Does Grace and Forgiveness Erase Negative Consequences or Amends Making after Serious Sin?
I’m home. Although I miss the sunny California warmth, it is so good to be back to my own house and bed.
This week I am doing a free webinar on Thursday night on Healing a Destructive Marriage: The Roadmap. Click here for more information.
Today’s question was written by a man who challenged my theology and I think it goes along with a lot of the wrong thinking out there on how a destructive marriage is healed or reconciled.
He told me I was stuck in Old Testament legalistic thinking. He said that if his wife practiced New Testament grace and forgiveness they would still be together. Instead they were separated.
I asked him several clarifying questions and it seems that after an abusive incident (not the first one) he expected that as a Christian, his wife would forgive him, offer him a clean slate, as sort of a do-over mentality where they would start fresh and not bring up what happened yesterday or the day before.
But rather than the clean slate he longed for, this time his wife told him she was separating from him. She told him that unless he got professional help and showed her over time that he could be safe and manage his negative emotions in a mature way, she would not be coming back. She could forgive him, but she could not live with him. He believed that her offer of forgiveness was insincere unless she was willing to fully reconcile.
Their church agreed that his behavior was sinful, but in the end sided more with his thinking than hers. He was welcomed back into fellowship with open arms because he said he was repentant. His wife was disciplined and shunned because she wouldn’t comply with their church’s counsel to move back home. After all, he said he was sorry and was willing to meet with the pastor for counseling. She was labeled hard-hearted and rebellious because she refused to subject herself to the possibility of further abuse.
It deeply concerns me how quickly in Christian circles the focus of the problem gets twisted. The victim is now labeled the unrepentant, hard-hearted one because she refused to quickly reconcile. The one who sinned against her is now seen as the victim of his hard-hearted, unforgiving spouse.
Therefore, it’s imperative that as Christian’s we wrestle with the question:
Do claims of repentance immediately cancel out any negative consequences a person repenting experiences for their own sinful choices?
Does grace and forgiveness mean that there is never any extended relational fallout or broken trust in one’s relationships?
And, is there ever a need to show over time (especially when the sin has been repetitive) that repentance has indeed occurred?
Is there a place in New Testament theology for making amends to the one wronged or is that just an Old Testament concept?
When a wounded spouse eventually starts implementing boundaries and consequences she has often been accused of being unforgiving and lacking grace. But it is just as possible that boundaries and consequences are evidence of godly love.
For example, Paul says that godly love does no harm (Romans 13:10) but that does not mean biblical love never hurts. Paul spoke sternly to those who claimed faith, but whose actions showed otherwise and encouraged setting firm boundaries with these individuals (1 Corinthians 5:9).
Jesus often spoke firmly to the Pharisees, and Proverbs reminds us that a good friend might inflict loving wounds (Proverbs 27:6). All of us find it painful to swallow the medicine of hard truth. It hurts, but like strong ammonia revives the faint. Hard truth can shock us awake so that true healing can take place. (See, for example Matthew 23 or Mark 7:6-12).
When a wife refuses to pretend, to placate, or continue the same destructive dance, she is not only doing that for her welfare, but also for his. This is biblical love at it’s best. It’s risky, sacrificial, and acts in the best interests of the beloved.
Once the boundaries and painful consequences are in place however, the individual runs to the pastor or Christian counselor. He pleads, begs, and pours on the charm attempting to persuade these good folks that God is doing a great work in his or her heart. Not necessarily true.
It’s important that we listen carefully to what he is saying. Tears indeed are the language of the heart but what exactly are his tears saying? “I’m so sorry. I’ve sinned against God and my spouse?” Or “poor me, I feel devastated because these consequences are painful”. There is a huge difference.
In discerning genuine repentance, we want to know: Is he aware of the pain he has caused? Does he show concern for his spouse’s suffering or only his own? Is he aware of deeper heart issues such as attitudes of entitlement, selfishness, laziness, or pride? Or is he focused primarily on himself, his own pain, his own justifications, and on what his spouse is supposed to do such as forgive him, remove negative consequences, and reconcile?
Genuine repentance acknowledges that serious and repetitive sin does have negative consequences on relationships (tweet that).
Is he willing to do what it takes to change and make amends without focusing on the response of the wounded? Like Zacchaeus, once he saw the kindness of Christ he was changed. We see evidence of this because his first action step was to make amends and offer restitution to those he had harmed (See Luke 19:8).
If there is no evidence of these things, then their sadness is sorrow for themselves, not godly sorrow. Words won’t show you these things, only actions over time will (Matthew 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20).
Friends: Have you been taught that New Testament grace means no consequences, no discussion, no boundaries, and a clean start?
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I’m Stuck. How Do I Help Him See His Problem Instead of Blaming Me?
Morning friend, I’ve been reading through Proverbs in the month of January. One chapter a day for 31 days. If you’ve never done that, I highly encourage you to try it. If you’re confused, and need wisdom for your life, especially when dealing with destructive individuals read it each day with these three categories of…
A Counselor Has Some Questions
Morning friend, I thought I would do something a little different this week. I get a lot of e-mails, much of it I can’t personally respond to and so I use this forum to answer questions from mostly women in destructive marriages. But this week I want to answer several questions from a counselor who…
The situation you described above is a mirror image of my own husband and church…down to the very words he used! My husband would always demand that clean slate, and demand that as a Christian, I must forgive him, and that if I tried to place any sort of consequences, or if I needed time to heal, then I was the one that was in sin, and I didn’t really forgive him. I was never allowed to reference repeat behavior because that meant I hadn’t forgiven. He was always quick to reference the fact that I was to forgive seventy times seven, and that I was to remember his sin no more, just like God did for me. After 21 years of repetitive and escalating abuse, I did finally leave. My church, even though they were fully aware of his abuse, did not support me. They in no way addressed him or his sin, and he was welcome to continue to fellowship there. After a year of separation, where he continued his abusive conduct, he wrote a letter, claiming responsibility for the destruction of our marriage, and promises of repentance and change. Everyone was so impressed! Little did everyone know that I’ve received lots of those meaningless letters over the years. It’s a favorite tool of his. His actions proved the letter to be just as empty as all the others. However, my church leadership was so enamored with the fact that he publicly repented, that nobody every bothered to inquire into his behavior after the letter. Things deteriorated rapidly, and I finally had to take my children and leave our church as well. My husband however, has continued to find welcome, help, and refuge in the arms of that church body. I will never understand how my abusive husband got to stay, but WE are the ones who had to leave.
I’m sorry that happened to you. When our family decided to leave the church we’d attended for 15 years, it was like being shunned. We had no social circles outside the church, and the members were not about to invite us to join them in their social events. It was the loss of many years of friendship and I suspect it was hard for some of them, too. But the fear of also losing that, coupled with the fear-based gospel they all accepted, helped them to justify their behaviors.
As to the reason we left: We could no longer stand the pain of fellowshipping with people we knew were deeply hurting but who, due to misguided teachings, came to church to reflect perfection instead of support.
What you are experiencing is not fair at all. With time and good counsel (the kind your church group would probably preach against) you’ll find new levels of peace. Most of y our grief will heal, and you’ll recognize that God is bigger than that building and the accepted teachings of that group.
Also, a big, huge, hurray for you taking a stand for healthy boundaries. That takes tons of courage (even when we secretly think that our courage is really just desperation).
RayLene, so sorry to hear of your experience… Know that you are not alone. This is happening everywhere… The same story of charm… manipulation… a public outward appearance of repentance that does not match the private marital relationship. No empathy…a sense of entitlement to trust and to “moving on.”
Thanks for sharing. So sad that some churches are not willing to take a stand for true healing.
I can’t leave the church even though they know about the abuse that happens in a lot of relationships like my husband and mines. I’m not close with the friends my husband and I had, but that’s okay. I found strength to live my life out in Christ, not in church. I didn’t understand the abuse for 28 yrs. How would I expect anyone else to? I only recently got enlightened by Leslie’s information. I can even go back into my same behaviors accepting my husband’s behaviors if I don’t consistently read or hear Leslie’s knowledge on the subject of abuse. Be encouraged and don’t blame others for not getting it. Some people never have been abused like we have. Though abuse is complicated, it must be erradicated.
RayLene, you are living my present existence, as well. The church has rallied around him and are praying for me, the hard-hearted rebel. So sad! makes my heart sick. I initiated counseling in that church nearly 8 yrs, shared everything, and the minute the couples counseling started, the tables turned. My husband said during our last one,”see what I have to live with?” as I responded in anger , to a flat out lie about a behavior he had done.I immediately felt the shift. He is “known” in the community, and the couldn’t believe he was able to do the things I’ve said.I too was told that I was to forgive and move on, consider my marriage a ministry, my thorn in the flesh. Seperated now after 23 yrs married. The wounding may be too much to overcome.
The wounding may be too much to forget, sweet Michele – not too much to overcome. In the midst of incredible pain, the newness of a life free of abuse is an incredibly powerful force of healing. Now two years out, I can tell you the memories are clear, but I can remember them with a measured, wiser, more level feeling. I recognize the sin and deception behind those rejecting me and turn instead to the freedom of my abuse-free life. God is truely worthy of my trust – others not so much????
I was married to an emotionally abusive man for 18 years. Most of that time, I thought I was the one not strong enough to handle his anger, rages, unpredictable mood swings, and gas lighting tactics. He was very respected as an associate pastor in the church. He always told me I would hurt the church if I shared our problems with anyone. Anyway, you probably know the story. I had enough when my children finally told me (individually) that he should leave, and that they were afraid that he would hurt me if I told anyone about his actions behind doors. That was it. We were out. We left behind an unauthentic life of church show- always smiling and performing but not at peace. Thank you for reminding me that the abuse-free life is worth the pain it took to leave. He now has another church (unbelievable!) But I am free to live an authentic Christian life and I, too have found that God is much bigger than the walls of the church. It took time, but the peace I have now is worth it all.
My husband was also an Associate Pastor (well still is) at our church and they have taken his side despite full knowledge of the abuse. I left him only a few months ago and it has been painful losing our church family and being seen as the heart hearted woman who left. As Leslie mentioned in the article, he is selfish and upset I left given the pain it is causing him but still refuses to recognize or apologize for the pain he caused me. After a year and a half of marriage counseling in which change was very minimal and 10 years of the marriage/abuse I had to leave for me and my children. I am so incredibly thankful a friend referred me to Leslie’s book Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Reading that and keeping up with the blogs has been so healing. I was beginning to think I was the crazy one!!
This is so similar to my current situation. My heart is broken while he enjoys many relationships. My reactions to the abuse has caused me to be seen as the problem. He continues to lie and I just stand in awe of those that have taken the word of a known liar over mine. I’m to the point where I spend every moment I’m not working completely alone.
I’m currently searching for a support group because I don’t know if I can withstand another weekend of isolation. Please pray that I’m able to connect somewhere.
Praying for you. I am facing the same thing, people believing my lying husband instead of me. You are not alone. There are many of us with similar struggles, but this is an isolating battle. I am thankful for Leslie’s blog that gives us a forum to encourage one another. You will be in my prayers.
I am praying for you with an understanding of what you are experiencing. Weekends are tough and require action. Do something, even when you don’t feel like it. Read Psalms even though you are sad. You will find yourself lifted up a bit.
I am confused. Why would he do anything that required a clean slate in the first place? Didn’t anyone make him accountable and say, “How dare you ever treat your wife in such a manner!” No more clean slates, no more chalk for you to write on it, better yet.
