Even Christian Counselors Need Help

Morning friends,

I hope you have had a chance to watch my FB live on the statement John MacArthur made, that “Empowered women create weak men.” If you didn’t watch it, you can still see it here

Once a year I offer my six-month coaching group Empowered to Change for women who want to write a new chapter in their life story and want help to create new outcomes. If you are interested, click here. We have 3 groups, a morning group, an afternoon group, and an evening group. The afternoon group is almost full, don’t delay if you want to be a part of this coaching group in the New Year.

Today’s Question: I am a licensed Christian counselor and have been practicing for about 12 or so years. I thank God every day for the skills that have kept me sane in a web of chaos, anger, and deceit created by my husband. Without them and the Lord, I don't know how I would have survived being faithful to a husband that has starved me of all provision.

I followed biblical counsel prior to marriage, sought the Lord's RSVP to marry my husband and set all the appropriate boundaries. How could this have happened? I am so ashamed.

How could I end up in such a fruitless marriage? I have searched for 7 years for one sentence to describe the pain and confusion I have endured. I finally found it! “He came through my life like a hurricane, exited and left me standing in the rubble trying to rebuild the life that he destroyed.” He has no recognition and feels no remorse. 

Despite my husband's lack of any type of provision…I stand on the truth of God's word and take my marital vows seriously! I don't want a divorce…BUT how much can one person take? I feel like I am going “CRAZY! The more Christian wisdom I seek the more confused I become.

I don't want to manipulate God's word for my benefit or relieve myself from this pain or journey. But surely God does not require that we live in this type of hell simply to remain faithful to our marriage vows. His word gives two options for divorce.  What now? Forever damned?

How do I heal? Where is God in all of this? I have set the appropriate boundaries and continue to do so along with communicating cold hard truths (in love) to my husband despite his ability to conceptualize the data. He appears to be making some changes, but I am so far into the red. Even if he can stick with it…How can I survive such slow and ongoing progress when I have been starved beyond belief? It is like I have been sitting at God's banquet table for 7 years…without one meal!

I don't know the answer but continuing to “Bear up under this” is NOT. Continuing to exercise the muscle of faith is not making the marriage stronger and feels like an exhaustive & fruitless exercise.

What is the answer? When is enough…just enough? And how do you sort through the hard truths of God's word? I have sought much Christian guidance and sad to say…it has been horribly ineffective and more damaging! Pastoral staff have simply caused more pain and cause those in search of God's truth and healing to retreat into isolation for refuge…which leads you back to the place you started. 

I don't want to break the vow I made to God in this marriage and yet I am trapped in a marriage that I am trying to survive while dying more every day. What is the answer? Does joy exist? What does it look like? What does a biblical recovering/healing marriage model look like?

Surely, I am more to God than just a sacrificial lamb! I am very ashamed that this is my life and more deeply ashamed as a Clinician that I find myself in this predicament. I am not looking for an easy way out…I want out through the way of the truth (whatever that looks like). But the darkness has become so dense I cannot find the light!  

Answer: I hear you. I left much of your question intact because you articulated so well the anguish that so many women feel in this kind of marriage. I also wanted other Christian leaders to see how deeply hurt you have been by the lack of wise counsel. This grieves me. My heart’s desire is that pastors, Christian leaders, counselors, and Biblical counselors would understand the dynamics of these relationships more clearly so that they would be able to offer wise and competent help.  

I could answer your questions from many different perspectives. If you’ve read my blog in the past you will probably have already sensed some of what I’m about to say, but I just want to add some new thoughts and a couple of reminders.

You desire to honor your marriage vows and keep the sacred covenant of marriage and from what you’ve indicated, it sounds like you have. But you can’t keep your marriage covenant intact by yourself. It is a sacred covenant entered into between two people. When one breaks the covenant or is faithless, the relationship is broken. The good news is it can be restored through personal repentance. The bad news is that without that, the marriage can never be what God intends.   

Here me: Sin damages relationships. You only have to start reading in Genesis to see the truth of this. Cain killed Abel. Joseph brother’s sold him into slavery. Jacob stole Essau’s birthright and they feuded for years before reconciling.   

God made a sacred covenant with the Jewish people but when Israel and Judah left God to worship idols, their relationship with God was broken. After much anguish, God gave them a certificate of divorce, while still longing for their heartfelt repentance. He did not want their lip service or going through the motions kind of relationship, he wanted genuine love and repentance (See Jeremiah 3:6-14). 

You are right to want to see repentance, remorse, and recognition of your husband’s sin against you, but it is not happening. There is more lip service but not real change.

You said that you believe the Scriptures give only two reasons for divorce but you did not mention what they are. Most likely you are referencing adultery and abandonment. I don’t know if you qualify because of adultery but it definitely sounds as if you’ve been abandoned, financially, emotionally, and spiritually, even if your husband continues to reside in your house. 

