Does the Bible Allow Separation?

Morning friends,

In last week’s blog, I talked about broken trust. Today I want to answer a woman’s question about separation. Her church leaders are beginning to challenge her stand, and this is not uncommon. I want to equip you to think through this Biblically so that you are not easily pressured or intimidated to do something that could cause you more harm.  

Also on Monday, October 7, I will be doing a FREE webinar answering the question How Long Do I Keep Trying And How Will I Know The Changes Are Real? I’d love for you to sign up to attend and invite a friend. One in four Christian women reports being in a destructive marriage and she needs to know what God has to say to her.  Click here to register.

October is going to be a very hectic speaking and travel time for me. I’d appreciate your continued prayers.  

Today’s Question: I have been separated from my husband for over two years. God brought his infidelity to light and freed me from over 15 years of his pornography, deception, lack of maturity, responsibility, neglect, and manipulation, etc. Reading your book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage helped me understand more about what I had been living. 

I don't believe that God wants us to reconcile without real changes taking place. I have learned many things and am changing and growing. I am not seeing that as much in my spouse even though his words say he's sorry and he loves me and wants everything to be different.

The most difficult question I get (from church leadership) is that Scripture doesn't allow for “separation.” Therefore, they tell me that I am living in disobedience because I am not being submissive to my husband's desires for reconciliation. In one of your video’s I heard you say God does not value the sanctity of marriage more than the safety or sanity of the people in it. That made so much sense to me.

And it's not just me – I have two sons that are living through this as well. I believe it's okay to have healthy boundaries (insisting on seeing change) and I feel like that is what I am working on in addition to my healing and learning to speak up for myself. But I can't defend my actions with a verse of Scripture that gives me this right or excuses me from living with a difficult husband. 

Do you have any advice on how I can answer this accusation and pressure from my church?

Answer: I think the way you phrase your question may lead to part of your problem. You asked where is there a Scripture verse that gives you the right to separate because your husband is difficult. I can’t think of one (nor can your church leaders) and therefore that’s where you (and they) get stuck.

But I don’t think that’s the question you really are asking. I think the question you’re asking is this: “Do you have justification from Scripture that gives you the right to be cautious about fully reconciling your marriage when your spouse has not demonstrated the fruits of repentance after serious and repetitive sin?” 

I think the answer is clear. Yes you do, even more so because of infidelity. Most church leaders would not hesitate to accept adultery as Biblical grounds for divorce. However, you chose not to end your marriage right away.  

You took a different route and said to your spouse something like, “I’m going to wait and see if you’re going to use this as a wake-up call for personal growth. I’m going to watch and see your actions and attitudes over time to see if this grievous breach of our marital vows wakes you up the changes you need to make as a husband and as a Christ-follower.” 

From your e-mail, you indicate that it’s been two years and nothing has changed. Despite his words and declarations of “I’m sorry” and “I love you so much” and “I want everything to be different,” he hasn’t changed much.  

But now after this two-year separation, your church leaders are starting to view you as the hard-hearted one. Perhaps they see you as the resistant, rebellious, unforgiving spouse who has no grounds to stay separated because he’s sorry and wants to come home. It’s now you who should submit despite your husband’s track record of sin, foolishness, adultery, and deceit.  

The Scripture that most people use to support some grounds for Biblical separation is in 1 Corinthians 7:10 where Paul writes, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): The wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”

From what I understand, this is what you’ve done – separating, hoping for reconciliation. 

But here are a few other passages from the Bible that also support separating ourselves from those who intend to do us harm, foolish people, or so-called believers who refuse to walk in the truth.   

2 Timothy 3:1-5  – The essence of this passage says that there will be people who profess Christ but are all smoke and mirrors. Paul tells us to avoid such people.  

Ephesians 5:11  – Paul says that we are “not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Proverbs 22:10 – “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out and quarreling and abuse will cease.”

Proverbs 22:24-25  -“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

Proverbs 14:7 – “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet word of knowledge”

But perhaps most applicable to those who choose separation, especially when a spouse is a professing believer, is Paul’s instructions to people to often distance or separate themselves from so called believers who are living contrary to the gospel.

For example 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul writes, “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.”  

Titus 3:10, “As for the person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

1 Corinthians 5:11 – But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”  

Finally, I don’t know if this applies to your situation but it does to many other women in destructive marriages. God values physical safety and relational safety and we sometimes must separate ourselves from a dangerous person.  

For example, in spite of God’s general instructions to submit to the laws of the land and to higher authorities, when David feared for his life because of King Saul’s jealous rages, God didn’t instruct David to “submit to the King and trust me to take care of you.” Instead, David fled, always respecting the position of King Saul, but not allowing himself to be abused by him. (Read 1 Samuel 18-31 for the story.)        

In another example, when Jesus was born and King Herod sought to exterminate all the Jewish babies two years and younger, God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return (Matthew 2:13-15).

When Rehab hid the Jewish spies, she lied to keep them safe and God commended her (Hebrews 11:31). I suspect those who lied to keep Jews safe from the Nazi army were equally commended by God.  

Jesus himself valued safety and said even the well-being of an ox was a higher value to God than legalistically keeping the Sabbath by not working (Luke 14:5). 

