For Better or Worse – What Does That Mean?

Morning friends,

Things are looking up with my new assistant Kim. She is techno savvy and hopefully will help me streamline things so I don’t keep dropping the balls that are in the air.  Thanks for your prayers.

I hope you got a chance to listen to the RBC Webinar on Destructive Marriages that I did with Chris Moles last Wednesday.  He’s a pastor in West Virginia and works with abusive men.  We made a great team and I think his perspective and experience in working with abusive men can be a huge help to the church leadership.  We’re exploring working on something more together and I would appreciate your prayers on this.  Here’s the link if you’d like to listen to it:

While there I got a copy of RBC ministries booklet on God’s Protection of Women: When Abuse is Worse than Divorce.  This is a great short overview of scripture showing that God is for the oppressed, God protects and values women and God doesn’t value the sanctity of marriage more than the safety and sanity of the individuals in it.  To get your copy go to   Because RBC Ministries has excellent credibility in the church (they publish Our Daily Bread), most pastors would likely value this little booklet as a help to them in dealing with your marital situation.

I want to ask you a question.  If I gave you a million dollars how would you feel?  What would be different about your life as a result of my generosity?  (Stop and answer these questions before you read on).

I’ve been studying through Ephesians recently and I am overwhelmed with God’s generosity and lavish love towards us.  He blessed us with every spiritual blessing (1:3).  He chose us to be in him before the creation of the world and made us blameless in his sight. (1:4).  He adopted us into his family (1:5).  We have redemption, forgiveness, and the riches of God’s grace, which he LAVISHED upon us (1:8).  He made known to us the mystery of his will (1:9).  And, this is only the beginning of God’s goodness and love and generosity towards us.   But do you feel it?  Is your countenance different because of what God has done for you?  Does your life reflect this awareness, or do you live more often like an abandoned orphan?

Your spouse may not cherish you but I want you to know, deep down inside your heart, that you are cherished, loved, valued, and precious to God.  Can you start to live like a loved, valued, cherished and precious person today?

Today’s question comes from a response to last week’s blog on Sarah and 1 Peter’s comments about her submission to her husband Abraham.

Today’s Question:  Thank you for your answer on this issue and I concur 100 percent. Can I ask this question….What about the vow we all say before God…’for better for worse’? Do we have to stay in the marriage when it is ‘for worse’?  Is that breaking our vows before God?

Answer:  The traditional marriage vows that people typically recite in the United States are not taken directly from the Scriptures but from the Book of Common Prayer which was first published in 1662.

That does not mean that these vows do not contain scriptural elements, but for starters let’s look briefly at Gods view of marriage.

We know that marriage was first established by God (Genesis 2:18-25) and is a picture of Christ and the church.  Marriage is meant to be life-long and a permanent commitment. We also know that divorce was not God’s best, but because of sin, occurred (Deuteronomy 24:1; Mark 10:5-10).

We know that God hates divorce, (Malachi 2:16) but there are lots of other things that God hates as well. (See for example: Psalm 5:5,6; Proverbs 6:16; or Isaiah 61:8).

When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30,31).

To love someone biblically means that we are to seek another person’s well-being, even when it is difficult and may cost us. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ calls us to likewise love our enemies and to do good to those to mistreat us (Matthew 5:44). The good we’ve defined in earlier blogs as a moral good, not a being nice kind of good.

Therefore, how do we practically live that out that command when we are in a relationship with someone who repeatedly lies to us, mistreats us, tries to control us, or abuses us?

Too often those struggling in destructive marriages receive counsel from Christian people helpers (counselors, pastors, and lay leaders) that God commands them to maintain a warm and friendly relationship with their spouse (including having sexual intimacy), for better or worse, meaning even when he or she is repeatedly destructive toward us we are bound by those vows.

But is that counsel biblical? Are we ever biblically permitted to end a relationship or distance ourselves from someone because of their unchanged, repeatedly sinful behavior?

Too often, we have misunderstood the biblical command of unconditional love as meaning unconditional relationship. There is a subtle but important distinction.

God love for humankind is unconditional but he does not offer anyone unconditional relationship. He tells us that our sin separates us from him and that without repentance we have no fellowship with him ([truth]1 John 1:6[/truth]). Our sin does not separate us from God’s love ([truth]Romans 5:8[/truth]) but it does separate us from his presence ([truth]Isaiah 59:1-2[/truth]).

Jesus distanced himself from certain religious leaders because he didn’t trust them. He loved them ([truth]John 3:16[/truth]), but he knew what was in their heart ([truth]John 2:24[/truth]). Throughout much of the Old Testament, God withdraws his presence from his people because of unrepentant sin.

God calls people to a covenant relationship that is like a marriage. He not only wants us to enjoy his love, he wants us to love him back ([truth]Deuteronomy 6:5[/truth]). He not only promises us his faithfulness, he requires that we be faithful in return ([truth]Deuteronomy 4:23-24[/truth]). The book of Hosea is a picture of God’s love for his unfaithful spouse (Israel). He longs for her, but his relationship with her will remain broken until she is willing to change (repent).

In this sinful world there is no perfect person and in every relationship there is some brokenness and suffering. That’s why Jesus tells us that when someone sins against us we are to go and talk to that person so that we can be reconciled. However, he also adds, if they refuse to hear you after you have repeatedly tried to get them to listen, he says, “Treat them as you would a pagan and a tax collector” ([truth]Matthew 18:15-17[/truth]).

Jesus says, if there is no repentance, the relationship you once had changes. Pagans and tax collectors were not trusted, nor were they friends, although a good Jew would help a pagan or tax collector who was in need, fulfilling the biblical mandate to love one’s enemy.

One person can try to make a bad relationship better all by herself by not repaying evil for evil, which may eliminate some strife and dissention, but one person cannot turn a bad relationship into a good relationship all by herself. It is an unfair and heavy burden we have often unknowingly placed on people because we want to be biblical.