When a couple enters into the sacred covenant of marriage you make promises to be sexually faithful and to be faithful to provide, protect, and care for the one you are marrying. Abandonment isn’t simply physically leaving the home you share, it is failing to keep your covenantal promises with no recognition, no remorse, and no repentance. It’s an overall lack of faithfulness, maybe not sexually but emotionally, financially, spiritually, relationally. It’s taking care of your own needs at your partner’s expense. It’s not caring, not providing, not protecting, and not honoring. It’s leaving the relationship even when you haven’t physically left the physical domain.  

So dear one, God knows your betrayal. God understands your pain. Even though you felt his blessing on your choice of a life-partner, he does not control your husband’s choices any more than he controlled Israel’s choices.  

I know you do not want a divorce, but the truth is, you have already been divorced, perhaps not legally yet but emotionally and spiritually. Now it’s time for you to heal and the only way to do that is to live in truth and reality and not what you wished would be.  

I fear sometimes the church has made the same mistake with the sacredness of marriage that the Pharisees in Christ’s day made with the sacredness of the Sabbath.  Jesus’ “irreverent” behavior on the Sabbath infuriated the religious leaders. He wasn’t following the “rules,”  

He healed people. He allowed his disciples to pick grain. Yet when challenged, Jesus responded by asking, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it?” (See Mark 3 and Luke 6).  

Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce because of their hardness of heart. (Matthew 19:8-9) He went on to rebuke the trivial reasons that men divorced their wives and affirm that marriage was meant to be permanent, but even Jesus acknowledged that sometimes it isn’t possible. In the Old Testament, we see that even God divorced Israel and Judah for their hardness of heart. (Jeremiah 3) all the while hoping she would come to her senses and repent.  

Loss of trust and loss of relationship are the consequences of serious, unrepentant sin even in marriage. Stop beating yourself up that you didn’t see this ahead of time and start to move toward God in healing and restoration of your own relationship with him. He is for you not against you. He loves you with an everlasting love and has not abandoned you. He does not ask you to be the sacrificial lamb, he already provided one. Jesus. 

Just because you are a Christian counselor doesn’t mean you can work magic in your marriage. You cannot change your husband. You may influence him and invite him into change, but ultimately his change of heart and habit is between him and God. Click To Tweet

In my book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship I speak about my own struggle dealing with my destructive relationship with my mother. As a Christian and Christian counselor, I felt like I should know what to do to fix this. I could not. All I could do was work on me and heal so that I would not be destroyed. Please get yourself into some supportive relationships and perhaps godly counsel so that you can start your healing process.

Friends, how have you gotten beyond the pride that “this shouldn’t have happened to me” and accepted the truth, that you can begin your own healing process?


  1. Sheep on December 4, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Wow Leslie, That was a really powerful letter and response. Thank you for articulating everything so well!

  2. Susanne on December 4, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Leslie, I love how you said: “you can’t keep your marriage covenant intact by yourself”. This is so true! I had a similar marriage and I can certainly relate to this person’s story. I prayed before we got married because I wanted to make sure he was the right man for me and I was right for him. We met in church and he sure said and did all the right “Christian” things until much to my surprise, after 1 year of marriage and then the anger and rage that was bottled up inside of him from who knows when came out. I am a counselor as well and realized quickly that it didn’t mean he would listen to me. I did not want a divorce either, however, the verbal abuse turned physical. We had already gone for several, and I mean several counselling sessions, alone and together but he did not want to change. He wanted me to accept him the way he was, abuse and all. No thank you. At first I wanted to stay married and live separate, hoping and praying for change. Then he gave me that certificate of divorce. It was then that I thanked the Lord for setting me free and giving me His peace. My husband never, ever actually repented except for yelling loudly at me before we separated, “OK I’m sorry I pushed you down”, no true repentance at all! I have truly forgiven my ex from my heart and can now pray for him now and then when I think about him, without any sorrow, hurt or pain. Even though we are divorced and I went through 12 of our 13 years of marriage in fear, hurt and pain I am now free to pray and want him to be in God’s will. God has changed my heart over the years. Leslie, I have learned so much from your blogs
    and books over the past few years and I thank God for you.

  3. many years on December 4, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    When any of us are in a relationship where we are on a roller coaster of circular reasoning which gets us no where in the dilemma, WE MUST TRUST THE LORD to save us from ourselves, and our angst. It is the only way we will plow through this unfairness. And one does need to daily war against the deceit of sinfulness in the other person, even though that is truly their own problem, as we don’t war against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and evil in high place. We have our own short-comings too, but if we are truly in tune with the Holy Spirit, and are desiring God’s will for our life,

    I feel that Leslie answered those questions of how to get out of the funk we are in, by moving forward and letting go of what we cannot change. It is truly the only way we will keep our sanity. God cannot change your husband, you cannot change your husband, and when the frustration of that fact lingers IF we don’t get a handle on it, and get on with our own life, it will eventually drive us insane.

    The wolf in sheep’s clothing aspect, we understand that. Yet Jesus is the Good Shepherd and will protect us from the wolves. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, my Father who gave them to me, is greater than all, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand.” God holds our lives in his hands. He does not desert us. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    I think that sometimes we are so caught up in this life and what we think it is supposed to be providing for us, that we forget we are pilgrims and strangers here upon the earth, and we shouldn’t be seeking our own bliss, or our own desires to be met by human men. Our husbands may leave us emotionally, or not be there for us spiritually, and I think that is where we need to divide our thinking from what a human husband can provide for us. Maybe he has provided material things, but that is just about it. We will starve to death waiting for our husbands to come to our rescue on the Spiritual Front Lines,if he has no desire to even do that for himself, how can he do that for his wife?

