes he could ‘really make’ -was forgiveness.
    Giving my husband an opportunity to repair what was his alone to repair,- was forgiveness.

    So many in the church and even In counseling want to name it as a forgiveness or reconciliation issue or hatred and it is about TRUST and how the offender handles taking accountability for robbing trust.
    If they cant differentiate between the issues at hand and have a clear definition…. then it’s very unlikely that the heart will change and thus the patterns also will continue to repeat.

    • Nancy on December 20, 2018 at 2:36 pm

      I completely agree with Aly, here.

      If we read Leslie’s very last paragraph, it sums it up. She says, “it will take a lot of time and a lot of effort [for him] to re-build that broken trust.”

      Your job, writer, is to stand firm in that knowledge.

      Doing so is not un-forgiveness, it is simply applying the biblical truth to guard your heart ( Prov. 4:23). It could take him years for him to do the work of re-building that trust.

      In the meantime, yes, you have emotional work to do, and I think that you will not be able to do your own personal emotional work until you make that decision ( to stand firm – and that could mean separation).

      • Nancy on December 20, 2018 at 3:04 pm

        If you cannot stand firm while living under the same roof, then you must separate in order to be obedient in guarding your heart.

        Once your heart is guarded and you are safe, then you can open your heart to do the healing work that Leslie is encouraging you to do.

    • Dwight on January 1, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      A+ reponse!👍

  2. CBPP on December 19, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    I would remind the lady who asked the question of Leslie’s blog post of January 19, 2015, titled “Five Indicators Of An Evil Heart” and the blog post of October 31, 2018 titled “Necessary Changes For A Destructive Person” and anything else under her blog category of REPENTANCE. But the first thing that came to my mind was from a blog post from 2010 that I can not find on this website but I saved some excerpts for my own reference. I will post them here now.

    The fruits of repentance by Leslie Vernick

    Excerpt from the blog dated Monday, November 29, 2010

    We must be discerning of an individual who may be sorrowful, but not necessarily repentant of their abusive behaviors. Here are some of the things I look for when trying to discern if someone is truly repentant:

    1 They accept full responsibility for their actions and attitudes (no blame-shifting).
    2. They acknowledge their brokenness and sinfulness in detail.
    3. They recognize the effects of their actions on others and show empathy for the pain he/she caused.
    4. They are working to develop new behaviors and attitudes of healthy relationships.
    5. They can an accept consequences without demands or conditions.
    6. They are willing to make amends for the damage they caused.
    7. They are willing to make consistent changes over the long term.
    8. They are willing to be consistently accountable to someone.

    Go through this list. Has your husband shown enough evidence of these 8 steps and do you see specific progress in step 4, working to develop new behaviors and attitudes of healthy relationships?

    If so, then I think you can be his greatest cheerleader.

    If not, then perhaps you need to press pause and wait to see the fruits of repentance evidence themselves more fully.

  3. Sandra Anderson on December 19, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Dear Leslie: I love your wise and godly reply to this dear lady. I can truly relate to her grief and resentment because mine was similar toward my ex-husband (who died close to a year ago). I also suffered PTSD and had counseling after our separation and divorce. I prayed fervently for God to help me forgive him, and He did, although I was still heartbroken. My daughters told me he had “changed,” and he begged me to return and try living with him again. I told him I would, but without intimacy and verbal abuse. However, he had not “changed,” constantly wanting intimacy and verbally abusive as before, and we could not reconcile.
    I went to see my doctor, extremely stressed, and she prescribed medication. After six months, my h developed congestive heart & kidney failure, and soon required Hospice home-care. With their help, I took care of him until he died about six months later. He did thank me toward the end. As I’ve related in previous blogs, I felt somewhat guilty about feeling finally Free, after 60 years! God is good, and He has given me “beauty for ashes!”

  4. Sandi on December 19, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you Leslie- timely responses for me – after 35 years of emotional and covert verbal abuse I separated 5 years ago— I waited 3 1/2 years before I filed for divorce- I have been divorced 1 1/2 years and now after all this ( with continued abuse ) my ex has finally realized he is a broken man and needs help— and has appointment to start counseling in January— he wants my forgiveness ( which I have given him) but I have no interest in reconciling with him until I see 2 years of consistent changes- repentance – accepting responsibility for what he has done to me… forgiveness does not equal reconciliation.. time and Jesus , counseling and accountability may bring forth healing… don’t go back until you see these things over a long period of time… at least a year or two…

  5. Caroline Abbott on December 19, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Excellent. Just because someone is “sorry” does not mean anything has really changed.

