Feeling Helpless And Hopeless

Morning friends,

I’m going to be starting a weekly podcast soon. We will be doing guest interviews, I’ll be giving information for women, men, and people helpers about destructive relationship patterns and I’d love to answer some questions like I do here. If you’d like to be a guest on my podcast with a question you have, please let me know. Also, if you have an idea for a guest or a topic that you’ve always wanted to see answered, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

This week’s question: I need help. I read all your books and took the steps to separate from my husband (emotional & physical abuse) but my emotions are a mess. He is not doing anything to try to save the marriage or show that he has changed. He hasn't even set up marriage counseling. I don't have any money to go to a Christian counselor. My pastor has told me he can't help me any further, I am stuck.

Answer: You are in a very difficult spot and I’m not surprised your emotions are a mess. Without knowing any more details than you’ve given, I imagine you separated not only for safety reasons but also in the hopes that your husband would “wake up” to his abusive behavior and get the help he needs in order to reconcile and restore your marriage. 

The hard truth however is that he has not taken any steps to address his problem. You feel hurt, angry, discouraged, and frightened. Now what?

Helpless, hopeless, and scared are probably the predominant emotions that mess with your mind. It’s important that you realize that your emotions may be powerful, but they don’t always reflect reality. Things are not hopeless and you are not helpless, it just feels that way right now. Click To Tweet

You can’t fix his problem (his abusive behavior) but you must begin to address and work on your own problems if you are going to get a grip on your emotions as well as learn to live in a healthy way. Your problems may be your fear of living alone, the lack of financial resources, the loneliness you feel, or even the anger and hurt you’ve experienced by his abuse and indifference to your pain. 

You say you don’t have the money to go to a Christian counselor but there is help out there for you if want it and you look for it. If you don’t work on your problems, you will be tempted to return to your abusive spouse without him making any of the changes needed to stop this abusive pattern. Is that what you want? Would that be in the best interests for you, your children, or even your spouse?

I’m not sure what your pastor meant when he said he can’t help you further. I don’t think your pastor can or should be the primary person to counsel you or your spouse with this problem but that does not mean that he or she cannot be instrumental in getting the church to be a supportive resource for you. Sadly, often times when an abused spouse separates, the church withdraws support for both individuals in a troubled marriage.

But since your pastor has offered support to you in the past, ask him if he can recommend a wise woman in the congregation to be a supportive mentor to you during this time. Even though it’s hard to get together personally because of COVID, perhaps you can have some phone support. In addition, check out on-line Bible studies or support groups you can get involved in an order to get around wise and hopefully healthier women as well as grow in your faith. You must now take some proactive steps to help yourself if you are going to learn that you are not helpless.

Second, most communities have resources for abused women. I don’t know where you are but you can usually find these resources in the blue pages of your local telephone directory or Google them on the internet. They provide free counseling and support, sometimes even pro bono legal aid to help you through this process of getting financial support, help in securing a PFA (Protection from Abuse) if needed, and other things that will help you get on your feet right now. These resources may be somewhat limited due to the pandemic, many organizations can only provide the bare minimum of services, but you must seek out and get the help you so desperately need.

There are other churches that offer free or low-cost Christian counseling and if that isn’t an option, there is online counseling (go to www.aacc.net to find a Christian counselor who is experienced in these issues willing to work with you online). There are also low-cost mental health services in most communities as well as universities and colleges that may have interns. They may not be experts in abusive relationship issues, but they may be able to help you deal with some of your fears and runaway emotions.  

There are books you can read on learning to calm yourself down, how to manage emotions, and trauma and recovery. Many of these books are available at a community library or you can go to Barnes and Noble, wear your mask, and read them while there if you cannot afford to purchase them.

Here are some additional resources that you can explore so that you can begin to dig yourself out of the situation you are in and experience healing.  

For additional education and resources on domestic violence, as well as e-learning, go to www.theraveproject.org, or www.peaceandsafety.com, or www.faithtrustinstitute.org.

For help developing a safety plan go to www.theraveproject.org.

The hotline for domestic violence is 800 799 7233.

To find professional Christian counselors experienced in domestic violence, call Focus on the Family Counselors at 800 232 6459 or go to www.theraveproject.org.

In another story, Jesus tells of the persistent widow who keeps pestering the judge until he gives her the justice she needs (Luke 18:1-8). For me, these passages encourage people not to be deterred with a “no” at first. We as women tend to be more passive, less assertive, and are willing to receive a no and feel that is the final answer. But often a no turns into a yes when we continue to plead our case. Recently I read about a gentile woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter from demon possession. Jesus didn’t answer her at first and the disciples eventually asked him to shoo her away because she was bothering them with all her begging. When Jesus finally did answer her he told her he was only there to help the lost sheep of Israel. But that response did not deter this woman. She was desperate AND persistent. She knew she needed help for her daughter and she was not giving up until she got it (Matthew 15:23-28). Jesus commended her faith and tenacity.