Safety is an important component of trust, especially in marriage. There can be no freedom or honest communication if someone feels afraid or is threatened, either physically and/or emotionally or has a price to pay whenever they honestly share their thoughts and feelings. Click To Tweet

Women (and sometimes men) fear taking measures to protect themselves because they’ve been taught it’s unbiblical or ungodly. They suffer endlessly with verbal battering, even physical abuse believing that by doing so, they’re being godly martyrs. Keeping the family together at all costs is seen as God’s highest value.

Yet Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.” 

The Bible clearly teaches that people influence and impact us, both for good and for evil. When you live with an abusive, destructive, manipulative, deceitful person, it definitely takes its toll on you and your children’s mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Separating from such a person is sometimes necessary for you and your children’s safety and well-being.

Lastly, I would encourage you to talk with your church leaders about this important biblical truth. If Jesus doesn’t offer unconditional relationship with everyone even when he loves them, why do they expect you to offer unconditional relationship to your husband? Sin not only separates us from God, but it also separates us from one another. Until your husband can see his sinful heart and actions as damaging not only you, but also your marriage, and is willing to actually do the work it takes to change them, it may be most Christ-like to stay compassionate yet separate from him.  

Friends, what other scriptural support can you find to support separating yourself and your children from your destructive spouse


  1. Amy on October 2, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I struggled with this question to. And I had to realize I was trying to use god’s word to justify my behavior, instead of using god’s word to dictate my actions. I found lots of verses for my plan of separation, but after I changed my thinking I had to come to grips that those were not about a husband, just another non-believer, or another believer. I made a vow before god, and what he calls us to do isn’t easy, and you shouldn’t accept abuse and say or do nothing when it happens. But wasn’t God always waiting with open arms for his people to repent like the prodigal son? Realizing that made me start on the path to living well. I know my husband is a christian, I have to be strong and I’m welcoming him back as best I can because he is saying and doing the right things to show me he’s trying to shed his porn habit. I have to realize he’s just human, and we all have our struggles and try to be like Christ with mercy and grace, but not accepting any abusive behavior. But that doesn’t make the hurt go away from his actions. But knowing I sinned just as much helps me to understand his struggles and be fair. It’s still hard though.

    Mine is in first John 1:8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
    Thankfully, my husband knew he was sinning when I confronted him, and he wanted to change, that gave me hope.

    • ibsomebody on October 2, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      “in many things we ALL offend.” – James 3:2

      Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye. – Colossians 3:13

      Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. – Mt 18:21-22

      And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. – Luke 17:4

      • Aly on October 2, 2019 at 9:57 pm

        Can you expand on what these versus are to be in response to?
        Forgiveness is not the same thing as a reconciled relationship.
        I can forgive someone as the Lord explains, but this doesn’t mean trust is established nor a relationship is born out of that forgiveness.

    • Aly on October 2, 2019 at 9:48 pm

      You wrote:
      “But wasn’t God always waiting with open arms for his people to repent like the prodigal son? Realizing that made me start on the path to living well.”
      I hope Leslie might answer this. I have always understand this parable as the father remaining in his place as the prodigal ‘left’ to go do what he wanted of his choosing where he was irresponsible with his inheritance. Obviously, there is plenty more to the parable to grasp the father’s love and abundance of grace, but the prodigal son could only embrace the forgiveness and reconciliation of the father once he repented and turned from his ways of living-he also had a change in his thinking. There is also a lot in this parable that speaks to the other son who chose to serve his father.

      Amy, someone can want to change but it doesn’t mean they will. I would be cautious with how you describe your husband ‘just being human’ and us all being sinners as it relates to a porn issue or him shedding it. I do hope you are getting the support and help that you need for your own recovery as it pertains to the betrayals you have experienced. If your husband isn’t getting appropriate treatment then it’s highly likely you will endure more betrayal and the possibility of that evolving into more issues.

      • Teddi on October 3, 2019 at 3:56 am

        Amy and Ibsomebody:

        “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
        ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:48‬ ‭NKJV

        “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
        ‭‭II Peter‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NKJV

        “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.”
        ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23-25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

        My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: …
        1 John 2:1-29

        Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
        Philippians. 4:8

        …..and the list goes on. When we stick by someone and we don’t take a stand against their behavior it’s not called “loving uncontionally” anymore it’s called ENABLING.
        The prodigal son, as one of you referred to, actually realized his sin and wanted to change and made that effort. As Christians God gives us everything that we need to walk and to stay in Him. If we are continually doing our own thing we are not living as Christ expects us to. Being a Christian is not having a license to sin.
        “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
        ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

        • Teddi on October 3, 2019 at 4:09 am

          PS. Those scriptures are for the husbands you’re referring to. They are continually CHOOSING sin over everything else, Christ first and yes, their wives and children. I can tell you I left my severely verbally husband four years ago yesterday and I have grown so much more in so many ways because I am no longer constantly trying to deal with and fix all the chaos in my home. I have created, only with the help of the Lord, a good peaceful environment for myself and my children to grow and to heal. But still I am dealing with the after effects of abuse in my children, who still when they are with their dad are dealing with the negativity and the blame and the abuse. Man has it taken its toll on my children and while I’ve seen God do amazing things it has not been an easy road trying to work with them because of how they’ve been affected by my husband choosing sin and abuse over doing his best for Christ and living for him. So you want to stay in an abusive unhealthy marriage for the sake of love and vows? Go right ahead, but at least think of your children and the toll it’s going to take on them. I chose to stay for over twenty years because I was not supported by my church and “because of the children” but that was the worst mistake I could’ve ever made. You may have taken that vow to love no matter what but sometimes we have to love from a distance for our own sanity and for the safety and sanity of our children. Also our husbands took a vow to love us and protect us not abuse.

