How Do I Know My Spouse’s Changes Are Genuine?










Happy Labor Day friends,

My sister and her husband are visiting me this week. We’re heading to NYC on Wednesday and then to the beach for Thursday and Friday. It’s great to get a little down time. The following week I’m traveling to Nashville for the American Association of Christian Counselors Conference. I have a very full schedule while at the conference so I’d appreciate your prayers.

Two weeks until my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage officially launches. You can preorder it from (link) as well as my own website ( Pray that this book will have significant impact on women as well as church leaders and the way they counsel people in destructive marriages.

This week’s video on my home page coordinates very well with today’s question.

What Does It Take To Heal A Destructive Marriage? – Safety

Today’s question: I was so hopeful when I read the title of this blog – “Am I Crazy for Not being Thrilled with His Changes?” but realized after reading that it is really more about the exact opposite – a man who hasn’t really changed at all.

I was hopeful in opening this article because I desperately want more feedback about what to do, what to expect, how to responsibly and lovingly handle it when you already have separated (in 3rd month) and he really IS changing, is probably 97% different but still unable or unwilling to look at what he has done for years or try to work with you to figure out why so the changes can be permanent this time unlike the temporary surface changes that you’ve seen several times in your 25 year history.

Anyone with any feedback about this kind of situation?

Answer: You’re not detailed enough with what he has done or what the overall marital pattern has been in the past to answer your question more specifically but you are saying something that concerns me. You are encouraged that he is 97% different since you’ve been separated, but that he is still unable or unwilling to look at what he’s done over your 25 year marital history. I don’t think that’s a good sign for permanent change, do you?

From what you wrote, it sounds like you’ve been through this loop before, he promises change, he does better for a while and then slips back into his regular patterns that have hurt you and hurt your marriage.

Let me make a few observations: He’s 97% different while separated from you. I’m not sure what that looks like in your situation but it’s fairly easy to stay calm, act respectfully, not make a lot of demands, show love and attentiveness, etc. when you only see someone for an hour a week, or an hour a day. That’s why affairs are so intoxicating. You’re in a fantasy bubble where real life does not intrude.

It’s an entirely different picture when you live with someone day and day out and have to share and negotiate all the responsibilities of home ownership, raising a family, paying bills, and getting along with people whose feelings, needs, expectations and desires may be very different than yours. That’s where the real “you” is more obvious because you can’t maintain the façade for 24/7.

You’re not sure whether his changes are deep or more surface, especially since he still refuses to talk about why he behaved the way he did in the past.

Let me give a check list of things that will show you he’s changing for the long haul.

1. He Accepts Responsibility

One of the first things I look for to determine whether or not someone has experienced a change of heart is their willingness to see what they have done and take full responsibility for it. No blaming, rationalizing, lying, minimizing or denying.

2. He Makes amends

In both the Old and New Testaments, making amends towards someone harmed by your sin was seen as evidence of true repentance. Sometimes destructive individuals expect amnesty once they say they’re sorry for what they’ve done. They believe that sorry means no more consequences, no extra effort, and that we shouldn’t have to talk about it anymore. They believe their words of repentance automatically restore trust and repair relationship wounds. But words are not enough. Words can be deceptive (Jeremiah 7:4). A heart that is changed shows as well as says.

3. There is a willingness verses willfulness

When a person’s heart is changed, there is evidence that he has humbled himself before God and others. He can admit that he can’t do it on his own, he is not always right, and some of the things he has done have been foolish and destructive. As a result he is now willing to be taught new ways of handling his temper and disappointment.

He is willing to surrender to God and submit to others in order to grow and become the man God calls him to be. He is willing to have other’s speak into his life and hold him accountable for the changes he knows he needs to make. Finally, he is willing to put in the necessary hard work to get there.

Jesus warned his disciples, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Many of us are willing but not capable (yet) of doing what our mind and heart desires. God wants to help us change our destructive ways. He wants us to have a healthy marriage, but it takes effort, particularly when your normal way of relating with someone has been so damaging.

Stopping destructive, sinful attitudes and actions and acquiring godly character takes a lifetime so your husband isn’t all better yet. This maturity is a process. It’s an inner orientation of where we’re headed, not a once and done finished process.

So here are three (3) “evidences” that he’s not only willing, but now working on more permanent (not perfect) change.