RayLene – are you the same RayLene that posted on Leslie’s blog “He said he’s a new man, Now What?” on Nov. 11, 2013 about “listening to your own truth”? If so, I want to tell you that that post has helped 4 of us women trapped in verbally abusive relationships find hope! I have given it to friends – and each of us has read it monthly during our darkest days. I’ve always wanted to thank you – and have prayed that somehow I could! i hope one day you will publish it in the book you may write – because the Lord used it for lasting impact on us!! Thank you!
I have been dealing with the same issue. After 22 years of verbal emotional and financial abuse I finally stood up to him. I left with the kids and he went crazy. Publicly confessed weeping “broken”. I made the mistake of returning too soon. But that phrase “everyone was so enamoured with his repentance no one bothered to check up on what he was actually doing.” That is my church. I can’t say I have been actually shunned, but I feel extremely uncomfortable there. He is the rock star and everyone LOVES him, and I feel judged and disbelieved. In spite of very public objective legal judgements against him (things totally beyond my ability to fabricate or influence) my church thinks the sun rises and sets in him. He’s like the Teflon don. Now I see gradual establishment of some of his verbally and emotionally abusive behaviors–more subtly of course. And I feel trapped.
This was texted to me today by a lady from my church. I feel so defeated and don’t even know what to say. I disagree with so much of what she said but don’t even know how to put the right words together. Any advice or encouragement would be appreciated 🙁
I really enjoyed getting to visit with you last week. You remind me a lot of my mother and I believe I could help you if you were interested in positive healthy changes. You are young and have so much life ahead of you and so much God wants to accomplish through you. I do not want you to suffer with unforgiveness the rest of your life like my mother did. She believes the cancer she had was a result of her unforgiveness of my dad. You may realize this but unforgiveness affects you much more than the the person who did the offending. Text or call me when you are ready to talk. My friend doesn’t have to come unless you want her to. I’m praying for you.
Broken, why was she under the impression that you had NOT forgiven? Because you were trying to tell her his actions and how you felt? The tables get turned SO quickly. She needed to VALIDATE your pain and experience. Talk to you about possible consequences for his behaviors, then when she has EARNED your trust, talk to you about forgiveness, understanding that it does NOT mean reconciliation. They are clueless. They think they are “doing the right thing,” but I have found when a man complains about is wife, its her fault, and when she complains about her husband, its her fault. Don’t buy into it. Talk to people at the local shelter. They know their stuff.
I don’t know. Apparently last week she met with my husband after Wednesday night church. I can hear him telling her I haven’t forgiven him etc. He is very manipulative and knows how to win people over. My church is not equipped to help women (and men) who are being abused or who have been abused. This lady truly believes I need to show more grace and forgiveness and be able to forget the awful abuse (verbal, physical, sexual). I wish people would educate themselves on abuse before trying to help.
Wow, such a good post Leslie, this scenario plays out all over the country in our churches! Abusers seem to be good impression managers, smooth, convincing while continuing to abuse at home, all the while claiming to be repentant and changed.
The very same thing happened to me and I had to take my 3 children and leave that church. My ex claimed to become a Christian and broke up with the woman he was having an affair with, he was embraced by the church. He didn’t break up with his pornography habit or his continued abuse of me through stalking and repetitively taking me to court for 8 years after our separation. When an abusive husband claims he has changed, it is a sign that he hasn’t. The people who love him should be making these claims based on observation – is he walking the talk- not him.
Thank you Leslie for such a clear and educational post!
You’re welcome. Thanks for your encouragement.
This was a great post. Was almost like it was my life mirrored. I have been separated for 5 months. My H wants me to return back to the house that I left and reconcile. He says to me why would I not want to try God does not honor what I am doing. However what I can’t understand is that he is not letting me have the time I need to see if there is change. He is putting stipulations on us to be together telling me you have to move back and if you don’t move back to our house then we will not be able to be togetheramd he will move on. What I am most scared of is that maybe he has changed and then he will be great for someone else when I put up with all the terrible times. Not one person has advised me to go back but yet I am torn in what to do and since there is kids involved that don’t want to go back to a house were all these bad memories are I am torn. I asked him to see about starting fresh somewhere else but he will not do that. He says a house does not make the bad times it is the people in the house. I thank you for all these posts they really help.
Stacy, if he is pressuring you or he will find someone else, then it is still all about him. He’s not changed a bit.
He does not respect you, your needs, or your children if he keeps using intimidation to manipulate you into doing what he wants. Stand your ground.
Echo Echo, Stacy! You are looking for actions, not words. And in fact, the house will not make a difference, you may just be hoping that some new change will help you to feel better. But long term, what will help, is healing from the damage and recognizing that there is such a thing as being treated with respect and love.
That’s not happening any time there is pressure to conform or behave.
Kids growing up in abusive households learn how to be victims or abusers, and the damage is great. We have a false belief that any two-parent family is better than any one-parent family and that is absolutely not true. Even in Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s 30 year study on The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, the only time kids did better with divorce was in the cases of abuse or addiction by the parents. This is not the same as a marriage where you don’t feel fulfilled or someone else might be more suited to you.
This is destruction and abuse, and it’s not ok for kids to grow up like that.
My ex did move on, six months later to a new wife, after 22 years of marriage. She’s got him without all that history, and I have no idea if she thinks she’s got a prize or not. But my adult son says he hasn’t changed a bit.
Do not listen to people who have their own agendas. Read all the info on here about what real repentance looks like, do not settle for any less than that, and then keep pressing forward with God for his help, because he will uphold you and provide for you and protect you and heal you.
Five years out, I promise the healing begins with the truth and time, not pressure. I was so afraid of losing him and the most amazing grace God ever showed me was the day I walked out of a courthouse with a divorce in my hand. Go into the fear of what could happen and remember that God will be right there with you. That is what he promised.
God promised me, way back, as the fact that I was in an abusive marriage dawned on me, that the truth would set me free. It does. I counsel others; stay centered on truth! The words of a manipulator are often truth mixed with a lie, which is still a lie! Be very aware of truth… soak in it. Look to people you can trust, who live truth to speak into your life. The abuser has many tactics to make you fear and second guess yourself and knows how to appear in public. He has proven that to you. God’s grace will carry you through the darkness as you bring abuse to light. This journey is not for the faint hearted! His promises however, are true. He will never, no never, no never forsake those who come to him. When darkness is exposed to the light, the darkness must flee.
I was friends with a couple whose wife divorced the husband after she found evidence that he was cheating on her. The husband told me that he had cheated on his wife because he thought his wife was 100% committed to the marriage and would forgive him. It’s dangerous to think we’ve a license to sin because we’ll be forgiven. Sounds like the man in Leslie’s blog has that belief.
Was their name Duggar?
This has been my experience unfortunately. My husband wanted nothing to do with counseling of any kind because he wasn’t impressed by it. If course I wouldn’t he thinks he knows better than everyone.
I started putting firm boundaries in place he ran to the church for counseling. I found out later that he just blamed everything on me never admitted to anything and the church still sided with him.
So thankful for you Leslie because I now know forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to allow myself and my children to be mistreated in anyway.
Sometimes the church isn’t a place for good counsel. Few pastors are prepared to work with domestic abuse, not that they don’t care, they just don’t understand the complex dynamics.
My husband and I went one to meet with our Pastor in Texas to tell him about some resources we used and programs that could help other Christians dealing with domestic abuse. He said in his 30 years of pastoring a church of close to 1,000 people, there had never been a case of domestic abuse in his congregation. He said they just don’t seem to have that problem in his area. ugh!
Right….1 in 4 women are abused in so called “Christian” marriages today…and that Pastor has blinders on….how sad!
Very sad indeed.
This is just so very good!!! Reading through this I couldn’t help but wonder if it was my x h that sparked this post. It sounds like it is a familiar story for many of us.
One thing that was crucial to understanding if my xh’s repentance was born from true Godly conviction, rather than well spoken words he was parroting to get what he wanted, was time. God does not convict in general terms He is very specific. Which leads to very specific confession. Through this conviction and confession a repentant heart stays repentant and grows more Christ like over time. The repentant don’t change when they are not getting what they want. Repentance is not a game or a tool to be used. It is a heart change born from conviction from God. That is pretty intense stuff that leads to lasting change in behavior. Not just rhetoric.
Taking time to test the truth of my xh’s repentance was so SO difficult but incredibly important. He absolutely has changed. He learned a whole new persona and language to manipulate people with. That is not the sort of change that Godly conviction produces. I live the sad truth of this every day. My speaking up for myself means that I am prideful and hard hearted. My setting boundaries means that I am willful and rebellious. Sadly many in the church have reinforced this for him. He is now the victim. Thankfully, I have a Savior that loves me, protects me, and He knows the truth. There is so much peace in that.
The repetitive themes we all encounter are staggering. I pray the church wakes up to this. They are truly missing a vital opportunity to shepherd and protect.
You’re so right.
Love your comments, Erin. All true. Thanks!
Love this post!
Yes! I was taught (albeit inadvertently) that “I’m sorry” means to forgive the person and not let it “interfere” with the relationship. This is why I have struggled with the idea that forgiveness just lets someone off the hook, and has made setting appropriate boundaries incredibly difficult.
I love the questions posed in the blog. The obvious responses to these questions shows how twisted the logic for relationship issues is in the church. In response to those questions, ask yourself:
* Does an “I’m sorry” void the life sentence for murder?
* Are YOU willing to live next to a known sex offender/child molester that has expressed regret/repented?
* Are DUIs unlimited, or does one lose their license after repeated offenses?
* See Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 18:15-17
Sin has consequences. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the person anymore, but you have to protect yourself from those who are not willing to change their ways. That’s why we put murderers in jail and DUI offenders in treatment centers – to protect.
We are given direction on not associating with “repeat offenders” and for reconciling. See 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, John 3-20-21, and Ephesians 5:6-11
Thanks, sadly when it comes to marriage somehow all that logic goes out the window. THe sanctity of marriage is idolized over the safety and sanity of those in it.
I have to admit that this post brings up more questions for me than it does answers and your comment here is very confusing to me.
Let me start out by saying that I agree that, as counselors, we should never request that anyone return to a truly unsafe environment.
That said, “unsafe” has become a term to distorted that it can mean physically dangerous as in a war zone or it can mean mentally challenging as in hearing an opinion you disagree with on a university campus.
I think in light of the constant cloud of ambiguity that our culture places on these concepts it is best to continually look to the Bible to answer our questions.
Insofar as I can tell, the bible teaches us that we should forgive others as Christ as forgiven us (Col 3:13).
When you and I repent before God, do we need to prove our repentance before we are reconciled to Him?
In 1 Cor 5:9 we do have stern words about unrepentant brothers who practice such sins, but what about those who do repent? How long do you suppose Paul wanted the Corinthians to stand back as judges over those who repented, evaluating their behavior until they were convinced that said repentance was genuine?
Yes, sin has destructive consequences on relationships. All sins have destructive consequences. But forgiveness means not demanding the punishment of the guilty.
Just my own thoughts, thanks for the thought provoking article.
Those are great analogies. That’s a smart way to apply logic. Surely, if anyone hanging onto ‘a quick apology erases the effects of sin’ doctrine would hear Leslie’s teaching or even those analogies, then they would see the fallacy in their thinking.
Do you know any analogies that would apply to the H who says “I’m sorry that I yelled and cursed at you. When I said that I hate you that really didn’t mean that I hate you. I was just angry, but I wouldn’t ever get angry if you weren’t provoking me.”
