This week’s question: I am currently deciding whether to separate from my emotionally abusive husband. After months of asking for help, his family has staged an intervention of sorts. I am trying to be positive about it, but it seems it is a little late, as I am so, so weary. I am now expected to forgive and not harbor resentment towards him (he has halfway apologized to me….). However, I am checked out at the moment and do not know if I want the relationship to continue, as it has been so, so destructive (we have had three marriage counselors tell me to get out…).
How can I hold him accountable? How can I make sure he is following through with what he says? (he has lied a lot in the past….places he goes, coming home late, texting other girls…).
You mentioned in your article not opening the spouses' mail…what about checking his phone to see who he is texting? I am not sure where to go from here…..while recognition of his bad behavior is huge, what is the next step for him…and how can I become open to receiving?
What boundaries can I set that aren't deemed controlling?
Answer: You ask very good questions that are at the heart of whether a marriage can truly be reconciled and healed, or whether the couple just stays together for other reasons – financial, the children/grandchildren, because of peer pressure among church or family. I hear you weary of the “just staying together at all costs” path. I hear you asking, “What needs to happen to see real change”?
First, look for a change of heart. Does your husband recognize what he’s done to injure you and your marriage? Does he “see” it? Jesus says it this way. “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is.” (Matthew 6:22,23).
Recently I read that denial is like gauze, covering the eyes. Willful denial is like an opiate, it keeps us from the pain of what is. From what you said, I’m not sure your husband is “seeing” properly yet.
So the next question is, “Is he willing to see?” In other words, when you or other people give him feedback that his behavior appears sneaky or secretive, or that his words hurt you, or that his behaviors are unacceptable to you, does he press pause, reflect on your feedback and his behavior and have a change of heart? Or does he deny, lie, placate, rationalize, minimize, excuse, twist, blame you, or in some way wiggle out of “seeing”
If it’s the latter, he still hasn’t had a change of heart. What is motivating his “apology” is fear of the consequences, not sorrow over what he’s done to hurt God or you. When David repented after Nathan’s confrontation, David recognized the pain he caused God and didn’t make excuses for it (Read Psalm 51). Fear of consequences is not necessarily a bad motivator to start with, but it isn’t sufficient to generate true change. Only repentance, a change of heart, brings the humility and willingness to be “taught” how to live differently.
As one of my favorite writers Francois Fenelon says, “A persuaded mind and even a well-intentioned heart is a long way from exact and faithful practice.”
Let’s look at this process in our own life. How many of us are truly convicted that we eat too much, or buy too much, or need to slow down, or get more organized, or be more careful with our tongue? We know we’re wrong, we feel convicted and sorrowful, but we still do not “do” the putting off and putting on that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:22 – 5:1.
So if we truly want to change, the next step when we’ve had a change of heart is a change of habit. These two steps are applicable to every Christian, not just for an abusive spouse. But if you have a spouse who has sinned against you but you do not see the willingness or repentance and the humility of heart present, then it’s not likely someone is going to put the work into learning new habits and new ways of thinking, relating, being accountable, honest, transparent and authentic.
Old habits die hard even if you are a believer and sincerely want to change. When someone is caught in a string of negative habit patterns that cause havoc in their interpersonal relationships, they must own that and do what they need to do to not only stop doing those things, but learn new ways of relating and communicating their feelings, needs, desires and hurts. They also have to learn how to tolerate disappointment and frustration in a godly way when the people around them don’t always do what they want or make them happy. These lessons do not come easy or quick, no matter how hard someone tries.
That said, what is your role? What boundaries do you set? Do you stay and encourage and cheerlead and support these changes or do you separate to wait and see?
Here would be some criteria to think through what to do.
First, what is your husband’s “willingness to work, willingness to change, willingness to receive help and feedback from others” right now? Accountability only is effective if the person wanting change is willing to receive it and be honest.
For example, two days ago I asked a friend of mine to hold me accountable to more exercise. I invited her to call me up, drag my body to the gym, remind me of my commitment to get more in shape and exercise with me when I go. These “steps” are hard for me but I’m willing, but need encouragement and help and support. I invited her to be that person in my life.
It would be a very different picture if she came up to me and said, “Leslie, I’ve noticed you haven’t been at the gym lately and have put on a few pounds. I’m going to hold you accountable to being at exercise class three times a week and check your pantry and throw out all the chocolate and potato chips I find.”
That is not her place, nor would it be effective. It would just make my heart hard or stubborn or sneaky.
In the same way, you cannot tell your husband what he needs to do to change or hold him accountable for changes he has no desire to make. However if he wanted to rebuild trust with you he could say, “If you ever want to check my phone to see if I’m being honest, feel free.” Or “Here are all my computer passwords. You can check my e-mail or where I’ve been anytime you want to. I want you to always trust me.”
Those are ways he takes responsibility for the trust he’s broken and asks you to rebuild trust with him by saying he’s willing to have you check those things. If he’s resistant to that, then he has no idea the damage he’s caused to your marriage by his deceit. To force him to do that will not yield the heart changes you’re looking for.
Sometimes when a confrontation happens, everyone’s attention is toward the sinner or addict but we forget that the fallout is experienced also by the family. You said you are weary. Feeling pressured to forgive and let go of all the consequences you put in place because he sort of said he was sorry. How does that sit with you?
You weren’t specific with the kind of emotional abuse you experience or the frequency, but if you are not safe – either physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually or financially, you still may need to stay separate for a season in order for your husband to learn that you are no longer willing to live in an environment where you feel unsafe (Your boundary).
You say you’re tired of policing his behaviors. You don’t want to be the cheerleader if he’s not really all that interested in doing the work. Perhaps you’re also feeling bitter, resentful, a little mixed up in all of this and need some separation yourself so that you do not repay evil for evil or start to become like your spouse – immature, deceitful, or abusive. The toxic effects living with a destructive person are real and if your safety and sanity are being affected, perhaps it’s time to say, “I have to think of me and the kids right now while you work on you.”