When we promise to marry someone for better or worse, I don’t think anyone promises unconditional relationship.  I don’t think a man or woman promises to honor and cherish a spouse even if he beats you, cheats on you, lies to you and treats you like garbage. Watch this YouTube video to see the craziness of this kind of thinking

What we do promise in those sacred vows is that in good times and bad, whether we struggle with life, health, economics, and children, we will work it out TOGETHER.  When one person breaks that promise to work it out, true reconciliation is not possible.

Yes, we are indeed called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love ([truth]Ephesians 5:1[/truth]), but let’s not put a yoke on someone to do something that God himself doesn’t do. God is good to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have relationship with both.

When someone repeatedly sins against us and is not repentant and willing to change, it’s not possible to have a healthy or safe relationship.

Being in close fellowship with someone is not a right, even if both people are Christians. It is a sacred privilege. The apostle Paul advises us to distance ourselves from people who are continually destructive, especially if their behaviors or attitudes are sinful and unacceptable, both to us and to God ([truth]1 Corinthians 5:9-11[/truth]; [truth]2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15[/truth]).

Loving a person unconditionally may indeed require sacrifice and suffering but we suffer and sacrifice for another person’s good, not to allow them to continue to sin against us. That is foolishness, not biblical love. Too many individuals have been wrongly instructed that biblical love means they must be nice and suffer quietly, even as they are being mistreated and abused.

But as C.S. Lewis wisely wrote, “Love is more stern and splendid than mere kindness.”


  1. Pam on March 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Amen and amen Leslie! I love the way you wield that sword of truth so that it slashes through the lies that hold us captive here! Looking back over 35 years of an abusive marriage, the ‘twisted thinking’ you expose in this blog is what kept me apprehensive enough to do nothing– and guilty enough to say nothing for so long. I felt I had to endure ‘for love’s sake’– but realizing I did not have a love big enough to ‘fix’ what was happening made me doubt everything about my relationship with God. This wasn’t God’s love– but only my *idea* of it. A ‘twisted’ idea. Ultimately, you can ‘tell a tree by it’s fruit.’ Putting love that ‘seemed right to me’ in place of the truth, did not free me to love either myself or my husband well. It kept me living a ‘half life’ that was a discredit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the freedom it brings. Giving my husband the power to define me was an indication of an even deeper heart issue. My marriage, my family– and other good & godly things had taken God’s place, but I did not recognize what was happening. I did not recognize ‘the tree’ until I’d eaten years and YEARS of bitter fruit… God is so mercifully JEALOUS! He will not rest while we love other things more! He *made* us– and because He made us for Himself– His goodness and mercy pursues us each and every day of our lives– even when we’re busy pursuing other things (Psalm 23:6; Hosea 2). I’m finding that one of the most loving things I can do is learn how to let go of some things and cling fast to others! “You may find you need to let go of many things.” you write. “Hanging on to unrealistic expectations, to damaging emotions, and to *lies* is like trying got run the race of life with weights attached to your belt. They slow you down, tire you out, and may even convince you that you can’t make it… Make a promise to yourself to regain your life by letting go. Then practice letting go of the things you know are weighing you down…” The Emotionally Destructive Relationship p.209.

  2. Brenda on March 12, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Leslie, I love the YouTube video. That seems to be what most of the church hierarchy hears when you say your vows. I cannot hear you talk about this enough. It reinforces my choice to leave even though I am told that I was not thinking about “eternity” when making that decision and marriage is very short and then we will be in heaven. Short perhaps to those who have a happy, loving, respectful marriage or even one that may be slightly disappointing. Mine was destructive. It was taking my very soul and that should belong to God and God alone. I am still a work in progress, but getting so much better. I will be looking for the booklet from RBC. I think I will get enough for the pastor and elders, as well. God Bless you

  3. Amy on March 12, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    What a great answer to the question. I will definitely be sharing this on my Facebook page.

    I would like to comment on one thing you stated, “We know God hates divorce.”
    This made me cringe. I felt like, there it is again, the verse from Malachi being taken out of context. Yes, God hated divorce or “putting away” (KJV) because of how the men were dealing treacherously with their wives. They were covering themselves with violence as if with their garments and it saddened God to have the men go about like they were doing nothing wrong and questioning why God was no longer pleased with them. It was because He saw how they were mistreating their wives and therefore, He would not bless them or express pleasure towards their offerings. And because of their behavior, God said He hates divorce and I can almost hear the exasperation in His words.
    And while I truly believe God is sad to see people divorce, I do not think it’s because divorce is sin (is it truly a sin?) but because men have evil, hardened, selfish hearts that destroy marriages. Those are my humble thoughts.

    When my abusive ex of 20 years walked out on me 5 years ago and I said no more and filed for a divorce, I suddenly had that verse thrown in my face as if I were somehow the biggest sinner on the face of the earth. Then there were those people that tried to lessen my guilt maybe or soften the words somewhat, who would say to me that while God hates divorce, He also hates a lot of things. And I truly wonder if that statement is any better. To me it is simply a watered down version of telling someone how much God hates divorce.

    It was those few words taken from Malachi which had the ability to make me feel trapped in an abusive marriage and I felt that if God hates divorce then He would hate me too for even thinking of it. Yet ironically, most of Malachi 2 is about the violence of men towards their wives. I believe for many women living in abusive marriages this one small line from scripture can have the biggest impact on their decision to leave or stay.
    In the Christian community, divorce has almost been elevated to that of so many other sins, and again, I wonder if it is even truly a sin. Or is it the result of the true sin which are the destructive attitudes and actions of the people in the marriage?

