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Todays' Question: I am stuck, and don't know what to do now.
I have been married, almost 15 years. It has been a verbally abusive relationship, on both sides. In November, after an argument, my husband said, “we're done”. I took self-inventory and apologized and repented for my irresponsible, self-centered behavior.
There was no response. No apology from him. No repentance. My husband has no accountability, nothing is ever his fault. He has a way of twisting words so that I begin to take all responsibility for the issue. Sometimes, I don't know my own truth. I question my motives, etc.
My issues with him are he is a slob and he is not a man of his word. In April, he requested that we go our separate ways. He wanted to stay married but live separately. I would not agree to that. I suggested divorce. We have been to many counselors. He is not going anymore.
In May, he went to another state to visit a woman. He fails to see the inappropriateness of this visit. In August, we went to see a mediator, to start the steps of divorce. Shortly after that visit, my husband went to see his pastor. His pastor convinced him that divorce is not the answer.
My husband will not talk about steps to take to make the marriage work. He claims that he will make some behavioral changes, and then decide. One of my struggles is his sloppiness. It drives me crazy. I can't even walk in the living room, which he has made his bedroom, since November. Every room of the house has a pile of clothing, papers, etc.
When I have expressed my desire to have it cleaned up, his response indicates that this is the way that he is and I should just accept him. I am so frustrated. I don't like who I am, how I respond to him, or even how I think of him. It seems that what is important to me, doesn't matter to him.
I want to divorce him. I just don't know what else to do. I am afraid that if I divorce, God will be mad at me, and/or I will continue the same relationship pattern. I am afraid that I might be missing something that I am supposed to be learning about myself, making changes with myself. All I seem to do is become frustrated over the mess, or the broken words.
How can I be a Christian, and have so much angst and vile in my heart?
Answer: Indeed you are stuck, so let's began to carve a way forward for you. First, you are spending far too much time and energy trying to convince your husband to change. From what you've written, he's already made it pretty clear to you that he likes himself the way he is and has no intentions of being neater, prioritizing your feelings, or owning or apologizing for any wrong-doing on his part.
He wants to stay married but not live with you. Why? Perhaps he doesn't want to reap the financial consequences of a divorce but doesn't want the marital responsibility of caring for someone's feelings and needs besides his own.
Maybe he enjoys your company, like a date night or your sexual relationship but doesn't want the added burden of actually prioritizing you as his wife or changing his messy habits.
That said, you are hurt and angry, rightly so. Your husband doesn't want to work on the marriage, he doesn't want to get help, he doesn't want to change but you are responding to that reality in a way that further contributes to the problem.
You're lashing out with verbal zingers and you're continually frustrated with him and with yourself. You don't like the person you are becoming in the midst of this marriage. You're beginning to question the reality of your faith when you see what's going on in your heart. That's where you can begin to get unstuck.
You asked whether or not you might be missing the lessons God has for you in this season. The psalmist tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 4:4,5). What does this psalm have to say to you about what God might want you to learn?
1.How do we have our legitimate anger without our anger having us?
Anger itself isn’t necessarily a sin, but the way we express our anger can be. Your anger is a signal something is wrong both internally and externally. (tweet that)
Something is wrong with a husband who doesn’t care about a wife’s feelings or needs. Something is wrong with a spouse who doesn’t keep his word and goes and visits another woman while still married. You are not wrong for desiring an honest, caring, neater husband. But what’s happening in you when you don’t get what you want? Your sinful outbursts are a warning bell that something isn’t just wrong externally, but also internally. Your desires are legitimate but lashing out with verbal abuse when you don’t get what you want signals a problem internally (see James 4 for more of this). That’s the problem that you CAN work on in order to get unstuck.
2. The psalmist said that in his anger, instead of lashing out, he was silent and pondered what was going on in his own heart. This is your way forward. You can’t change him and therefore, you will still be angry and the wrongness of his selfish heart and the consequences his selfishness visit upon you. The psalmist tells us that God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11). However, how you handle your hurt and anger can change. These are things God is showing you. God wants to teach you how to trust him in the midst of your hurt and anger. He wants to teach you how to turn to him with these emotions instead of lashing out. He wants to show you how to respond to legitimate disappointment without becoming unglued.
3. I wonder what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “offer right sacrifices” For you, what might that be? What do you need to sacrifice to God? Could it be your marriage? Your desire for a neat and orderly home? Your husband? You are losing yourself (i.e. becoming someone you don’t like) in order to get what you want, (a cleaner house, a husband who is committed). Jesus warns us, “What does it profit a person if he (she) gains the whole world, but loses her own soul (self)?” (Mark 8:36).
You asked how can you be a Christian and have so much angst and vile in your heart. A Christian is still a sinner and the only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that you do have the Holy Spirit and Christ in your heart to help you get rid of these toxic emotions. Paul writes to believers when he says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31,32).