    • Sheep on December 19, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      2 Cor 7:10

      For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

    • Autumn on December 19, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      I find it is important to find out what they are sorry about. Usually, it is that they are sorry for their loss, sorry they are in the situation they are in or sorry they got caught. Remember many of us are dealing with narcissists. They are incapable of empathy.

      • sheep on December 19, 2018 at 11:04 pm

        Or, they aren’t necessarily sorry, they just want the pain they are in to go away and they think that saying they are sorry will make that happen.

      • Sandi on December 20, 2018 at 6:48 am

        Thank you for reminding me of that- it took me 30+ years to realize he was/ is a narc.. He never apologizes for anything specific – he just says he’s sorry for “ all of it “ — he did text my 2 older kids and say he was “bad” to me, but again, nothing specific.. in this past week since his revelation, I have realized I could never live with him again.. but he could help out more as we finish raising the 2 youngest kids..

    • Pammy on December 29, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      Yes so true. I’ve learned this the hard way.

  6. Moon Beam on December 19, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Time for a new counselor. The one you have is obviously not proficient in the field of domestic abuse.

    • Ruth on December 20, 2018 at 8:14 pm

      Yep! Yep! Double Yep!

      This counselor made his lack of understanding clear by telling the wife to read the stories of the prodigal son and the story of Jonah as if either were a good application to her situation.
      I might be wrong but here’s what I assume the counselor is asserting by asking the wife to read in the book of Jonah. She is like Jonah- rather than rejoicing over the repentance of Nineveh / the *perceived* repentance of this H, she is sulking, having a pity party.
      NOT the same.
      1. God was going to KILL the people of Nineveh; this wife only wants a DIVORCE.
      2. Jonah had already disobeyed God showing his callous attitude; this wife has tried to be true to her marriage vows for 25 years despite the her H’s chronic sin, abuse, and neglect. To say SHE’S Jonah now is NOT an accurate portrayal.
      3. The people of Nineveh included whole families, children, babies, grandmothers, This wife just wants to start over away from ONE untrustworthy man whose own children hate him.
      4. Jonah had no relationship with the people of Nineveh so he didn’t experience very much personal devastation from their sin; this wife, on the other hand, was blasted with her husband’s rages on a frequent basis. She was VERY PERSONALLY AFFECTED. Yet, this counselor thinks she should just ‘be let the past be the past’ – like it’s as easy to let go of as throwing a penny in a wishing well. Really?? This counselor is pathetic.
      The Prodigal Son. An awesome story of God’s patient grace. It’s in Luke 15 if anyone wants a recap. Jesus didn’t relate this to marriage. I don’t think Jesus was asking us to emulate the Father in the story as much as Jesus was asking us to think about the brokenness and contrition in TRUE repentance and the uncondemning, safe love of the Father. I assume the counselor wants this traumatized wife to forgive her supposedly repentant H like the Father forgave the prodigal son. Here are the flaws with that advice:
      1. She’s not God! Even if this H’s repentance was soo clear, she is only human. He hurt her for 25 years. Plus, she sees the collateral damage of his sin in her children. Expecting her to forgive quickly like God does is ridiculous.
      2. The prodigal son story itself shows the flaw in this counselor’s discernment. When the prodigal son ‘came to his senses’ he willing to give up his right to sonship; he only wanted to work as a servant; this young man saw the damage he did and was CONTRITE. This boy demanded nothing. This H does not show contrition based on what I read. If he were contrite, he would know he deserves nothing.
      I remember when my H had a similar ‘change of heart’ that didn’t last. Here was one phrase that I didn’t realize was a giveaway that it was still ‘all about him’ but I didn’t realize it at the time. When I confronted him with some abusive behaviors towards the kids, he said: “You all must hate me”
      If you’re H’s reaction is more focused on what people think of him than on the pain he inflicted on his kids and wife, then he HAS NOT REPENTED. It’s only a matter of time before he’s right back to his familiar ways of behaving.

      • Aly on December 20, 2018 at 9:01 pm

        Go back to the writer -the husbands motive to change is upside down. It is based on what he potentially will lose and is done from fear rather than what he would gain (honorable life) and coming from faith.