This may sound harsh if he seems sorry, but for too long he’s expected everyone in the family to revolve around his needs and wants. Selfishness is pervasive in emotional abuse and sometimes selfishness continues even when someone is waking up from it. He pleads, “I want you to be there for me no matter what pain I’ve caused you.”
However, a change of heart would reveal an awareness of not only the pain he’s in, but also the pain he’s caused you and others. When you cause someone deep pain, you do not have expectations that they will immediately get over it. You understand that you must make amends and show evidence of change before they would trust you again or have positive or warm feelings towards you.
Friends, share with this reader how you know what “safeguards” or “boundaries” you need to put in place if your spouse is showing some movement but not enough?
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Am I Expecting Too Much?
Morning friend, Today (Wednesday, September 23), I am speaking at the American Association of Christian Counselors Conference. I appreciate your prayers. This afternoon I teach for three hours on Effective Counseling Strategies for the Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Tomorrow morning Chris Moles and I are doing a workshop together on Counseling The Destructive Person. Pray that…
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My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Anymore. How Can I Win Her Back?
Question: I am 38, my wife is 32. Recently she informed me that she no longer loves me or has any feelings for me. We have 5 kids and they all see the anger and resentment she has toward me. I used to drink but have not had anything in almost 2 years. I never…
This question certainly hits home for me. I’ve now been separated a month and have already seen signs that there has been no “heart” change. He still excuses and resists At times my husband can be nice although I don’t trust him. Other times there are comments like “the kids are my priority now” or I get the cold shoulder/lack of caring when he comes to see the kids. That has been huge in seeing that it just hasn’t clicked for him and may never. It is hard to face the hard reality that change for these destructive people may never happen. Just hold on to what God tells us is true. You MUST take care of yourself and Leslie’s answer hit the nail on the head from A to Z! Thank you Leslie again for your amazing insight. You have been instrumental in my current journey towards a new chapter in my life.
I am going through similar events. My husband has been verbally, emotionally abusive. His jealousy, manipulation, lies, yelling, slamming doors, throwing things etc… got really old and I was tired of everything he did being somehow my fault. I was going to leave him. He begged, cried, and made repetative statements of “I love you I just didn’t know how to show it” and other manipulation until I agreed to stay. Since then the doors and objects have stayed in place, but his heart change is not there. I have been seeing a Christian Counselor who has encouraged me to leave. She says with out heart repentance the next blow up could be worse. I tend to agree.
I don’t have any feelings for him above a Christian “I wish you would repent and give your life to Christ”. I feel that for many people. My feelings died through those years and I have seen nothing that prompts my heart to get them back. He lies and it is my fault, he is sexually inappropriate and that is my fault. My response is, “I am only accountable for my sins, noone elses.” I cannot cause him to sin. He recently told me that it was time that I move out. Wonderful timing. He knows that my daughter moved to FL and I have no where else to go.
I will be moving out as soon as I can find a place that I can afford. I believe if there is ever going to be a heart change it will be seen whether I am with him or not.
I have experienced the same things and my heart is heavy with the realization of it all. I have made an appointment with an advocate who can help me through the process of figuring out what to do. Every time he hurts me mentally, a while later he acts all affectionate like nothing happened and I cringe. Going through the same things after letting him back into my heart when he promised to change two years ago hurts 100 times worse than it did before! I prayed for God to help me love him again and open my heart, but it hurts so much. I know that our hearts are not supposed to be closed off, and God will work this out for good somehow. Never in my wildest dreams did I see this future for me. He looked, and still does look, so perfect in public. I guess I bought the facade too, I wanted so badly for it to be true.
It’s hard to believe I will, can, make it through this. I can’t even imagine a different life with any happiness at all in it 🙁
Seeing the reality of your situation is the first step. God is opening your eyes to it. The next is to accept the reality and realize, as Leslie has taught us, that you cannot change the manipulator and you can only be responsible changing yourself. It is incredibly painful and heartbreaking but in order to heal you must accept the reality and live there. Leslie’s books and this blog have helped me so very much and she has pointed me to who God is and who HE says I am in Christ. Through my dark season, I held onto God, even though He seemed silent. I stayed in His Word and cried out to Him in my agony. It was devastating. As I began to know more of who He is, His character, etc. He began to heal me slowly. He will bring you through this and there will be joy again—the joy being God Himself. I am also beginning to know who I am and how to relate to others in a healthy way.
Now that my eyes are open my heart is devastated. I have broached the subject with my husband once again, in a last ditch effort, and he denied the entire incidence saying “you always look for the worst in everything.” He turns my words around and makes it my fault. He has torn me down for 3 decades and he refuses counseling and has broken every promise he made two years ago when he begged me to stay.
I opened my heart to him then and now I can’t stand to have him touch me. He is relentless in his control and I don’t think he will ever change, short of a miracle. I have tried everything in the last two years and he only fights harder than ever to control me. I’m sick with grief. I have read so many books and research lately, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s been extremely psychologically and emotionally abusive, to the point of arguing about when I can eat!
Without a miracle I don’t think I can take much more. It’s been 31 years, I feel like such a failure because I didn’t know how to handle this 🙁
You are not a failure. You and God can only change you. Your husband and God are the only ones who can change him. I so wish I would have caught on to that reality a long time ago. We are all seperate individuals and neither party in a marriage has the right to be in control of the other.
I was going to leave my husband 2.5 years ago now. After much begging and pleading (3 solid weeks while I looked for a place to go)I finally said alright I will stay but it would be conditional. He has broken each promise. Does this sound familiar? He comes up with scripture: (he doesn’t pick that Bible up except on Sunday morning and when he wants to use it against me) this last weekend it was in Proverbs. It was about the hot headed man, and he said “this is me”. After reading the scripture in a couple of different versions, my response was, “yes that is true, but there are consequences for continuing in that path.”
Miracles do happen and God is in control. I have grieved my way through marriage to the point that I don’t cry any more. I can calmly express my feelings only to get knocked down again. I know you are in pain now, but at some point you have to think of yourself. We were not put on this earth to be emotional punching bags.