That tells me that believers can be caught in these toxic emotions and that’s where you are stuck my friend. Your husband and your marriage aren’t your biggest problem right now, it’s your own emotions.
I’d encourage you to start your own healing by forgiving your husband. No, he hasn’t asked for it, nor does he deserve it but give him the gift of forgiveness, as God has given it to you.
God tells you to forgive and therefore forgiving your husband is obeying God, not letting your husband be consequence free.
Forgiving him doesn’t mean that you can have a good marriage or that your relationship is reconciled, especially because he has never asked your forgiveness, nor has he repented of his own selfish ways. But forgiving him will be a crucial step of letting go of your continual angst.
Forgiveness keeps your own side of the relationship clear and your heart right with God. You may have to do this daily if you are still being provoked by his selfishness.
Your relationship with your husband may not be restored, but don’t allow that hurt to keep you from your relationship with God. That is your first priority right now.
Read through Psalm 25 in several different translations. I especially love verse 4 and 5 “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”
Put your hope in God, not in what you want him to do for your marriage or how you want him to change your husband and I think you will find yourself in a much different space to make your decision regarding divorce.
God loves you, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Get your eyes off your problem and onto God. Then you will have much clearer eyes to see what to do about your problem.
Friends: When your negative emotions threaten to overwhelm you with despair and/or hatred, what helps you get unstuck?
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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…
Good Morning, Friends! My name is Susan King, a coach on the Leslie Vernick & Co. team. I have the opportunity to fill in for Leslie by addressing today’s blog question. As I let my dogs outside this morning, I was reminded of the coming fall. The morning air was cool and crisp; children were…
I am in a similar situation, however, I’ve only been married for 4 years and thinking about divorce. I am more messy than he is. However he doesn’t care about my feelings and emotions. Seemed like he did when we dated then as soon as we got married all of that ended and he continually pressured and pressured me for sex for almost 3 years. Has been better about it for 8 months . I’m considering divorce now. He always puts his needs first that way . Been to counseling and everything . It’s not mutual thing most of the time and he puts and gets angry until he gets what he wants. Or I can’t watch tv or that and he will make rude comments such as ” well I’m not getting what I want! I want —. So no you can’t watch tv.” I am angry about all of this! And go upstairs and just sit and read the bible but I am still upset at him because the next day he’s sweet and says ” I love you” until it happens all over again at some point . I’m thinking “love” really?? You don’t love me you love yourself ! He has said I’m sorry! But like I said it’s only been ok for 8 months and he still gets annoyed or pouty if no sex and in years passed he got what he wanted constantly and be upset if it was a day! I felt like I had to passify him. He’s 35 by the way. Please help! Sorry I know I told my issue and I should’ve been commenting more! Thinking about divorce before there’s a child involved . He is faithful to me as far as I know and not like that poor other lady where he’d see other women. But he’s pressure some and doesn’t seem to ever consider my feelings at all evn though I’ve told him over and over and cried my guys out and not It is difficult for me to get up or anything because all of this is hurting me inside and I need to make a decision and it’s very stressful on my body and he seems to not care one bit he’s fine and sits and ignores everything! And says well sorry and that’s the extent of it. Should I divorce? I feel like he doesn’t consider me in sexual ways and gets upset or annoyed til he gets what he wants. And mainly I wanted to say thank you for your words of wisdom from the person that wrote about her husband! I will try and follow what you told her too! I esp will look up Mark verse. That is true … What good is it to gain the whole world and loose your soul .. I guess that’s how I feel. Trying to decide if that’s my answer. Are all men just completely emotionally checked out? I hope to think not. Seems like he is. Never says a word unless he wants something. We only dated for 6 months he was so kind then. Then after we got married he demanded sex constantly . I want to be married and do the things your supposed to in marriage but I guess not like that… Not where he doesn’t consider my emotions or opinions or body much. I’m so sorry for the other lady who wrote and praying for you and sorry I was selfish and put my issues on here.
F, I am sorry you are going through this. If you haven’t been around this site for long, I encourage you to keep reading. The insights from Leslie and other posters are very, very, very helpful.
Several people have found that looking up Patrick Doyle on youtube also provides a lot of perspective.
Thank you I’ll check out your suggestions!
Do not have children with that man.
It is SO SO much more difficult to pursue a divorce when there are children involved.
F, I agree with Ruth. DO NOT have children with this man! I would add that the time to get out of the abuse relationship is now. The things you describe are not marital issues, they are abusive characteristics. Date the next man you marry much longer and get yourself into counseling immediately.
Have you read Lundy Bancroft or visited the Cry for Justice website. Yes, divorce hurts but the life you have ahead of you is far worse.
I currently understand forgiveness as choosing to release all the anger and resentment that I am holding at that moment.