  7. God Hears on December 19, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    My husband got wind that I was planning a divorce this past summer and went to the leadership of our church with a big show of repentance. I met with them soon after, listing very specific reasons why I thought he was trying to pull the wool over their eyes. They listened, but because they are still in the learning stages of abuse, and are very conservative & might excommunicate me, they asked me to give it time. I decided to comply as I was not in immediate physical danger but told them what was likely to transpire with husband’s be. Sure enough, my prediction proved true as husband’s behavior escalated over the fall and the church leadership now realizes he is not repentant. My point? An unrepentant man will not be able to hide that for very long.

    • sheep on December 20, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Man or Woman. Both are equally unable to fake repentance long term. Eventually the light pierces the darkness.

  8. Free on December 20, 2018 at 6:34 am

    My heart breaks for this writer and her suffering! I think the answer she received was without courage. Someone, please validate this woman’s suffering without the slightest bit of using scripture to twist her mind into complacency and guilt.

    Writer, YES you are being abused. Yes, your spouse is a masterful liar. His behaviors fit diagnosable profiles of mental illness and manipulative coercion. You and your children live in extreme danger. Excommunication is the least of your worries. I am worried about your physical, emotional, financial, sexual and spiritual safety!

    I believe everything you wrote. I believe everything you thought and feel are just and true. Your anger is valid! It is a God given emotion for self protection and to motivate you to action. Shame on those who devalue you, your comments, your devotion to this marriage and your obedience to God.

    Run, sister, Run. Turn your ears from the timid, misguided peace keepers who are pressuring you to risk your life, saying you should say. Maybe they would like to spend a night at your house and sleep next to such a monster. That would surely be an excellent wake up call.

    • Christine on December 20, 2018 at 10:03 am

      So well said.
      Thank you.

  9. Dawn on December 20, 2018 at 7:37 am

    Thank you, Leslie, for such sage advice.
    Healing and loving ourselves from a healthy biblical worldview is truly the start of loving others (as we love ourselves) as we are biblically mandates to do. Matt. 22:39.
    This healing is critical to even begin to discern how to move forward to make decisions iregardin our relationships.
    I had to learn to ask myself, “Is what Jesus sees when he looks at our family bringing Him honor and joy?”
    If not, what is my role in that. Then I got to work.
    Time is a beautiful healer. It also holds space for us to observe others behaviors. Digging in, learning to do the deep work of believing that I am who He says I am.
    The answers unfolded. Healing came (I needed to do that apart from the abuse, so I left). In that space I saw so very clearly.
    Dear Christ Sisters, you matter to Him. Any abuse is NOT ok. We are mighty and powerful, strong and fierce in the name of Jesus. It takes that person to do the things that Leslie is describing. Be that woman. Jesus paid a very high price for us to do so.

    • Nancy on December 20, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      “Be that woman [mighty and powerful, strong and fierce in the name of Jesus]. Jesus paid a very high price for us to do so.”


  10. Susan P on December 20, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    Friends, when you have been filled with resentment and hatred or stuck in victim mindset, what are some steps you have taken to break free?

    I have been struggling with resentment and hatred over the last few years, and that has spilled over into feeling like a victim in my relationship with God. As I’ve described before, I was raised by a narcissistic mother, and when I married my husband nearly 20 years ago, his lack of empathy and inability to consider my feelings felt familiar, almost comfortable. It was what I was used to. Over the years, I have done a lot of personal work on my relationship with my mother, and have come to recognize that I can stand up for myself, and that my feelings matter, too.

    Unfortunately, my husband has a lot of ongoing “issues,” probably stemming from his FOO. He has anxiety issues, PTSD (as a result of abuse by his alcoholic father), OCD, and ADD. As a result of one or a combination of these, he is entirely blind to other’s feelings, can’t understand or acknowledge those feelings when they are explained to him, and doesn’t believe that he has done anything “wrong” when his actions cause others distress. We have been to counseling (together) for this, but (according to him) due to his ADD, he couldn’t remember from one week to the next the strategies that we discussed that would make our relationship stronger. He also went to counselling by himself to work on his childhood trauma, but, again, was unable to make any progress. Plus, the “only” way he can deal with his anxiety is by using porn, which I finally set some boundaries around. I am sleeping in a separate bedroom until such time as he gives up that habit.

    Over the years his position has been that he has tried, but his various issues make it impossible for him to change. Our counselor agrees that it is very unlikely that he will ever get beyond his issues and develop empathy.