It is hard on the heart to go through all of these things. Keep in close communication with God. He will give you rest and peace within your struggles and while you remove yourself from them. I will pray for you and your swift deliverance from this trial.
I will pray for you and your swift removal from
Thank you Brenda! I am new to this realization and I’m grieving all the things I haven’t done because of his constant obstructionism. And the broken promises-just like you said. I got myself an advocate affiliated with a domestic abuse organization and talk about the “light” coming on!
She specializes in the damage that these guys do to our heads and is helping me sort things out. I am so terrified of ending my marriage and then regretting it so I’m trying to get healthy and assert myself in a last-ditch effort to improve things between us. I spoke to him last night about his constant “forgetting” being a way to get out of doing his share around the house. I gave examples of lies I’ve caught him in and he couldn’t refute it! I said I want an equitable and respectful relationship and I wouldn’t tolerate anything less, period. At first he tried to argue but I again stated the proof and that I am not stupid and that trying to lie to face was a terrible thing to do to someone he says he loves. I want to make sure I do all I can to honor my marriage, but with God’s help I will honor myself as well and learn not to let his pouting, arguing and other manipulations deter me.
I will be praying for you too. I look forward to what God will do when He has His way in our lives!
Something my pastor told me really hit home. I also worry about “ending my marriage and then regretting it” What my pastor said was so simple, yet so powerful/true…nothing has to be forever! I love my husband, we have been married for 25yrs, 3 wonderful children a beautiful daughter in law and the most precious 2yr old grand daughter so the thought of divorce was devastating! Plus, that I was raised being told that divorce was a sin and that God hates it, talk about guilt and fear. Just because we get divorced doesn’t mean that if he was open to the idea of receiving help for his addictions and then for us as a couple, that we couldn’t explore the idea of getting remarried as long as we both agreed that we were in a place that would be able to sustain a healthy relationship!
WOW, as I read the original question and Leslie answer and then the comments it was like I had written all of them! It breaks my heart that so many women are in this position. Especially when the husband once had a relationship with the Lord!
My husband is constantly getting mad because his family see him “only as an addict” and wonders why? Well, maybe its because YOU ARE!! He is an alcoholic and uses “Spice” a synthetic MJ. It has gotten really scary. He hasn’t been physically abusive but its only a matter of time. :[ What makes it even harder is that I have MS and am dependent on others for transportation, grocery shopping, cleaning ect. If I’m honest though, I think the physical abusive has started because while he knows its not safe for me to cook [I have numerous burns on my arms] he won’t cook meals for me and has at times purchased food only for himself, items that he knows I don’t like. He has actually built a room out of cardboard in the garage! Its been close to 2yrs since we’ve been physical. I too am so weary of it all! I am seeing a christian counselor, which has helped me to get my thoughts in line. I will always love my husband but I am not ‘in love’ with him any more. We have 3 amazing children, a beautiful daughter in law and the most precious grand daughter, so regardless of where our relationship ends up, I pray he gets the help he needs before something happens that he can’t excuse because he has a lot to live for!
Rhonda, I have MS as well and feel your pain. My husband did not accept my diagnosis and resented my ongoing limitations. At this point I can still do some things for myself until fatigue takes over, which is not long on most days. Last fall I had to have foot surgery and was in a cast with my foot elevated for 3 months. Obviously, I wasn’t doing much for myself. I try to watch my weight but with my husband doing the shopping and bringing me what he wanted me to have I gained 10 pounds in that 3 months. I now have less energy than before and still can’t walk far enough to try to get back to where I was before.
What you are experiencing is physical abuse as well as emotional. I don’t know whether or not your husband claims to be a Christian, mine hasn’t. What he is doing is not Christian, and boundries need to be set. God’s daughters were not intended to be treated in this manner. His sons–need to be accountable.
Brenda, thanks for responding. It is comforting to have someone who understands the “whole” picture! I’d love to continue corresponding with you if thats ok with you? Are you on the MS World message boards? My name there is Luv2Worship there.
I didn’t know MS world even existed until now. I will look into it later today. I would love to stay in touch.
Rhonda, I just signed into MS World. I am in there as godsgirlfirst. I am new to the whole social networking thing. It will take a bit for me to get oriented.
I am so glad I read this post. There is so much wisdom here, and Leslie you have written exactly what I have had so much trouble verbizing to my husband and to the counselors we have seen as of late.
My husband has been emotionally and verbally abusive, and as of a month and a half ago told me he wanted to do something physical to harm me. The day after I told him I wanted to separate for a while an work on things. He is a good provider, but to the point of being a workaholic, and not even a death in a close friend’s family or his own daughter’s birthday with her friends will take precedence over his need to be at work as much as physically and mentally possible.
Truly I think he falls a bit under the category of a narcissist and cannot see the hurt he has caused. Naturally I have sinned as well in our marriage, but I try to repent and I see no true desire to repent, change or invite God into his life.
Last week I filed divorce papers after he angrily walked out of a joint counseling session. I know he has been on match.com and messaged girls from work about going out, since he claims he is justified in doing so as I “abandoned him.” I have given up on gettin things to work because I can’t suffer the toxicity and anger always in our home.
So in short, thank you for the Bible verses and the support in general from women who are goin through very much a similar situation!! Has anyone found any online support groups that help?
Leslie, I bought your most recent book, and it so helped me too! Thank you so much!
Peace to you all and good luck!!!!
Be strong, Monica. I haven’t heard of any online groups. I have been seeeing a local Christian Counselor. I would prefer to find a group, but have found none here locally either. I don’t have a support system and paying a counselor isn’t getting me any closer to having the money to start over. However,I believe the Lord will provide in His time. If you find an online support, I would sure appreciate hearing about it.