Please seek the help you need. The answer isn’t to just learn to live with an abusive spouse. The answer is to get God-centered, strong, and healthy enough to stand firm so that you can invite your husband to do the work he needs to do in order to truly reconcile your marriage. And if that does not happen, you can stand strong with God.

Friends, what have been some of your most helpful books on dealing with runaway emotions and the grief of a broken marriage?


  1. moonbeam on January 20, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    I would like to hear from Don Hennessy, the author of Escape from intimate Control. Also Wade Mullen of Lancaster Bible college who speaks of spiritual abuse and evil in the church. Great interviews, both of them.

    • R on January 22, 2021 at 9:40 am

      For the podcast, I would like to hear from Darby Strickland’s (especially on the topic of how the church should handle abuse) and Joy Forrest, please.

  2. Veronica on January 21, 2021 at 3:57 am

    Leslie my dearest and wonderful helper. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not encountered your site. I don’t exactly remember how I came about your resources but it happened in just the right time, when my life was falling apart. You and a limited number of people have been my rocks for the past three years as I have struggled to organize and retrain my thoughts and emotions from a 20 year verbal abusive marriage. It was downright crazy making, mind controlling, gas lighting, love bombing, and the silent treatment, I had never heard of any of this. I thought it was normal behavior for some marriages as two people became, Why did I think that? Church…teachings of submission, dying to self,, turn the other cheek and others. And I always thought there was something wrong with me.
    But suddenly I woke up one day and realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I was tired of feeling helpless and hopeless in the situation I was in. I started searching for Biblical answers. It became a long and all day task for me. For probably six or seven years maybe more. During all these years I still kept trying to fix things, make them better, I kept trying to improve what I’d do. Always hoping that he’d see me differently and our situation would change. I’d verbally communicate my needs and ask him what I could do to make things better. His answer would be, “I have everything I need, you’re all I need”, it was confusing to understand that response because it conflicted with his behavior.
    I stopped trying to understand and started seeking the root of the problem and I found it through “Patrick Doyle” on a podcast as I searched for Biblical answers on Biblical answers about divorce. There is so much more to my twenty, well almost twenty years of marriage that it would take me days to share with you and others. I would like to be that woman that can provide a little encouragement to others even if it is by sharing a little of my experience through you. I have now been separated for years years and have gone no contact with my x for almost two years, and I’m feeling great. For me, ir was the best decision I made even though I had to face it completely alone with no support from my family nor my church.
    Thank you!

  3. K on January 21, 2021 at 7:22 am

    I found Dr Henry Cloud’s books and YouTube videos incredibly helpful. His content helped me step back from my emotions to observe what my ex was doing. My ex was showing me exactly who he would be if we got back together: abusive and cheating. Once I was able to observe that behavior, I was able to respond to him level-headed and with conviction.
    I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Leslie’s book was one on the first I red in my journey. And I’ve read/listened/watched so much by now I could have probably earned a bachelors degree.
    Above all, download a Bible app and do devotions and read like your life depends on it. In the beginning of my journey especially, Holy Spirit guided and comforted me through God’s word. It felt like he was right there, pointing to things that my heart needed at that very moment. ❤️

  4. H on January 21, 2021 at 8:05 am

    I would be cautious in recommending Focus on the Family as a resource. Both Gretchen Baskerville, author of The Life-Saving Divorce, and blogger Sheila Gregoire, of To Love, Honor, and Vacuum, have been highlighting some of the dangerous advice and misinformation on divorce that Focus on the Family spreads. Their official statement does not allow divorce for physical or emotional abuse.
    There are many other resources that are free online and can be accessed on Facebook or counselors’ blogs: Psalm82 Initiative, Natalie Hoffman with Flying Free, Henry Cloud, Give Her Wings, Sharon Martin, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self Care, etc.

    • Marian on January 21, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      I just feel compelled to reply to this as it was a Focus on the Family Counsellor who first recommended Leslie’s book to me and also one of their counsellors who I went to for counselling. There are lots of people they interview or have resources from that I don’t necessarily agree with but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good resource, I praise God for them or I would not have not heard of Leslie. The issue of divorce is an issue that we each personally have to address but that’s not the main issue here.

      • H on January 21, 2021 at 4:28 pm

        I’m so glad they were helpful to you. I have friends who also benefited from their counseling.
        Leslie mentioned in her post that often both people in an abusive situation are not supported by their churches. I know of hundreds of women who are told by their churches that they must stay with their abuser, and scripture is poorly applied to get them to do so. This is a form of spiritual abuse that occurs every day and puts women and their children at risk for many abuses, even death. My concern is that women and children are looking for help from the church and ministries like Focus on the Family, and are receiving advice that is destructive, even deadly. DV is among the top means of death for women. I take this very seriously, and want churches and ministries to do so, as well.
        You are, of course, free to have a different opinion. I would encourage you to read and listen to people who think differently, though, to make sure you are fully informed in your opinion.