    We need to keep pursing godliness, holiness, in our own heart, mind, and soul, and yes God did say we would suffer persecution and tribulation, and no, we did not expect that to happen from our marriages. Yet, we really were not promised a perfect marriage, because we are not perfect beings. And yes, I had a similar situation when I got married too. I felt I did all the right things, plus the fact I was 25, and not getting any younger. But I also did see the red flags, but because of doctrinal dogma that was taught about marriage, which some of it was skewed rhetoric, since my husband forced me to have sex before marriage,And I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, or get council, and I was not taught to say ‘no’.in the first place. Before we had sex, I thought I was marrying a Christian man who had been brought up in a Christian family, and that just because he went to church he was ‘safe’ to be with. And then I felt I was doomed to marry him. The church I attended really let their young people down. I felt like I had to ‘obey’ the verse in the old scripture that if a man forces a maiden to lie with her, that he is to marry her. That is really the only reason I married my husband. Talk about religion being skewed. I mean, he did ask me to marry him because ‘we needed each other’ was his reason. Yeah.But the church was cult-based, and did not cater to supporting young women and wives. We were brought up with ‘submit’ submit’ submit’. We live and learn, and when we think we are obeying the Lord, and then is all blows up in our face, I know there are many wives who have gone through the same type of religious farce.

    Keep praying, and yes, I am stuck too. My husband is not the type to go to a counselor, So there is no hope in that venue. I too have read many books, taken counsel from others, In my case, I really have no conviction that my husband is even a believer. He is a ‘religious’ man, but there is no evidence that he is really saved. So, in that regard, I could separate from him, and God would be my witness to that fact. But how do you convince church and family of something they aren’t even aware of because they don’t live with one’s husband on a daily basis. Yes. I feel your angst, as it is frustrating,

    BUT GOD is the only answer, and there will be a way provided that you will be able to bear it, even under pressure. And yes, we are fragile, and the more we have to live in the circumstances which tear us down on a daily basis, it eats away at our resolve to continue to even want to be in the marriage. I feel like I am that empty vessel, empty of self, and the only thing, and the BEST thing we can do is to keep continually filling ourselves up with God’s Word, and also getting support online, from others who can support us in our stuck relationship. God will provide a way of escape so that you will be able to bear it. I have reams, and reams, of printed up material which I still go to daily for support, as it is a daily fight against the enemy of our souls. The battle is never ending. So, we let go and let God do it for us. Stop the internal fighting, the circular reasoning, as it really does get one nowhere.

    Read Hebrews chapter eleven. We are in Satan’s domain, yet greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world. We shrink for the cross the Lord has for us to bear, which we inadvertently created through ignorance, or whatever. No one enjoys suffering especially when it is at the hands of someone you thought was going to be your life partner. And, yes, I know there are sites which say to ‘stay with your husband’ as you might cause his salvation. But, when all is said and done, it is up to the individual to make that choice.

    The Holy Spirit is in the world to convict the world of sin. We can only say so much to our husband’s and then it is up to them to change, and when we don’t see the changes, we have to believe that we have done the work of believing and obeying God’s Word. Go to Karla Downing’s Change Your Relationship site, her blog, and her Face Book page http://www.facebook.com/notes/karla-downing/christian-marriage-h... and subscribe to her news letter. She has many good insights about difficult marriages, as she was in one too. She also has a new You Tube video about distancing oneself from mentally depressing situations. She has a wealth of positive affirmation on her sites, just like Leslie does here.

    You just have to keep plodding onward, don’t give up!

    • Aly on December 16, 2019 at 8:08 am

      Many Years,
      You wrote:
      “Keep praying, and yes, I am stuck too. My husband is not the type to go to a counselor, So there is no hope in that venue. I too have read many books, taken counsel from others, In my case, I really have no conviction that my husband is even a believer. He is a ‘religious’ man, but there is no evidence that he is really saved. So, in that regard, I could separate from him, and God would be my witness to that fact. But how do you convince church and family of something they aren’t even aware of because they don’t live with one’s husband on a daily basis. Yes. I feel your angst, as it is frustrating,”

      It isn’t YOUR obligation or duty to convince your church or family of your situation or if you choose to separate.
      You mentioned in your full post the onward pursing of Godliness.
      This posture I believe opens many freedoms and frees us of needing approval of any ‘others’ above God. It’s part of the peace that sometimes ‘others’ don’t understand.
      Pursuing godliness ‘in action’ is very different than the speaking of this.

    • Nancy on December 22, 2019 at 3:34 am

      Many years,

      I get the sense that you are isolating yourself. Is this accurate?

      Can I share what I,’m learning? I’m learning that the ‘you’s’. in Acts are not singular but rather they are plural. That means that the practicing of our faith is not an individual exercise. We walk out our faith in community.