    Anyway, just my humble thoughts. I love your blog and books, and always refer people to you that are caught in destructive relationships.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Amy I agree with you. In that verse in Malachi, “I hate divorce” what God is really referring to is “I hate casual divorce, I hate divorce for trivial reasons, I hate you men treating your wives as if they were used tissues that you just throw away when you’re tired of them.” But typically most people just camp out on those three words, “God hates divorce” and also forget so much other things that God hates. I’ve written elsewhere about the Malachi passage and so for the sake of brevity I used those 3 words as short cut to indicate that’s not really all God hates but for those who may not be familiar with my other blogs or writings, you are correct. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Peg on March 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you!!!! Your words mean so much to me today! This response addresses some of the issues I have dealt with and am dealing with right now. My spouse had divorce papers drawn up a few weeks ago and they arrived in the mail last week. I had been hoping for some small willingness on his part to begin steps to reconcile. We separated 9 months ago and as time progressed, his heart grew even more hardened and his anger grew as well. We couldn’t even have a civil conversation on the phone. So, for this past week, I have been hurting as I have faced the truth that my marriage is dead. And I have repented to God for even thinking of signing the papers to allow this divorce. Even though this man professes to be a Christian, the fruits of his life right now are cruelty, mistreatment, dishonor to God, selfishness, and abuse. So, I am treating him as a pagan because he refuses to repent and turn from his sinful ways. I have signed the divorce papers and am grieving the loss of my marriage and the breaking of my vows before God. Your words are a deep comfort to me today and address perfectly what I am experiencing. Thank you! My pastor has confirmed what you write. I have fought the good fight and done all that I know to do to attempt to save my marriage. I have worked to forgive my spouse and I have continued to pray that he will be convicted and be brought to repentance. Thank you so much, Leslie, for being such a strong vessel flowing with the truth that we all need to realize and accept. God bless you!

  5. Sarah on March 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I have heard Matt 5:44 preached my entire life for us to do good to those that mistreat us. It was always said to pray and allow God to change the “bad” person (abuse or abusive is a word never used). They said God would change them as long as we pray hard enough and we are doing our part as good godly wives. We were to win our husbands over with our good conversation (I Peter 3:1). Women who endure “hardship” (once again we don’t use the word abuse) were held in high regard by my church.

    Thank you for using this same scripture and defining the meaning of “good”. I endured physical/emotional/sexual abuse for 3 years, while trying to figure out how to treat my husband good; to be more submissive; to win him with my good conduct and conversation. In the end, I determined that I wasn’t good enough.

    You have touched on many of my struggles in this blog and provided a lot of solid answers. Thank you so much!

    • Leslie Vernick on March 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      You’re welcome. Thanks for your encouragement.

  6. Mary on March 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Oh Lesley how timely this is for me today personally and of course all the time. When one gets hung up on a narrow definition, of this topic, it takes God’s pure understanding and degrades it and Him. For when asked about was the most important commandment Jesus outlined it in Mark as you brought out, clearly that loving God first whole souled and then your neighbor as your self. Mine never loved himself all his life and he’s 63!So how could he love me besides of the severe abusive I endured with no admission or then repentance!! Still doesn’t. The bible example in Hosea I love! God is so gracious and we deserve nothing but by His grace and mercy….we receive. I especially love the examples that God loves unconditionally but doesn’t give to all and Jesus backing away from certain religious leaders. I believe, in 1st Peter, the scripture says that Jesus was an example for us to follow closely. How can we follow His example of distancing ourselves from unrepentant,destructive spouses if we follow other scriptures that go against the very thread and being of what God’s word says? God’s word is perfect though we are not, however, the spirit of God’s word is love and what about abuse, lying, cheating, and all the rest is it symbiotic with God? NO! “What does light have to do with darkness”. It can’t
    As you mentioned Paul brings out in Corinthians and Thessalonians that we are to distance ourselves from unrepentant destructive attitudes that are sinful both to God and us. How clear is that for us here. God is beautiful and He made sure of all things when he addressed all these issues plaguing man today. He will NEVER forget the abused and downtrodden. He loves even us low ones no differently that “the elite.” Jesus is our friend and He feels right there with us. So if any have doubts, as I did, doubt no more for God does not desire ANYONE to be subjected to this horrendous abuse and reviling as I was for 23 years and all of you here. God Bless Lesley. You are a fighter in Christ and with Him for us. May He continue to bless your so important ministry. All of you here, we need to continue our fight for righteousness in these sensitive matters. Prayers to you all

    • Mary on March 12, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      After going on my daily feed of Lesley’s blog I went to Jeff Crippens Cry for Justice site. WOW. His entry for march 12th was on this same topic. His was talking about rewriting the marriage vows to explicitly say what we mean with God in view and abuse. It’s lengthy but well worth it. I highly recommend all here to read it. It’s great!! God Bless to all survivors of a marriage God is NOT in favor of.

  7. Debbie on March 12, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Once again, thank you for this Leslie. When I read the question about “what I do if given a million dollars” I began to cry as I said quietly to myself-I would be out of here finally. I am so weary and so stuck as I know I have grounds to leave but have no resources and no full-time income. If I had enough money to live for a while I would leave in a heartbeat. I am so dead inside but for whatever reason, God seems to have me in a holding pattern. I cannot make someone hire me, or make a landlord give me rent I can afford or less than a year-long lease. I have absolutely no idea what to do but wait for a door to open. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and I have been hoping for an opportunity to move forward for a few years now. I won’t give up but I just need some resolution.
    Thanks for this community too.

    • Robin on April 4, 2014 at 2:53 am

      Debbie, pray and consider if God would want you to boldly walk in your faith, and leave, expecting He will provide. Sometimes, He is waiting for us to take that first step. I know it’s hard, but it can be harder to do nothing. Is there someone in your church that you can initially stay with? Have you built a support team, to encourage you As you step out into the unknown? I was amazed as I left, all God had prepared for me– he was waiting for me to step out in the faith I had and be willing to lean totally on His Provision, and not need to have it all planned, before I left. I will be praying for you!!!!

  8. Dianna on March 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you for the clear, honest question that I believe many people have but do not ask. Many more women…but many men, too. Many Christians because the vows are so impossible in a flawed world and yet, seem unconditionally binding to please God and be a godly, honorable testimony to the Christian community and to the world.