I was so happy to find this website. For years I was trying to be a “Stepford Wife”, and thinking everything was my fault. But after 17 years of marriage I realized I could walk on water & he would find fault. I’ve now been married 38 years & no better. My problem is we had children late in life & still have a teenager at home. She loves her high school & I hate to pull her away from her friends. The other problem is in trying to be perfect & the stress of the marriage I have adrenal fatigue & don’t work — thus no income. He fits the criteria for Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde to a T. He even said: “he has no issues”. I am so tired of the lack of communication, and when there is communication he is very devisive, critical, negative or puts me down. Thank you for your web site, I don’t feel so alone in all this seeing other women are going thru the same thing unfortunately.
Please, please, do not feel alone. Satan will just use that feeling. I wish we were next door neighbors! You are NOT alone!
You are not alone Lana. There are many women in our shoes and we have so much in common. I was a stay-at-home-mom for 25 years and when our youngest went to college I found a full-time job and was doing well with that. I started to talk about things I wanted to purchase and when I still got strong opposition from my husband I started to realize how controlling he’d always been. The more I insisted on my independence (having my own income made me feel more confident) the harder he fought to control me! After a few years of this constant struggle, I began to suffer some serious health problems, which he attributed to job stress. This included hospitalizations for migraines, chest pain and even internal bleeding, until I finally quit my job and have not been able to find another at the same level pay-wise. So I don’t really have any good options for now and he continues to make and break promises, always exhibiting the same tactics every time I raise even the smallest issue.
This has been going on for 2 1/2 years and I am thinking that with these men, they just don’t want to do the work of getting healthy. They have it too good to want to change and they just don’t see why we have a problem with them all of a sudden 🙁 I feel like I have to either live with the abuse and try to manage it and him, or get out and suffer the losses of home, livelihood and those who will disown me for leaving such a “great guy.” One thing we aren’t though, is alone. We can truly say to one another, “I understand.” One of the saddest things about my husband is that he claims to be a christian and yet he is completely resistant to any change or growth. With that kind of attitude we can never have the kind of wonderful, intimate relationship that God intended for us to have.
God bless and keep you 🙂
Today is day 7 of my “independence”. I moved out of the 5 bedroom home that I was in to a 1 bedroom apartment. It is small buy I feel secure and at peace. That is except for the 50 or more phone calls each day asking me “Why”. Seriously, what have I been saying for the last 15+ years. Has he heard even one word that I have said. He wants to get together for “coffee” and won’t cause a scene. I would have to be completely insane to believe any of it. I told him to take time and get work on himself. I don’t believe he honestly thinks he needs any work or help on himself. He sees none of the things that he has done over the years.
It is reassuring to know that I am not alone, yet it’s not. I am happy in the Lord, yet disheartened by a world that has so many marriages that create unhappy and abused women. In this little apartment I am free. Free to study the Word and pray without ridicule. I can say a pleasant word about a male coworker and not be accused of adultery. I have both Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia. I am free to be in pain or have flare ups and not have to worry that a man will want things from me that I cannot give. And when those times come and I cannot bare to be touched I will be able to relax and ask God’s help through it and not be scorned or told that I am less than a woman. God sees me in a different way. I am His and He loves me how I am.
Good for you for being brave and taking this step for your safety and sanity. Hopefully your husband will reflect and “get” what you’ve been saying for the last 15 years.
My husband has been doing “just enough” to keep me hooked in a pattern of “hope” that is now depleted. He agrees to counseling bit stops after a few sessions. Will speak with our pastor and attend bible study for just a few sessions. Although I believe he has a degree of sorrow about the years of cheating and lies, his shame overwhelms him and then he kicks into a controlling self protection – that’s when he lashes out at me verbally or becomes passive aggressive. I am realizing how he will say he loves me and is trying to be the kind of husband God wants him to be, he is not willing (or able) to get beyond the lip service and I to the behaviors that would make difference. His own shame,fear, guilt, etc are bigger than the care he says he has for me. That is the. Hardest if manipulations to see and unfortunately the most subtle…. And it sucked up the past 18 years of my life. I lived with 2 out of 3 of the obstacles Leslie wrote about in this Month’s newsletters. My teen kids don’t have a model of what a healthy marriage should look like. (And I had thought divorcing would have been worse?) His financial irresponsibility kept me from being able to leave.
He would frequently promise to make changes – butnever did…
The longer I stayed, the harder it got for me to leave….the older I’ve gotten the harder it is as well.
I may not have known all his secrets which kept me from knowing what I really should have done. (He manipulated so slyly) … But his passive aggressive behavior alone should have been enough for me to leave…. Had I known better.
I have been involved in an emotionally destructive relationship for the past 5 years , although if I were to be really honest with myself it has been a stressful, unhealthy environment for over a decade . We are now separated, heading towards divorce. I know longer felt safe in so msny areas in my marriage . This has been the hardest decision of my Life, I struggle with the finality of it all. We have been separated 3 times in the past 4 years. The first 2 times I was told to leave and my ATM card was taken and my phone , always something punitive would take place in the course of our arguments , so through the years when things were calm on the surface you learned to play nice , not to upset the AppleCart …Our arguments would become destructive when it came to conflict . Usually with my husband losing control with his temper, and everyone would back down. We would hardly ever come to a resolution , so if the argument didn’t turn heated we woukd go days not talking. He would often blame others for his outbursts or the provocation of others . That it was a chain reaction always excusing away his actions stating for ex ( The kids disrespect him, I don’t back him up , the neighbors friendship is more important than your husband etc ) My husband became controlling and manipulative . If he had issue with family , or friend, I Too , needed to have distance or issue with them as well, as that would be a betrayal towards him. We have sought counsel several times to no avail , there were times I got screamed at all the way home from a session that didn’t go well. He has even walked out on a session before it started as he didn’t like how it started.