1. Does he have self-awareness so that when he starts to slip back, he sees it, stops it or self-corrects?

2. Is he willing to receive feedback so that when you notice he’s slipping into some old behaviors, you can tell him and he’s grateful, rather than angry or resentful?

3. Is he willing to be accountable to a small group of trusted men to keep him moving forward toward becoming the man God calls him to?

We were never designed to mature or grow up all by ourselves. A small group of supportive individuals help us make those necessary changes. It’s much harder to hide and stay self-deceived when we’ve invited other people to give us feedback and hold us accountable to the goals we’ve set.

A change of heart and habit is for all of us who love God and want to grow.

I hope your husband’s well on his way.

(These steps are taken from my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope Chapter 12).


Friends, it’s your turn. What steps do you take to change something that you know is harming yourself or others so that change is more likely to be long-term?



  1. one on a journey on September 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    When im troubled about a patteren of thinking on my part that I am not sure lines up with Gods way, I try and silence that behavior or thinking and ask God to reveal to me the truth. I do not believe my husband will change. 15 years of promises and never a change
    my heart is done, period. But every one thinks I need to stay open. I cant nor do I want anypart of his lies. But I am going to God to make sure if he (GOD)wants to open my heart I am receptive. Its not easy necause I am out of the fog now and feel sick how I have been used all these years.

    • Katerina on September 16, 2020 at 8:47 pm

      This is exactly where I am currently. I like the reframing of my prayers to include my heart be reopened as well, thank you for sharing that. Mine is in rehab to address behaviors, but even in our recent communication I still hear the entitlement he has where he *has* to have control over every little detail. I don’t know if his apologies about that are real, or if they are still what they’ve always been. And after 18 years of abuse I just don’t have much left in me to want to reconcile. God will need to work a miracle in me as well. But I’ve been pursuing his path so diligently and I feel he’s really leading me down the path of divorce. It’s just really hard to wrap my mind around that.

  2. Brenda on September 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    This was very good Leslie. My husband keeps saying he has changed, but doesn’t want feedback, wants to start over and forget the past and has no idea when he is slipping back. I refuse to see him and he blames it on me hating him and my lack of trust. I don’t see it that way at all. This article reinforces my feelings that he has not changed inwardly and very little outwardly. Thank you.

    • Leslie Vernick on September 2, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      You’re welcome Brenda. Thanks for being a faithful voice on this blog and a prayer warrior for those who comment.

  3. Kat on September 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Thank you, Leslie, for these three evidences. This was the answer I’ve been looking for. I’ve been separated from my husband for over a year. There has been a Court Protection Order in place to protect me and my 6 children. Now that the CPO has expired, my husband has been pushing for reconciliation. These evidences have helped confirm that the changes that he insists have occurred are only surface things that will fall away if we ever get back together. Several weeks ago, I set up a meeting with him and our two mentors. I asked him he would share specific changes that he has made over this past year, if God has revealed to him certain issues in his life that need to be dealt with, and if there were any victories that he wanted to tell me about. He got very defensive and accused me of putting him on the spot in front of other people to ‘trip him up’. This was not my intention at all! I simply wanted to see if it was really true that he had changed. I must admit, I am dealing with my anger and still in the process of forgiveness (he had two affairs in the year we were apart)I know I came off as angry to him. I apologized to him for that and went to the bathroom to get a hold of myself and pray with my mentor. When he mentioned his affairs again, he said he was sorry, but that I had no idea how lonely he was without his family and not being able to communicate with me. Maybe I was wrong, but I ended up feeling like he was blaming me and justifying his sin. The worst part is, his ‘trusted’ mentor agreed with him. He said something about men’s sexual desires and quoted some Bible verse about the wife meeting the husband’s needs. He ended the meeting saying that I was cold-hearted, presumptuous, and controlling. I was very disappointed. At the time, I felt like this year was wasted. But then, when I was praying about it later, I was reminded that not all was lost! God has done a mighty work in me! In this past year, I have found my voice, God has given me a vision for my life, he has helped me and my children heal from the pain of living in an abusive situation, and has revealed the sin in my own life. I didn’t realize how I had enabled my husband to sin against me and my children for so long. Until I removed myself from the situation, I didn’t realize how hatred, bitterness, and fear had such a hold on me. I am learning to hold my husband accountable for his actions, and to stand up for myself even when I am shaking in my shoes. God is my strong tower and I will not fear! Thank you again, Leslie for your insight and wisdom. I pray that someday, God will allow me to use my pain and experiences to touch women’s lives as well.