When I choose that and observe, there is for that moment of forgiveness, emptiness in my head and heart. This is awesome, because now I can choose another thought, such as respect for the humanity of the person I am forgiving.
We’re talking microseconds here, lol. But with time and repetition, I have learned/am learning, have found/am finding something that might be called the peace that comes with understanding.
The other person does not have to change. As Leslie says, it’s my job to address my end of the issue and that’s true even if I’m still trying to blame another person for “causing” the issue in me.
My breakthough moment was one day I had a vision of me standing on a beach holding a bunch of balloons. Everything in the scene was monochromatic and made of concrete.
Then I allowed forgiveness. Bam. The concrete began to crumble. My frozen fingers began releasing the balloons, and as they floated into the wind each one regained its own, bright colors. The entire scene gained normal color and texture and now, instead of being locked in a single pose, everything, everything was free to be what it was meant to be.
That is a beautiful vision.
Thank you SO very much for posting this, Leslie. It’s just so very TRUE!
For years while married to an absent father/Christian leader, I’d take out my frustrations on my captive audience of home-schooled children. Since there were nine of them, I alternated between excusing my behavior as an overwhelmed wife & mother being forced to function as a single-parent, and anguishing over my anger as I watched myself shred my children’s souls and tear down my own house brick by brick, day by day…
Justifying, rationalizing, spiritualizing… I was stuck on the same diabolical hamster wheel as the woman in your article and could not get off. Eventually, God had mercy and my health failed. With Chronic Fatigue? I had a choice. I could continue to rage or I could do the next basic thing required for a house-hold of 11 to get through the day.
I chose survival. After two years continuing to home-school by satellite w/the help of my older children, I gave up and put them in public school and there were sighs of relief all around… But my anger had simply turned inward and I was overwhelmed by despair. Same anger, same destruction, just a different direction.
Years went by and in my desert God kept igniting burning-bush people to get my attention. But inside my whale of Chronic Fatigue the meditation on my bed began to morph from suicidal ideology into something else…
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
My despair, the physical and emotional limitations of Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia, the unexpected intervention of neighbors and friends, the kindness of God… And a Christian radio station that just happened to play on the broken radio in my car… God began using each one of these aspects of my ‘sentence of death’ ((( so that! ))) I’d stop relying on myself– but on God Who Raises The Dead!
Thank you for such a real description of loneliness and despair and what God does to reach us in that place. I have been there my friend and God will travel with you through that place until you reach the opening and light at the end of the dark place. Along this journey He continues to put visions of a better place, goals for my life, and makes the way to get there for me. I am so thankful for God’s sweet Holy Spirit that is such a mystery that gives those who are Christians guidance and peace we could not experience without redemption through Jesus Christ our Savior. We understand one another and have that connection to continue on and strengthen one another. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thanks for sharing Pam. It’s been a long journey you’ve been on and God is showing you how to rely on him in a beautiful way.
Pamela, What came next? How did you overcome your pain? Did you finally leave your husband? How were your children affected by your anger?
The only way I’ve found to become unstuck from those hateful raging murderous thoughts is to cry out to God saying, “Oh Father, look what a broken mess I’ve become. PLEASE help me!” And He does. There is this verse in Isaiah that says, “You are precious in My eyes and honored and I love you.” And 1Peter 5:6-11 and 1Cor.4:16-18. Also very helpful is to consider Who God is: He created all the universes and holds them together by His word. Who am I to question Him and His ways with me? He has a purpose here, He knows what He’s about. I DON’T – but I am learning little by little to trust Him in ALL things. This is such a slow process with me it’s two steps forward, one step back, but by His strength, grace and love I press on.
It is that slow process of learning to really believe God, not just believe IN God that changes us.
Leslie. . . . that was a really wonderful answer to that question. . . . full of beautiful and very meaningful statements:
“Forgiveness keeps your own side of the relationship clear and your heart right with God. You may have to do this daily if you are still being provoked by his selfishness.” . . . . Absolutely wonderful.
“Your relationship with your husband may not be restored, but don’t allow that hurt to keep you from your relationship with God. That is your first priority right now.” . . . . Absolutely wonderful too. First priority always, even if things get much better!
“Put your hope in God, not in what you want him to do for your marriage or how you want him to change your husband. . . . “ . . . . Absolutely!
“God loves you, there is no condemnation. . . . . . Get your eyes off your problem and onto God. Then you will have much clearer eyes to see what to do about your problem.” . . . . That is so beautiful! I just love when we focus on keeping our hearts clean.
“Friends: When your negative emotions threaten to overwhelm you with despair and/or hatred, what helps you get unstuck?”