Sadly though, I doubt even the best logic and Bible teaching could really move my H’s view of himself. At his core, he’s SO prideful. It seems like he HAS TO keep his self-image as awesome Godly man intact so he cannot face the hatefulness of his attitudes. If he were to truly look at his heart for long, I think he’d have a huge identity crisis.
Unfortunately Ruth, Leslie is right… logic seems go out the window when we talk about marriage. Somehow, the only piece of the Bible that lots of religious folk can hang onto regarding marriage is that “God hates divorce”. They forget about all the other components that tell us we should treat each other the way Jesus treated people, and that included discipline!
As a male that has survived abuse at the hands of my wife, I have to say that there is a tremendous difference between forgiving the sin and trusting the abusive spouse. If the people in your church shun you for protecting yourself from further abuse, then you need to find a church that believes that Jesus doesn’t want you to live in fear of someone that has abused you. We have to stand out ground and protect ourselves!
So true. Thanks for your words.
You are so right Christopher!
Dear Leslie thank you for this post. I am sure it brings comfort to those who have experienced the same thing to know they are not alone. My question to you is why do you think this problem is so pervasive in the church? It really disturbs me that this is happening as the norm.
Do you think it’s because people in the church who have never experienced abuse simply are ignorant of how awful it is to live with? I often think that the very same people who shun the victims and tell them to reconcile could not themselves tolerate being abused for 1 minute if they had to live like that.
You are on the front lines in this so I am curious as to what feedback and response you get from church leaders when you share with them the concept of a destructive marriage and what it does to not only the victimized spouse but also the children?
I have read your book and it was life changing. It freed me to see myself in a new light and also my husband. Specifically I no longer see myself as a victim ( I was however victimized in my destructive marriage). With God’s help and the support of people who “get it” like yourself I believe I can break free. I am saying this to share I don’t see the abuser as all bad and victim as all good but rather both are people that need help to change.
I believe there can be help for the abuser if the abuser is willing and truly repentant. As you said though this can only be demonstrated through actions over time. This concept seems pretty basic to me therefore I am truly at a loss as to how this level of denial of what real repentance looks like is so prevalent in our churches.
I am sure satan loves how the church is failing in this area and I believe it is partially due to spiritual warfare against Christians but another part of me is absolutely perplexed as to how modern day Christians can be so ignorant about this issue in this age of information we are living in.
Thank you for your work Leslie and I am praying for you and all of us in destructive marriages to get the healing we need whether the marriage stays together or not. Either way we ALL need healing.
Thank you Leslie for this great post. I do believe my husband wants to change but unfortunately the old behavior creeps back in off and on and reminds me again that he is still the same. I told him that I have shut down and not sure if ever I will be close to him again even thought I have forgiven him. I told him that he is like a tornado that leaves destruction in his path. I just want to get out of the way.
That’s a great description Janice. Yes, I don’t think Gid condemns anyone for fleeing from a “tornado of evil” coming my at us.
Janice, I am living the exact same situation. How are you handling sex with your husband. I can not do it. He cycles through periods of wellness and periods of abuse. Each period of abuse sets me back to the beginning again. He sincerely attends counseling (now in a men’s domestic violence group) on his own, reads, tries etc.. Yet, he continues to get stuck on feelings of rejection. His deepest pain is not being wanted. Therefore, when I put boundaries up during his regressions, he claims “chicken and the egg.” I say, “cause and affect”. Don’t be abusive and I won’t need to protect myself from your emotional mind games. Is your husband trying to heal?
Leslie-could you specifically address this? 32 years of difficult marriage and he claims it’s because I “withhold” and therefore am in sin. Church sides with him on this. I shut down emotionally many years ago as a self-protective mechanism so I could raise the children and keep the household running in the midst of his swings up and down. I’ve tried to meet that need but it’s forced and I just don’t want to continue. He gets uglier toward me as time goes by and his “needs” aren’t met. But I feel like I die a little each time. My best friends (elders wives) tell me I have to–and they KNOW how bad it’s been–esp over the last 15 years. I feel guilty–don’t know if it’s conviction from the Holy Spirit or condemnation from the evil one. Please address this specific issue—
Donna, I have addressed this in other previous blogs but I will see if I can dig them up and either forward them to you or write a new one in response to your question.
Thank you! This one area seems to cloud EVERYTHING –and the area the church is the worst in dealing with. I’ve tried to explain that lack of physical intimacy is the EFFECT not the CAUSE. When everything else in the relationship is broken, a five minute physical encounter which leaves him happy and me feeling dead inside doesn’t make it a biblical marriage–
Very true. Thanks for sharing.
I just had this conversation with my mom who feels that I am wrong for putting up boundaries with my abusive dad. I told her that I forgive him, but until he decides to change his selfish and hurtful ways I will not allow his abuse.
Also, I am separating from a cheating husband who thankfully has not demanded forgiveness. However, friends and family have said “Can’t you just forgive him?” Which they really mean “Can’t you just get over it and not grieve it?” Bottom line, sin has consequences.
I just wonder if your friends and family would give such advice if this person was your employer. Surely they would say, “Quit the job!” If you were driving down the road and someone crossed the median and side swiped your car, they would say “That driver is unsafe and shouldn’t be driving, get away from them. We need to call the police!” Yet, they tell you in your terrible situation, to just forgive and forget. Your friend’s and family’s comments, in my opinion, belittle you.
Yet, has your Mom ever put up boundaries with your abusive Dad? She probably isn’t the right person to give advice on this topic. Ask someone outside of your family and they will probably give you a more realistic assessment of your situation.
I do not agree completely with the post or some of the comments I’m reading.
I am coming from a place of complete understanding, as I also, like many reading this, have been verbally and emotionally abused by my husband. I will be “celebrating” 17 years of “for better and worse” and somehow makes me somewhat of an expert on this subject. I do not have a degree to back this up but real life experience.
I have spent many days, more than I care to spend too much time thinking about….. feeling sad, confused, scared, and other negative emotions. On the flip side I have experienced positivity throughout my marriage as well. A lot of sleeping alone and a lot of passion. Planning for our future together and planning where I will go in the middle of the night, when I’m scared to be at home. I would not wish that lifestyle on my worst enemy. But I am committed to my family and I believe that God hates divorce. More than anything else I have had a child-like faith in God and hold him to his promises. No one, this side of heaven, could convince me that God wont deliver and come through for me because he has promised to do so. I would love to share with anyone what verses I have relied on over the years. I will say that I have sought Godly counsel from a woman, I have set boundaries (eventually, and after reading Leslie’s book on destructive relationships) and I have put in personal work over the years in the area of marriage. I am seeing the “fruit of my labor”. There is hope and that is what I want woman to know.
*If you or your children are in danger then you must remove yourself from that environment until there is a sincere repentance. In my situation there was no abuse towards my children or violence.
Melissa thank you. I too have ,hildlike faith and pray even day that Jesus will come through and my marriage will be better than ever.
I pray that my husband who has turned very hard hearted towards me because of the mistakes I have made in our marriage…and have repented, asked for forgiveness, cried out to God of error and over again for help. …I pray that the Holy Spirit changes him.
I fell short and put my husband last on the priority list for many years. I didn’t realize what I was doing because I was in such a funk myself.
Now his treatment of me feels very punishing. Yet I continue to pray for healing, restoration, and reconciliation. …and most of all, a family kept together.
May I ask what you mean by “God will deliver you and come through for you”? What promises are you holding on to?
I have desires of my heart, things that I have asked God for, as everyone else does.
When I say that I have faith that God will deliver and come through I’m looking ahead at the end results-even to the next generation. I have asked God to please use my marriage to glorify him , even though it’s not pretty all the time. God has and is still using my imperfect hard marriage to do just that. I’m believing that as I pray for my husband and do my part , which is to not react sinfully to his behavior (I do fall short) or speak negatively about him to others, do not harden my heart towards him, ask God to heal my sad heart often, ask God to fill me with compassion and forgiveness towards him then yes, I truly believe God will make a way (deliver).
That does not mean my husband will ever change completely. It just means that God is giving me the grace to go through it and I’m doing so I can see how I have changed for the better. Not bitter….but better. God bless you!!!
If I may share some thoughts- One of the things that I have done because of being in an emotionally destructive marriage, is question and study for myself if my beliefs line up with the Bible. One such belief was about prayer. I had been taught that if I had faith and trusted God, he would answer my prayer. I was also taught that even considering the opposite of what I was praying for meant I did not have faith. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayed to God for deliverance, they believed that God would deliver them, but they also said if God did not deliver them, they would not obey they King. I have come to the conclusion that when we pray for something, we don’t lack faith if we consider a different outcome. For example, I can pray for healing from illness, but if I take steps to deal with the reality of my illness, that doesn’t mean I lack faith. We can pray to God to heal our marriage, but dealing with the reality of the bad marriage does not mean we lack faith.
Jesus ran away from people who came to take him away. He knew it wasn’t God’s timing so he ran way. Paul used his Roman heritage to get out of jail. You mention that you are scared in the middle of the night. Are you being physically abused? If you live in the US, we have the police and court system that can help. Why not use them? You can also remove yourself from that situation and go some place safe. When we do things for our kids that they can do for themselves, it can be damaging to them. In the same way, God does not (generally) do things for us that we can do for ourselves.
One of my pastors told a lady in an abusive marriage recently that we all have different crosses to bear, hers was her abusive husband. I don’t think suffering for Christ while preaching the gospel in a hostile area is the same as suffering in a bad marriage. His grace is sufficient for us, but what if He is not pleased by you living in fear?
Melissa, we are questioning you, not because what you say is offensive or “doesnt line up with what we want” or anything like that. It is because we truly CARE about YOU and we have been where you are. Every person caught in abuse is the ONLY person who can really make any decisions about what they will do. However, what you write here is EXACTLY my thinking, that held on to and endured for 30 years. Praying, believing, learning how to “survive” abuse instead of taking steps to eradicate it (whatever those steps would entail!) and having to be so strong all the time on top of just the regular everyday “chores” of life and parenthood have taken a tremendous toll on me and my kids, physically, spiritually, emotionally. A marriage is designed to be a HAVEN, where two people can mutually help each other through the difficulties of life. When you live with abuse, it is ADDING a level of stress and pain that it was not designed to. Anything that is a twisting of God’s design is not to be tolerated or accepted as His Will or made to appear better than its reality or made to sound “spiritual.” God will do what God will do. I finally realized that He does not have to depend on me doing what OTHERS who are not living it, say is “the right thing,” for Him to create a positive outcome. He loves ME as His child, NOT as a wife or mother or sister or aunt, but just because I am His. An abusive spouse is not a “cross to bear.” It is a destroying of God’s design. I encourage you to continue getting educated. The truth will set you free.
Melissa, I’ve waited 30 years for my husband to “change” and especially the last 5 1/2 since his affair was discovered.
I feel that’s enough time for anyone to “change” and start to see the light.
As I plan to separate from my husband, I can clearly see that God is for me, and against the abuse I’ve endured, because I believe that God LOVES me MORE than He hates divorce!
God IS delivering me, yes He is, just not in the way you, or the “church” believes!
My hope in sharing my personal struggles was not intended to make any other feel condemnation in leaving a bad marriage but instead to share that there are marriages that can survive abuse (although rarely). God bless you for staying as long as you did! I know that the mental struggle is so real.
Mellisa, it’s always good to hear a story where your marriage is improving, however, your child like faith to trust God in staying and persevering might be the same child like faith to trust God to leave or implement tough consequences on a spouse who is repetitively destructive and unrepentant. God values the sanctity of marriage but divorce was allowed in certain circumstances and one was hardness of heart. You cannot restore a marriage when one person is unwilling – even though you might stay legally married. Violence isn’t only physical, it is also mental, emotional, spiritual, sexual and financial and causes damage when it is not stopped. God cares about marriage but I don’t believe he cares about it more than the safety and sanity of the individuals within that marriage.