        • Aly on October 3, 2019 at 8:31 am

          Teddie, Amy,
          Teddie -This is well said:
          “and the list goes on. When we stick by someone and we don’t take a stand against their behavior it’s not called “loving uncontionally” anymore it’s called ENABLING.
          The prodigal son, as one of you referred to, actually realized his sin and wanted to change and made that effort.”

          Amy, often times in abusive dynamics and especially betrayals, the person hurt finds many coping behaviors to avoid the true reality of the pain inflicted especially such a sexual betrayal like porn. Many women (and men) can misapply scripture to enable the situation (unknowingly often). Sometimes this is called ‘spiritualizing’ or Christianeze chatter. Band-aides for surgery type situations.
          Your original post reminds me of some of the examples of women who find ways to cope (or have been told) and not really require their husbands to get the kind of intervention needed.
          There are also pastors/ men in the church who might also take the scriptures you referred to … to guilt you from staying current to the betrayal offenses of your husband. Often it’s because for a long time those places of scripture can make one feel shame and an unhealthy level of responsibility (especially if you happen to be a person with a more sensitive conscience?)

          Enabling has its consequences too and the Lord guides those with a teachable heart. He is the healer and the one we should seek our loyalty too.
          This doesn’t mean you leave your husband or divorce, you just look at the situation from another place and investigate if you are a part of the solution or the problem?

          • Teddi on October 3, 2019 at 9:10 am

            I disagree Aly. Not every situation is the same. In my case my husband was so verbally abusive and I put up with it for so long. My girls were both cutting and both attempted suicide multiple times and were each in the hospital four times a piece. If I didn’t leave they were not only going to be dead spiritually, but they would have died physically. I’ve been gone four years and things have gotten much better for the girls but as I mentioned in my last post I ALONE am still dealing with the after effects of the abuse on my girls and it’s very very difficult at times. My son who is still with his father is now suffering and it’s showing at school. Please please please do not tell others to not leave or divorce not everyone’s situation is the same, and this is something we do not know, we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors or someone else’s home. Don’t judge.

          • JoAnn on October 3, 2019 at 1:44 pm

            Teddi, I’m not sure what Aly said that you are objecting to. Was it this?: “This doesn’t mean you leave your husband or divorce, you just look at the situation from another place and investigate if you are a part of the solution or the problem?”
            If so, perhaps you misunderstood what she was trying to say. I actually think that you must have done exactly what she suggested. After so long in your abusive marriage, didn’t you at some point stand back and look at the situation and “investigate” your part in it? Then, didn’t you decide from that new perspective that you needed to leave for the sake of your children and your own sanity?
            Here on this blog, most of us try to avoid telling someone what to do…divorce or stay. We do encourage stepping back and investigating, looking for a new perspective, and praying to the Lord for the courage to do what must be done, whether to stay or go. Each situation is unique with its own circumstances. The decision must come from a conviction that comes from a personal interaction with the Lord. Only that.

          • Aly on October 3, 2019 at 3:58 pm

            Thanks for responding to Teddy, I meant to earlier and wasn’t able to.
            Teddie, what JoAnn wrote is what I was going to expand on. I’m sorry if you read my earlier message to Amy as telling her to not divorce or separate, I should have added that I was also not telling her to stay. I really do try to not tell another person ‘exactly’ this is what you should do unless they clearly want a specific answer.

            I think you did the courageous thing Teddie by getting away from enduring toxic dynamics of your husband’s destructive behavior.

  2. Robin Baumann on October 2, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    When I was in a destructive marriage for 30 years, I was terribly misguided by the church leaders. It took me a very long time to unwind the damage they had done- telling me to stay and submit. Today 5 years later, I understand Bibical Separation. Simply put for me, it was calling sin – sin and acknowledging how the abuse was destroying my family. The longer I have been separated from his destructive behaviors, the more I wish I could have seen this much earlier. But I was caught in the chaos and believing I was doing what God wanted. Today I think about the lack of safety we lived in, and all the lack of love and goodwill for his family. I understand he is very ill. Sin- I’ll. I could not make that decision for him to acknowledge the pain he caused himself and his family. We are divorced because I believe God is a God of safety and cares more about my children and myself ability to live in freedom, peace, and not walk on eggshells anymore. I’m so grateful for the bibical teachings in Leslies books and others who helped me move out of the ——bondage that Christians can’t separate and cause consequences for unhealthy choices.
    These were tough teachings for me to overcome, but now I am able to see it clearly.

    • Teddi on October 3, 2019 at 4:12 am

      Praise God Robin that is awesome!