    • Leslie Vernick on September 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      Thanks Kat for sharing and it’s so encouraging when we can see God changing us, even when the situation we’re in has not changed one bit.

    • Brenda B on September 3, 2013 at 7:09 am

      Maybe I was wrong, but I ended up feeling like he was blaming me and justifying his sin.

      From what you said, Kat, I believe that was exactly what he was doing. He found excuses for his behavior and blame was on you. He would not have….if you would have been there to supply his needs. Humbug. I have heard those very things before while I was living with the X.

      It touches my heart to hear of your growth. It is a roller coaster ride at times, but God has has given me strength to move forward. You are strong and raising 6 children on your own, well you have your hands full. I am also sure you were doing most of it alone before. I did it alone while living with the X.

      I pray for your continual spiritual growth as I can see in your writing is going well. I have up and down days but when I remember what Jesus did for me, I can move forward. I still feel that living alone is much better than living with an abusive partner, espectially for the children who are also experiencing it.

    • one on a journey on September 3, 2013 at 7:41 am

      Kat, thank you for sharing your story. I cant believe how simular our stories are. These blogs are the best help I have found and am sharing with others i feel might need it. Stay strong in what you jave learened what is truth. Dont let twisted thinking make you doubt what you know as truth. I wonder if leslie can shed some light on our emotion of being angry??? Kat , how do you stay strong in your boundries?? Im still with my husband and fell like im being worn down again. I know boundries are loving now thanks to you leslie 🙂 but the constant being told im not being loving is confusing me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart leslie for your work!!

      • Leslie Vernick on September 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

        I will be talking some more about how to handle our own negative feelings in upcoming blogs but you might consider joining our FOCUS group in late September where I do some teaching on it and help you build CORE strength. Information will come out on my newsletter in September so if you haven’t already signed up for it, please do so you don’t miss out. The last Focus group I did was a great experience but it filled up very quickly – within 3 hours of the newsletter going out because spaces were limited.

      • Kat on September 4, 2013 at 12:06 am

        One- I have a strong support group. I thank God everyday for each one of these godly people. I’ll be honest, once I started sticking to my boundaries, it no longer became safe for me to stay. I also never talk or meet with him on my own. I have asked that each of us has a witness with us when we meet. This helps me feel safe and helps me to stay strong when he tries to manipulate. I’m still learning!

  4. Shellie on September 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    My first step is to admit that I need to change and have the power to seek that change. I have to face my reality, reminding myself that I have choices and don’t have to stay a victim of the pain or situation I’m in.

    Then, my second step is to ask for help from safe people. Sometimes this may mean prayer, sometimes journaling, a phone call to a trusted friend, meditation, reading healthy and reputable materials (ie., this blog, or my bible), or a combination of the above.

    My third step is to surrender what I am willing to change to the One who does the changing within me. I seek Christ for wisdom, guidance, and a sound mind. And He always delivers. I have to keep an open mind to be taught new ways of thinking and solving my problems. Sometimes the way to solve my problem is to surrender it to God. This takes faith. Support helps too.

    For 14 years, I survived in a destructive marriage (20 years in the relationship). Today, the marriage is healing. It’s a miracle. A miracle that is a result of my own permanent changing, hard work , and trust in God. For me, the final key to freedom from the destruction was safe, supportive help from others who have walked in my shoes and can show me a new path – a healthy way of living that is more than just surviving. I’m truly overcoming the destruction and living a more joyous and peaceful life.

    Discerning if my spouse has truly changed can be tricky. Leslie’s tips are spot on. It takes time and consistency. My biggest challenge in this is giving myself all the time I need to heal and determine if the change is permanent – while remaining in the relationship. We’ve been through a separation (my choice), which created a growth spurt for us individually. Now that we are sharing a home again, the work is still in progress. This is where time and consistency come into play. It is his job to rebuild trust and it is healthy for me to take the time I need for trust to be rebuilt. We both want the marriage to work and he now knows that it will not work if he continues to act unacceptably and destructively.

    Often this process of healing is uncomfortable and painful. The effects of my destructive marriage linger and there are no guarantees. BUT, I can truly say the process is worth it! I am experiencing the benefits day by day. For that, I am grateful.