        • Free on January 22, 2021 at 1:19 am

          H, I agree with you about well intentioned Christian groups giving poor advice. Focus is a big and good ministry, however they and other seem to value marriage beyond the safety of the individual. It is a common problem as marriage is often lifted to idolatry in the church.

          I wish more leaders had to courage to speak against fools and evil and attempt to protect us from them (which is biblical). I don’t think it matters if your fool or evil person is your spouse or the man on the moon. Danger is danger. We need to be told to get out, not say and placate a fool.

          • H on January 22, 2021 at 6:39 am

            Yes, and people are leaving church altogether because of the harms caused.

      • Nancy on January 23, 2021 at 1:53 pm


        Same for me. I would not have heard of Leslie nor been able to apply her EDM advice to my marriage (which has been saved by the Grace of God), were it not for my Focus counsellor.

        I do not know where I would be without her strong, Godly guidance.

      • Gretchen on March 6, 2022 at 11:22 am

        It’s great that the Focus on the Family counselor recommended Leslie’s excellent book, but you need to know that FOTF NEVER condones divorce for domestic violence, not physical or emotional abuse. They even tell the wives of pedophiles that their goal is to save their marriage. Something isn’t right at FOTF these days. See their official stance of divorce: http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfdivorce and see their official article on pedophilia: http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfpedophilia

  5. Faith on January 21, 2021 at 8:56 am

    How do I attach to the podcast.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 21, 2021 at 7:27 pm

      I don’t have the podcast yet, but it’s coming. Any title suggestions for it?

      • Nancy on January 23, 2021 at 2:42 pm

        ‘Loving your spouse well: When turning the other cheek enables sin’

        ‘My cheek is sore, Lord. Do I need to keep turning it?’

        ‘Tolerating repetitive sin is not Christian’

        ‘Loving your destructive spouse, Biblically’

        ‘Is dying to self killing you? ‘

        ‘Applying the Bible to destructive relationships’

        ‘Following the Lord out of destructive relational patterns’

        ‘Submitting to your spouse’s sinful behaviour is not Biblical’

        ‘Loving your spouse well: do not submit to sinful behaviour’

        ‘Tolerating bad treatment is not cool, it’s also not Christian’

        • Aly on January 23, 2021 at 2:55 pm

          Those are all so great!!
          What about-
          “Tolerating, submitting, & enabling destructive behaviors do NOT bring Glory to God”

          • JoAnn on January 23, 2021 at 3:11 pm

            Aly and Nancy, all of those are great. Those statements are the nutshell version of all that we are learning here.

      • Robin on January 28, 2021 at 12:06 am

        Aha Moments!
        Shining Biblical truths and wisdom on difficult relationships

      • Kathryn Wood on January 28, 2021 at 9:49 am

        Someone above suggested “ask Leslie “

  6. Free on January 22, 2021 at 1:08 am

    I would like to hear survivor testimonies, what they did, who helped them and how they got out of a destructive marriage. I would to hear from experts on PTSD, narcissm in all its forms, including altruistic narcissm.

    I would like to hear an interview with Evan Stark and a review of his ground breaking work on coercive control.

    Adult children who lived through a destructive home should have a voice. Often bloggers speak for their children. I would like to hear from them. That would be a great reality check and help peel away denial.

    Let’s talk about denial. What it is? How to address it and how to get out of it? What about trauma triggers? What are they?

    Call the blog– “Ask Leslie”

  7. Veronica on January 22, 2021 at 4:46 am

    Hi! I used to listen to them years ago and yes your right about them giving priority to marriage instead of the problem. I stayed with him for many years due to what I heard. I stopped looking for other resources because I thought they definitely knew what they were talking about. I didn’t agree but I didn’t want God to get mad at me because of separation or divorce and so I decided to do as they said be more loving, patient understanding to his needs as Jesus would. As a result things escalated and he used that (we both listened to their program)) say their was no such thing as divorce, God hated it.

    • Moonbeam on January 23, 2021 at 12:14 am

      The worst waste of 30k was Paul Hegstrom’s Life skills. We did individual and group sessions. It was a huge blob of nonsense designed to help abusers avoid accountiblity and blame shift abuse it onto their victims. Crazy nonsense about how the victim wasn’t really a victim. The leader is dead now, but the delusional program he dreamed up and put a “God” stamp on continues. Beware.

      • Nancy on January 23, 2021 at 1:46 pm

        30 K? Do you mean $30 000.00 ?

        • Moonbeam on January 23, 2021 at 11:44 pm

          Yup. 30 thousand dollars over a couple of years. The individual sessions with Dr. DB cost thousands and thousands a week to watch videos and have couples counseling. DB was unlicensed, yet held a PhD. She did the Stepping Stones portion. My word! Who would ever counsel an abuser with his victim? Even we know better than that!