  3. Ann on October 2, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Excellent teaching and explanation of God’s Word, Leslie. Thank you. Each of us must walk this out as Holy Spirit shows us for our situation. Neither church leaders or others can dictate whether we stay separated or reconcile. Only we can decide that issue. One day we will each answer to God for our own choices on how we stewarded our life and cared for our children’s lives.

  4. Janice D on October 2, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    So grateful for the ability to thoughtfully dialogue on this issue.It seems it is almost impossible to think wisely and clearly while in the fog of a destructive marriage.That was my experience,and now 14 months into a legal separation (after a 2 year in-house separation) I am still processing it all and continue to heal.This is a decision made through prayer,counsel,and the leading of the Holy Spirit.Since we are the only ones who have first hand knowledge and experience with our spouse as a spouse,it amazes me how others think they can confidently tell us what to do.It is a hard road to walk,but we are never walking it alone.Our loving Savior kindly offers to walk it with us each and every step of the way. When our health ( physical,spiritual,emotional) is suffering due to chronic toxicity, there will come a time for a “ necessary ending”. If God provided a way out for “slave wives” in the OT doesn’t it make sense that these same principles would apply today?

  5. Joyce Moore on October 3, 2019 at 9:45 am

    I believe it is of utmost importance to recognize each situation has unique combination of actions and reactions. I also believe that the word of God is the living word and speaks to us uniquely! Meaning if we seek we shall find! If we lack wisdom ask and it will be given. Understanding that every person is uniquely knit together would require that our Father God will work with each of his children in the appropriate way. God does not condemn us! 2 Timothy 1:7 God has not given the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. When others give advise does it give us fear? does it cause confusion? Spiritual leaders are human! We each have the ability to contact God personally! God will never go against his own word! God loves me and I trust that he wants me to live without fear, in his power, and with a clear mind.

    • Autumn on October 3, 2019 at 3:55 pm

      Yes, especially without fear of our abusive husbands.

      • Autumn on October 3, 2019 at 3:59 pm

        By that I mean, if you say you think God doesn’t want us to live in fear, it would stand to reason that God wouldn’t want us to live with a spouse who frightens us either. Right?

    • Aly on October 3, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      Joyce Moore,
      Every step I made in faith and with wise counsel I faced fear!! Fear is not something to decide the steps, it’s what we do in the face of fear where we experience courage & strength of the Lord!
      Most people who are recovering people pleasers will tell you that fear was a big obstacle to evaluate and educate themselves on. Often we are doing things that are ‘enabling’ because we have fear. And sometimes when we are real honest some of our decisions are out of fear, even when we think we are doing something for another person, spouse or child.
      I’ve had many mothers tell me circumstances of why they have done something for a ‘child’ only to come to find out that they were doing it for themselves to not feel ‘fearful’ or uncomfortable or face the trantrums.

      • Aly on October 4, 2019 at 8:58 am

        This is explained very well!
        Even though many of our situations vary not all of the corners of control etc. manipulation, and just plain relational chaos is that inventive. Biblically, there is so much wisdom that can be applied to many situations that are not all identical.
        Unfortunately, there are some women who ‘feel’ that they are listening to the Lord’s guiding when in reality it is fear deciding.
        I myself experienced this place (it’s nothing short of feeling completely stuck, completely helpless) after being challenged to examine my feelings, fear and my choices it further helped me out of the cycle.
        And yes! 😂 your right the one who prefers the destructive relationship to remain or as you said go back to the way it was….there is a reason why they want it back to the way it was.
        Praise God for you and your husband to surrender to the Lord having His Place. I do think it frees us from so much bondage we are unaware of.
        My husband too battled like yours.

        • Ann on October 4, 2019 at 11:14 am

          Well said, Aly and Nancy. It is not easy to discern fear in ourselves. Yet, there are also those women who genuinely hear from God in their situation but others interpret it as fear and accuse them of enabling. Isn’t it possible that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that for some to stay in the marriage is for a future good? Our job is to support and encourage each other in whatever decision we feel necessary. Yes, challenge if Holy Spirit leads that way but always in a loving and supportive way.

        • Aly on October 4, 2019 at 1:02 pm

          I do not believe that any of us are called to support ‘enabling’.
          It is important that we seek wise counsel and multiple counsel in addition to listening to the Holy Spirit’s guiding and biblical scriptures to align that to ‘in context’ and the entire Word of God.

          I do not believe that allowing our own directives with the only conversation being with how we interpret what God is telling us is completely wise especially in destructive relationships.

          One thing that is highly common in these situations is how the abuser abuses scripture and how the enabler ‘interprets’ scripture in a more isolated place.

  6. Deborah on October 3, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Thank you all for your insight and Janice, I agree, I’m grateful for the ability to thoughtfully dialogue on this issue. Brain fog can be so sticky for me. That being said, I need to apologize to this sweet, wise, and helpful group. I posted under a name, “Anne”, other than my own given name, “Deborah”, in last week’s blog. I was worried about offending my husband (eye-roll from myself here) as he has been looking into all my web and emailing activities. Thankfully Jesus is reminding me to be real, of course with Him, but also with such a wonderful community as this. Again, I apologize for my misrepresentation, and I’m selfishly grateful I’m “coming clean” as I reap so many benefits from following this blog and all these posts. It’s so sweet to be known. Obviously I have issues with enabling my husband’s behavior and attempting to twist myself in order to let an image continue. So thank you Teddi and Aly for speaking to that as well.