Yes ma’am this is so true and thank you for putting into words what I would’ve struggled to find adequate words to express. I believe that God will give each person the grace to do what ever he’s calling them to do. And whether there is separation, divorce, or staying married Gods love and grace and help are availalable equally to all of us! Also, HE promises in Philippians 1:6
That he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
I’m halfway thru reading the Lundy Bancroft book “Why Does He Do That?” Just wow. He really understands how these guys think. I’m just devouring that book. Thanks to the ladies here for recommending this book.
I highly suggest reading this book especially for any lady who’s ‘holding on for a God to do a miracle’ in her marriage. I attend a ‘word of faith’ church so I’m familiar that kind of teaching. It never resonated with my heart or maybe I just have weak faith. I’ve never heard my church specifically apply the Word of Faith teaching to marriage. My church’s focus is on physical healing. The church before this one had a big time emphasis on prosperity and giving.
I’m prayerfully considering finding a new church mainly bc (1) I’m not in complete agreement with their doctrine and (2) I do not like attending church with H.
There’s no Biblical promise of a husband getting saved or having a good marriage that I know of – if they’re is, then I’d like to know. Or for ladies, who are praying and hoping for a healed marriage is it on general faith scriptures? Like “ask and you shall receive” Or are you believing on a word God spoke into your heart or a word someone spoke over you?
I’m not referring to the God hates divorce debate. I’m sincerely curious about ladies who are truly hopeful about a going from a toxic, abusive marriage to a healed, healthy marriage. What inspires such hope?
Ruth….that book, along with Leslie’s, has been a real eye opener for me!
I agree – Lundy’s book is a very powerful eye-opener… at least it was for me! Reading that and Leslie’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” made me take a hard, honest look at what was going on (instead of sweeping it under the rug as usual!).
Melissa, if there was no abuse towards you or your children, why did you need to find a place to go in the middle of the night? We Christians stay and stay and stay. We believe and pray. We take our vows as a covenant and accept our cross to bear. Yet, our husband is not bearing a cross at all. Hum….why?
Our God is so great that that I can’t reconcile the evil I have experienced at my husband’s hands to be anything close to what is expected in marriage. I think, I am rather a spiritual slave to the institution of marriage and a submissive lover of the Lord who would obey any and everything he sends my way. This is how I fit the profile of an abused woman. I am Christian and I know how to suffer. Something just isn’t logical with all of this, fruit or no fruit. Imagine what a fabulous harvest we could yield without the abuse!
Please read below ( my comment to Robin) for an explanation on why I would leave my home.
I don’t believe that what worked for me will work for every marriage but setting a boundary that
“I will leave the house until you are acting rational” worked in my situation
Stella, God honors your safety and well being over the sanctity of marriage. God never intended any of us to tolerate abuse.
Thanks Robin. I should be better at explaining past and present circumstances. I am safe now.
When you say you are scared in the middle of the night——- that surely doesn’t sound safe safe or healthy. Is it abuse???
Yes, there use to be terrible verbal abuse….and when you feel threatened, as I would (such as shut your mouth or…..or what?) YES In years past I would leave the house to escape verbal abuse. I was instructed by a counselor that in doing this I was showing him what my boundaries are….I showed him that he would not talk down to me, curse at me….and in my marriage it worked! In my situation I saw through my husbands insecurities, hurt from a past relationship, and unforgiveness towards me, and quit reacting. I understand that every situation is different. I’m only sharing my experience.
No judgement here, Melissa, we all do what we have to do.
I think I understand the hurts that cause my husband to be abusive too. Yet, i don’t want to be his counselor, mother, or dumping ground for his pain. I am solely interested in being his wife. I have been taught to say if needed, “I am your wife, not your mother.”
Just because we understand the abuse doesn’t mean we should tolerate it. Like you, I often just endure and eventually his rants stops. They don’t affect me much because I understand his personality disorder and know his words have nothing to do with me. Yet, he hollers and screams (often for hours) just like the picture of the man at the beginning of this blog. He seems to be saying the word, “You.” That is the word, I hear the most during my abusive husband’s diatribes.
Stella, maybe instead of enduring his abuse, and waiting for it to end, have you considered stopping his abuse by setting boundaries. I saw where you said don’t tolerate abuse- but isn’t that what you’re doing by enduring instead of standing up to it? Most abusive men to have ‘disorders’ but it isn’t an excuse for his destructive behaviors. Have you read Leslies book on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship???
Stella, great if you can shake it off. Sadly, some people cannot do that and get affected physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Melissa, I did the same thing. I packed the kids up and left for several hours. I agree that it sets a boundary. Boundaries didn’t change my husband, he continued his destructive behaviors. I am divorced now. Can I ask if your marriage is truly healed- meaning he acknowledged his son of abuse – repented- and accepted accountability by meeting with someone who could ask him the hard questions?? Usually abuse doesn’t just go away without these changes of heart and behavior.
Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your insights on this topic. My eyes are filled with tears to read how many people can personally identify with this scenario. I thought I was the only one but see that many others were victimized not only by their spouse but by their church as well. After a five-month separation followed by his “repentance” our teenage son and I moved back home only to experience a year from hell. At the end of that year I obtained a Protection from Abuse order and was promptly put under discipline from my church. After a five-year separation we were eventually divorced.
Somewhere in the process our counselor gave me a copy of your book that was new at the time, “How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong”. The first night that I started reading it I became angry and threw the book across the room because I wanted justification to hate him for what he was doing to me and our sons but your book pointed me God’s Word, which held me to a higher standard. The principles that you taught changed my focus, mindset and behavior. They helped me make right choices in dealing with both the abuse from him and from my church. Thank you for showing me that no matter what, I do have a responsibility to act right before God.
It has been five years since the divorce has been finalized and God has done a lot of healing. There has been forgiveness between my former husband and myself through God’s grace. That doesn’t mean that I trust him or have been reconciled to him. It just means that we are forgiven. There has also been forgiveness between the church and me and I am so grateful for that as well.
Thank you for showing us how to recognize the difference between selfish abuse and true love from God. Thank you for giving us tools to make the right choices in situations that are excruciatingly painful and confusing. The work you are doing is much needed.
This post is so frustratingly true. The church members who have been meeting with my husband (for years now) claim they have seen so many changes in him yet I myself haven’t seen these changes. Not once have the church members contacted ME to ask how things are going with him or if I have noticed any changes. Shouldn’t the measure of his change be the way he treats me now? Instead it appears to be how many Bible studies he attends each week and how many church activities he participates in. Yet his abuse towards me continues. It baffles me.
Perhaps you could suggest to them that if he was truly changing, he would be treating you differently as well.
I greatly appreciate the helpful emphasis on proper care by churches of those who have been abused. As a pastor and counselor I find most churches too quick to counsel the victim to forgive and return to the abuser who is now a better actor and even more stealthy in his behavior.
My question, do any abusers ever change? If so, could you share some details of how this process played out?
I am 3 months into helping a couple who are currently separated. They are making progress. Can you share a success story?
Mark – abusers rarely change, however some do and I am doing a free webinar on the roadmap required for healing a destructive marriage. There is a sign up on this blog. Also several months ago I did a free webinar with pastor and batterer intervention specialist Chris Moles and how abusers change and what is the process. If you contact my assistant Martha@leslievernick.com she will give you a link to watch that webinar.
Mark, Thank you for being willing to help a hurting couple and for understanding that destructive marriages require counseling unlike typical marital counseling.
I would like to suggest that there is opportunity for the church to reach out and begin men’s accountability groups for abusive behavior. It seems the church has begun to address pornography (Every man’s Battle), sexual abuse (The Journey) and addictions (Celebrate Recovery), but I wish someone would write a program for domestic abuse (Paul Hegstrom’s Life Skills comes close) that includes accountability.
My husband really didn’t change until he had a spiritual intervention to cast out Satan and demon possession. He will tell you it was one of the most frightening experiences of his life. He still hears the call of demonic thoughts, yet through Christ, he casts them out and away. A men’s accountability group filled with other controlling, manipulative, entitled men was the only group of people he couldn’t fool. They spoke his language and could read his posturing for power and pride. Yet, those groups are usually court order and have no religious compass.
Thanks for stepping into this line of work. We need you!
I had a lifelong pattern of owning all the blame, shame and condemnation in not only our marriage, but other relationships as well. My father was a physically raging abusive man. (This planted some deep patterns.). God helped my husband and I by exposing my husband in a way that ended up being very public. We were helped by being able to honestly share with two couples who pointed us towards help. My husband sought weekly counseling and joined a recovery group for men where they were safely able to be honest with the sin in their lives. I benefitted from personal counseling and going through group therapy covering the book ‘Shame Interrupted’ by Ed Welch. Medication was helpful. I was so used to being hurt AND taking the blame, I had little hope for change. In the beginning even hearing the words…’I have hurt you, and I’m sorry.’ Sounded shallow and plastic. Now three years into our slowwwww journey, I can say that God is patiently changing both of our hearts. I would never go back to where we came from. I am growingly aware of how I COOPERATED by my own doormat behavior over the years believing I was being a good Christian. This never helped by husband as a human being or glorified God in any way. Just one story but, out two very twisted up people…God is at work and gets the credit! I am very grateful for those that walked with us. There was actually a PASTOR at his kitchen table with us that identified with us and assured us that God could change our hearts, and give conviction and repentance where it did not exist. I could not believe it at the time, but God did exactly that. It does not happen every time but it did happen slowly with us.
So glad to see a pastor/counselor who “gets it”! Share your knowledge & experience with your peers.
As to why churches react the way described above is multifactorial. However I believe the main reason is, to be blunt, ignorance. Being in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage myself, I knew something was not right and obviously thought I was part of the problem. Counselors thought communication techniques and trying harder would help. I remember a counselor who was also a pastor telling my husband to “connect emotionally with her this week.” My h did not even know what that meant and of course there was no follow up at the next session.
After my husband moved out and I read “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans, and Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, my eyes were opened. There was great relief that there was a name and an explanation for the situation. There was also great sorrow over that ‘diagnosis’ and great sorrow over the slim prospects of things ever being
different per Bancroft. I was ignorant. I have my masters degree and lots of training along the way in listening, communication, dealing w clients, etc., and yet totally unaware of what constitutes verbal and emotional abuse. Such is much of the church.
Raised in the church and a patriarchal environment, unless one has experienced personally or someone they knew experienced this type of abuse, or educated themselves, they are oblivious to it. Physical abuse awareness is out there, but not emotional abuse. As mentioned many times and places, these people are so nice in public and often professionally successful, that no one can believe they may be emotionally immature and abusive at home.
We saw multiple counselors and non of them dealt with power and control nor abuse. One pastor did tell my husband that he contolled me by manipulation. That was an eye opener for me. Of course, h would not go back. The last licensed therapist and pastor (same person), assured me he was familiar with abuse. However it became obvious very quickly that he was not.
Other reasons the churches respond as they do is to remain objective, not take sides, there are 2 sides to the story, etc., supposedly God hates divorce, vows for better or for worse, etc.
I was wondering from Leslie how to find a counselor that does understand emotional and verbal abuse.
I so appreciate Leslie’s resources and others mentioned along the way on this blog. Tremendously helpful. Thank you Leslie and all.
I have several blogs in the last 6 months on how to find a good counselor and what that process looks like. Scroll back and you will find them.