    Thank you for the detailed, fleshed out answer. Though I have been following Leslie’s materials for six months, it is still hard to untangle the web of lies, well-intentioned, of what a marriage relationship is to be and what it is not to be. This helps to draw healthy, godly boundaries to my person and to my husband’s person in relationship.

    When we face TRUTH. as in God’s definition, not in tradition nor in society’s standards, there is room for clarity, sanity and safety in relationships. This lays the basis for TRUST, which is essential for love to grow instead of manipulation, hiding, control and energy for all kinds of defensive tactics that destroy.

    Such an unpopular subject yet, so important.

  9. siana on March 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    my ex was interested in working things out with me since our divorce last year. I encouraged him to listen to all of Leslie’s short clips which he did. I really thought he would start understanding on why our marriage failed. I felt like the air came out of my balloon when I asked him what he thought of all the clips he watched, his answer? I don’t think Leslie is a Christian and remember, God hates divorce. I arrest my case !!!!!!!!!

    • Leslie Vernick on March 12, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      So his blindness is still here and it’s hard to imagine that someone can be so self deceived that they can’t “hear” but it happened to Jesus too. But now you know that if he doesn’t see what’s wrong, he won’t know how to fix it will he?

    • Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Siana, They only hear what they want to hear and their hearts are so very hard. It boils down to we are all wrong and they can do whatever they want and we are suppose to be trapped in “marriage” because, “God hates divorce”. They want things back as they were no matter how horrible that was for us. X still says that God has told him that He will reveal to me that I am suppose to be with him and I will repent and go back. He is obviously not talking to the same God I am.

      Your X’s evaluation of Leslie not being a Christian is laughable. Her heart shines through what she says to us. When it comes down to it Leslie doesn’t like the fact that sin has gotten so bad that divorce is likely the only loving thing left that we can do to stop allowing them to abuse us.

    • Amy on March 13, 2014 at 10:26 am

      My ex used to do the same thing. I would encourage him to read something from either Leslie or some other Christian and if he didn’t like what he read or heard he immediately dismissed the person as not being a Christian. He said this about any of my friends too who chose to stand beside me during the hardest times of my marriage. He was always finding fault in anyone that didn’t like what he was doing, I suppose it was his way of ignoring his own problem.

  10. Betty on March 13, 2014 at 5:00 am

    Thank you, Leslie for your Biblical answer to my question. i am going to print it out and study it carefully, but what stood out in the first read was that God does not pretend all is ok when we sin (unconditional relationship) and that fellowship IS broken until there is true repentance. This does carry through to our human relationships. In fact, we are living a lie, just going through the motions and not living in truth which is what I am determined to do. May I share a poem which just poured out of me in a few minutes as emotions were low.
    Must I become a creature that doesn’t feel?
    A fish, a frog, a branch broken off a tree?
    Must I smile when you curse?
    Be loving while you torture my mind with your words –
    hateful and cruel.

    Does not my pain mean anything to you?
    Am I not worthy of some respect?
    Not even a few crumbs of kindness dropped down to where
    I grovel at your feet.

    Is it more acceptable to pretend
    -putting on a mask of happiness?
    Dry in the rain; resilient in the wind
    Unbattered by the storm?

    Is that what you expect of me
    You who pass by on the other side?
    You who ignore my shaking hands and trembling lips.
    You don’t want to hear my words of pain,
    Of what happens behind closed doors.
    It can only mean, you don’t really care.

    God bless you, Leslie for caring.

  11. siana on March 13, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Leslie, only the Lord knows how He has brought your counseling into my life to be set FREE. When my marriage was in total ruins, I called your office, knowing that the only way I would have a fighting chance to save my marriage was through someone like you. But since you don’t do one on one counseling I had to find someone else. During that one session with this other counselor, he blamed everything on me and yet says that he loves me. I felt so much guilt and pain especially since I have two children, 8 & 14. BUT, glory to God, I signed up for your news letters and have been reading and listening to all your clips !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been set free. Like in my original comment, I really thought if he would listen to your clips and read some of your writings that he would come to his senses. How could I have been so wrong???? He tells me that if I would come back that he would drop the custody battle with me. Only through the learning I have been getting here, I would of fell apart and been deceived again. He tries to use his charm, money and his “wonderful” life to lure me back ~ Ha !!! Again, I have been set free. Leslie, I truly mean this, you are a God sent wise servant and I thank Him every day for you and I’m also sharing other hurting women in the same situation as mine to listen and read your writings etc…. Blessings !!!! And I’m staying in tuned 🙂

    • Leslie Vernick on March 13, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Thanks. You’re an encouragement to me.

  12. Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Mary, I love your heart. We are to distance ourselves from those with “unrepentant destructive attitudes”. He lightens our loads with this truth. Our paths may not be easy and there may be hardships along the way, but my burden is so much lighter being away from the abuse and destruction. (((Hugs)))

  13. Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 7:34 am

    I have read those marriage vows, as well. The entire post was very good. I think they should be used in pre-marriage counseling. It may cause someone to stop, think and look for any red flags that might be flying high, but not really noticed.

  14. Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Debbie, I have just prayed for you and will put your name in my prayer journal. Everything is in God’s timing and your continuing not to give up is what God wants. He wants you to continue to lean on Him. You won’t need a million dollars, but He will be your refuge, your rock and salvation.

    Is there any way that you can squirrel away a little money here and there? Maybe take on a part time job to start? Maybe you have a hobby that you can turn into a little income. I did everything from taking surveys online to picking up pop cans to get a back up plan started. It took time, but the time did come when I knew deep in my heart that it was time to take a leap of faith and go.

    • Debbie on March 18, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Thank you Brenda! I have been saving money and have an account at another bank in my own name. I think it’s just a matter of time, and God is helping me hold on. Through my devotions and other sources I believe He is telling me to take a radical leap of faith and trust in Him.
      I also would like to meet any of you wonderful ladies and an idea is to include our website/blog or other page address and once on my page anyone can sign up or contact through the website. Then we could share privately. What do you think?
      Blessings for your encouragement and prayers.