. . . . Inspiration like what has been written in today’s post helps me get unstuck during those times. . . . . BUT, but, honestly, I usually don’t get unstuck more than about half of the time. I usually feed into the negativity but I so, so clearly see the beauty and freedom in staying unstuck. . . . .Learning to stay focused on God, learning to forgive others so that I can release myself from being held captive by the very negative thoughts around me. . . . . Oh, I bet I can’t even imagine just how much believing in negative thoughts (despair and/or hatred) is affecting my life…until I would fully stop all of it. . . . . And learning to let go is not giving up! It is simply passing the burden to a better fighter (the Lord God), so we can focus on worshiping Him with our lives. Heart cleanliness makes it a lot easier to see that. God is peace, beauty and truth. Focus our energy on that. . . Oh, I so know. . . .but doing it. . . .Lord help us all! . . . . If I boil it down, just because someone else does the wrong thing I am not exempt from doing what’s right. God is not more interested in an intact family or social circle that looks righteous, rather than me being a person of integrity that has compassion for others. It is this absurdity that teaches the wrong version of God and creates the next generation of “me” centered individuals.
This sounds so much like my marriage. I was caught in the same spiral. My mind was always swirling and being tossed in every direction. I wanted the peace of a happy, joyful marriage. I wondered if I was asking too much. I tried to change him. I tried to change myself. I gave in and turned it over to God, uncertain of what to do anymore.
In the end, I’ve been divorced for nearly six years. I still search for a definition of forgiveness because I obviously didn’t achieve it.
…You hear “forgive and forget,” but God is the only one who is capable of forgetting what has happened. As sinful people, we are scarred by our past. (And some – like me – have a tremendous ability to remember things, so we can’t forget).
…Neither can forgiveness mean just letting the person continue to hurt you. That isn’t what God would want for us. . …Nor can it be letting that person walk all over you because God created us in His image so we deserve love and respect.
Leslie (or someone), can you give me a “workable” definition of forgiveness? I can’t seem to be able to grasp that concept.
Thank you so much!! You’ve helped me a lot!! I often struggle with forgiveness and that meaning I stay? But the problem has been happening for almost 3 years. So I can forgive but decide I don’t want to be treated like that anymore. So I guess it’s ok to leave esp if things don’t change much. Like only God can change people but the person has to have a desire and that’s not my husbands case. I’ve given him time to say the least. Anyway thank you for your words I think they have helped me greatly!! Thank you so much! I’m sorry for your situation!! And I also am one of those people who remembers everything !! Pretty much forever! So I think I’ll just keep asking God for courage and strength and to forget
Dear F– I forgave my very abusive husband and walked away. We are divorced now. Forgiving does not mean staying. For me forgiving is for me – cleansing my own heart , so my life isn’t filthy with bad thoughts and actions I regret. Some women forgive and can work out their issues with their husbands. I was one who wasn’t able to accomplish that. I have left the door open, but he has never walked towards going thru it.
SO true. Also see my definition of forgiveness in another response.
To forgive and forget is impossible and sometimes even unwise. If someone robbed you or molested your child, you may forgive him or her, but you must never forget. To do so would put yourself or your child in danger once again, especially if there was no repentance, but even if there was, trust would need to be rebuilt over time. Sometimes the consequences of serious sin is broken trust – forever.
Here is my simple definition of forgiveness. You release the debt that is owed you, period. So if someone borrowed $100 from you and never paid it back, you’d be angry. You’d try to get them to change, to pay you back but they didn’t. So you either stay angry and resentful or you release the person from the debt. They don’t “owe” you anything anymore. But that doesn’t mean that you will ever lend them another $100 again. That’s why you don’t forget. YOu release the debt because not to do so keeps you a prisoner of your anger. Let it go and you are free, albeit out a $100 bucks, but you can’t MAKE someone do what they will not do. Forgiveness keeps your heart (and body) in a much better place. It also gives the person who has sinned against you a chance to see Christ in you, which may be a push for them to realize that they need him too.
I find the forgive and forget message from Christian marriage counselors. Husband claims, yet I did those bad things in the past, but not now, why doesn’t she get over it and give me sex. Wife says, he is still abusive, I am not attracted to my rapist/husband and trying to find middle ground for survival in this relationship which is sometimes very functional. Counselor says, certainly wife is part of the problem. She should acknowledge his repentance, and be nicer to him and the bible strongly indicates that sex is part of marriage. Husband realizes he was wrapping counselor around his finger and that is why we left the “Trauma/experienced Langford Associate”.
Since mine was a verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abusive marriage, I take your example to mean that forgiveness would mean I no longer blame my ex or am resentful toward him for those events, the resulting divorce, and the resulting “lot” I now have in life (ie: the stigma of being divorced, the sadness of my life having taken a turn that I never wanted it to, the financial pressures that are now upon me for having to support myself, not having my kids with me every day, etc). Is that a fair assessment?