    • JoAnn on October 3, 2019 at 1:48 pm

      Deborah, pseudonyms are perfectly acceptable here, as many do it. Nothing to apologize for. Especially if it is a matter pf privacy and/or safety, it is fine to use a fake name.

      • Autumn on October 3, 2019 at 4:00 pm

        Many abusive spouses stalk this site. It is wise to use a pseudonym. Good thinking Anne.

  7. Annie on October 4, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Deborah you can create another email account on gmail with a sign in that is not your name and then every time you sign out go back and “remove account” from the list of gmail accounts your computer remembers. You can use Duckduckgo on your phone to look on the internet as it does not remember your history and you can erase all tabs and sign ins everytime you are done.

  8. Ann on October 5, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Thank you to a community that creates a safe place to share. I fully respect and support those who choose to separate. I am one who has chosen to “stay well” as Leslie teaches. I realize it appears as enabling to some. In my situation, I have set and enforced multiple boundaries and consequences over the years. The result is modified behaviour in h. I do not control his behaviour . He chooses to control it to avoid further consequences he knows I will enforce. No, his heart is not changed. He has made it clear he believes he is a victim but he carries that mindset everywhere with everyone. As I explained here in the past, I have multiple reasons why separation for me would compound the issue rather than solve it. For now I choose to “stay well” and hold tight boundaries to create stability for my children. If he chooses to fight that, he knows he is free to leave and I am prepared for that possibility . As for pseudonyms, I fully support that too. Personally, I write online elsewhere and allow my picture to stand because it is the one associated with the email address I use for comments elsewhere. I use my middle name on here instead of my writing name to avoid the chance of having my kids search and learn more than they need to know about our situation. Husband is possessive, and due to past issues is not allowed access to my laptop or phone without permission. If he were to find and read my thoughts on here, he is free to leave . He doesn’t want his reputation ruined in our church and small town so for now he complies. I am still working on building my strength but am slowly growing. I have ups and downs, some fairly low. So, I speak to anyone else who may choose to stay and reads this, do what you know is right for your situation. Yes, get outside counsel, and then do what God guides you to do. Not all staying is enabling.

    • JoAnn on October 5, 2019 at 11:55 am

      Ann, I commend you for working out a way to “stay well.” I assume you have a good support system, and that you are watchful to guard the hearts of your children and yourself. As you say, everyone’s situation is different and must be addressed creatively and with much prayer. I know that you would love to see a heart change, and perhaps someday that will happen, but for now, you are doing well enough, and I respect your decisions.
      Some marriages are disappointing rather than destructive, and perhaps that’s your situation, I don’t know, but you have effective boundaries in place and you enforce them. Well done. I appreciate your input on this site. thank you.

      • Ann on October 5, 2019 at 12:35 pm

        Thank you for your kindness, JoAnn. Yes, my marriage has been destructive . I have experienced rape from this man, other sexual abuse, financial abuse, ongoing emotional abuse and other junk. I have also been physically threatened by him. I probably should have left back then but I didn’t have the strength or resources. My health became precarious for years. But, for reasons I don’t understand myself, the more I have stood against his garbage and set consequences, the more he has backed down. He has strong consequences in place if he goes back to anything abusive with the kids or me. He has literally modified his behaviour to maintain peace. He claims I scare him now. Go figure! If he ever chooses to go backwards, then I join the ranks of separation as best. I am ready for that step. Yes, the children’s and my heart are my top priority. Thank you for your concern. The only explanation I can offer is that some abusive men are a typical scared bully who will back down when confronted. I am not saying my path is right for everyone else. I am aware that my situation could change in a heartbeat.

        • Aly on October 6, 2019 at 1:36 am

          I’m so sorry for what you have experienced in what is supposed to be a sacred place. You have endured such offenses that would require such consequences for sure. It’s good that you have prepared yourself for separation that is wise given the list of horrible things you have already been the recipient of.
          What keeps you in proximity with someone like your h?
          Are your children getting counseling also for this time of what you all are exposed to?

  9. Ann on October 7, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Thank you ladies for your input in my life and circumstances. I appreciate all of you. I give your words serious thought and prayer. I have approached my oldest about counselling. He has been the most affected but he adamantly refuses. Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.

  10. One step at a time on October 8, 2019 at 12:02 am

    I do not have the issues with my H as far as adultery or porn that so many have mentioned their H’s have that has caused them to leave. However, my H. has been verbally, emotionally, mentally, sexually, and financially abusive, causing a toxic environment in our home.I am choosing to legally separate to bring healing to myself and the children. It’s not so much that I chose this, but I felt that he gave me no choice because of his continual actions and inability (or unwillingness) to change. I hope this legal separation will bring him to the end of himself where he will really see what needs to change. But so far, it hasn’t. So far he just wants me to not continue with the separation (he was just issued the papers a few weeks ago and hasn’t moved out yet). I’ve told him repeatedly that I’m not changing my mind. That we need this time to heal. He needs to come to the end of himself and admit his wrong rather than just apologizing “for everything” and not knowing “what” he has done wrong (or not wanting to admit to it, even when it is pointed out to him, or denying it when it is pointed out.)