  15. siana on March 13, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Brenda, you’re so right on !!!! Im just so thankful for this wonderful, liberating messages !!!! I love and appreciate all of you. Again, I sound like a broken record here, but I’m hoping maybe some of us can get together for support and prayer. I know we ALL need it.

    • Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

      Siana, I would love it if there was a way if there was a way that we could get together. Finding a way to safely let each other know where we are so that could happen is an issue. It would be so helpful to have someone sitting in the room with me having an actual conversation and prayer time rather than a faceless person on the other end of the computer. Although, the compassion and love is there a personal relationship would be so welcomed.

      • Mary on March 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

        I’m all in. I’ve said this before, it would be wonderful to have faces conversation and prayer to support each other. Although we are “all there” when we’re here,it would be lovely.

      • siana on March 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

        Brenda, Mary, I can let you know where I live, but maybe you cant??? I would really love to get together if possible, this would be an answer to my prayer ~ to meet with some of you, spending time fellowshipping, prayer, and to support one another. Let me know 🙂

  16. Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I know, Mary. We’ve talked about it before. I just don’t know anyway of making it happen here. I’m a little dot in Mid Michigan.

    • siana on March 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      somehow we should let everyone know where we live? I feel so strongly about this. If Leslie is reading this, do you have any suggestions??????

      • Leslie Vernick on March 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

        Many people like their anonymity here on this blog. Therefore I don’t allow e-mails to be published unless they are from professional people who are responding. An alternative that is wonderful for many people is my CORE focus group – which I advertise in my newsletter. I haven’t announced this yet but I will be doing a brand NEW one on Saturday mornings from 10:30 to 12:00 ET on the last two Saturday’s in April. Those who sign up for that are also in a secret FB group where they do get to communicate with one another (those who want to) and those who prefer to remain anonymous sign up under a fictitious name. There are only 30 spots available and I will begin to adversities it publicly to my mailing list the first full week in April. But if you’re interested, let us know and we’ll give you first dibs to join.

  17. Lynn on March 13, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Now that I am clear on the “better or worse”, would you help clarify “in sickness and in health”. My husband was “clean” for six of the ten years we’ve been married. In 2009, he started using drugs and has since been using off and on. We been separated for five months now and he finally signed divorce papers very angrily saying “he thought I promised in sickness and in health”. He believes I “gave up” on him when he needed me the most. He has said that he can’t clean up without me. I understand addiction to be a disease, but its a self inflicted or induced disease which results in abuse toward me. I haven’t filed the divorce papers yet because I am still troubled by his words. Does anyone have any advice?

    • Peg on March 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Your husband has made the choice to use drugs again and you are not responsible for that. Nor are you responsible for curing him of that addiction. He is using that I think to stop you from proceeding forward with the divorce. He needs professional help with his addiction. And since it’s causing the abusiveness toward you, I believe that you are right to stay separated from him. In my opinion, he is trying to make you feel guilty for his problem. So, from 2009 to just 5 months ago, you lived with him and so why couldn’t he get free of the drugs during that time you were together. Why is it that he is now saying he cannot get free of his addiction without you being with him? His reasoning is poor! Maybe if you move forward with the divorce, he will see clearly that you are resolved to get on with your life without him. Maybe then, he’ll seek the help he needs to get clean from the drugs. I think if you allow him to blame you for his inability to kick his drug habit, then he is accomplishing exactly what he wants to accomplish. Again, why hasn’t he been willing to get clean while you were living with him? He’s a man; he’s not a baby! My spouse (soon to be ex) began to behave like a baby and threw fits like a two-year-old. I think that’s one of the abusive tactics. I hope this helps in some way!

  18. Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Lynn, I am assuming that your husband did not do drugs prior to the past 4 years. I am sure that the subject of addiction will have a variety of opinions. I know that addiction to drugs and alcohol is accepted widely as a disease. I disagree that it is a disease at all and agree with you that it is self inflicted. There may be underlying reasons why people choose to use drugs or alcohol as a crutch or escape, but it is still a crutch. A crutch that can get to the point where a person may not be able to stop on their own physically or mentally without help. I have a brother and a son who have chosen this route and use all kinds of reasons why they can’t or should not stop. Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before they turn around, others never turn around.

    As far as him needing you in order to stop this evil is a false statement. He is manipulating the situation in order to prevent the divorce. Like other abusive people he knows that you will feel guilty and perhaps get what he wants. Using “in sickness and in health” is stretching the issue. If you had said that he had cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease or MS and you want to leave him because you just can’t take it, I would say that you were breaking your vows if you did. He is using drugs and abusing you. He is breaking covenant with you. If he truly wants to clean up, he will no matter if you are with him or not.

  19. Kim on March 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Just a test comment to see if it’s working when I’m not logged in

  20. Dianna on March 13, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Thank all of you for your honest, courageous telling of your stories and promise of prayer.

    I would like to suggest Leslie’s coaching sessions. You can find whatever is available on her weekly newsletters or by emailing her. I have found it to be so valuable and such a great support group.

    Lynn, each of us are accountable to God (and to others) individually. You cannot fix your husband and he is wrong and probably selfish for putting that burden upon you! Your husband has many avenues of help and he needs to show you that he is doing his part. Leslie recently said that consequences have to come before mercy. God wants us to come to Him, He does not impose His will upon us. Please do not let your husband blame and shame you for his problems. He may not know how to help himself and genuinely feel awful and alone but, you are not the blame and that does not give him a license to abuse! As Leslie has taught, we have to be committed to the truth and not be a part of someone else’s lies, for the sake of not participating in their further sin.

    I would love to read Leslie’s take on your question, too. She has such a clear, bold, truthful, godly communication style, doesn’t she?