I guess I’m ok with forgiving someone when they did something unintentional (like someone bumping into you in the grocery store), but when it occurs repeatedly (such as verbal abuse, for example) or is intentional (killing someone after you’ve been drinking – since you consciously made the choice to drink and then drive, I see that as intentional; or rape; or knowing your ex’s car is parked behind you, so when you back up you floor it and ram into it), I have a hard time understanding what forgiveness is in those situations. Because those events will always affect you (you’ll always be sad when you think that the loved one is no longer there; sex will be a constant reminder of the rape, etc), I can’t grasp how you can move forward and not hold them accountable.
Daisy, my name is Robin and I’ve journeyed thru some of what you’re experiencing. Forgiving a spouse that has caused us great loss is a definite process. First it would be good for you to get some healing for your own heart and woundedness. Have you spent time with a trusted counselor you can share these things with?? You mentioned that some of the things you’ve experienced will always hurt you. As you heal, they will get less and less. Right now it may seem impossible- but it’s those wounds in us that need healing first. And then God has a way of softening our hearts and enabling us to forgive. I can tell you I no longer need to hold my ex accountable for anything. God has healed my heart, and I realize my ex now is accountable to God only. I have struggled with not wanting to be divorced, or separated from my children, but again as you heal, these things will become much lighter. Just take one day at a time. Lundy Bancroft has an amazing chapter in his book- Should I stay or leave, for women trying to rebuild their lives . I highly recommend it!!!
Yes, Robin, I have gone to several counselors as well as to my minister. While I’ve learned a lot from them, none have really explained forgiveness to me in a way I can understand (neither did my husband, who also happened to be a Pastor)! Leslie’s explanation (below) is very helpful, though.
Glad you found it helpful Daisy.
Forgiveness is releasing the debt and trusting God to hold him accountable. You are no longer in the picture of holding him accountable. Forgiveness is done because you want to keep a clean slate between you and God and he calls us to forgive. You let go of your “right” to justice and give that to God to judge. You let go of your right to be paid back. Because if you don’t let it go, YOU are the one who is continually angry, upset, sad, bitter, etc. Your ex probably could care less and he goes merrily on his way after he trashed your life and you are left picking up the pieces. Forgiveness enables you to let go of your resentment that he “got away with it” and give it to God. That is freedom for you. That does not mean the relationship is ever reconciled because if he does make no repairs, or amends, does not repent, or change, there is no reconciliation.
Daisy, I’m glad you are benefitting from this blog. It sure helps a lot of women, myself included find some answers to our questions no one else was giving. I’m sorry your church hasn’t been helpful. I personally have found seeking the right counselor out has significantly helped. I am praying for you, I know forgiveness is tough when you’ve been in a destructive relationship.
I so admire your godly advice, Leslie. I wish I’d had it when I was in a similar situation of anger and “tit-for-tat” with my ex-husband. However, he was unable to live with the boundaries I set (until he stopped the verbal abuse), and he finally left (although he kept coming back and threatening me, until I had to get a protection order against him). Unfortunately, it took me over a year to forgive him, but I could never forget or reconcile, so went though with the divorce. I don’t know if I could have forgiven him, had we continued to live together.
You are right, sometimes your legitimate anger tells you to separate from the person who is continuously hurting you. Once you can get space away, then the work of forgiving him (or her) can start, but safety is important and forgiving someone for what they do is not the same thing is allowing them to continue to do it again and again and again to you.
Where is the “Like” button!! Thank you Aleea
The Like button is on FB, not on the blog but if you like something just type a response – I LIKE THIS.
Fantastic!! Thank you !!
When your negative emotions threaten to overwhelm you with despair and/or hatred, what helps you get unstuck?
For me when I feel oppressed or fear or when it seems no one is on my side and everyone believes the lies my ex is telling or anger over the injustice I am experiencing the best thing is to go to God’s word, prayer, praise, claiming his amazing promises for those who love him and by doing the next thing & getting on with my day. This always seems to bring everything back into perspective. God is so good and we can get out of our abusive situations and life can be good again. I do need to keep my eyes on Him and rejoice and be thankful!
For me that hardest part is the daily forgiving I must do over the fact that he uses the children as weapons against me. Hard to forgive when your kids continue to be hurt.
K- are you forgiving him w/o setting boundaries to protect your children? I did that and experienced your dilemma. It’s one thing to forgive– but it’s equally important to set boundaries so that he can’t keep using evil against you and your children. In my opinion, if u don’t set boundaries- it’s impossible to forgive. Both forgiveness and boundaries are necessary. One without the other will cause so much pain and turmoil!!!
Thanks for responding, Robin. Our court order is not specific enough, so he takes every opportunity he can to use the grey areas to take liberties. Just last night he created a terrible scene when he picked up the children in a public place. I’m working with my attorneys to go back to court but I’m fearful because the family court system is so flawed…..I’m somewhat powerless to set boundaries around the children which is so so hard. My mother’s heart is shattered.