I mentioned to my pastor a few months ago, after a meeting regarding a ministry I’m involved in, that my marriage isn’t the way it seems to everyone else….I said it hesitantly, just trying to see how he’d react, because I’ve heard first hand from a friend who is in a horribly abusive marriage that he’s done NOTHING to help her…anyway, he actually said to me that “sometimes God calls women to “suffer” for Jesus, in their marriage….WHAT???
So I now know that I can’t count on his support when I tell him I’m separating from my husband…plus my husband is a good ol guy…always smiling, happy with life..when he’s at church…of course he’s completely different at home.
Churches today have let down sooo many women who are in abusive relationships…there are times I’d really just like to step away from church altogether, I’m that disappointed.
So, how to we raise awareness? Do we give testimonies at women’s events maybe? I have bought a number of abuse related books to put in our church’s library. The copies are getting well worn so someone is checking them out. 🙂 How to we gather a voice and turn the tide on this ugly sin?
Stella….I’m going to give copies of Leslie’s books and Pastor Crippens book, Unholy Charade, from Crying out for Justice blog, to my pastor and ask him to read them, as I detail the abuse I’ve been subjected to.
If he won’t read them, OR after he does read them, and he wants nothing to do with stopping abuse in our church, then I am prepared to withdraw my membership in my church and stop any ministries I’m involved in…and I will let others know why I’ve withdrawn my membership.
I’ll continue to attend the church, because I want him to have to see me every week, knowing I’m an abused wife, and he refuses to help me and other women in his church.
I’ve felt for some time that The Lord is leading me to confront my Pastor, especially after I became friends with a young mom who is being verbally and emotionally abused, and our Pastor knows and does NOTHING!
I would love for our church to become a lighthouse in my city for abused women, but first I have to get the church leadership out of their comfortable “rut” and see what’s right in front of their faces!
In Massachusetts today a five year old girl led police to her “sleeping” mommy who was stabbed to death and lying on the kitchen floor. It seems Dad is the only suspect, he had a self inflicted knife wound to his neck, and was lying in the next room. So, I think we can’t act fast enough. I love the idea of distributing resources any and everywhere. I use them like a use tracts in evangelism. It becomes expensive giving people books, but I see it as a very valuable tithe.
I think it is time for us to come “out of the closet” so to speak. Anyone else have some ideas how we can do that? I know Leslie is making great strides with the issue of bringing this topic to the Christian community. Thanks.
Stella – I would love all the help I can get in making this more public to churches so that they cannot close their eyes and ignore the reality of what’s going on behind closed doors.
Churches are beginning to realize that they don’t know how to deal with this. You may indeed be a light for your pastor and church staff to understand more Biblical and helpful ways to deal with abusive and destructive marriages. But remember – it is not about you, it is about God and giving him glory in whatever we do. He is in charge and as long as we remember that we are not derailed when it doesn’t work out as we thought it “should”.
Yes ma’am this is so true and thank you for putting into words what I would’ve struggled to find adequate words to express. I believe that God will give each person the grace to do what ever he’s calling them to do. And whether there is separation, divorce, or staying married Gods love and grace and help are availalable equally to all of us! Also, HE promises in Philippians 1:6
That he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
I don’t think that was she meant at all.
I’m a terrible typer- supposed to say “I don’t believe that is WHAT she meant at all.”
Sorry, I tend to leave out words.
In my last post I was not summarizing Ms Vernicks comment at all. She is the expert and I have more respect for her than to do that. I was saying that in her response back to me I appreciated her putting into words what I could not in my first original post. I understand that the same grace that I receive in “staying” others are given the same grace to find a way out of a bad marriage.
Ok. Sorry for that. BC of where your post landed, I thought your reply was for Lonelywife.
Thanks Leslie, this is a great post. I wish I would have learned about you months ago. I am that man that is putting pressure on my wife to reconcile our marriage. I was the one doing all the hurt, and always had an excuse why I was doing it. I really want to change my ways, and also want to stay married. But the way it is going for us, it’s not going to happen. I also went to the extent of saying that God doesn’t want us to be separated, and we should reconcile,because look at me I’m changing my ways. But as I read more and more, I have even fooled myself.
Leslie, I have a question, is there therapist out there that deal with a person that states they know they are verbally/emotionally abusive that can help me?
Edward, have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why does he do That?” Also Paul Hegstrom has written, “Broken Children-Grown up Pain” that may be helpful. There are group sessions by Hegstrom’s organization, Lifeskills International that are specifically designed for abusive men. The groups meet all over the country. Also, watching some videos by Patrick Doyle may be helpful.
Stella, thanks for the information. I have not read any of them books. But I will look into them this weekend. I will also check into the group meetings. Once again thank you very much..
Edward…you might want to start by telling your wife “I’m sorry, I am so, so sorry! I’ve been a jerk, and I now see that I’m also an abuser and demanding that you reconcile with me was also abusive, so you won’t hear that from me ever again! I’m going to change, I NEED to change who I am, so I can live a life that is honoring to God.”
Then leave her alone. If you need to talk to her…about finances, the children, etc…make it brief and stick to those subjects.
That’s the ONLY way you can truly show your wife that you are sorry and are wanting to change.
If you search this blog from a few weeks ago, there’s a post about showing TRUE repentance, also google Patrick Doyle, true repentance, and learn from that!
Then work on yourself, work HARD, don’t give up and don’t do it to hopefully one day reconcile…but do it because you’ve been wrong and you owe it to your children, or future children, and if you’re lucky, a future wife!
I do respect you for coming on here and posting, asking for help…if my husband cared enough to even TALK to me like this, let alone write on a blog…we wouldn’t be so fractured and broken, with me looking forward to the day I can finally be free from him.
Lonelywife, I thank you for the recommendations. I wish I could have noticed this year’s ago and was able to open up to my wife about my childhood long ago. It took me a long time to actually write a comment on this page because I didn’t know how people would respond to me. I did think that some would look at me trying to get sympathy, but Im not looking for that. I need help to make myself well. I did take your first advice and I spoke to wife and I apologized for the way I have been for our 10 years of marriage and for continuing to ask her to reconcile with me.
Now that is done, it’s time to focus on building a better me.. Thank you for your support and advice.
Dan Allendar’s book, “The Wounded Heart” is also excellent if you have childhood sexualabuse in your family history. Townsend and Cloud’s books, “Changes that Heal” and any of the “Boundaries” titles by those authors are helpful too.
My husband will tell you he could and did fool every counselor he spoke with, it wasn’t until he got with other abusive men that he was finally able to get some real help because he couldn’t fool them. He has said that any group that began with this is how the wife needs to change, is just denial and deflection and can’t get you anywhere.
Oh, and your welcome! Slow. Do your work, explore your childhood and how you learned to be a man. Give it time. God loves you.
I thought of another recommendation if you are interested. Do you live anywhere near Michigan? There is a group from Open Heart Ministries that does four day intensives of the Journey program. Your wife might find healing at such a place. Spouses can go together or separately. I recommend separately, if she won’t go, you could give it a try. It is a safe place.
Thank again Stella. Michigan is a little to far, but I will definitely try to find something near me.. I appreciate your thoughts.
I live in a very small town, so my options are limited as to which church to get support and understanding from (like none!). But from these posts, it appears that it’s not easy anywhere to get help from churches. When it comes to why this is so, I’m wondering if it partly has to do with the age-old double standard of rules for men vs. women. Also, in the churches there generally are more women than men. So to hold on to the men that they have, maybe they bend over backward a little too far to keep the guys happy.
Absolutely!! Leave without warning. Do you actually think he would agree to you leaving? Remember he thinks he owns you and is entitled to control you. He will not give his emotional play thing a pass to get out of jail for ANY reason. You must leave during the “honeymoon” stage of the abusive power and control wheel. You know when that is right? When he is calm and seems pleasant enough to live with. That is when you are strongest and safest.
Ladies, please keep me in your prayers. I REALLY need to hear God’s voice now.
I’ve been keeping a journal in a spiral notebook for about 6 months. I’ve poured out my hurt in detail over every cruel word that my H has said to me. I admitted to lying about sex (my ‘response’). I said I’ll probably divorce him when they kids are all in college (that’s in 9 years).
Today he found my journal and read it. He already held me in great contempt. I don’t know how this will play out.
A few months ago I posted here that I was too scared for Leslie’s advice for ‘no more pretending’. I guess I’ll have to be real now.
In case any of you are wondering, he’s never been violent.
It seems like everything is coming to a head. my plan was to try and ‘stay well’. It might not be possible now.
Ruth, you are living one of my greatest fears, that my husband finds my journal. You said he has not been violent, yet tonight might be the first time. Is there any person you know well enough to tell them what happened today. I would pack an emergency bag just to be safe ($, change of clothes, keys, ID, medication). Please give Leslie your contact information or at least call the domestic abuse hotline and tell them what happened today. I just want to make sure you are safe. The most dangerous time is when you show any signs of not being under his control. He has to amp up his game to keep his possession under his thumb. Remember he thinks he owns you and that he is entitled to control you and manipulate you any way he please to desperately satisfy egotistical desires.
Having said all that, I really hope this is the beginning of a transformation for you and your life. This is nothing you orchestrated, so it will be interesting to see what happens next. Keep your head on a swivel and don’t be lured into his mind games. You had every right to document what was happening in your life and a journal is a good place to process feelings. You did nothing wrong, not a thing!
I, like you and Ruth have a journal going of my interactions, etc., with my h. I’ve struggled with an emotionally abusive h. for many years. I’m in a tough situation, because I live in a small remote town that is difficult to get out of easily. I don’t have support locally. After reading Leslie’s book as well as other materials, common advice is to go to someone’s house to set some boundaries-can’t do that. My h. knows how to intimidate when he wants to, and I don’t completely trust that he wouldn’t hurt me if sufficiently provoked. I have left him in the past without notifying him, as I didn’t see any other option. Then he would “repent” and I’d go back to him. He then would put me on a guilt trip (as well as one of my children), for leaving him without talking to him first. He also would just chalk me up for being crazy for leaving him. My question is, do you and other ladies think that sometimes there is good justification for just leaving without warning?
Definitely Mary. I left my husband without telling him. I had on past years during his explosive rages told him that he should leave and that I wanted a separation but he never acted on it.
I knew that once I made the move there would be no going back. If I got back with him it would be worse for me but God helped me escape!
Absolutely!! Leave without warning. Do you actually think he would agree to you leaving? Remember he thinks he owns you and is entitled to control you. He will not give his emotional play thing a pass to get out of jail for ANY reason. You must leave during the “honeymoon” stage of the abusive power and control wheel. You know when that is right? When he is calm and seems pleasant enough to live with. That is when you are strongest and safest.
I was also thinking about a comment that was made by Leslie(?) that abusers are the most dangerous 2 weeks after one leaves. So, if I was to attempt to leave after telling him, it might be dangerous.
Yes for some women separation means more danger. The threat of abandonment and loss of control may push some men over the edge. That does not mean one should not leave, but it’s important that one leaves with a lot of safety measure in place.
I also recommend that you have someone ON the phone you can trust, preferable a supportive male (as male abusers usually already have a “women are weak and not worthy of taking seriously” slant, more likely to at least somewhat respect a male listening in). This worked for me when I told him about his behaviors and what I was going to do. He has never been violent but VERY intimidating. I finally got to the point where I was strong enough that when he tried to be intimidating (get in my face, yelling, blocking me) I literally yelled “IM NOT AFRAID OF YOU ANYMORE!!” and it was so empowering! But for some, this may set them off into the vast unknown so be safe and have someone as a witness even if it is on the phone. I also have taped his tirades and anytime I feel the least “sorry” for him, I replay it to remind myself that this is just the honeymoon phase and the REAL person will show up soon. 30 years of this. He’s had enough chances. Grace is meant to bring healing and harmony, not to be used to keep someone trapped.