    Lynn, over twelve years ago, I was going crazy in the middle of the night w/ my husband’s emotional needs from earlier abuse scars. I really didn’t know what to do for him but he was making me so nervous w/ his anxious talk, walk, making me stay up, not letting me have a light on to read (and I really needed to read to relax w/ all of that) and finally following me when I went to a separate room to read quietly and let him sleep w/o the light on. He yelled, stomped around, was expressing anger at my moving away from him…and then he went out to the breaker box and turned off all the electricity in the house! I quickly and quietly got out of pjs and put on clothes, shoes, grabbed the purse and keys and got to my car. I told him that I was leaving, calmly, which he accepted. I drove to the local hospital, for it was nearly 4 AM and who was I going to wake up? I thought he was going to end up there anyway, from the way he was acting. (He has bipolar disorder) The ER was quiet and the nurse on duty tended to me for several minutes before calling to get a policeman to check on my husband. I did not realize it until later but, she was watching over me and when the police officer had checked on my husband, who of course was fine and concerned about me! Neither professional wanted me to be out of her care for some time. I had no plan to go back home and made that clear. I was concerned for my husband and they knew it. When the next incident happened, I got up the courage to call the police before the craziness got going very far…before the middle of the night. Guess what? The behavior stopped and I found that he could control himself and that he had lots of help at his disposal. He learned how to utilize that help….because I could and would not take it anymore and because he could do it.

    As much as I loved and cared for him and tried to help and understand his disorder and lots of other hurts he had been through during the years, I was not helping him by enabling him. I have left three times since then. We have gained so much ground but, the emotional abuse kicked up again about six months ago and we are separated again,…probably will be divorced soon. And it is still hard because I do love him and know it has been a tremendous struggle for him. In the past few months he has complicated COPD, diabetes and lots of struggles w/ all the side effects of all the medications he has to take to live. He has great insurance benefits, professionals, the house, good car, a flexible job, social security disability benefits and most important, a believing faith in Jesus Christ.

    Please be encouraged that Jesus does not want you to take blame and shame for your husband’s choices. That Jesus has as much grace, love, healing for your husband as for anyone else…there for the taking. Leslie makes good points in saying that truth is the way to freedom and healing. Lynn, you may want to review the C.O.R.E. video on Leslie’s website.

    Prayers for your clarity, sanity and peace-of-mind!

  21. Dianna on March 13, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Coincidentally, Lynn, (is there really any coincidences, ha!) your question helped me so much, tonight. I had one of those hard talks w/ my husband that had to do w/ more severe illness issues than I had known. He did not work on me nor blame and shame me. I just felt bad about what is happening and that I could not be there for him or that he did not feel right in asking for my help since we are separated, probably as in divorce.

    It has been good that he has been in close touch w/ his medical professionals. He did turn to me and my sister (they are close, too) in January when his COPD issues were rough. But, not abusive, demanding nor childish. I can’t say that is how it would be if I were still living at home.

    I did feel the pang of wanting/needing/shoulding to be there for him to understand his med. appts. better and work through the medical ups and downs that were happening. The think is, as I look at it now, finally the doctors got in sink w/ one another and they are working out better medicine plans for him. And, w/ the cardio. doc. who I wasn’t so fond of, has been explaining things to him and working on the medicine problems w/ the other docs. He was not doing so when there were initial problems in the fall of 2012, when I was asking questions. He was rather glib. I don’t think I was rude or demanding but, he brushed off my questions and concerns. Not so this time. There is a great internal med. PA who understands all of my husband’s med. history, esp. the psychiatric, who has been going the extra distance on all appts. and is quite accessible.

    Now, this has helped me see God’s good in this whole situation. My enabling, his demanding, our emotionally abusive cycle was helping no one. When we pulled out of the cycle, the craziness died down and lots of constructive actions came out of the enabling and dependency. I had become too dependent in several ways, too.

    Funny how one person’s question helps others.

    Thank you, Lynn.

  22. kimberley on March 13, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you. Your help is an invaluable part of my healing process.

  23. Betty on March 14, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Hi Lynn,
    Your husband is putting the responsibility of HIS addiction on you instead of on himself. This is not an illness over which he has no control. The ball is in his court and its a bit like blackmail to use that to make you stay with him. Actually, he is being selfish and not thinking about the impact of his addiction on you. Its all about him.
    Debbie, my heart is so sore for you. I am in a similar situation and sometimes feel desperate, but while I wait for God’s timing in the situation, I try and concentrate on keeping strong in the Lord and cry to Him for strength each day. Some days, I know, its easier said than done. I will be praying for you.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 14, 2014 at 11:52 am

      You all have given such good counsel to Lynn. I’m so proud of all of you. Lynn, I hear your concern. Yes we do promise, For Better or Worse, in Sickness and in Health, but when someone’s sickness is chronic, even if it’s not his fault, it takes a toll on the caregiver. Sometimes that toll is overwhelming and/or dangerous (such as someone who becomes violent with a brain injury or someone with serious dementia) and a wife needs to enlist help to caregiver, sometimes she just can’t do it anymore and the family has to decide to put the loved one in a nursing home for greater care so that the caregiver can get some relief. But when someone COULD get better but chooses not to, and then uses that illness as a weapon to keep the other captured in a caregiving role, that is enabling and I don’t think God wants us to enable someone to stay sick, dependent, and/or addicted. That doesn’t necessarily call for divorce in all marriages, but it does call for firm boundaries which may include physical separation to communicate to the one who chooses to stay sick, that they will need to take responsibility for whether or not they choose to get well or not.

      • lynn on March 14, 2014 at 10:55 pm

        Thanks to all of you who have shared your hearts and honest opinions. I needed them and I feel that I know what the truth is but find it so tough to make it reality. My husband has never physically abused me but the and verbal abuse have been more than enough. Separation made things worse and not better. He is looking into pulling out his retirement along with other rebellious decisions to get even because he cant handle the boundaries and consequences ive set. He is angry and making everything worse even after all these months. I know divorce is the only thing that will save me and our business from financial ruins to say the least! Thank you ladies.