K I’m a little confused. Are you separated from your husband or still together??
I’m sorry K. I will be praying for you. It sounds tough and I know the court system is difficult to get them to see what is really going on.
I think pushing ourselves to get our eyes off our problem for the moment and fixing our eyes on God, who he is, what he says, our position in him is essential for getting through those dark times. Gratitude for the little things also helps lift our eyes and our spirits.
Thanks Aleea for your transparency in your own struggles. We all struggle and it’s comforting when we are just humble and honest about it instead of pretending we have our act together all the time.
—So, so many people I “meet” here make me so want to be a better God-pleaser, and that, for me, is the purest form of love. . . . I was praying this morning: “. . . But Lord, . . . . How can I be really authentic without harming others in the process? —Lord, maybe, I really don’t have that power, but I feel like I have so much potential to harm others just by stating facts.” —I am a broken person and I know exactly where my cracks are and how really deep they run.
. . . One concept I see everywhere in early Christianity: Heart broken, mind opening vulnerably. . . . i.e. share our lack with others. . . . Why?. . . . because, that inevitably robs the lack of its sting, and diminishes the hold that even “sacred” idols have in our lives. Vulnerability gives us freedom, power and connects us to a network of other injured souls. It is through being real that we can, maybe, heal and help others.
So, to me, (—and I know most of you know this) the point then is to help break the false distinction between the idea that there are those who are whole and those who have a lack. For the true distinction is between those who hide their lack under the fiction of wholeness and those who are able to really embrace the lack. . . . . It is natural for us to think that our present discontent arises as a result of something we currently do not have. But on the occasions when I gain the very thing I believe will make me “happy,” I find that the satisfaction I experience is at best partial and at worst utterly unfulfilling.
. . . .Anyways, I still have more defenses then a modern battleship and can often deceive myself when asking deep questions about my life and beliefs. But, maybe, if pain is temporary, while the regret over a life lived trying to be a plastic version of myself is not, maybe, it is worth the pain?
Christ’s version of kindness: I know you are hurt. I contributed to that. Maybe, I should have said more. Done more. Listened more. I am so sorry for my part in the situation. I am sorry if I caused you any pain or confused you with my actions or words. How can I help you move on? I want you to have peace in your life. Let’s end this by communicating. . . . . It’s not hard to fail, it’s hard to accept you failed, but once that’s out of the way, —whew, it’s pretty smooth sailing.
It is and how do you get rid of the anger and pain that continues in that situation? I got out of the situation and divorced long ago but the anger and pain continues to consume me at times when I find out something devastating that my children have suffered when young from him. While he continues to get up in front of people and act righteous and like someone he is not at all. His goal has always been to look innocent while abusing those closest to him.
Cindy I know that recurring pain. I don’t think we as mothers will ever be free of it. Every time I learn or am reminded of a hurt my child(ren) suffered at my husband’s hands I feel a stab of fierce pain and anger. Peace comes only when I pray that what Satan meant for evil God will use as good. I also pray that these hurtful things in my children’s lives Jesus will use to show them their great need for Him. Beauty from ashes – it is fear for them that traps me and that fear is based in unbelief that God is too weak to redeem the wreakage of our lives. That is a lie, from the father of lies.
Thank you Cynthia
Leslie, Thank you for answering my question.
Your answer has helped my to have a clearer picture of my role, my responsibility. I stopped my own verbal abuse, toward my husband, years ago. My attitude toward him, demonstrated through my tone, needs to change.
Forgiveness is the key. In all honesty, I have been working on forgiveness, and really thought that I had accomplished it, but realize that I still have resentments, that need to be left at the alter. It is a daily need.
Your response has opened my eyes to how much I focus on my husband, and on getting my way. Than you.
Thank you for answering my question. Thank you for helping me to see my responsibility, and choices.
I have been working on forgiveness. It is time to let go of my disappointment, my anger, and self righteousness.
Looking to God needs to be my focus. Trusting Him to change me. The anger, which I tender to, only separates me from Him, and who He has called me to be.
Thank you for this message of real hope and freedom THRU Christ!…not through improved or perfected circumstances. What I hate the MOST about ongoing struggles in our marriage…is the way my heart is exposed in this exact area. Monday night was like that for me. More sin and patterns exposed in my spouse, and then blasts of rage and anger from me. I have been a Christian for 40 years, and am so shocked that I can get this angry and hateful…toward my spouse. (Who is also dealing with sin and weakness that he wishes were not in his heart.). The post this week was AS IF God Himself sat before me and said, ‘this response in you is grievous, and cost the blood of Jesus, please turn from it and find your true identity in me. I will give you grace to respond well. I love you and am for you. Exposing your heart is part of this picture.’ Oh Lord, I am so sorry. Yes, my biggest problem is my own sin against the God who saved me. That is what I am rescued from in Christ. Thank you, thank you, thank you= freedom!!!!