      The Spirit draws us towards the Body. The temptation to isolate is not of The Lord. In my case it came from the overpower western cultural message of ‘individuality’ coupled with a crippling fear of being hurt by people. I knew that God wouldn’t let me down but I knew that his people very well might.

      My prayer for you is that you would begin to exercise the horizontal reality of the cross. That you would be led to a healthy church that invites you into ongoing relationship with believers.

      We are sheep. Sheep live life in a flock.

  4. Barbara on December 4, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing the crux of our dilemma and it’s resolution all in one blog.

    I am a happy graduate from your CORE program and reading your books, blogs and webinars. Marriage counseling provided the witness I personally needed that exposed the damaging truth I was seeing. I stayed “well”, grew myself strong, and graduated my kids from homeschooling before I divorced. Two months past the divorce being final I now live each day with the joy of God’s truth and peace as my constant companions. It is wonderful, the way God made us to be! The daily damage of living with a “hurricane” is over.

    God bless you for setting us free with God’s truth. God hates what leads to divorce but He allows divorce as a merciful means to set us free from those who refuse to let His love live in them. With Jesus in us, God saw marriage as the ultimate relationship on earth to reflect God’s love between Him and His church. But a destructive marriage in no way reveals God’s love for His people. That is not a marriage but slavery to sin, the very sin Jesus died for to set us free. We were never called to be victims of someone’s refusal to live in Christ and love as God loves, a love which empowers us to love others, even our enemies, when we let Him. Thank you for my new life in Christ void of being abused anymore. It is glorious!

    • Sunshine on December 10, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      It was so encouraging to hear about your story of how you built up your CORE strength and stayed well to graduate your kids from homeschooling before the divorce. Can you share a little bit about how you managed to stay well in a destructive marriage? This is my deepest struggle right now. My health deteriorated because of the stress my husband’s abuse created in the home. I used to have a full-time job but now I’m not well enough to work so I’m staying home. I’ve been learning to develop my CORE strength too and learning and trying to grow healthy and strong physically and emotionally. But I find it close to impossible to stay well in such a toxic environment. However I don’t want to just run to a shelter either. I’ve got young kids and I think the best thing is for me to stay well until they are old enough. Any advice?

      • Barbara on December 11, 2019 at 3:54 am

        Hi Sunshine,

        Each situation is so different, I hesitate to give a one-size-fits-all answer. For me, I was bewildered the first 15 years of marriage. So what sustained me was staying close to God, healthy eating (for me that means gluten-free and just the food God made for us to eat, nothing processed…), plus I had a determination to live well (do the right thing no matter how I was treated) as that made me a better person. It wasn’t till the last six years that my desire to fix the marriage motivated my husband to choose separation over reconciliation. That’s the response of someone with a detached character disorder. This transition was also an answer to prayer and relief to me as you can’t physically, mentally, emotionally nor spiritually be in a “marriage” with an abuser, that’s not a marriage. But, depending on the circumstances, you could live well. For the higher call of homeschooling the children I could tolerate a roommate existence and repeatedly forgive the perpetual disdain and apathetic behavior. It’s the exchange I chose in order to homeschool and that empowered me to continue.

        So for the last six years I became strong learning about covert narcissism from a church counselor which led to Cloud/Townsend classes taught at church, and creating online peer support through programs like Boundaries.Me, Leslie Vernick, and a Christian blog about narcissism called “Grace For My Heart” by Pastor Dave Orrison. Then I was able to mature in my understanding and acceptance of my situation. I learned I didn’t make my husband act like he did, it was his choice. Surrounding myself with a support group of friends, leading my own Boundaries small groups and having a Christian counselor witness the apathy and expose the sin and truth is what gave me the courage to leave well the last year. And when I left, I was strong. I was prepared, no longer the bewildered wife of an abuser but a mature woman willing to stand for Godly principles of decency and stay married to a man if he showed signs of maturing or willing to divorce if he refused to engage. He chose divorce and I supported him.

        I don’t know what kind of “abuse” you are experiencing or how your husband responds when his abuse is exposed to wise counsel? That helps determine your options, whether it’s better to stay well or leave well for the kid’s sakes as well as your own. In my first marriage of 7 years I experienced overt narcissism and physically collapsed before I had the courage to move back home with my 5-year-old. Eight years later I remarried thinking I was marrying the best. But I didn’t know about character disorders, wolves in sheep’s clothing, covert narcissism. I’d seen the devastation of divorce on my firstborn and that motivated me to stay in the second marriage for 21 years till the children graduated from high school.

        Not knowing the details of your situation I would keep asking God, yourself and wise counsel “what would make it better?” Truly, having a community of peer support strengthens you to keep fighting the good fight. Have a vision for what needs to happen to get you where you need to be and follow that plan, making changes as needed. If the abuse is “liveable”, when it happens, share with others so you “guard your heart” and protect your mind. Your peer support will keep you in reality which is important as life with a personality disordered individual is always about their distorted “reality” and that’s not healthy. Surround yourself with healthy, state what that is, stick to it and know the truth which will set you free.

        Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life. His truth will set you free to live the abundant life He died for, so you would be free to live in His truth and love. We pray your husband would choose that for himself. But if he doesn’t he needs the consequences of his actions. Proverbs teaches us wise people learn through good advice, fools learn through consequences and evil people you must stay clear of. In the process of my marriage, when consequences had no effect, it occurred to me that staying married to evil actually put me in a position of violating a whole lot of Bible verses that say to stay away from that kind of person. Those verses were put in place to teach us what healthy is and protect us from abuse. Marriage was never meant to be a safe-haven for abusers! All those Godly principles still apply and just because you’re married doesn’t mean expectations for good behavior are null and void!

        My heart goes out to you. I hope this helps, though I know it’s not written according to your situation but mine. If you would like to correspond more in specifics, I would welcome the opportunity. God bless you. May your life and heart be filled with His Holy Spirit wisdom and direction for you and your family.


        • Sunshine on December 13, 2019 at 12:57 pm

          Hi Barbara,
          Thank you so much for your response! I saw a lot of strength and wisdom in you and I praise God for helping you grow into such a strong godly woman even through the difficult circumstances.

          Some specifics of my situation: my husband is an unbeliever. He is very controlling and often orders me around. He doesn’t take no as an answer and will either become verbally abusive or give me silent treatment if I don’t give him what he wants. On average he yells at me very loudly or calls me names about once a week (sometimes more often if he stays home more that week), usually on Saturday mornings. I don’t know why but just when it’s time for everyone to start enjoying their weekend, I can feel that his tension is building up inside, and any small thing can trigger him.The worst part is that he does it in front of the kids, and even though I’ve been trying to stay close to God and respond from my CORE strength, many times I find myself really stressed, and I’d feel headache, stomachae, and my whole body feels sick. It usually takes him one or two hours to calm down. And when he does, he’ll come over and forcefully take me into his arms and start demanding a kiss from me. When I tell him I’m not ready and I need time and space, he will not let me go. He will make jokes while holding me tightly. He does all of these drama in front of the kids. Sometimes he’d say sorry but not a real apology, just to get me to not keep the distance. Sometimes when he yells really loudly and when he acts and looks scary, I’d try to take the kids out to the library to stay away from him for a few hours. But he wouldn’t allow that. He’d stop the kids directly, and coerce them to go back inside the house. Since the kids are scared of his anger, they would comply. I tried to set boundaries with him, but he’s a boundary buster, it just made him more angry, and the abuse cycle hasn’t stopped. He has shown physical aggression and blocked my way a few times, also making the gesture of throwing a cereal box (he didn’t really throw it, but he made the gesture of throwing) at me twice.

          I didn’t know this is abuse until last year. I used to be so confused and miserable, but now God has given me clear perspectives into this whole thing and I feel that I’m becoming stronger. We went to a marriage counselor a few years ago. initially the counselor thought it was just communications issues and helped us work on it. after a while, the counselor noticed that he is the problem, and started asking to work with my husband one on one, and that’s when he stopped seeing the counselor. That was a big red flag to me that he didn’t want to work on himself. Because of that, I’m not too hopeful that he’ll choose to repent and reconcile should I choose to separate.

          Ever since I got sick and had to quit my job a few years ago, his abuse got worse. At one point when he thought I had serious health issues, he was very distant and aloof to me. But bit by bit, by God’s grace, I’ve been recovering, although still not as healthy as many people, I’m doing better due to healthy eating and exercise and staying close to God. Another factor that helped was that he was traveling a lot in the past few months, so that gave me some time to breathe and recover too. He’s been pressuring me to get better and go get a job. Although my heart really treasures the time I spend with the kids at home, I realize that it’s probably wise to start looking for a job to gain some independence back, if my health allows it.

          I’m concerned about my health when he stops traveling and stays home more often. I don’t think he will agree to a “roommate” type of arrangement.

          My kids are seeing a lot of his yelling and anger, but still they would rather me keep the family intact. They told me their biggest fear is a divorce. They are in elementary school. I’ve explained to them how this has been hurting my health, and they understand it. They are really wonderful kids and I just want to do the best for them. My son doesn’t have a good male role model at home and I don’t want him to learn from his dad’s behavior. But I wonder how will separation/divorce impact them? it could be traumatic for them too.

          I’m not a firm decision maker. I’m afraid I’ll start doubting myself after I initiate the separation. I might start missing the good things about him. I don’t like that about myself but I’m just too fearful that I’ll make the wrong choice.

          Any words of wisdom for me in this situation?

          • Barbara on December 15, 2019 at 5:45 pm

            Leslie Vernick we need your input here!!

            You are so right to be concerned about all the issues addressed and the impact any move makes whether staying well or leaving well. Both will have consequences that may be unintended.

            Again, I feel myself wanting to weigh in on deeper details which you may ponder and keep to yourself. Questions of whether you have another place to go every time there is an incident so you minimize bad moments. Wondering how the police could work into this as a good initial scare since you are a citizen of the United States with rights to live in peace and that covers whether you’re married or not. I wonder financially if you’re in a position to leave or if there’s a temporary safe place you can go as you get a job to support yourself and your kids. I do know the biggest concern is for the kids as they look trapped no matter what you choose. That is the hardest thing which is better left to those who have gone that road who can give you options.