  24. Sue on March 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Amazing! The answer to this question is so spot on. I am amazed at how long I have thought that a spouse’s good behavior can actually change a disobedient spouse’s behavior. Now I know that one spouse is only responsible for their own behavior & that the “magic” qualities applied to submission in a wife just do not exist and are not even Biblical. My mind is literally being transformed in the way I have always thought about how to apply Biblical teaching to relationships in marriage. I don’t know if I could ever use this new insight for other Christian’s minds to change, but I will be sharing it with my own children!

  25. Sandra on March 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you, dear Leslie & Kim for this very helpful article. It has so encouraged me and blessed my heart. You are both in my prayers. God bless!

  26. Aspen on March 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    It says there are 36 comments but I can’t see any. When I click on the comments, it changes to “no comments” with none here. How can I see the comments please?

    • Leslie Vernick on March 16, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      We are having technical problems with the blog. Not sure why and they aren’t sure why but are working diligently on a fix. Keep tuned. We will be up and running hopefully soon.

    • Lisa on March 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      If you put your email address in the spot top left for “Subscribe To Blog via Email” then click on “subscribe” each time you want to enter the blog it will bypass this temporary problem. At least that’s how I am seeing all the comments now.

  27. Aspen on March 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    OK. Once I posted a comment I could see the rest. Until then, they weren’t there. Just for your information on what is happening…

  28. Betty on March 15, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Leslie, your answer is so wise. I had not thought of comparing our problems of emotional trauma to that of folk with chronic issues such as dementia. Nobody is shocked when a wife has such a partner committed to where there is help as she is unable to care for him anymore and yet the same people would expect us to persevere beyond our emotional capabilities.

  29. Brenda on March 15, 2014 at 7:07 am


    That was a poem that I believe many of us relate to. I know I did.

  30. Patty on March 15, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Biblically, it says that a husband is to love his wife and DIE for her like Christ died for the church and to have a servant attitude like Jesus modeled and washed the disciples feet. I don’t understand how so many in the church want to believe that a true godly wife must be willing to die to herself and live with an emotionally abusive marriage as her cross. I believe God intended marriage as a gift, a symbolic relationship of His love and model of relationship with him, how it was intended to be. How can we win others to Christ by modeling suffering more than love and repentance? God came to earth so that we may know Him and have life more abundantly. I love the Serenity Prayer, …Give me courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the things I cannot change, … that I may be reasonable happy in this life and supremely happy with HIM in the next! Pray for me, I need COURAGE tomorrow to confront my emotionally abusive husband. I want to speak the truth in love, I so desire repentance and not continued blame, withdrawal, and defensiveness.

  31. Sandra on March 16, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I want to share today’s Daily Bread devotional Scripture reference, as it spoke to my heart. Then Jeremiah replied, “Lord, You know it is for your sake that I am suffering. They are persecuting me because I have proclaimed your word to them. Don’t let them kill me! Rescue me from their clutches , and give the what they deserve. Your words are what sustain me; they are food to my hungry soul. They bring joy to my sorrowing heart and delight me. How proud I am to bear your name, o Lord. I have not joined the people in their merry feasts. I sit alone beneath the hand of God. I burst with indignation at their sins. Yet you have failed me in my time of need! You have let them keep right on with their persecutions. Will they never stop hurting me? Your help is uncertain as a seasonal mountain brook — sometimes a flood, sometimes as dry as a bone.”
    The Lord replied, “Stop this foolishness and talk some sense!Only if you return to trusting me will I let you continue as my spokesman. You are to influence them, not let them influence you! They will fight against you like a besieging army against a high city wall. But they will not conquer you for I am with you to protect and deliver you, says the Lord. Yes, I will certainly deliver you from these wicked men and rescue you from their ruthless hands.” Jeremiah 15:15-21 (Living Bible)

    Sent with Jesus’ love and prayers for all you, dear

  32. L.A. on March 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Wow! I wish I could make this presentation to all of the Christian world–it is the clearest and best Biblically taught delivery on this subject that I have ever read. Your words bring freedom to us women bound by incorrect expectations from the church. Thank you for all you do for us. May The Lord bless you as you walk in this path of leadership that He has placed you in.

  33. Brenda on March 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Praying, Patty. The Lord will give you courage and strength.

  34. Brenda on March 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I have no problem Siana. X found me within a week after I left. I am not a big fan of FB, but I would do it for this.

  35. L.A. on March 16, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    In this paragraph you speak of “doing good”‘ as mentioned in other blogs. Can you tell us what some of those blogs are? I think I have some re-educating of my mind to do re: this subject as well. Thank you!

    • Leslie Vernick on March 17, 2014 at 11:06 am

      L.A. yes look at the last blog on 1 Peter 3, Does God Call us to Suffer? I think that will give you more help on the way to think about this.

  36. Brenda on March 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Siana, I can see a big issue with EVERYONE knowing where we live. You don’t know who is out there in cyber world. One of the sheep could be a wolf. There are a couple who come to this blog that I feel are wolves not trying to hide behind a sheep. One in particular sounds much like X and frightens me. I would not want that person knowing who I am or where I live. It is bad enough that X knows where I am.

    I do so want to meet with some of you if that will be possible. If we are spread across the continent or world, it may not be realistic.

  37. Patty on March 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Matt 18:15-17 resounds with me. The last three years of over 24 marriage counseling sessions, and many letters, pleas to work on our marriage have sat on deaf ears. No repentance, just continued blame, resentment, deceit and indifference. I did nothing wrong (sin). I am not saying I am not a sinner. I have read all 3 books of Leslie’s, the blogs, videos, and I finally summoned the courage to ask for repentance or let’s end it. He chose to end it. This was my second marriage. I ignored some red flags because I have learned that as a child of an alcoholic I have a tendency to want to “rescue”, ETC. He had a lot of troubles when I married him but I thought LOVE and our shared faith would conquer all. My first marriage was abusive as well. I didn’t date for 7 years. I had 3 children and Jesus was our Jehovah-Jireh! I thought I did all I should to protect myself and my children from another marriage mistake. I didn’t know enough about myself. Single ladies, it pays to take time to heal, lots of time before dating and learn about your patterns from your past hurts. I felt I had forgiven and let go of the past hurts but the scars are still there. Recovery programs/support groups are essential to discovering your blind spots. God knows how much I love Him and want to please Him in all areas of my life. I am thankful for this blog that helped me to see that I am not committing “sin” by participating in a divorce. God greatly used me and blessed me after the last one and He still has great plans for me now, and to encourage other women who are going through physical and emotional abuse. Thank you Leslie for speaking up and confronting/educating the church on this issue. It is sorely needed.