Penney, excellent words of living for Christ and working out your salvation!!!! Love every word !!!
This article is right on time! My husband just told me that I am crazy and unstable. He referenced an episode of his bad behavior which led to me screaming. This was two years ago. Not once did he mention his own behavior. He just repeatedly told the couple we were speaking with that I am crazy, emotionally unstable and he is afraid for my mental health. My eyes have been opened. I didn’t realize until he said that how he really felt about me. Now I know and I feel peace about moving away from him.
Sunshine, I have a friend whose husband is going to great lengths to convince every one that she is crazy and unstable. This is a tactic that abusers use. If you can, try to remember this when you are having an argument with him, and do not let your emotions get the better of you.
What helps me when I get upset and keep focusing on his negative behavior is to remind myself that I want a relationship characterized by mutual respect, courtesy, responsibility, honesty and integrity. Knowing that is the path I have chosen helps shift my focus. Also the things mentioned above of fixing my eyes on Jesus, reciting meaningful scripture, and worship.
I think for me it is knowing God hears my cries. He understands and sees what is going on. And that I can be angry, it is ok. But I need to bring it to God. God sees and so I want my response to be right. And in my right responses there is blessing from God. The blessing of His Spirit and comfort and HELP. Was reading Psalm 4 this morn.
Thank you, Leslie, even though I have forgiven my ex-husband, I could not reconcile; although my two adult daughters have a relationship with him and wish I could join them for gatherings. It is sad, but I simply cannot do so now.
Am I wrong in feeling this way? We were divorced a year ago.
Having been divorced myself for 11 months- I think it’s unkind to think you could rejoin your husbands company, to be with daughters. I certainly would not put that expectation on my life. Perhaps 5 years from now, but not after one year. I hear a lot of women being concerned about their heart issues and I’m bothered by it. After living with a Destructive person and not having the tools needed- of course your heart attitudes will be sick and weak. That’s why Leslie Vernick puts out a strong call to join her classes to strengthen and heal a wounded spouses hearts. But please don’t expect you need to have it all together right now, after being so disrespected and mistreated. Healing is a process- and this blog is a good place to start this process. But be kind to yourselves and learn to nurture your woundedness. And the HS will come and do the work needed, as you sit and wait on Him to heal .
My husband has this idea that we will divorce and remain good friends. I’m still reeling from the realization that his behaviors have names. Bad names such as gaslighting, chronic deceit, blaming, minimizing, denying.
As much work as I’ve done (i’m the one who posted about releasing the balloons), I still hear myself attach a swear word or two (you ——) after almost every interaction or thought. So I know I have long way to go. I’ve only released the intense physical sensation of constant grief, and must re-release the anger a thousand times a day.
So we still live together, sharing the same bed (in home separation in a very small home. No touching, no intimacy of any kind). And he still is so pleasant and thoughtful and kind. The growing recognition that he’s so capable of being the most pleasant person and so capable of being dishonest both helps and hurts even more. I want the good guy and the good relationship and to forget the facts.
Back to the point: When I finally get out of here, being his buddy is the last thing I want. I need and want time to be angry in a healthy way and especially I need to not continue in a way that reminds me of all the secrets he kept and that I enabled.
Luckily, I am able to separate his relationship with the kids from his relationship with me. But, that does not mean that I have to hang out with them all together.
What is that – divorce and remain close friends, my ex used to say the same thing. He found himself a girlfriend and didn’t hide it but pretended I was his buddy and he wanted to talk about her with me. I told him to get lost, that is completely ridiculous. I was totally angry too, as if you get to pretend your marriage to me us not a marriage and I will go along with the fun of you having a girlfriend?? I don’t think so.
I think it was a way of pretending to himself and coping with his own conscience – trying to make what he was doing was ok and normal.
Negative emotions have been overwhelming me for the last few days. Not anger. It’s depression.
I’ve struggled with depression off and on through my life even before I married an abusive man.
Music has been a help to soothe angst and despair. This leads to to a question I want to ask you ladies-
What songs bring you comfort when you’re sad? Christian or secular songs are both good.
Ruth, I find songs of praise to God and songs that have lyrics that speak of hope and joy and truth and the promises that are ours in scripture are the best. Sometimes I notice a difference I. My home even if I put kids praise songs on (I do have a 5 year old and she just loves and is particularly nourished in her soul when we play the kids praise and worship songs tapes that I used with my older kids who are in their teens and 20’s now.) There is power in the name of Jesus and praising him definitely helps lift oppression and helps with depression in my experience! I also really appreciate classical music. There is a lot of really great contemporary Christian music out now too. It is edifying and uplifting and soothing to our battered souls.
I was severely depressed for several years. Told I’d *never* be able to live med free. I have been med-free and emotionally stable for 16 years. My opinion on getting healthy: Don’t look for outside things to give you comfort. If you sing a song, sing it with the intent of finding the joy in that song. It’s active vs. passive.