Today , we remain apart I have had a hard 6 mos learning to live completely independent from him. Through the kindness of friends and the provision from the Lord I am rebuildung my life in a small rented house with our daughter and young grandchild working 3 jobs. . He wants to reconcile and sends me sweet messages and emails stating he’s not giving up that he still wants his family . Unfortunely , I have seen no evidence of change , after awhile when he see’s I’m not responding to his advancements he will become spiteful, punitive in action. There has been no visibe change in heart or action to rebuild rhe trust that had been coroded away through so many Painful events. I’ve had to silence him to get healthy, although it may seem cold in action it was a healthy boundary for me , as it’s so easy to fall back into the cycle and the dance you have created through the years . You know it’s an unhealthy existence, but you learn to cope in the dysfunction because that’s all you’ve known . Ive come to realize that you can face your fears , sometimes you have to ” do it afraid ” for me, if I can’t be vulnerable , and open , accepted , SAFE with the person who means the most to me how will I ever be FREE to be who I was called to be.
Your books have been an awesome resource for me. I also have another to include for women who are struggling in destructive relationships. The “Redemptive Divorce” by Mark Gaither was so helpful for me in gathering all of my thoughts/emotions/etc. and putting it all into words. After recognizing that I was in a destructive relationship after reading your book the Emotionally Destructive Relationship, I had a lot of work to do on my own self, and I had to learn to establish boundaries and to follow through on them. I am an LPC-Intern and all the red flags were there before I married my husband, and even though I had all the textbook knowledge…I still lacked the wisdom to instill boundaries and to follow through with appropriate consequences…partially because of my Christian upbringing and partially because of my hardwired self who thought I could change people, that I could love them enough, that I would be the Godly wife…etc. all to NO avail. Anyway, your blogs have become the highlight of my week and this is one of my most treasured venues of support. Thank you all for sharing your stories/testimonies here. They are help to keep me moving in the right direction.
I haven’t had a chance to read that book yet. Thanks for the heads up on it.
I was given Leslie’s name by my pastor. I am so glad I found her. I have been married 25 yrs and have 4 children. For years I have been unhappy with my marriage, and my emotoinally abusive husband made me feel like it was all my fault…and I believed him! After reading every “How to be a better Christian wife” self help book available, I finally figured it out. For the past year I have been actively seeking counseling and encouraging my husband to do the same. He attended a handfull of sessions, and decided he was just fine. This article was what I needed to hear. I see no heart change in my spouse…he continues to insist I am equally at fault. Some hard decisions are in my future, but this type of Biblical counsel is just what I needed!
thank you for this blog, Leslie and for all the responses. I am so glad I am not alone.. the Lord has shown me this blog to show me so much. I just rented a place and am trying to figure out how to get away from a verbally and emotionally abusive spouse after 38 years. I have read leslie’s book and other books and God has opened my eyes 8 months ago after learning about Verbal Abuse- covert- I feel so validated by all the replies , for me it’s answered prayer. I know I have to set boundaries and decide to leave to allow time to heal from this toxic and negative relationship. There are still children in the home and I need to think of them too, but I need to find a healthy place, even if it is just part time. I will continue to follow this blog, Thank you Leslie …
I too have been dealing with a destructive relationship. It’s been about 5 years of constant manipulation, control, twisting the truth, etc. He always says “you have no right to be angry. I don’t drink or cheat.” But I can’t have my own opinion, I can’t tell him no to anything, I can’t have a bad day, the list goes on and on. I always have to meet his needs or if I don’t do certain things I’m ungodly. We have 4 children, he adopted my older 2. He treats them so very different. My oldest moved out, my 16 year old is not doing well in school and doing drugs, and our 9 year old has just been diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. I fear what will become of our 5 yr old daughter. He refuses to go to counseling and tells me I’m wasting my time going. He says me taking the children is my way of “pawning the problem off on someone else.” All of this amongst other things. My husband is in ministry also. I am finally in a good healthy church and went to my Pastor. He has been so supportive and I’m so thankful. My problem now is that as Leslie stated above to be careful you do not become abusive yourself. I’m afraid that I may be. I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted. When he comes at me with an accusation or whatever the case may be, I can only hold it together for a short time. He follows me around with his nagging and comments. I begin to swear at him. I even slapped him for calling my son names. I am so full of guilt over this, thinking I’m no better than him now. My Pastor said that there’ll be the point where I’ll have to leave, but I don’t know how or even if I can financially. He has threatened that my life will be hell and that God will not honor me for quitting. I can’t enable him to do this anymore and I can’t be like this either. It’s killing me and my kids. I am so proud of you all for taking a stand for righteousness.
I had that same comment last week… I’m not being a Christian wife because I have boundaries in place, that I’m UNGodly, that I am supposed to meet his needs in and out of the bedroom…and that he can’t believe what a trick I turned out to be…and it goes on and on and on…Look into the book Redemptive Divorce. It’s so very helpful!
thank you I will
There are enough of us responding to this topic to have a great support group. I am thankful for all of your responses. I don’t feel so alone now.
I am so excited about the support that has been available on this site. I want to encourage you and give you the tools to stay strong on this journey but none of us can do it alone. I can’t and you can’t. We need one another and I just want you all to know how much you encourage me by encouraging one another.
It’s been almost 42 years for me and at this point I don’t know who’s the controller/manipulator!!! I put up with most just to keep the peace but I’m not sure if I can take him anymore coming home (only once in awhile)…drunk! I keep telling him if he wants to drink…drink here…stop drinking/driving. Last Nov. he got into an accident and was arrested for drunk driving, (first time ever)…said he would NEVER do that again and has done it a couple of times within the last 2 months! Just last week he came home like that…told him I had enough…I yelled/cried/slammed doors etc. and didn’t realize I was manipulating and next day he said was sorry and now I wait till he does it again. What do i do then? I DON’T want to be a manipulator…I’ve tried communicating every which way through the years but his way is to just ignore after a blowout/shove it under the rug and it will go away….and it seems to…we go back to living in peace and cycle starts over again when he steps out….I’m actually dependent on him…no job..no where to go…and stay home all the time…have no one to talk to but our daughter and I hate to drag her into any bad behavior….I don’t even know why I’m telling anyone this…???? guess cause there’s others in kinda the same situation? I will pray for you all as I ask for prayer too! Thank you for your responses too! Thank you Leslie for pointing out we can’t go it alone…I have Jesus but just sometimes I need a human ear that will listen/care! Thanks
I know in my case, I had to force myself to get out. First of all and most important I went back to church. It has been a long road and after 3 years I am beginning to feel comfortable around people again. I had only talked to my daughters for years so the conversation was limited about anything personal. After all I am suppose to be the strong one that they can come to. I am still with my husband but have begun looking at other options. House, apartment, cardboard box…He still legally will have to give me half of our assets. I don’t know where you live but after that many years, alimony?????