    • Free on October 8, 2019 at 3:37 am

      You are being wise One Step. I hope your abusive husband moves out on his own yet sadly, you may need to get law enforcement to escort him out of your home. That gets really ugly but stand your ground. He should be packing up his things and getting organized. Do you see that happening? May I also suggest you change the locks on the doors when he leaves. A locksmith can rekey the lock without having to buy a new lock. Get a key pad for your garage door if you have one too.

      The separation has to be real and complete if there is any hope of your spouse feeling the consequences he needs. Have you considered going to email or text contact only? Not hearing his voice will help you heal. Especially because he uses his voice as a weapon to mistreat you.

      • One step at a time on October 8, 2019 at 11:13 pm

        Free, I agree that the separation has to be real and complete. That is why I’m not canceling it. He has not been talking much since the papers have been issued and has been giving me space–which he never did before. He does daily tell me he loves me, given me flowers and chocolates, and has many times asked me why I’m doing this (to which I respond that he knows why because I have communicated much over the years about how certain behavior needs to stop.) But I think once reality sets in and he actually moves out, he might hoover more. He probably thinks if he gives me the space I need now, then I’ll change my mind.

        • Aly on October 9, 2019 at 9:14 am

          One Step,
          Have you offered what is required of him during the separation for the window of repairing the marriage?
          I do think it can be helpful for both parties to have a structured separation with counsel guiding so there is actual work and accountability during the ‘space’ as well as a timeline. This part I think is essential in guarding both parties from not repeating the cycle a year or 2 later or be ‘fooled’ into better behavior from a distance.

          From above, it sounds like your h is using ‘tools’ that maybe used to work in the past to soften your requirements.

          • One step at a time on October 9, 2019 at 12:57 pm

            I’m sorry…somehow my reply got posted at the bottom of this thread rather than in reply to your comment.

    • Aly on October 8, 2019 at 10:53 am

      One Step,
      I agree with Free and the important safety measures she speaks of.
      Do you have supportive people that can come along side you as you/the law enforce the separation?
      It’s important if you are keeping the dwelling space that you keep it occupied or your h could also decide to stay and that you have to leave. Obviously this is not ideal for the children or yourself.
      The fact that he has been issued papers and there has not been any movement is concerning. This for some often is the most dangerous time for escaping/separating -a non repetitive person. This is why you need those supportive people (men & women) in your corner. It can sometimes help de-escalate things when he knows that you have support and additional eyes on his non cooperative behavior.

      A person who has behaved abusively, been corrected, given limits etc and cannot figure out specifics of what they are genuinely ‘sorry’ for, is not a SAFE person! As you know apologizing ‘for everything’ is apologizing for nothing because they will continue their behavior because they see nothing wrong with it.

      Consider to move to email and text communications only. Get your supportive people who understand abusive behaviors that are not ‘physical’ but emotional and financial.
      Many people are in marriage dynamics like yours (not that I would say they are marriage as God designed).
      Sometimes it’s helpful for you and sometimes the repeat offender to see that they don’t have the marital material or marital behavior to live in such a sacred place. Nothing to be ashamed of etc. but quite matter of fact.
      In my journey, the Lord brought me to a place where I could see that I did not have the capability of handling the marital dynamic that my h was offering! Nothing I was able to deal with and certainly nothing the Lord expected of me to know how to deal with!!! This wasn’t a marital union that was growing better. It was growing far worse.
      My voice to my husband was this, and also for him to see that he didn’t have marriage material behaviors. He had a choice to learn and grow accept what he didn’t have within him.
      Even though he wasn’t originally responsible (childhood) for his inability to fulfill his vows, he became responsible for his vows to God and his wife.
      This was a turning point of growth and maturity on his own journey.

      • One step at a time on October 8, 2019 at 11:19 pm

        Aly, thank you for your comment. Yes, I have many supportive friends and family who are a blessing to me and helping to hold me up emotionally and mentally through this all. I wouldn’t be able to take these steps if it wasn’t for that. I agree about the house issue. I felt it was important for the children to stay in their home to minimize the trauma to them.

        I came to pretty much the same place you did–realizing that I did not have the capacity (well, really WHO does in a toxic relationship?) to handle the marital dynamic between us. I could not be his counselor or his psychologist (although I sure have figured out a lot the last few years that “clicks” that had me whirling in confusion the first several years of our marriage.) And I certainly could not be “God” in his life and fix him emotionally, mentally and in every way.

        It sounds like, from the little you hinted at, that your situation changed for the better?