One day I looked out the window and saw the bare trees of winter. And then I observed that internally, I had shifted from feeling ok to feeling the depression of winter. In that instant I realized I had a choice — I could embrace the dullness that I suddenly felt, or I could choose to shift back to the neutrality I’d felt the second before I looked out the window.
That day I began choosing for the person I believed I really was. One of my personal favorite songs for mediation was “Sing and Be Happy.”
Caveat: I do realize that there can be cases where a person must always take medication. In no way do I intend to suggest that a person should stop medication on their own and place their trust or faith in something else. This was my journey, and it was a long process. Medication is not a litmus test for faithfulness, strength or will, or personal value. There is no judgment toward persons who take medication.
I was once taught that depression is anger turned inward. You have every reason to be angry, don’t turn it toward yourself, your didn’t do anything wrong. I would acknowledge the anger and then choose a different feeling and emotion. Choose hope, choose laughter, choose thankfulness and joy. Yes, you have anger, but don’t let it dominate your thoughts. Choose your emotions each day.
Suzanne your post helped me so much today. My h has been just as nasty and snarky and demanding as ever. I get so discouraged because I just don’t see God working in my marriage at all. I know He must work in me. I need to make better choices and your post reminded me it is I that must choose the fruit of the Spirit over negative emotions. Bless you and thank you.
Dear Ruth: The hymn that comforts me when I feel sad with life’s problems is: It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. It will be worth it all when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase, so bravely run the race ’til we see Christ. Our Blessed Hope!
Sending love & prayers for you, Sandra
Thank you, dear Robin. I needed to be supported in my need to avoid contact with my ex-husband. I admit that I do miss the family gatherings when he’s present though, and wish it were different. It’s also sad for my daughters, who have to plan other occasions to be with me, without him.
Sandra- I wish it were different also. The thing that is different is me. I give up quality time with my family to steward my own life well. My counselor calls this ‘Righteous Suffering’, someday God may work in his heart but if He doesn’t, I will still be okay. Thanks for sharing!!!!
I’d like to comment on this question- what gets me unstuck from my anger. Through my own journey of submitting to abuse as a wife, not protecting my children as I would have liked, and acknowledging we were an abusive family- this is what I have learned about anger. Not owning my anger truly was my biggest problem. I knew I was angry but I wanted to hold my family together. My life really made positive changes when my counselor pointed out anger serves a righteous purpose and I needed to journal all the reasons I was angry and then own it and puke out all my hurts, abusive wounds, and when I was ready – we would flush that anger down the toilet. My counselor wisely taught me anger is needed and I was trying to ignore it. When I started naming it, and standing up against the behaviors that were making me angry, God could heal me. But I had to learn that my anger was like a red flag and I needed to pay attention to it- not feel guilty because of it- and deal with each and every occurrence that caused my anger. It’s been a lot of hard work of which there are no easy answers. But I am so glad I learned to face my anger and not keep trying to deny it as if it didn’t exist.
This current anger is a strong undercurrent instead of crashing, roaring wave breaking on the beach, and I stopped journalling when the waves stopped crushing me. The relative silence was so peaceful!
Over the past two months, though, I’ve been more and more aware of the undercurrent. Your post is a good reminder that it’s time again to pick up the pen.
Ann, your poetic description was a beautiful. Such an ugly thing compared to the rhythm of the sea is soothing. Thanks.
. . . . . it does seem that there are so, so many different kinds/ levels of anger. That is the really tricky thing in counseling: What is the real origin of the anger? Is it some layer of the ego defending its territory, or is it something that has its source in the desire for the true well-being of others?. . . . Like Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple, which occurs in all four gospels to show us the difference. . . . . . That anger was beautiful, because its core shows the absence of all doubt. Anger wrapped up in what Christ knew was right and righteous—the very universe was in agreement with Him, and anyone who crossed Him was worse than wrong, they were heretics, apostates. . . . But we, me. . . are so, so broken with so, so many layers of motives that it is really hard for us to tell and we are often afflicted with self-serving bias. . . . . That is why our real beliefs are not to be found at the level of our ego, they are in those stray errant actions. . . . Those stray infrequent actions (—that we call anomalies but are actually the truth). . . . They are the symptoms, the Holy Prophets that if we listen to them (—not call them anomalies or “bad days”) can become the site where real transformation can blossom. If we let them speak they can become the force that causes us to change our lives. . . . . In French the word is “sinthome” sounds like “Saint Homme.” A prophet calling us to repentance and transformation. And, just like a prophet, if we open our ears, it looks like we will find new life, while closing our ears will ultimately lead to destruction.
WOW! This can be applied to any situation… and boy did I need the reminder! Thanks for the timely advice Leslie!
You are welcome.