It does get hard not to come unglued when the same thing continues to happen repetatively and I’m not going to say that I haven’t yelled. About a year ago, I had had enough and I let what was on my mind fly. The difference is I immediately knew it was not going to help and repented. When my husband rants it lasts for days and then he acts like nothing ever happened. The Honeymoon Phase. It is a cycle of abuse. The difference is God speaks to my heart and lets me know that I am off course and that is something that I do not believe my husband experiences. I haven’t had any experience with a drinker so I can’t even imagine what it must be like, but I do know what keeping quiet to keep the peace is like. At some point all of that kept inside is going to come out.
So I talked to a counselor at our local Womens Shelter and I will probably be filing for a temporary restraining order next week. I’m shaking like a leaf, I’m so nervous/scared but I have done everything I can, its up to him to make a change! I’m tired of feeling like I’m playing Russian Roulette with him. Its a huge step because I have MS and am in a wheelchair but really I’m doing it alone anyway so I may actually get REAL help!
Ladies let’s allkeep Rhonda in our prayers.
Lord, please protect Rhonda. Give her everything she needs to be safe and get the help she needs. Be her protector, provider and lover of her soul. Show her your care during this trying time. Amen.
Thank you Leslie for your prayer! I just got home from church and to know that I am not in this alone is so encouraging! My pastor told me that he has no doubt about my intentions. He said that if I showed up at church and was putting my husband down, disrespecting him, saying negative things of him,then he’d be concerned but although I do have to share how his bad decisions are putting me in harms way I always make it clear that ultimately I want to handle this in a way that keeps the door open for him to receive healing and restoration with the Lord. The enemy would like nothing more than to isolate me and condemn me but God has made His presence known in a POWERFUL way!! Praise God!
For all you ladies, find someone to talk to, we need to come together [even through a computer!] and lift each other up and encourage one another! This is a safe place to vent! I love you all!
I’m praying for you too, Rhonda, for your physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. It must also be really comforting to have the support of your pastor in this. Thanking God again for the ministry of Leslie! This blog has encouraged me in my own journey of healing from abuse. I was so unhealthy myself I didn’t even know it was abuse. I thank God for the way His Spirit has worked in my heart and for showing me the truth of the situation I was in and how I was allowing the abuse to continue by actually feeling sorry for my abuser. It was a very unhealthy and sick emotional attachment. This was not a marriage situation but a “best friend.” My husband and kids could see it, but I couldn’t…or wouldn’t. Praising God for deliverance which has been a process.
Rhonda, I am praying for you. Rest and abide in Christ. He will be there with you through it all giving you the strength you need. Stay safe.
My husband left me last year almost to the day after 30 years of marriage. He had affairs before and was having one when he left. I let him come back twice. The first time it was obvious very quickly that there was no repentance, and he left within a week. The next time, I decided to love him no matter what. The lies and deceit continued, but were sneakier. He wanted to put no effort into the marriage, and expected me to do all the “fixing,” there was no behavior changes and no apologies. When he said our marriage was so “everyday”, I decided that I was done. He had hurt me for the last time. I made mistakes letting him return so easily, and trusting him. His “girlfriend” called me recently to ask forgiveness and to say that he had left her 5 times. She finally dumped him. He never really repented, there was no change of heart despite a few tears one time. I do not think many of these selfish men will ever truly change, it would be a real minority that ever change for good. They are so used to lying and deceiving. I wish you the best, but be on your gaurd and trust your “gut”. Pray foe God to show you the truth even if it hurts. Pray for your husband’s lies to be exposed if present, and for discernment in the situation.
I love, love, love this blog, discussion, and all of you. What an awesome thing that folks can talk openly and without fear and judgment and get help from fellow believers. First of all I want to tell you all that I have been through all the muck and the mire too and may be in it again (Lord willing not…)so please understand that I know how it is and how it works. My husband is I believe a narcissist and I am the codependent. We have survived five children (two stepchildren), two separations, one restraining order, many many counselors, one affair, pornography, and internet dating. It has been rough to say the least… Surprisingly we are still together and doing well. Here briefly are some things I had to learn to stay alive and not kill myself or him. 🙂 Please excuse the concise verbiage but for the sake of time I will keep it short:
1. Leadership. If you are the one being abused you have to be the leader in getting out of the ditch. YOur spouse will never be able to heal on his own and take responsibility for himself or the marriage.
2. Learn all you can about codependency in yourself and deal with it. Remember that if you are codependent and getting help from this site you are the stronger one.
3. Expect many defeats and setbacks in yourself and your spouse. It is part of the growth process.
4. Become financially responsible and secure as much as you are able. This will take time but one day at a time.
5. Learn not to show anger in front of your spouse. Learn to self sooth and vent appropriately when your spouse pushes your buttons. When you are crazy angry and cry, stomp, yell, etc. it gives them power that they do not need. Do not depend on your adult or young children for emotional support when you are hurting. A strong and happy individual will be more believed to outsiders who you go to for help than someone who is hysterical. Wait till you calm down before you speak to people or the police.
6. Make a life for yourself so that if the marriage fails or not you can move on. Either way a person who is moving and shaking is more attractive.
7. Create a support group of individuals you can go to for help at any time of day or night. You may need to have a friend’s house key.
8. Try not to be anxious over the lack of spiritual growth or lack thereof that you see in your spouse.
9. Although it feels like your spouse needs a two-by-four over his head what he really needs is healing. Try to remember that when he pushes your buttons. He is deeply wounded.
10. Try to learn everything you can from the Love and Logic way of dealing with children and apply it to your spouse. It really works.