Are you free from him now Debby or are you in year 31?
Yesterday I asked my H if he was listening to me. This set off a tirade. He can listen and do two things at a time, he said. He doesn’t know how much longer he can take this criticism. I am told not to question his intentions.
This fits into Lundy’s claim that they are above reproach. I am always surprised by what is considered a reproach.
Ruth,comimg from a man, just be 100% alert and watch all his body language.. I would even recommend for you to leave for a while until you feel he has had time to digest what he has read.. Make sure you have somewhere safe to go. Good luck and God bless. Be safe.
Ruth…keep your cell phone in your hand at all times, ready to hit 911…you don’t have to say anything, if he’s raging they’ll hear and know to send help!
But please stay alert…stay calm if he starts in on you!
I will be praying!
Please post again and let us know how you are!
I have a very hard time NOT reacting to my husbands sinful behavior because it hurts me and I take what he says and does/doesn’t do personally. I am praying to change this about me.
Hopeful, have you tried not listening? Point your face in his direction, let your eyes focus on something behind him and think about other things. He will try to hook you into his conversation with increasing rants, yet with this technique you are free in your own mind.
Think about your food shopping list, what you want to plant in the garden or the lyrics to a favorite song for example. Remember all his communication is designed to control you. It is not real or honest communication. Please know if you are confused, it is because he is trying to manipulate you. Your brain works perfectly fine and you don’t need to change anything about the way you feel. Just dial back the trust and respect, he is using you as an outlet for his own insecurities.
Remember he thinks he owns you and he is entitled to treat you any way he deems appropriate.
I am so sorry that happened Ruth! What a personal violation and lack of love and respect. Praying for you now.
Is it wrong to be angry when sinned against? Then use the anger to do the right thing, to be who you want to be (like Lealie encourages us to do) confront in love, detach, separate, refuse to be treated in a way that doesn’t honour the woman God created you to be. You should be angry at evil treatment. I hope you can find your voice and stop the evil that is being done to you and stop the endless punishment that your husband loves inflicting. When we turn and repent God accepts us. He accepts and loves you and you have turned and repented and changed your ways. What more can you do except what you have done and God accepts you! Tune out the voice of the accuser!
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Thank you for sharing a story of Gods grace in your marriage. It’s very helpful to be given evidence that God can work even in what seems an impossible. I am traveling through the minefield of psychological abuse seeking Gods path and trying to prevent additional injured(we’ve met with teen children who are suffering as well). The husband is seeming to respond to our very intentional call to repentance. Your suggestion of Ed Welchs book is an excellent resource. I’d be interested to know from your husband what helped him? It seems there is much silence from the perspective of the recovering abuser. Perhaps that’s material for another counseling book. Thanks again for the hope in your story.
Here’s my update-
Rather than going nuts, my H was quiet all evening. I think he was trying to process just how severe the damage was that he’d read about in my journal. its not that I’d never explained my feelings to him before. In fights, I’d try to point out where he was being mean and un-Christlike. But I’d do it in a calculated, delicate way. I wouldn’t say “You’re abusive.” I might say “You’re rude and harsh.” In my journal, I was very blunt. I know there were pages where I said “he disgusts me. I hate him. I wish I’d never married him.”
Late last night, I prayed and said “Lord, are you bringing this out so HE will pursue a divorce. Is this Your way of setting me free? Or do you want to use this as a place of brokenness where maybe we begin to heal?” I did not feel a clear leading.
This morning he wanted to talk. He seems repentant. Part of me was reluctant but another part ached to be reconciled. I didn’t feel a huge NO from the Lord, so We made up. He was very gentle and kind.
I’m cautiously hopeful that this will lead to positive changes. But I know it will take more than promises. He’s going to have to go to counseling, a men’s group, read good books, etc. (since joining here, I learned couples counseling is usually a no-no. Maybe we could do that later on down the road when hopefully the worst of our problems are healed.)
At this point, I know better than to pass him my Bancroft book bc he’d be mad that I could lump him into that group. It’s too bad bc that’s an awesome book for understanding an abusive’s man’s thoughts and justifications. Maybe he’d read one of Leslie’s books?
Can anyone recommend books written specifically to the abusive husband?
Naturally I’m scared that after a little time passes that his heart will harden again and he’ll be more hateful than ever – especially now that he’s read how much I’ve despised him.
** he doesn’t know that I post here, so I might ask for my posts to be removed.
Time has passed how are you now?
There is a great value that comes from a place where you can confess sin with others. (Because we are slow to see it ourselves, and also quick to deceive ourselves.). These men and other support people in our life provided NO ROOM to blame-shift or hide behind a shallow appearance of goodness. ‘The gun is smoking and you are holding it so….’ Also, THIS SITE and LESLIE’S materials are regularly helpful and strengthening. When you have lived all of life with a degree of ‘crazy’ it is so helpful to hang out with others that are traveling the journey together and fighting for TRUTH!!! I am regularly grateful for THIS place where I always receive help and strength to live ‘well’ in spite of people or circumstances that rise against me.
Erase??? No!!! SCARS ???Yes!!!
“Old Testament legalist thinking”…LOL…that really did make me LOL! I have been teaching primary grades for years at a christian school…one of the biggest lessons I find when my little kiddos come to me with ‘playground’ issues is that (long lesson short description) if their ‘friend’ keeps committing the offence and saying sorry that’s fine…but that doesn’t mean they have to keep going back to play with this friend. They can forgive their friend and go play with someone else. We don’t say sorry, forgive, hug, and make up, and REPEAT. I think this is something that Christians have not been taught very well: I truly pray that this little playground lesson builds STRONG WOMEN and MEN of FAITH for my little ones. Of course, the irony is, what do I do in my abusive marriage??? Yup…I do the REPEAT!
How do you do it? How do you all do it? I thought I could, but I went back after a year. I was stronger when I went back, but that’s not true for me anymore.
Elle, going back after a separation isn’t ideal for everyone. A few can stay well if they learn to set boundaries that will stop sin. But anytime at all on the blog will show you it doesn’t usually last for most.
They find their destructive relationship didn’t change. I think it’s very important to ask the Lord what He has for each of us. I left for a year– and within a month of being back I lost most my strength due to the intense abuse. My husband was bitter that I had left, and wanted me to pay – big. I tolerated it for a season doing the best I could to keep my eyes on the Lord, and not my abuser. But my day came when I knew the Lord was saying- you gave it your best shot. You are free to leave and find the Life I have for you, away from abuse. And I did, and I walk in freedom everyday thankful for being rescued.
Did you have a job that could sustain you? I’ll be 57 years old and it took me forever to build up enough confidence to look for a job after being a stay at home mom for 20+ years. I had found one that was only part time back in October, only to find out at the end of January, the owner was retiring. Out was a lovely place to week, for getting my feet wet.my husband seemed happy then, but now that my little paychecks aren’t coming in anymore. I’m worthless and having a hard time standing up to get out some resumes again. I do nothing right in his eyes. He’s an alcoholic that turns everything I say to him that challenges him. Into ways to verbally and emotionally hurt me. I can’t see past where I am and am feeling hopeless and in despair. He wears the mask in front of everyone instead of me. I don’t have the strength for this anymore. No matter what day or do it gets crushed to his satisfaction.
Yes, I was a Piano Teacher who had worked out of my home for 30 years. He would only allow me to work part time but as his financial abuse got worse- I went ahead and looked for more students. I really believe the abuse was so severe- that when I started standing up to his abuse, the Lord blessed me and brought me a studio full of students. It is challenging after you’ve been home with children, it’s challenging to find work, but don’t give up. Everything you said Elle sounds just like my husband and his behavior. Have you read Leslies book The EmotionalDestructive Relationship?? There is one on Marriage also. They are both very informative and helpful.
Don’t lose hope. God will provide away for you if it is His will for you to leave. Have you been sending out resumes and applying for jobs. I will be praying that God helps you find the right job.
Are you able to take Leslie’s CORE class? From what you have written, it seems like you are measuring your worth by your husband’s view of you. I encourage you to read Psalm 139. Stop listening to your husband. He is telling you lies. If a person tells us “grass is purple” should we blindly believe it? We need to measure what people tell us against what the Bible says and see if it holds up. A practical thing you can do is write down each lie that he tells you on an index card, and find a verse in Bible that speaks against it, then meditate on that verse.
Your husband is putting you down to control you. Instead of focusing on pleasing your husband, focus on pleasing Christ. When we shift our focus to man, we end up discouraged and drained. When we focus on Christ, the opposite is true.
Do you have support from family/church. Now is probably the time to reach out to them.
My family is spread around the country and have listened to this once already. They have their lives, which are busy. My church seems to just throw people to a counselor. Which I have done for well over a year. Yet my husband serves in the church with no repercussions whatsoever. It leaves me cold with no trust. Come to thing of it, I really have very little trust in me about anything anymore.
Elle, Are there any other churches that you can go to during the week? Maybe there’s a women’s Bible study that you can attend. You’ll be able to make friends there and get support. Since your husband is heavily involved in your church, be careful with whom you confide in.
I like your tip about writing down his lies and then seeking scripture to defeat them during quiet time. It would help us be discerning listeners too.
I remember when my mother in law wanted to have control of my husband’s heart she told him (and anyone else who would listen), that I was a slut. I was a married woman( to her son) had no other partners and the stay at home mother of two young children. Who could find the time for such behavior?? Ha!
Her lies were just such terrible lies. She said, “If I say anything three times, I no longer consider it a lie.” I wish I thought to write down the evil comments and seek affirming scripture. It’s a good exercise to rip up the paper when you are done and discard it. I have heard the phrase “let the paper hold the pain.”
I separated for a YEAR. I reconciled and his behaviors were better, however, there were still outbursts that were unacceptable. After 30 years of abuse, I find myself like a burn victim, unable to get anywhere near even a small flame. That’s what the damage does. It makes it too difficult to be close to them even when they are showing some signs of improvement. I also realized that because I was comparing it to the HELL that it used to be, I was not a good judge of whether it was now acceptable and healthy. I was still making excuses and minimizing what he was doing. “Improved abuse” is STILL abuse. I am now separated again. I have no idea when or if I will return. It will take an act of God on my heart, NOT my own efforts to “make my heart feel different.”
Maria, many times we don’t even realize we are beleiving or have internalized lies.
A few weeks ago I said something to a friend about ‘my paranoia’ ! She corrected me and showed me I had been beleiving a lie. My ex was routinely cheating on me and always denied the truth and told me I was paranoid when I confronted him with concrete evidence in hand.
My friend bluntly told me that I am not paranoid, he was my husband and I found concrete evidence of his problem and his lies, she said to me “you are not paranoid, he was your husband.”
I really appreciated that validation and was also surprised that it was something I had internalized!
Leonie, You are right about not realizing lies we believe. I think two things (there are more, I’m sure) expose our lies-1) the Word of God- as we read and apply it, our mind is renewed. Some of my beliefs have changed over the years-I realized I was believe lies as I read God’s Word. 2) Friends who let us know we are believing lies.