    When I get upset about his behavior or lack of concern for my feelings, his response is either (a) it didn’t occur to him that his behavior would upset me, so I shouldn’t be upset; (b) he’s “sorry” (in a general way, without really acknowledging my hurt) and that should be enough; or (c) I’m viewing the glass as half empty … why can’t I look at the positive.

    Recently, my husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. This, has left me feeling hopeless and angrier than ever. I can get bogged down in the vision that the rest of my life will entail physically and emotionally caring for a man who I feel hasn’t really ever cared much for me.

    However, my husband has never been physically or verbally abusive. He has worked and supported our family. He is handy around the house, and will fix things if I ask him to. Based on Leslie’s comments in her recent post on whether “indifference is abuse,” I should suck it up and acknowledge that my marriage is simply one of those that doesn’t include emotional closeness. Also, based on the recent post about whether one can “miss God’s best plan for life,” I should acknowledge that God is not interested in my happiness, He is interested in my obedience, and the things that I need to learn from this situation. I can intellectually acknowledge the truth of these teachings, but emotionally, I can often fall into anger and resentment.

    What are steps that I have taken to break free from this victim mindset? I am taking an antidepressant, to stabilize my mood. I have joined a women’s bible study, both for the teaching and for the fellowship. I am trying to pray constantly, and practice gratefulness for the many good things God has provided in my life. I try to acknowledge that “one step forward, two steps back” is OK, for now. I hope that I am getting stronger, and that I will survive the path ahead.

    • Aly on December 20, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Susan P,
      I feel for you. Wow you are in a marriage that is complex more that it being some thing you need to suck it up on.

      I have experienced being married to someone with many of the things that you listed.
      I am concerned about the directive or counseling you are getting or how you are interpreting your steps?

      What you describe to me is an abusive destructive marriage regardless of your husband’s mental health issues.
      If he is not getting proper treatment, little progress can be made.

      You wrote:
      “Plus, the “only” way he can deal with his anxiety is by using porn, which I finally set some boundaries around. I am sleeping in a separate bedroom until such time as he gives up that habit.”

      Porn doesn’t help anxiety issues. It alctually will make anxiety worse because of the shame involved.
      Sleeping in a separate room is a good distance for you, but this is not offering an invitation for the treatment he needs. He can’t and won’t just stop something as complex as porn and he needs serious intervention and accountability.
      Did your counselor suggest this as a solution?

      You wrote:
      “Over the years his position has been that he has tried, but his various issues make it impossible for him to change.”
      This is what all addicts say, it just isn’t true. He must have outside help and a lot of requirements for any progress.

      You wrote:
      “ Our counselor agrees that it is very unlikely that he will ever get beyond his issues and develop empathy.”

      People are able to develop empathy if they want to work on it. My husband has been required to have lots of interventions and therapy and he has developed more and more. His FOO was a big area to face and especially his double standards that were ingrained.

      The higher the porn or objectification of any sort, the lower the empathy muscle.

      You have serious complex issues here and I think you need a counselor who has a better scope to help you with tangible requirements.

      You also have been traumatized emotionally by being emotionally abused even if you don’t think what you have been through is that bad. Not having a partner care or consider you as a person is emotional abandonment.

      Happiness is a byproduct of holiness and living our life out with God’s purpose and glory. Our time here is about the transformed life not ‘suck it up’ and live with (tend too) a sex addict’s untreated issues.

    • Moon Beam on December 20, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      I find it very concerning that you are taking an antidepressant. Have you researched nursing homes with memory care units for your abusive spouse? Put his name in now as the applucations can be time consuming and there can be a long waiting list. He may fail very quickly.

      It would be interesting to learn the relationship between dementia and narcissistic behaviors. In my family the two existed concurrently, both Alzheimer’s and abusive behavior. The horrible combination of both diseases endured unto death.