        • Aly on October 9, 2019 at 9:04 am

          One Step,
          I’m so glad you are surrounded by supportive people that ‘know’ what is going on and don’t undermine your courageous steps. I had a little bit of support with friends and definitely from my counselor because the counselor was well educated on the cycle of things. But my friend support wasn’t easy based on them struggling to accept my husbands ‘unreasonable’ destructive at times places since often he was such a wonderful person to me, our children etc. this was a muddy journey.
          Patterns really began to reveal the cycle to me.
          My husband had such misplaced anger and fear. And the emotional immaturity was very low but I realized just how much I compensated & tolerates for these areas in the dynamic. A lot of my change was my part of recognizing where I needed to accept my own growth. My own past with my family of origin was a huge area where I learned to tolerate behaviors of being dismissed and certainly not respected. When we are in the thick of things these areas are not easy to see because what is normal is our normal. It’s usually only when things gets further along destructively or outsiders speak into a dim place. (When your in it, your eyes have adjusted… so the dim place doesn’t feel so dim)

          It took a long time for my husband and I (and we still work together on areas always will be in a posture of wanting to grow) but our marriage was able to be rebuilt. Praise God for this!
          I did have to hand over the outcome to the Lord and accept that my husband just might not be willing to be ‘willing’ to get the things he needed to be my (spouse as God designs) and especially my safe person in the world to share this sacred place with.
          This isn’t a perfect ‘person/spouse’ but a person with a genuine heart of love and care toward his wife and children. His sacrifices are about serving and supporting his family with the guidance of the Lord.

          I do think my husband was quite familiar with believing in Jesus, but he became a soft hearted teachable person when he surrendered to Him! As well as being able to receive the Love the Lord brings. Many people I have come across in relationships seem to have a place of believing who Jesus is but have not experienced the open heart of receiving His life changing Love He is all about. I think this is a key aspect of being a ‘teachable soft hearted person’.
          We can’t offer that of which we haven’t received.

          My husband’s heart was guarded toward the Love of the Father, as well as many others, including his wife. It was foundational that surrender take place here in order to bring healing and rebuilding. Even the Lord does not force surrender but he does allow natural consequences to take place.

          • One step at a time on October 9, 2019 at 1:06 pm

            Aly, what you say: ” It was foundational that surrender take place here in order to bring healing and rebuilding. Even the Lord does not force surrender but he does allow natural consequences to take place” is so important! It’s the key to reconciliation. It seems your husband was WILLING to change and admit his wrong. My husband says he is a Believer and such but has not specifically admitted to any wrong. He will just say that he is sorry for everything but then he will deny things like abuse, even though they clearly happened. That and many, many other things like that are what make me think he has a personality disorder or mental illness.

            Do you mind if I ask how long the process was for you? Was it years before you were reconciled?

          • Aly on October 9, 2019 at 8:38 pm

            One Step,
            I’m assuming you have a professional counselor that is helping you navigate if your h has a personality disorder or severe mental illness.
            I don’t know the extent of the abuse that you are and have experienced. I’m sorry for what you have been the recipient of.

            My husband and I did not separate but I was willing with the support and counsel of our therapist to move toward that. My husband seemed to be open to hearing from the therapist and the separation was on the table.
            As far as ‘how long of a process’ I would have to say a couple years intensively and 5 yrs + working through tools and assistance of counseling -which was essential.
            I had support that was somewhat educated and I had two professional counselors as well as continued counsel with pastoral help from our church. It felt like we had a seal team!! Uggh. However, I was definitely a momma bear when it came to this process and protecting my children.
            Long story…!!!
            My h did not have much in his upbringing on how to treat others or how to deal with internal stress. He was fighting avoidant addiction (is that something? Yes.)
            I seriously thought he had almost every personality disorder! Looking back I don’t blame myself based on his responses to things.
            One highlight from the counselor – h is completely nil in empathy! Why?
            OfCourse this non-empathy was directed toward me, why? He could show it sometimes other places (but still small).

  11. One step at a time on October 9, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Aly,
    What do you mean by: “Have you offered what is required of him during the separation for the window of repairing the marriage?”

    If you mean have I given him a list of changes I need to see? No, I will not do that because then he will just check off the list and make superficial changes to make it look like he has done what is required of him rather than dealing with the deep heart work that needs to happen.

    He has been given some measurable goals by leadership to accomplish and yes we are going to be getting counseling (which we had before and I am concerned that one of the counselors we are working with will look at this as a marriage issue instead of the much deeper things that need to be dealt with.

    As to a timeline. I do not think you can really put a timeline on healing and heart change. People who show signs of personality disorder or mental illness don’t just change overnight. Obviously, I don’t want this to be ongoing for years, but it will take time to see if we are able to be back together. He needs to be able to repent of specifics and admit that he has issues and be willing to deal with them instead of covering them, rather than pointing the finger at me, my family or others and saying that they are the ones who are the issue.

    • Aly on October 11, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      Nancy, OneStep,
      This is awesome;) glad you posted here and I wasn’t able to post today.
      One Step, this isn’t a specific checklist for him to just check off.. this is a new way of life for him to be invested into recovery.
      I think it’s important to mention mental illness and personality disorder.. because you mentioned these things a trained professional is most likely going to give your h requirements also! He should be seeing a professional weekly and also you should have access to this process and professional because of the prior abuse, etc.
      The greater the personality disorder the greater the requirements and accountability.
      Some professionals think that certain disorders can’t be treated but some think they can. It’s difficult but important to walk through the steps of discovery where your spouse falls.
      Sometimes those with hard hearts or deep pride and control issues are just that, but not tech personality disordered.
      I thought for years my husband had a mental illness, I almost ‘resided with how things were’! His mental illness was more of an emotional maturity problem mixed with some other treatable things.
      His character issues were TREATABLE, with the ongoing help and his surrender to be willing to work on his heart and more importantly his fear.