            My experience with an overt narcissist ex was that he moved back to his home state after the divorce and I was given child support and full custody of our child whom he rarely saw. With my second divorce from a covert narcissist, I waited till the children were 16 and 18 and the 16 year old chose to live with Dad and grow bitter toward me and not see me. That is a risk that will cost you tears but it is livable and their choice.

            In my first marriage a church advised that I always have my bags packed in my car, ready to leave when a bad incident happened. I did, took the 5 yr old and stayed at a local motel. That was enough that when I returned the next day with an advised self-made definition for a healthy marriage, I was able to accept his refusal to work toward that and we went for divorce with my returning to my childhood home with our child to live with my family till I got a job and my own place to live.

            You are right to call all the things you listed as wrong. I’m guessing he doesn’t do them in public so he actually has self-control but chooses no control when no ones looking. Therefore you need to be the “public eye”, the informant who would step in and stop and prevent this destructive behavior. First and foremost you are a child of God, a human being, and marriage is not a sanctuary city for abuse. See if you have safe options to escape to. You are not causing this, he is. What he needs more than anything is to be stopped. Letting in those who can help protect you is an option that will expose the truth so you and your children and maybe your husband can be set free. He needs to be set free from his bad patterns too. Submitting to them only repeats the cycle which has to be broken.

            I’m praying for your answers. Because your husband persists in his destructive ways, doing nothing is the one solution that will perpetuate the problem.


    • Aly on December 16, 2019 at 8:16 am

      Praise God for your post!
      You wrote:
      “With Jesus in us, God saw marriage as the ultimate relationship on earth to reflect God’s love between Him and His church. But a destructive marriage in no way reveals God’s love for His people. That is not a marriage but slavery to sin, the very sin Jesus died for to set us free. ”

      So very true! I think far too many think that if they suffer long enough that eventually something will get better in their circumstances.
      I believe this posture has been taught in the church for years.

      • Barbara on December 18, 2019 at 8:11 pm

        Thank you for your kind thoughts!

        • SunShine on December 23, 2019 at 7:13 pm

          Thank you Barbara, for sharing your thoughts. Your comments certainly provided lots of fruits for thoughts which I will need to process carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit in the coming weeks. Please do pray for me to have clarity and strength from God.

          Merry Christmas to you!

          • Barbara on December 23, 2019 at 7:25 pm

            Praying for Sunshine! (pun intended)

  5. Connie on December 4, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    I listened to a lecture by Joseph Pote. He did a thorough research on ‘redemption’. It means the dissolving of a covenant not kept. In the Bible, Joseph made a covenant with Egypt. When Egypt broke the terms of the covenant, God redeemed them. He got them out of there. Adam and Eve made a covenant with the devil. The devil made promises that were not kept. Redemption is being freed from that. I found that really enlightening. Joe Pote has a website, too, you can look it up.

  6. Wendy on December 4, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Love this! And love your compassion!

  7. Barbara B on December 4, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    We need to find hope in the truth that we don’t know the end of the story or the whole story yet. Think about Job; none of the tragedies should have happened to him since he was the most cautious and pious man alive. If anyone one could prevent a human tragedy through being careful, it was Job. Yet his story is incredibly tragic. God was up to something with Job and He is up to something with us, too. We just don’t know what it is yet.

  8. Kathy Wilkinson on December 4, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    I love the way Leslie reminds us of how God cares that we are being sinned against. He will faithfully help us to get free of the destructive relationships and restore us from the years the locusts have eaten as we focus on Him to meet our need for love, acceptance, worth and security that He created us for. Many of us have spent most of our lives Performing for acceptance in trying to satisfy these needs. Our Heavenly Father is honestly the only One who can meet these needs perfectly, 100% of the time! We’re on this journey (until we meet HIM face to face) to experience this truth more and more! 🙏

    • JoAnn on December 6, 2019 at 2:23 pm

      Kathy, I really appreciate your perspective. You admonish us to “focus on Him to meet our need for love, acceptance, worth and security that He created us for.” Many of our problems come from trying to have these needs met by fallible humans, when in fact, the Heavenly Father is the only One who can meet our needs for love, acceptance, etc through our relationship with Jesus. We need to learn to lean on Him and trust Him for the outcomes He leads us to.

      • many years on December 12, 2019 at 11:15 am

        Thank you, Kathy, and JoAnn. I am finding out the same thing about our Heavenly Father being the one who defines us and is the one we need to lean on, otherwise, we will always be disappointed in the outcome we expect to happen from the human standpoint. His plans for us are not to harm us but to give us more than we can imagine. It’s the FAITH which really allows mountains to be moved. ‘And you shall find rest unto your souls.’

  9. Free on December 4, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    I wonder what role pride plays in your reasoning to stay in a destructive marriage? It would seem there could be discredit thrown upon your practice by exposing your situation. Yet, if you remove yourself from this destructive relationship, you can live in truth. Will your practice suffer? Probably. People who have used your counsel may accuse you of being a hypocrite. It would seem that you are long overdue to be brave and choose to live in the truth.