Elle, from my own experiences I learned not to depend on a church for good counsel in a destructive relationship. Very few churches have the training to know how to help you. Is the counselor you’re seeing in the church he has leadership in? If do, I’d say find a new counselor. When things got very rough for me my husband was serving in a leadership role and I did not feel safe. I drive an hour to a church where the Pastor fully understands my destructive relationship, my reason for divorce, and very much supports me. It is well worth the drive. I would really encourage finding a support group, even if it’s only one person or couple. I prayed about it and I literally walked into someone’s house as a stranger- because the Lord told me they could help. It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad I listened for the Lords guidance– as this man stood up to my husband when I needed protection. Don’t worry, God has a plan. It’s normal to fall apart and not know what to do next. Reading one of Leslies books might be a good start. When my counselor handed me her book- I felt so desperate I managed to read it all in one day. I am praying for all your needs. Thank you for sharing and being open, so we know how to pray!!!!! You will make it hang on to just a small mustard seed of Faith and God can and will lead you to a wonderful new place!!!!!
Excellent advice, Robin!!!! I am learning the same thing!!!! Mine talked so big to me: “We will protect you….we will tell you when it’s time to go…..” etc, etc……. But they don’t believe anything is cause for leaving except physical violence. When it came right down to it, I had to do myself with the help of my tiny circle who believe me. My professional counselor is a vital part of that circle……
I wouldn’t say he is in leadership. He sometimes ushers and collects the tithes, but it still seems wrong to me. There was no accountability concerning him whatsoever.
I just picked up Leslie’s book on destructive marriages the other day.
He is so prideful. I didn’t go to church with him yesterday. I said to him I didn’t feel like going and pretending. I know I should have been there, but it was all I could do yesterday. It was just one of those days when you just can’t or do not want to feel anything.
Elle, sounds like you’re on the path of no pretending- and becoming authentic. I quit going to church with my husband the last 3 months before I left also- it made me want to vomit to consider one more thing that resembled pretending. I think you’re in s good place- when these things aren’t working for you anymore. What you mentioned about him not being held accountable, is quite normal for abusers. They perform so well, that their church admires them and seldom reprimands them. One thing that really helped me- was to try and not focus on him.If you keep thinking about how his character is lacking and all he’s getting away with- it will make your life harder. Try to focus on your life. What would you want it to look like next? A new job? A new church? New friendships? Try to start working on your needs and even some dreams. Lundy Bancroft wrote a couple books for women to help them understand how an abusive man thinks and acts. My favorite by him was – Should I Stay or Should I Go? My adult daughter brought that book to me, and it was a life changer for me. My favorite chapter is titled– Why Your Growth May Bring More Answers Than His. It’s all about learning how to love yourself and using the energy you once spent on him – now on yourself. It really gave me a new focus!!!!!
“It’s important that we listen carefully to what he is saying. Tears indeed are the language of the heart but what exactly are his tears saying? “I’m so sorry. I’ve sinned against God and my spouse?” Or “poor me, I feel devastated because these consequences are painful”. There is a huge difference.”
This really hits home for me right now. After struggling for so long, I finally left. Again. I had been knowing I needed to and not wanting to admit it. Sunday, things came to a head and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. The children NEEDED me to do it for their sake!!!! The heartbreaking thing is that with the way it went down, he made it necessary for me to enforce some serious consequences and now the children think I am the mean one……. Prayers are appreciated for all of us right now…..we are really raw…….
I will pray for you Survivor. I will pray for all of you. I sometimes feel I can’t get my head around what happens where, at one time, two people loved eachother so much and then it turns into such a horrible, horrible mess.
Here’s my update-
I tried to post an update Friday but it went in moderation probably bc I cleared my phone’s Internet browsing history. Then the LV website probably flagged my post as a new user. I don’t want him to know I post here.
The whole evening after after my H read my journal, he was upset with me but very quiet. Just a DAY before this happened, I had posted here that if my H were to truly see his flaws, that he’d have an identity crisis. I believe that’s what was happening. Through the years, when I would voice a complaint with one of his attitudes he might partially acknowledge it but he would for the most part feel justified. Example- in a fight a few months ago, he said “I’m a good husband no matter what you say”. Now, that I’ve finished the Bancroft book I get it. My H feels MUST see himself as a good man, father, and husband. He doesn’t mind to owning up to anger bc that’s a more superficial problem. But what he doesn’t WANT to see is the deeper sin that drives his anger. That sin is selfishness, pride, entitlement, and lack of empathy.
Until he read that journal, he could only suspect how much I resented him. Sure, I complained to him occasionally but usually just during fights after he was being totally unreasonable with me. For the most part, he’d brush off my feelings. Another reason I haven’t complained to him is that he turns conversations around, changes the subject, and makes the conversation last WAY too long. It just wears me out. I try to avoid conflict with him bc I don’t have the emotional, physical, or mental energy it requires.
Maybe once a year, he’d make a broken apology like he’d just looked at himself in the mirror and seen a monster. That the vision was so horrific he felt terrible, but because it was so devastating he must turn away from it and quickly move back to the more comfortable place of denial and justifications and entitlement. These apologies were so unlike him that I’ve never trusted them.
That’s basically what happened over the journal. To my surprise, he did almost no defending himself. He pretty much said he wants to try harder to be good. for the past several days, he has been good.
I’m not stupid. I know he won’t sustain his good behavior until he gets outside help. I’m praying about finding a men’s accountability group for him. Can anyone recommend a good book(s) for him to read? I wish he could read my Lundy Bancroft book but Lundy’s clients were more on the extreme end of the abusive continuum and my H is milder. He would probably reject the idea of being in that group, but if he were honest with himself, he’d see that his thinking is similar to theirs.
I feel bad bc he ‘trying harder’ but I’m still hiding some things from him – like posting here. So much, I wish I didn’t have to be deceitful.
Ruth, I would pray and urge him to get into some type of accountability, and let a counselor hand him a book. A wife giving a book doesn’t do much good, usually she is the last one he will really listen too. A husband that wants to try harder, needs someone who will tell him the truth so he will acknowledge his abuse. I don’t think it matters, if it’s a small portion of abuse or MORE abuse- isn’t abuse – still abuse? Lundys books are some of the best out there, but I still think he needs a counselor that will give it to him straight.
You are right.
I am going to begin to pray hard to find the right counselor/accountability partner. I know he needs to start soon while he’s still motivated.
I wouldn’t let him know you post here. You need support and he won’t like the wisdom you find here and feel it is against him.
It sounds like abusers generally twist good materials to make the victim out to be the abusers (if they are looking to justify their behaviour) and that doesn’t help anyone. I hope he can find a group of men or a good counsellor who can tell it to him straight.
Ruth, One thing I think you should guard against is putting his healing on your shoulders. He should be the one driving this.
Ruth, If your husband is truly sorry for what he has done and is sincerely looking to change, he may get discouraged if you withhold support. You can show that you support him by offering suggestions for counselors, but letting him take charge by making and keeping appointments. There is also the possibility that he is afraid to lose you so he is putting up a show. The challenge will be to offer your suppose hoping is is truly sorry while at the same time guarding your heart in case he is trying to fool you.
Ruth, he doesn’t need you to find him anything. If he really wants to change he will make it happen. This is the calm before the storm, this is your safest time to leave.
Ruth, Roxanne is right. I’m not saying you have leave now, only you know how your current home life is but please ensure your safe. As for finding help. He is a big boy and can find his own help. That’s if he really wants help. Him asking you to find the help allows him to stay in control, believe me I used to do that find of tactic,until I actually wanted to get help myself.
Just be safe and make the best decision for you.
Ruth, perhaps it’s time for a separation to get your head clear. Can you stay with friends or family for a couple weeks and get out of the chaos, and give yourself some time to know what you need?? Maybe this might be a little push for him to be motivated to make a move???
:”He should be the one driving this” is really important.
In our marriage I did all the driving to recover our finances when my husband went off the rails. In Al Anon I have learned that covering for his screw-ups is part of the pattern in relationships where there is an addiction. (He’s not an alcoholic but his emotional patterns and our relationship is similar to alcoholism and drug addiction).
So I finally stopped covering for him and making accountability plans for him. The result is, he’s not concerned with doing it.
It’s a risk you take when you let your spouse own their own responsibility. On the bright side, you get a crystal clear picture of where they are.
Only you know your actual circumstances, but I will tell you my experience with trying to “help” my h find/get help. There are a couple differences: mine never apologized for anything – ever; and he thought he didn’t need help – he was just fine. I tried to get him to counseling, and he would go for about 3 or 4 times – until they started to tell him that perhaps his perception or actions needed to be adjusted – he’d quit. After he filed for divorce, he even set up a counseling appointment for both of us, and as long as he wasn’t challenged it was fine. Once he had to hear my side of the story, he quit that one too. He actually went so far as to tell the counselor he was supposed to “fix” me… I had the problem, not him.
In essence, unless he wants to make a change and do some work on himself, nothing you do will matter. It absolutely must come from within him and he must have his own support network (not you). Also, it. takes. time!
I think this is the hardest thing for us to accept; we so want to help this person we’d committed to love, honor, and cherish… but they aren’t on the same page, and may never get there.
Praying for wisdom and discernment for you!
You are right – unless a person sees he has a problem and wants to change, there is absolutely no hope that he will change. Even then it’s hard work and takes time, but without that, it won’t happen.
Ruth, if you are anywhere near Philadelphia, Menergy is a group for abusive men. The men must go through 3 interviews and hundreds of questions – they are only accepted into the program if they are abusive. In addition, they reach out to the wives. You may call them at any time to check in or report behavior
I have used Menergy and would highly recommend them if you are near the PHiladelphia area.
My situation has a bit of a twist. We are two years out from husband’s second disclosure. I see no heart change, but the Lord has not released me to divorce him at this time. Church leaders are telling me I need to either reconcile with him or divorce him, but that I can’t hold off on making a decision anymore. They say I am not being a godly wife. How long is reasonable for healing from intimate betrayal? I love my church and they have helped me through all of this until now. It feels like another betrayal. Is there some way I can help them understand?
I think you can turn to the story of Joseph or the above with John Mark in the scriptures and say, “I can forgive him” but I cannot fully reconcile until I see that he has made the changes he needs to make to be a faithful husband. If that doesn’t suit them – so be it. You have to do what God says to do. They are not God and sometimes they are so anxious for the marriage to get repaired, they hate the limbo land of waiting and seeing to “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sin and turned to God” LUke 3:8.
Actually, I think Lundy states pretty clearly in his book “Why Does He Do That” that you should NOT let the abuser read it… it just gives them more ammo & they learn how to manipulate better. That there are other resources for them…
I am now nearly four years post separation from a man who physically abused me once early in the marriage and then emotionally for the rest of our years together. I finally separated after trying literally everything including Counselling and a one year in house separation. My experience was similar to many – once my husband apologized to church leaders for repeated infidelity and deceit early in the marriage, sympathy switched from myself to him. What was never addressed in any way were the ongoing emotional power plays. It has been a painful and at times Very lonely period. I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to understand the injustice of the support he was receiving versus my isolation. I thought – “surely the grievous nature of his offenses would make it clear who was the true victim here”. Even my children rallied to his side in sympathy for his pain. However God had provided me with a loving circle of friends who affirmed me and – vitally – affirmed my reality. This included couples who had witnessed my relationship with my husband. Just a couple of friends who had seen the ongoing interactions and expressed loving support was so important to me. When I was tempted to doubt myself and to simply restore the status quo, they were the balanced voice I needed. I so doubted my own reality that I desperately needed outside affirmation. At the same time this has been a profoundly humbling journey as God has gently shown me my own sins and weaknesses. It had for so long all been about my husband and my constant efforts to process his latest look, comment or destructive action. I needed to refocus on my own sanctification as his more obvious sins had obscured my own. It is only recently that I have begun to feel whole. He is now very sad about my ongoing separation from him. This is a departure from his long resentment and anger over my “lack of forgiveness” but a distance from the true contrition that I have longed for. He is now very sorry for how his life has turned out but not yet very sorry (although he says the words) for the destruction in my life. I have forgiven him and absolved him of responsibility for my happiness and healing and that has been deeply freeing. Oddly the act of renouncing my right to exact payment from him for his sins has emotionally freed me from the ties that have held me bound to his heart. I am now so grateful that I didn’t remain in that situation as I have gained so much perspective and drawn closer to my Lord – my constant guide and companion throughout this journey. I am stronger, wiser, and healthier and as I rest in my identity in Christ I believe I am becoming a better parent as well.