      • Libbie on October 14, 2019 at 10:52 am

        My husband has been going to a therapist, and getting treatment for PTSD since I have moved out, and says he is working on his childhood issues. But he has not mentioned to me being diagnosed with anything else. Will a therapist tell the patient when they feel there are other issues or disorders going on? Control issues, bipolar, etc.? Maybe he’s just not telling me? Or has his therapist picked up on it? How does a wife know? If he’s embarrassed by the diagnosis, he would never tell me.

        • Aly on October 14, 2019 at 3:44 pm

          I don’t know. I think it’s a great question for his therapist to answer.
          It’s good that he’s getting treatment for PTSD and childhood areas that could have been lots of the roots of your marital issues. One thing about the work he is doing, is that it takes quite a bit of time and I am clear on all of his violations through your marriage but obviously you felt the need to separate to find healing and the possibility of him waking up to the reality of what he has sown regarding intimacy and trust.

          I those that violate trust in sacred relationships don’t realize what it takes to build trust once broken. It’s even greater if he’s a repeat offender (if those are of similar patterns or repeats of possible abuse places)

          You mentioned that your h wants deep conversations and date nights, I think those things could be ‘earned and built’ over time depending on his recovery process.
          He needs to understand that it’s good to want or desire these things with you but that you ‘especially’ need to feel safe for such engagement.

    • Free on October 15, 2019 at 12:37 am

      This is where I see things differently. I don’t know why we keep talking about our spouse’s problem. Let’s focus on what we can change, us. What are we going to do about a person who has x,y,z behaviors? Counseling or no counseling the facts are we are linked to a person who is either really mentally ill or is working the system to manipulate a lot of people so they get what he or she wants.

      What do you want? Let’s talk about that. What do you want and how do you intend to get what you want. If the person you are with isn’t enhancing your God given purpose, they you have to get them out of your life. Otherwise you live for them and their issues rather than for Christ. The dysfunctional relationship becomes your life purpose and an idol.

      It may be against what we have been indoctrinated to believe, but a bad marriage is not worth suffering in and wastes your life and potential as a human being. Remember there is no marriage in heaven. Our lives matter more then the concept of marriage.

      • Aly on October 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm

        I agree with what Nancy has said here, I also think maybe your situation is different. From what I remember, you are still married to your spouse and living in the same home?

  12. Free on October 15, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Hi Bronwyn, I don’t think it matters what a person’s diagnosis is. If your partner is being abusive for whatever reason it needs to stop. Once you call it to their attention, they should value your concern and stop the behavior. If the behavior doesn’t stop you have to do something about Your life, not theirs. You can’t change another person.

    The next course of action is to separate yourself from the abuse. People who don’t value themselves stay in abusive relationships. People who stay too long live in fear and become paralyzed by the abuse or choose denial and live with false hope.

    Bad behavior should stop immediately. Do not expose yourself to an unrepentant fool and remain fodder for a fool. Jesus died so you could have life and live it with abundance. You are free from living as a dumping ground for sin just because you made the mistake of marrying someone who doesn’t know how to love you as you deserve to be loved.

    • Aly on October 15, 2019 at 9:12 am

      I agree with you and your actions in separating from abuse.
      The situation with many of us here are most likely dealing with spouses or people in our lives with untreated personality disorders etc. while it can seem irrelevant, it’s relevant when it comes to dealing with reality. It can assist someone in waking up to the facts and the reality they are not crazy for feeling crazy around such ‘an person who behaves as they do or treats another a certain way’. As we know often we are in the cycle of abuse patterns. Getting off the crazy train is easier said that done, but YES it’s essential.

      Most PD don’t think they have an issue anyway, it’s often the posture. But upon further examination, it’s FAILURE to get the kind of treatment that often severs relationships. Because most people who have behaviors that are abusive are not going to JUST StoP because someone tells them to. They do what they do against what another tells them as a way of life.
      So I think the journey can be hard to navigate for some who are dealing with destructive individuals who take our their insecurities and feel entitled to treat their spouses/or certain people in their life any which way.
      They are also often the last of people who will get the kind of help medically and cognitively/spiritually too.

      Free, I like what you said about once you call it to their attention, they should value your concern and stop the behavior. This is ideal, but often not reality when dealing with destructive individuals.
      People who abuse don’t really have a baseline for any value of another. They are not going to value the person who they are mistreating and be thankful for the boundary without a spiritual path and life transformation process as the Bible exposes.
      Most people who are in these mindsets (or Have a PD) are seeking power at any cost. They find other ways.

  13. Riki on February 9, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    Can an abused Christian wife really divorce an abusive husband? I’ve never read in the Bible where it says she can. I’ve heard how that is her way of suffering for Christ. In the old testament domestic abuse is considered just the woman’s curse because of Eve. Her husband ruling over her. God HATES divorce. Let no man take away what God has joined together. Also. Not all abuse is just physical. Abuse can be psychological as well as physical. Please let me know? Thanks.

    • Riki on February 10, 2020 at 1:26 am

      Nevermind. I asked at the wrong place. Plus I have my answer. Feel free to delete this comment if you want to.

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