    So, when you live in the truth, you may have to ask yourself If what you are living in is marriage. Is it more like being an indentured slave or concubine? Do you find yourself parenting the person you sleep with, or protecting yourself from the fool you brought into your life? Isn’t possible with more reflection, that the whole relationship is just a scam? It isn’t marriage, right? It is something twisted and sick. That can’t be pleasing to God.

    It might take some time to acknowledge that you are not in a marriage. It stands to reason that because you are not really married, none of guidelines associated with marriage apply to you. You are free to escape your trauma and be real with the world. You can acknowledge your poor choice of a partner and come clean to yourself and society. God already knows the truth. He hasn’t been fooled for one minute by the scam relationship. The poor testimony we demonstrate to non Christians by remaining as martyrs to a fake, and ridiculous “marriage” relationship, undermines Christianity. Shame on us for not respecting ourselves as the precious, chosen people we are and blocking the work of the spirit by clinging to a fool.

  10. Janice D on December 5, 2019 at 4:51 am

    It is hard to face our own pride when we feel so beaten down about the failure of a long marriage.We all longed for so much more in our relationship and tried so hard to “ fix” what wasn’t working.If God himself the Creator and Sustainer of all will not violate my husbands free will,what makes me think I can get him to change? It is humbling and also freeing to accept our humanity and cling to Jesus.Look to Jesus,fix our eyes on Jesus,turn our eyes upon Jesus,look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.Come quickly, Lord Jesus.I am now almost 1 1/2 years legally separated after 26 years of marriage to a man who never left his father and mother to cleave to me.It now makes sense that the unity the Bible calls a one- flesh relationship didn’t develop.True intimacy can’t happen without both partners wanting it.I am grateful beyond words for my life now.I will be filing for divorce sometime in the near future.I care about my husband and pray for him.We have a precious son and daughter in law and will always be bound by our love for them.

    • JoAnn on December 6, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      What a great point, Janis D: “If God himself the Creator and Sustainer of all will not violate my husbands free will, what makes me think I can get him to change? It is humbling and also freeing to accept our humanity and cling to Jesus.”

    • Aly on December 16, 2019 at 8:37 am

      Janice D, JoAnn,
      So agree with your post Janice! I’m sorry for your pain and the choices your husband has made. You make excellent truth-filled points above.
      Yes, true intimacy can’t happen when both partners are not FREE from their role with (being child and leaving and cleaving)
      My husband had similar areas of this for years;(
      He married me and made a covenant that he was first not free to actually commit to.
      I pray that your husband will get the help and truth for his heart so that there might be hope for him to see the errors of his loyalty issues.
      I think often ‘some men in general (sometimes women too)’ do struggle with seeing that they have undeveloped areas and that cause them to be ‘unavailable spouses’.

  11. Dianr on December 5, 2019 at 8:08 am

    This is wonderful information- I will refer back to it often as a reminder – love and blessings

  12. Diane on December 5, 2019 at 8:13 am

    People are drawn to people who have healed from their similar trauma – so I would prefer a counselor who could tell me from experience how to heal

    • Barbara B on December 5, 2019 at 5:28 pm

      Yes! Well said! Personal testimony is so powerful. I was just thinking about this lady’s situation. She has been through so much garbage and then on top of that the feelings of shame. I wish I could tell her how mad it makes me that he does wrong and she has to feel the shame. It just goes to show how diabolical the deception is in these men; they are so good at lying. I think they get their power of deceit straight from Satan. They are very clever and very dangerous wolves. There’s nothing for her to be ashamed of. HE should feel ashamed but he probably never will.

  13. Autumn on December 6, 2019 at 5:49 am

    The writer asks what a biblical healing model looks like. The first step to healing a broken marriage is contrition on the part of the abuser. If contrition does not occur there is no hope of healing anything.

    My abusive spouse remained aloof as he criticized, rationalized, avoided and blame shifted all responsibility to his Narcissistic target (usually me). He claimed he was healed in public forums, yet had not walked through contrition and repentance so of course, there was no healing.

    What do you think happened after he made his public proclamation that he was healed? “I am that one in a million men who can actually be healed from being an abusive husband” he said. Then he became more emboldened by the power of his deception! He delighted in the knowledge that he pulled off his delusional plan of presenting himself as super Christian. As “Mr.Helpful” he felt invincible, grandiose and God like.

    However, as time elasped the symptoms of his personality disorder ran amuck with a vengeance. Wise people have pulled away and said he doesn’t seem like himself. In reality, now that he doesn’t have me sanitizing his actions, people are seeing his true self. His true self, the deceptive, exploitive man reigns.

    • Barbara on December 6, 2019 at 6:23 pm

      Your words are so powerful. Thank you for sharing these deep insights into the destructive mindset of an abuser.

  14. Danica on December 6, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    And what do you do when someone claims “to have seen the light”? My husband says God has spoken to him, and he knows now how much hurt he’s caused me. He says he is truly sorry, and please give him another chance…..not move home, but to pursue the marriage again and start spending time together. Do you trust the person? Or is it just “picking up the snake again”?