11. Pray and fast with a few friends weekly. It also really works.
12. Get healing for your own childhood wounds which is probably what drew you to this type of person to begin with. I found that The Ultimate Journey really helped both my spouse and myself.
Sorry this is so concise and short but the biscuits are burning in the oven! These things all really helped me survive the trauma of a difficult marriage. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!!
Ellen, I think you’ve given a great list to work through. Thanks for sharing with us.
Ellen: You really have this all together and I am able to check mark many items on your list, but not all. After this weekend and seeing that things are only getting more intense, I don’t believe change will happen while I am still within ear shot. I am actively looking for another place to live. He has not professed Christ as savior, but can sure find a scripture when it will benefit him and is in need of healing for an escalating anger issue. I pray all the best for you and hope your marriage is healed. Brenda
Man, I too can check mark quite a few of those things, especially the 2×4 upside the head one!! :]
This week almost did me in. I met with my counselor on Monday and told him that I had talked to someone at our Women’s Shelter and that I was going to meet with her on Wednesday to go over my options. When I told him that I was going to get a TRO w/a “Move Out” order attached he proceeded to say that he did not believe, from his experience, that a judge would grant a restraining order because I was a “competent, well-put together woman” I had told him that once a week my mom makes enough dinner to include me since my disability doesn’t allow me to use the stove anymore and that my mom/brother drive me to my dr. appts and my friend takes me to church. He said basically that I need to tell my mom that she needs to start making my meals 100% of the time and that while I see what my family and friends do for me as a blessing, if they really cared about me they would see it as their responsibility and because I have those resources, a judge wouldn’t grant the order. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! You mean to say that because I choose to stand strong on God’s promises and not fall into the roll of a victim and because I’ve chosen to continue to live my life [ie; even though my mobility is limited I still take care of myself, I shower, brush my teeth, comb my hair. I am a fashion major and a hair stylist so I love to dress cute, it makes me smile!] He felt that those things would work against me so I was pretty stressed out the rest of the day!
I met with the Sarah at the womens shelter yesterday and she said that he really shouldn’t have said those things to me and that a judge will go by the facts of the case, not on my appearance. I felt much better after that especially since I have written testimonies from people who have witnessed his behavior and I have almost 100 pictures/video of him when he’s high/intoxicated and of his cardboard room he built in the garage. Then, to twist the knife into me further, I found a receipt on the bathroom floor last night from our local porn store! He had bought a gadget to ‘self-pleasure’ himself.
It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll get his water pipes and other drug paraphernalia out to his truck with a sheriff standing there! Oh well, not my problem!
Rhonda, I can’t imagine a judge Not giving a TRO. You have evidence that will not look good for him at all. My husband told me that the only person who doesn’t like him is me. He puts on a very good face for other people. But of course, a lot of people were fooled by Jeffrey Dahmer and other serial killers were kind, quite people. He has a way of manipulating anything he does to someone elses fault. Example: He lost his job–it was the managers fault, even though he kept telling her that he didn’t want the job and wanted a voluntary demotion, someone else could do his job. It is never about what he has done. He takes no responsibility for his own actions. But, isn’t it wonderful that we have caught on and know better.
This week I have looked at apartments–No one so far has wanted me to have my piano or elderly cat. Ugh. I have also been looking at houses, but the ones that I can afford need work that I can’t do: electrical mostly. I did look at one this morning that could be promising. If the Lord is willing, if not I know that He will provide. I also spoke to a reasonably priced attorney that is ready to move forward. I moved my treasures: pictures and such out of the house just in case.
Rhonda I think we are both making headway. Keep praying for me as I know you will for me.
Ellen, thank you for sharing the keys on your journey. I am seeing too that leadership is absolutely key. Outside support. We each have wounds. Narcissim and codependency exist in our relationship too. Minimizing emotion helps Thank you for pointing toward prayer as well. I sense your strong determined effort to persevere and take steps in a healthier direction.
Hi, I have been in an emotionally abusive marriage for 18 years. I have called him out on his abusive behavior many times. His behavior highly depends on what I will tolerate. So I have gotten to the point that I do not tolerate anything from him. I have built walls to protect myself (emotionally). Because if i am not allowing him in emotionally he can’t hurt me. I know this is unhealthy. I feel trapped. 🙁
Thank you for posting this. I am the wife who wrote this question to Leslie.
Since I submitted this, I found nonstop texts and calls to and from a female coworker, as early as 8:30 am and going until 11 pm at night, both weekdays and weekends. Some as late as 1 or 2 in the morning. And even on our vacation. This has been going on since early March, and has continued up until this week (so…he was continuing this even after his family’s intervention). I confronted him, told him I knew. He replied that I need to let this go, it’s all about business, etc. He will not admit to anything nor will be let me see these “business texts”.
You asked me to be specific with the emotional abuse. He blames me for 100% of any problems we have. Ignores me, neglects our family, has told me terrible things about my personality…I could go on. His family finally stepped in after I sent them an email telling them how damaged I was…I had spoken with his family months before,probably as far back as a year… and they would see him acting like this, but didn’t want to step in…so hurtful they waited so long, as I was begging for help.
I have made the decision to separate. I cannot speak to him anymore about our problems as his manipulation is extreme and I end up emotionally destroyed.
I understand what you are going through. It is hard to make the decision to separate, but it is for your husbands, your childrens and your good. I pray that you find healing and your husband finds repentance through this. God is working through all of this and only He knows what the future holds. Whatever that may be, eventually it will be best for you. I go tomorrow to file legal separation papers. God watch over us both.
I think one of the hardest things for me is just taking my grubby little hands off of the situation. I want to control him. I see what he’s not doing and it breaks my heart. I tell him what would show me love and help me to trust him again, he says he will do it, in fact he says he’ll do anything to get me back. Yet he is still doing the things that I told him I needed him to stop.
I can’t make him do anything. As Leslie has been teaching us, I can only control me (and I do a poor job, at that).