    • Peg on March 17, 2014 at 11:39 am

      What a wonderful post! My second marriage (about to be divorced) was similar to your experience. My first spouse was abusive and I stuck it out with him for 26 years. I am a “rescuing” type as well. That compassionate spirit can get us in trouble and cloud our best view on things. I, too, saw red flags in my second approach to marriage, but I believed as you did that our common faith in Christ would see us through. We become deceived when we WANT something too badly. I was very content to be single and had my life in order UNTIL I allowed my 2nd spouse to convince me that as long as we both are Christians, we could weather any problems that would arise. Boy! Was that deceit! The most difficult thing for me in this last stage of the marriage is making that final decision to sign the divorce papers which he had drawn up. I believe God has extended grace to me because I am finally at peace and feeling sad but lighter in my spirit. Those of us who choose divorce certainly will have to grieve the loss and the sorrow at breaking vows made to God. But thankfully, I have had two very wise pastors who have counseled me and confirmed that I needed to end my marriage and move forward to healing and forgiveness. It’s really hard to forgive all the abuse. I finally pity my soon-to-be ex-spouse. He’s got major issues and I’m beginning to think it’s possible that he’s bi-polar. Even with that possibility, he is responsible for his behavior and could get good help for that. I have found that reaching out to other women helps me to heal. God bless you!

  38. Jen on March 26, 2014 at 11:29 am

    No, divorce is most certainly NOT a sin. If it were, he would not allow for it in certain circumstances. He doesn’t allow for adultery in certain circumstances, he doesn’t allow for stealing in certain circumstances, he doesn’t allow for dishonoring one’s parents in certain circumstances, etc. Yes, He hates it for many reasons, but a sin? No. It is not.

  39. d on March 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Above is the link I was on to read and print the article. However, once again (this happened with another article), I do not see the option to print or to copy this. Would you be able to send this to my email address? I would be very grateful.

  40. Betty on April 4, 2014 at 4:38 am

    I don’t seem to be receiving Leslie’s letters anymore. I still want to get them. Thank you. I see there are now two Betty’s! I can be Betty S.

  41. Jon B on April 7, 2016 at 11:19 pm


    politely, I disagree with your overall premise and the gospel of Jesus comprehensively addresses the summation in your final paragraph. Christ sacrificed and suffered for others good, which was a covenant to us — KNOWING we all would continue sinning/abusing Him… His love was not selfish, it was selfless. His love was not conditional, His forgiveness was not conditional, His grace was not conditional — which is what you’ve applied throughout this piece with the “Christ and the church” reference to exiting a bad marriage. So if marriage is to represent Christ and the church, let’s remain consistent rather than selectively applying this concept. When our partner sins against us, Christ set the model as to how we are to respond with grace and forgiveness — laying our life down for His sake and our partner’s sake… Matthew 18:21-22 “…forgive them seventy times seven.”

    What may have appeared as God distancing Himself from the Jews, was actually the Jews distancing themselves from God. Did God forsake them (like divorce) and take back His covenant, or patiently and faithfully wait for their repentance? God always awaited with unwavering love for the lost prodigal to return and repent — and welcomes he/she with open arms at all times. If that is the biblical model of Christ and the church applied toward marriage, how is your advice biblical?

    Ironically, you seem to avoid getting into the depths of love (1 Corinthians 13) because it undermines the foundation of your position. Love is the vine that every biblical virtue grows from — especially grace and forgiveness. The relational breakdown begins when love becomes conditional, because once that happens, every other biblical virtue becomes conditional as well — which clouds our wisdom and discernment… If we truly forgive someone, the slate is always wiped clean or blotted out. Forgiveness always leads to reconciliation. Without unconditional love, forgiveness is impossible and we’ll continue making excuses to avoid acting like Christ and the church. Christ did not divorce the church because of the darkness or longevity of their sin, He is long suffering, committed and faithful to the day of repentance and judgment. When love is not guiding us, self-interest is, which is contrary to Christ laying His life down for the church. Christ did not want to go to the cross, in fact, Jesus pleaded in the final hours to God that if there was any other way to redeem humanity, to please provide it, but ended His prayer with, “not My will but Your will be done.” Jesus did exactly what He did not want to do, because He loved God more than Himself. If only we were truly committed to being like Christ and the church, love our God more than ourselves… Our perception of right and wrong is perverted by our flawed perception of justice. Scripture is very clear about what love is — “love covers a multitude of sins, does not keep a record of wrongs, suffers long, etc.” We love out of our appreciation and obedience to Christ, which He uses for another person’s good(repentance). Christ laid his life down for friends AND ENEMIES — and if we are to model Him in everything we do, we as the body of Christ have to stop making excuses about selectively laying our life down for a sinful conditional loving spouse — because the sinful human nature will always seek out a reason to justify returning conditional love for conditional love (evil for evil). Conditional love never lays the foundation to unconditional love. I would be very careful about calling Jesus’s way foolish.

    Proverbs 25:21-22
    (21)If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
    And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
    (22) For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
    And the Lord will reward you.

    This is how Christ would have us to treat our enemies, or a tax collector, to unconditionally love them. The reward we’re seeking is for our enemy’s good, to come to repentance. Treasures in heaven. Marriage is just as much a ministry as any other because our commitment to Christ is reflected in our commitment to our partner.

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