    • Autumn on December 9, 2019 at 3:21 am

      Danica, actions speak louder than words. Great if he says he “see the light.” You will tell him if and when you are ready to pursue the marriage. Maybe in a year or two. His behaviors are too grevious to be minimized. If he has really changed, he will wait, put you in the decision driver’s seat and behave very, very, differently without a single backsliding event. Even one backslide is proof he is forcing a behavior change, rather than exhibiting true behavioral change.

      Have you seen contrition? Has he apologized to ever person he harmed and revealed his motivation for those actions? Believe me the abuser knows absolutely everything he ever did, it is kept in his own internal bragging record. A changed man will confess everything and have a system in place of accountability partners.

      What is he going to surrender to your control? Money decisions? Sexual Dynamics? Will you gain your rightful equality in those areas of his life?

      Go slow and be late to the party. If he changed you will know it and won’t need any convincing. Sadly, it is far more likely that he has not changed and rather thinks a blanket apology will put an end this ackward situation and restore his reputation.

    • JoAnn on December 9, 2019 at 8:46 pm

      I fully agree with what Autumn said. Time is on your side, and it will reveal the truth about whether his repentance is real. Giving him “another chanced” is about giving him time to get counseling and make some real changes. You could be one of the lucky ones. Both Nancy and Ali (who we haven’t heard from in a while) have a recovered marriage because their husbands were willing to do the work. You’ll need to establish clear boundaries and expectations for this to move forward, in writing. You might find it helpful to read “Redemptive Divorce” by Mark Gaither for guidelines about how to move forward. I wish you well.

    • Danica on December 10, 2019 at 10:54 am

      I think I had my answer before you ladies even replied to my comment. This past weekend, he had our daughter for the weekend, and asked if I would like to go with them to see the Christmas lights displayed downtown. She is 4, and everything is new and exciting to her, so I agreed. He knows that in my heart, I would like to make the marriage work, but that I wanted time to see change. We have been separated a year, and he claims that is too long, and I should know in my heart by now if I want the marriage or not. He says, “either I’m in or I’m out.” So…back to this past weekend…. I went with them to look at Christmas light, and then he invited me to come back to his house and stay the night. When I politely said no, that I didn’t think that would help much at all, and just make a bigger emotional mess, he became hurt and angry, and started telling me how he just needs “a connection with me”, and to feel closer. That it wasn’t just sex, he just needed to feel loved. Well, needless to say, I didn’t go. And the next night, he was out on a date!

      But thank you ladies for your input, encouragement, and prayers!

      • Karin on December 10, 2019 at 3:56 pm

        Danica, you were wise to see this episode for what it really was, MANIPULATION, and not as a heart-felt invitation to share nurturing, and invest in one another. It’s sad that your hsbnd doesn’t have the wisdom to see what he is squandering, but it’s so good that you had the strength to stick with the boundary you have established for the best of reasons. Even if you had stayed, the likelihood of him being out on a date at some later point was just as strong. Keep your eyes on the Lord’s leading, Danica. Be blessed.

      • Aly on December 16, 2019 at 8:55 am

        I think Autumn wrote out some important foundations about the consideration of trying to work toward repair of a marriage.
        The offender must DO all the heavy lifting if that door should be open. And if you are dealing with a repeat offender trust rebuilding takes on a whole other level.
        Given some of posts on this thread, it’s hard to understand what all the offenses are. I’m assuming serious betrayal?
        Even though your husband is missing you and wanting ‘sex’ to ‘feel loved’, as you know this is a selfish place and hole that ‘won’t and can’t be filled’ the way he is dealing with himself.
        He may have more serious underlying issues with addiction that would have to be addressed.
        Good that you are separated and you are not living in ‘spin cycle’!
        He may believe that having sex is the only way he feels close and connected to another. Often this is the case when people are not emotionally spiritually connected to God.
        Offering love from a broken lonely place rather than wanting to love from what they have received from God.

  15. Pam on December 10, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you Leslie

    • Tintax on December 11, 2019 at 1:26 am

      I haven’t been following for a while but I am so grateful to the Lord for His timeous affirmitations- always! He really will never leave us nor forsake us. This is a very exhausting n emotionally draining experience. You’re found wanting, battling so many thoughts, wondering if you’re selfish or hardhearted.Then the Lord will just bring you all the above insight to help you keep your ground- meeting you at your very need!
      Thank you so much ladies!
      It is so hard not to deal with your h only but his family that hurls insults n blames you for everything. I have decided to block them all, my husband as well. As a caring person it’s hard not know how he is doing but i feel this is necessary because everyday i would wake up anxious of what message he has sent me overnight, messages with a mix of remorse, pride, aloofness- so sickening! I am internalising every admonition shared here and praying for the Lord to keep me in His light.

      • JoAnn on December 12, 2019 at 10:57 pm

        Amen, Tintax, the Lord is your strong ally. He is for you and will provide you with what you need. Let the peace of Christ arbitrate in your heart.

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