My husband was unfaithful in probably the most repulsive way I can imagine. And after he refused specific counseling for it, and I sought the help of several counselors, I did separate taking our 2 year old son with me. I asked God to stop me if it was not what He wanted me to do. I begged him each day to show me. Show me my sin, show me the truth, help me to obey Him.
I have been separated for 9 months and each day is excruciating even though I know I’m where God wants me to be, right now. It’s a jumbled mess, but God knows the way and it’s a daily and sometimes minute by minute task of refocusing on Him only. There is so much fear and fatigue. I want to be done with this. I want to be done with him. But I find myself asking him once again to do counseling with me. We are going next month and I’m terrified.
If everything falls away, if everyone looks at you like you’re the most ungodly woman on earth, if your friends shun you, if you are left with nothing because of the choices you have had to make, you will still have the Lord. He will show you what the next step is when it’s time for the next step. Go before Him every day. Pray. Fast. Let Him refresh you. Let Him comfort you. And let Him show you His faithfulness.
He is my only safe place – and He is enough.
you will make it! <3
After the recent “verbal altercations” with my husband we are in what you call the “honeymoon phase.” That’s the worst part of the abuse cycle, knowing that to consider leaving is to consider leaving the good times too. There have been good times.
In talking with a dear friend of many years the other day, she helped me see that my husband’s abuse had “squashed” the vibrant, optimistic, passionate girl I once was, and had changed that girl into a woman full of self-doubt and self reproach.
I realize that in or out of this marriage, I have to do the work of becoming who God created me to be, and re-integrating the lost qualities of that girl. I have to be determined to live my truth no matter what opposition I may encounter, in order to honor God’s plan for me. The rest is up to the Lord.
This is what I pray for, for myself and all of you 🙂
Hey everyone, please keep me in your prayers as I have turned in the paperwork to have my husband served with a temp.restraining order [TRO]. It will most likely be served on Friday. I am a nervous wreck!! I mentioned before that I have MS, unfortunately the stress of all of this is really making the MS flare. I have fallen 3 times today. Its not even so much the realization that this is really going to happen but that it can’t happen soon enough!! I am now fairly certain that he is doing cocaine along with everything else. Our youngest daughter  still lives at home to assist me and she commented last night that as soon as he is gone she is having some of her friends over for a cleaning party”!! Even though she isn’t serving God currently, she feels the darkness that has enveloped our home!
I don’t know how he’s going to react when he see’s a sheriff at our door, informing him that he has 5 mins to gather some items and then has to leave. I believe he could be suicidal and I know he’ll blame me but he’ss the one choosing to do drugs and sleep in the garage. UGH!!!
Keeping you in prayer Rhonda.
So the TRO was served last Thursday and yes, I was a wreck!! It ended up being only him and myself at the house when they knocked on the door. This has truley been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Our court date isn’t until the 25th of June. We have NEVER been apart that long! Yesterday was the 1st full day and I cried from 6am – 2-3pm easily. It wasn’t your basic tears either, t was gut retching sobs, my eyes were almost swollen shut. I called my dr. because this was panic attack levels so he did get me something to help me relax. A friend of mine called and when she heard what had taken place she was at my house in like 5mins and took me out to dinner. It really helped me to calm down although I was constantly looking out the window to see if he would drive by [we live in a small town] I must admit, I did have her drive by his dads house to see if they were allowing him to stay there. They are, I’m glad.
Keep the prayers coming. Its one step at a time!
Yes, one step at a time, one minute at a time sometimes. Our prayers go with you Rhonda.
Rhonda, I am proud of you. You took the first step and you needed that so very much for your safety and sanity. I understand your tears and have been there myself. Mine are all gone. I used them up long ago.
My husband showed up this morning at my place of employment. I am the only one here as we open. He parked his truck at the closest spot to the entrance. As I made my way into the building, he just kept saying he wanted to talk. I told him that I was not ready to talk, as I already have a dozen times and that he was not ready either even though he didn’t know it. He followed me through the front entry way as I told him that I was not inviting him into my office and kept my phone ready to dial 911. He didn’t do anything but repeat himself over and over again, but I was scared. The attempts at manipulation never stop.
I am praying for you girl. Brenda
Thanks Brenda!! God knew what I would be facing and drew me to this site to give me the encouragement and support I’d need! It was so “random” how I found Leslie web page but of course, we know that He doesn’t do things “randomly”! People don’t understand how agonizing it is to make this decision. They seem to think it should be like the Nike ad “Just Do It”. It isn’t that easy, especially when you have over 1/2 of your life invested in the relationship! Its even harder when you are disabled and need the help of others, each day is a little easier. I watched Dr. Phil yesterday and he said something that struck a chord. When he asked the woman why she didn’t leave, she said “because she was in love with him” Dr. Phil replied “you are in love with the man you wish he could be, not the man that he is right now and he may never be that other man” Wow, that is so true! I always saw Jeff’s potential and fell in love with that but 80-90% of our marriage has been this other man. As much as I believe in the power of God to change lives, Jeff has to believe that, I can’t do it any more!
Having MS is not easy, but with the Lord’s help and our families we will make it. Everyday I pray for the impact of the disease to stay at bay, but His will be done. Your husband (and mine) was not the partner you needed. Perhaps some day he will recognize that and become that person, if not, God will provide for you. I’m finding He is all the Husband I really need. Each day gets easier when you let Him be the leader and center for your life.
What is amazing to me as I read through all of your posts is that so many of us have been married to these men for years! I have been married 24 years with three wonderful children. My husband has been addicted to porn for the entire length of our marriage. It took a major breach of trust in our relationship for me to finally recognize the emotional abuse that has always been present. I don’t know if he can change the patterns of a lifetime. I have waited for five years for him to wake up but nothing has really changed.
the hardest part for me is that he can be really nice for a period of time, then when things look as if they might be improving, he does something to trash it all again. If I criticize him about anything, he instantly goes on the attack. I am a woman of strong faith in God. He has called me superior, self righteous, the queen of cold, etc…Then the next day he says he loves me. It is a real help to know that there are other women who are dealing with these same things. I am sooo thankful for this web site.
Glad you found us. Brenda