          • Aly on January 25, 2021 at 10:15 am

            This is awful! It’s also where psychology and therapy help get such a bad reference in the church communities and therapy in general gets blanketed! Moonbeam, I’m sad your ex-h chose to not take account and change and how that process was ‘not helpful’ but Added to being harmful to the relationship.

  8. Janice D on January 22, 2021 at 5:31 am

    My understanding of marriage was shaped by the “ God hates divorce” theology/idolatry as well as my personal experience of my moms staying with my abusive father. I compared my treatment of my husband to my fathers and kept telling myself it wasn’t as bad as what my mother endured.It was a long slow process of failed marriage counseling and reading multiple “ Christian”marriage books and never being able to resolve core issues with my husband that led me to this site.Leslie’s teaching was part of Gods “ wise counsel of many” for me.Patrick Doyle,Dr Henry Cloud( Necessary Endings) as well as Barbara Roberts( A Cry for Justice) and my personal counselor all provided a new way for me to come to terms with what was and wasn’t happening in my marriage.The many women( and a few men) here have provided much appreciated support.My relationship with the Lord deepened once I stepped out of the”fog” of my 26 year marriage.I separated to find healing,clarity and truth and over these past 2 1/2 years God has been so kind and provided those very things to me. It is not always easy and the grief still comes in waves but is less frequent and intense now.The psalms are a wonderful soothing balm for weary souls and where we see the beauty of Gods heart for his wounded daughters.

    • Moonbeam on January 23, 2021 at 12:23 am

      I too swore I would take absolutely anything that was done to me. I HAD to because I was married. I had no choice because Eve sinned in the garden and that was my lot as a woman. Anybody else fed this cruel lie? I still have trouble shaking the teaching today.

    • Veronica on January 26, 2021 at 8:36 am

      I could have been the one writing this. It’s my experience to the “t”. Mine was 20 year marriage. Ended 3 years ago.

  9. Autumn on January 23, 2021 at 12:20 am

    I would like to hear from a body language expert on such things as how to be aware of pre explosive posturing. I heard a lecture from a police detective who talked about how to spot lying through body language and facial expressions. That would be interesting too.

  10. LSpurgron on January 26, 2021 at 8:18 pm

    My comments are not listed on this blog for some reason.

  11. Robin on January 26, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    Leslie’s Spotlight;
    Bringing Biblical wisdom and truth to destructive relationships.

    Wording needs a little tweaking,
    a picture of a lamp, or spotlight shining bright comes to me..maybe a lamp…from Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.

  12. Jazz on January 27, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    I have a question: how much do you forgive? I have an emotionally abusive husband who knows I am compassionate and forgiving. I am stuck in a cycle of abuse where husband will lash out at me with verbal/emotional abuse, then treat me well, even though I knew the next blow up is inevitable. I am checked out of this marriage, and don’t want to keep forgiving and forgetting because I know, in the distant future, the old habits are going to return. I am now pretty set on divorce and don’t want to keep giving him chances and forgiving him. At what point do you draw the line, visit the divorce lawyer, and get the papers ready to serve to him?

    • Leslie Vernick on January 27, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Perhaps forgiving him doesn’t mean you continue allowing him to harm him. You may need to divorce or separate because he’s unwilling to change his destructive behaviors. So forgiveness is possible but reconciliation may not be.

      • Jazz on January 28, 2021 at 11:32 pm

        Thanks Leslie. I appreciate you taking the time to reach out with your wisdom.

    • Aly on January 28, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      I’m sorry for what is going on. What interventions have you been able to exploring this dynamic (crazy cycle) for yourself individually and has your spouse done anything besides lashing out then treating you kind?
      I’m not saying it’s a joint problem but something on your part has kept you continuing aboard the crazy train.
      Getting off the crazy train doesn’t always mean divorce, papers etc. sometimes it means separating and seeing what interventions your spouse chooses to get to deal with his reactive and most often irrational lash out behaviors…

  13. Sarah on February 8, 2021 at 12:28 am

    I’ve been reading your book…thank you it is putting to words what I have not been to articulate about my experience. I’d suggest topics for the blog like:
    – How to stand firm and stop criticism/ berating/ arguing in godly way
    – How to pray for your spouse when you don’t have hope for him to change
    – How to grieve loss of the marriage
    – How to build back your self image / resilience after all the criticism
    – How to not lose yourself and hope/vision for the future and because of destructive relationship
    – What I wish I realized / recognized before saying I Do… Warning signs from married women to unmarried women

    Maybe name for the podcast could be “All Things New” like when Jesus says we will have trouble but take heart I have over come the world.

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