  11. Lesli on December 23, 2018 at 1:05 am

    I have been in a difficult marriage for 35 years. It came out 8 years ago that my husband has lied to me often during our marriage. We’ve gone to counseling as has he alone. There will be change for a couple weeks, and then what he was advised to do halts. The pain, frustration, and bitterness would well up in me, I’d cry out to God, it would calm down, and then start all over again. About 7 weeks ago, I was begging God to help me understand why He wasn’t enough. I sensed Him telling me to go to the Bible every time negative thoughts would come in. I had a couple games on my phone to help deaden the pain. I got rid of them, got deeper into His Word, and God flooded me with His joy and peace. He hasn’t removed them yet. I don’t understand, but I’m much more pleasant to be around. I still have boundaries, but I know my life is not my own – it is His. Living for Him has given me FREEDOM from the negative. I had to come to the place where I was willing to surrender ALL to Him. He is my helper, provider, redeemer, deliverer and so much more. I’m continually singing praises to Him (it’s kind of weird). It’s a much better place to be.

  12. Autumn on December 24, 2018 at 3:55 am

    Lundy Bancroft has a new book to add to our resource list. It is entitled “Joyous Recovery.” It is for trapped victims and people helpers of all types. Thanks, Lundy.

  13. Marlene on December 24, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    My situation sounds very similar to yours. I have given up trying to reason with my husband or wait for him to show remorse or repentance. He will never admit his responsibility in our situation. i fear he will go to his grave blaming me 100% for a marriage that is not in line with God’s plan.

    What i depend on is reading scripture, prayer and listening to worship music, but I have broken free of resentment by following Facebook posts by ‘Peaceful Moments for Women’, ‘Devotionals With Deanna’, ‘Hope For The Broken Hearted’.

    I pray you take your eyes off your husband and your circumstances and focus on Jesus who is our strength and our hope. It doesn’t matter what your husband or your church thinks, says or feels. Only God knows the TRUTH and one day, our husbands will be accountable for their actions and their words before God Almighty.

    Even though you can’t understand His ways, you can trust that no matter what you face, God is with you and God is for you!

    • Moon Beam on December 25, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Marlene, I think you have created an alternate world which enables you to deal with your abuse. It is a denial cocoon that many of us have used to shield ourselves from our reality. Imagine how rich your spiritual journey if you continued the practices you have begun yet, were not being abused. That, sweet daughter of the risen king, is what God intended for you.

      Close, but no cigar. My prayer for you in 2019 is that the scales would fall from your eyes and the courage of the holy spirit would motivate you to break out of your traumatic marriage and live in the truth. Your coping beautifully described spiritual coping mechanism only serves to keep your blinders firmly in place. Are you in counseling?

  14. T.L. on December 28, 2018 at 1:36 am

    Dear “Do I Have to Reconcile,”

    You have been in an abusive marriage for a very long time. Whether or not your husband’s recent conversion is authentic is beside the point–you were beat up, bruised, emotionally battered. You have developed survival skills, some healthy, some not. You have survived, but you are in need of much tender care. Your wounds need to be bound up by the body of Christ. You need space away from your abuser. Would you tell someone who had both legs smashed in an accident to get up and get over it? No. You would send them to a place of healing. And that is precisely what you need. Can you hear the voice of Jesus, dear sister? “Come away with me to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Is it possible for you, in your life circumstances to get away for a week? Or at least a few days? Alone with your Maker, the One who made you in His image, who loves you and calls you Precious and Beloved? You don’t have to decide to reconcile or not reconcile right now. You can say, “I don’t know what the future holds. I only know I need space away from you right now.” If that man loves you and is repentant and truly a Christian, he will gladly give you that space, because he cares for you and your needs over his own. He will want to see you heal from the damage that he has caused you, whether it benefits him or not, because he is filled with Christ’s love. And if he doesn’t want that for you, then we have our answer about whether he is authentically repentant, and authentically Christ’s, don’t we? Sister, take care of yourself. Steward the gift of you well. Only you can do that. Only you can say no to your abuser. And if you are in a church that does not understand this, and it sounds like you are NOT, then please find another church.

    • Free on December 28, 2018 at 5:45 am

      Excellent post, written in love and prfound wisdom.

    • Aly on December 28, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Well said and offered with such compassion and care.💜
      And Amen to getting away with God!

      I like that you addressed the church issue also. This is so important in the process, because it can be that string that keeps pulling us back to the chaos and or more abuse.

      Why do we often offer this power of discernment to what is safe to the church body?Especially when it is continuously exposed that many in the church are not equipped to see these abusive situations as they are.
      Many in the churches out there are naive, many are in abusive dynamics themselves (sometimes worse).
      Many have such shaped and influenced thinking of marriage at all costs unless someone is being physically hurt.
      These things are formed and shaped in our sphere of influence more than we realize.

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