I too have struggled with the limbo of being separated and seeing no change yet not feeling free to divorce. I have prayed desperately for closure and resolution and wisdom. It’s been 4 years. I have still not felt peace to divorce nor peace to reconcile. But God has recently given me peace with the indecision! I no longer blame myself for not having the strength to break things off permanently, or for taking the drastic step of leaving in the first place. Interestingly it has taken this long for my husband to finally BEGIN to face his own issues – Issues he has firmly denied were there. Finally, he is recognizing that something has to change. Not because he has clarity about his own dysfunctional behaviors but because his life just isn’t working for him anymore. The light is slowly dawning. At the same time I have no intention to rush back to him. He thinks now the answer is to win me back. However I am confident that his growth will happen sooner without me to support/blame. Keep clinging to the Lord asking for His wisdom. Follow His voice, tempered with the wisdom of godly others. Don’t be afraid to trust what you know He is telling you, even if it goes against conventional thought or the “marriage must be preserved at all cost” mentality.
Shelly, thanks for sharing. I, too, think Im in for a long haul. After 30 years and several pseudo-separation attempts (on my part bc of course he did nothing wrong) I separated for a year. Last August, I felt that he had made some significant changes after a year and I reconciled. He still showed an improvement over the other years, however, he was still not listening when I had a grievance and has a very “black and white” “all or nothing” mentality that doesnt leave room for the myriad of emotions I experience due to triggers. I don’t have any patience for that now. One of the stipulations for reconciliation was that he agreed to be patient during those days when I needed space, but he was not able to handle what he termed “rejection.” I cannot deal with my need for healing (due to his abuse) AND his issues with rejection. So I am separated again. Until an undisclosed and unknown time. Its hard to imagine that I could ever feel close to him again, but I do see some earnestness in his desire to get better. He has finally gone to a doctor and been diagnosed with OCPD, something I have been telling him for years. Now that I am gone, he NOW sees it so I figure he has never stayed with a long-term commitment to get help for himself (always just trying the “make our marriage better” stuff which does no good in abuse situations but gives him fodder to point at ME in my imperfections, etc) if I am in the picture. So this is good for ME and good for him whether he sees it or not. I leave room for God to work in my heart but I will never again go back in and “try” to feel something for him. Despite years of begging and pleading (not realizing thats the WORST thing I could do with an abuser) to get some help, and that he was crushing my spirit and destroying any love I felt for him, he continued unheeded. Its so hard when they wait until they are FORCED to make a change! It feels like if he really loved me, he would WANT to change and be better. I feel like its not very sincere when you have to make them. Anyway, I am at peace in my separation and LOVING that I can come home to my own place and not have someone there looking over my shoulder waiting to pounce!
I can understand your frustration, but try this theory out… perhaps this is an opportunity to first listen to where she is coming from (she may have valid information from a different viewpoint) and second, educate her on some of the CORE principles that Leslie teaches. This may be God putting you into a position to help someone else.
I appreciate the encouragement from the post above & the wise comments that followed. Thank you for sharing your stories of God’s grace in your lives. Thank you for pointing others to the One who is victorious! Thank you for sharing your overcoming & healing.
I’m newly-separated from my abusive husband. I don’t know what lies ahead. I only want to move forward, inch-by-inch, knowing that whatever is ahead will be better than what was behind. I grieve for what my teen aged daughter is going through. I’ve had time to process, but her “normal” just got kicked out from under her.
Rosie, you are wise to understand and be patient with your daughter’s feelings. Inch by inch will be what it feels like but you’ll be amazed, if you keep moving forward, you will get to where you need to be.
Wondering what your thoughts are and do you think the following is punishment:
Husband’s wants a divorce 3 years ago. Wife repents repeatedly and asks for forgiveness and healing. Husband refuses. Husband ignores, treats his wife with disdain, gaslight her, blames her, give her a date when he plans to leave..very soon. He is nice to her when he wants sex. Then dismisses her for days. Now he avoids any and all contact with her . Husbands blames his wife repeatedly for ” leaving the marriage years ago ( wife has taken full responsibility for her shortcomings)he refuses to work on healing the marriage, stating it is too late. Husband with holds information twists conversations around when confronted. Husband comes and goes as he pleases never tells anyone where he is going or even a goodbye.
Would you call this punishment, or emotional abuse, or something else?
For what it’s worth, I think the situation you describe is clearly abusive. You have repented of your sins and have asked for forgiveness. It is now your husband’s responsibility to forgive you as Christ has forgiven him (presuming that he has made a profession of faith) and to love you as Christ loves the church.
I’m curious, do you think that your husband has a genuine relationship with Christ?
I am so very sorry to hear that you are going through this. No one has the right to hold your past sins over your head as we are all in need of grace.
You should be shown love, not disdain, you should be forgiven not blamed and you should be regarded as his most important earthly relationship not ignored.
Hopeful, what do you think might be the next step for you?
“When you and I repent before God, do we need to prove our repentance before we are reconciled to Him?”
There’s no NEED to “prove” our repentance before God. He is God, able to know our deepest hearts. He already knows if we are being true or just using a false sorry as a manipulative tool to gain the upper hand. In the human world, where we are not omnipotent and all-seeing, we must use our 5 senses (as well as rely on the Holy Spirit) to discern true repentance from false manipulation. This takes TIME and the worse the offense, the longer the time. The longer the offense has gone on, the longer the time. That is on the OFFENDERS shoulders, not the target’s. Nobody here is talking about the day to day, “she’s not picking up the house or ironing my shirts the way I like them” or “he didn’t call me today from work and the lawn still needs mowed” kind of “marital problems.” The people here are desperate for answers to understand and respond to intolerable and persistent behaviors from professing Christians who show little to no fruit of the spirit. You should NOT be counseling anyone until you have studied abusive behavior, the cycle, what makes them do what they do and WHAT ARE THE SIGNS or else you are causing some in your flock to stumble. You will be held accountable for the pain you cause needlessly due to your easily remedied ignorance.
The problem is that the one who has placed themselves on the judges bench in many cases is the one who identifies as the “victim.” Some victims are true victims, some victims are co-abusive but like the strategic place that being a victim puts one in, i.e. the judges seat over the other persons repentance.
Take the situation that Hopefulwife is in. She, self admittedly sinned against her husband, she admits that in that respect she is the offender and he is the offended. He appears to be using her sin as a reason to withhold love from his wife.
How long must Hopefulwife grovel before her husband moves from superficial forgiveness to the kind of forgiveness that he has experienced in Christ?
Isn’t that what we are really called to?
How long do victims get to use that status as a way to avoid obeying the word of God?
Regarding my accountability before God and my church. Rest assured, my church has accountability for the competencies of its pastor and God is more than able to hold me accountable. I personally find His holy word sufficient to equip me to shepherd the flock.
Please don’t try and presume to know what I am or am not ignorant of based on such little evidence.
It is mind boggling that this scenerio plays out in so many homes! It’s doggone near epidemic proportions and somehow this type of relating to one another needs to stop. I can’t help hut feel that this is what happened in our marriage, and I clearly remember it being abusive. I suffered from guilt and condemnation for so long that I used to think God was not pleased with me and that it was a huge chance that I was going to hell. Then I got clarity on my husband’s behavior and though I take responsibility for my inconsistenties in the relationship, I began to understand that I was a threat to my husband and at many times I was clearly hated by him.
I am not sure what his relationship is like with Christ. It may have turned superficial. He is Christian and has gone back to his Catholic roots. We do not attend church together.
We had a blow out last night…for me it was building. I can’t take much more of the disregard for my humanness and the indifference. The things he blames me for are done..the things he blames me for he is doing to me. He doesn’t see it. When I confront his behavior he is not nice.
Last night he again said he was done and was going to call a realtor to get our house on the market. He said many other hurtful things to me. I did my best to keep my cool and respectfully challenged him…at least I think I did.
When he came up stairs he came to where I was sleeping pulled me in his arms and told me how worry he was for hurting me and causing me pain.
My head is spinning today.
I am assuming just like every other time that he comes close to me that he will reject me for days. I am praying for strengths and wisdom..and to NOT get my hopes up. Everytime he comes close to me physically I think we are on the road to recovery..and then the door slams in my face .
I am preparing for a life without him I don’t want this at all..but I am losing myself. Until I hear that he is willing to work on our marriage and get help, I have to start planning my life for just myself and our boys who are teens.
Do u really think my situation is abusive. When I live the roller coaster ride I do this know what’s true any more.
Disregard for your humanness. Lack of empathy or indifference. When confronted, he is not nice. Rejects you for days. These are some of your words. Yes, It is abusive. It doesn’t have to be physical for it to be abuse. Read Leslie’s blogs and join her web conferences to get insight to your “next steps”. I’m still with my husband but only after learning as much as I can and applying the knowledge that our relationship is more stable. In a nutshell, after learning about our destructive patterns, I created boundaries or places I just won’t compromise with him, and I became an intelligent partner to him, no longer the naive little girl that fell in love with her boyfriend.
Yes, I do think your situation, as you have described it, is abusive.
I think you probably need someone who can help you work through all of this and to get a biblical perspective on the health of your marriage. As you say, being on the roller coaster ride does not give you much of a chance to get your bearings and experience marriage as God intends it to be.
You also need some help bringing your situation out into the light, into the open, so you are no longer made to live a secret life.
Do you have resources in your area to help you through this?
My prayers are with you.
Thanks James for encouraging exposing the deeds of darkness even inside a marriage rather than covering up, pretending and protecting the abuser. The abuser or the victim can’t get help if no one sees what’s going on.
I’m sorry for what you’re going through but it sounds like he vomits on you and then says sorry but never learns to vomit in the toilet, still on you. And then wants to be close and then rejects you again. Very hurtful.
This is EXACTLY what its like and I have actually used this metaphor to try and explain how the abuse makes me feel. “Its like you vomit on me, you look at me standing there with your vomit on me, you don’t say sorry, you don’t try to help clean it off of me, you say things like, ‘Well, I was SICK, so I had to vomit. What’s the problem? I can’t ever be SICK?! You are so selfish!’ and then, after I have worked hard to once again clean his vomit off of me, he moves in for some intimacy and doesn’t want to consider why I may not want that, then says, ‘You hold onto grudges. You don’t forgive. You’re using sex to control me, etc.’ and then you continue to repeat this scenario time and time again.” This does NOT describe a marriage, but a tyranny and God has much to say about controlling, angry people who manipulate and coerce others for their own benefit. I am so glad I have gotten past the point of believing every person who uses scripture out of context. It was a huge step for me and has made me feel much more “confident” of my true relationship with my Savior, HIs steadfast love for me, that He is NOT “displeased” with me, but wants only my good. THAT is love.
Leslie’s blog is full of information and resources. She has helped me alot.