    • Leslie Vernick on September 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Shelly, Good to hear that your marriage is growing and you are seeing improvements. Thanks for sharing that positive story- not without hard work, but positive none the less. Praise God.

    • Brenda B on September 3, 2013 at 6:59 am

      I am happy for you Shellie and hope continual change and growth for you and your husband. I made those changes with God working in me, asking him to fill the broken places in my heart with his Spirit and being intentional with showing me my sin and lack of faith. I used a combination of the same growth and healing steps that you used. For me it meant healing enough to leave and trusting God that I was on the right path by allowing him to rescue me. It was scary, but I have no doubt that I am where God wants me to be. Again, I am so happy that God is chosing to heal your marriage. When my husband said/says he is going to change it is with a deceptive heart and very temporary. Long enough to get me back into the web and then it is too much to ask. I am being too controlling and we are right back where we started. God has a path for each of us.

      • Shellie on September 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm

        I am so grateful that this is a place to share our journeys with one another! I had been looking for something like this for years!

        Brenda, I am equally as happy for you. You have to do what it takes to take care of yourself, including leaving. I am not condemning that whatsoever. My spouse and I had separated as well. It was the hardest yet best and healthiest choice I ever made. I don’t regret it one bit. There was a time when I questioned why I was still here (in the marriage). My head said to leave but my spirit said not yet. What I later discovered was that God wanted me to heal and grow in specific areas, and He wanted me in the relationship to do it. I listened to His guidance and I healed and grew! Praise God! Then afterwards, it was time to execute a boundary – my spouse had to go or the kids and I will……………….

        Today, we are recovering as a couple and he is showing permanent changes. But we are not out of the woods yet and he knows it. He has and continues to take full responsibility for his actions and is freely giving me all the time I need to heal from them. This is progress. This is my story.

        For many, the healthiest choice is to leave and not return, because the destructive spouse has not made the necessary changes for a healthy relationship to thrive. I support those cases 100%.

        Thank you for being able to be happy for me, Brenda. Sadly, I’ve experienced spouses who feel judged by spouses like me, whose marriage is showing true growth and progress.

        I love how you support others on this blog. Thank you for being a source of encouragement.

        • Brenda on September 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm


          I really didn’t mean to sound like you were judging me. I think I have been on a roll this past week (or 3 months) since the separation was finalized?? In some ways I am envious of those who have been able to get it together enough to at least make one more attempt at healing together. I really should reread a little closer before pushing that send button. It seems to have gotten worse since the judge gave his blessing to separating with the dividing of assets. Being called Mrs. Greedy and being told that I only care about money doesn’t sit well with me. If I wanted a man with money, I would have married one. This afternoon I got home from work to find that my insurance company send X a check for the car insurance for my car which I had paid along with his on my credit card and told that I would have to work that out with X who said Hahaha. Anyways, that doesn’t give me the right to be in anyway negative towards others going through abuse no matter if they stay or go. I really am praying for your continued healing together and hope it remains that way. Hugs Brenda

  5. kelly on September 2, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    My husband says hes changing. Its only been a little over two weeks since ive filed so really theres no difference but says hes going to. He wont recognoize what he needs to change but thats despite the fact. Hes tried to take me out for dinner, seeking counseling and such but then gets mad when i dont compliment him or give him credit for it. I say thank you but i really dont know what else to say. He tried to hold my hand and im not there. How can i be loving but still protect myself. I dont trust him or feel safe (emotionally) with him. I honestly feel his motives are solely for him, for him to be treated like royalty and not really the restoration.

    • Brenda B on September 3, 2013 at 11:14 am

      Kelly, My X acted/acts the same way, except I would not go out with him. I don’t feel that way about him. I cannot “date” him. After to going to see a counselor once in his mind he was making progress and I should be right there thanking him and praising him for it. Not!! I told him lets see what progress he has made in a year.

      The last time he was going to “change”, 3 years ago, it lasted all of a couple of weeks and never saw a counselor but wanted me to be grateful that he wasn’t throwing things at me and accused me of not trying hard enough. We have now been separted 3 months.

      Last night he showed up at my door uninvited claiming he had a bad dream and I was hurt. I didn’t open the door beyond the chain being still secured, listened to what he said and closed the door. When I read my emails this morning he said if I hadn’t responded within 30 minutes he was calling the police to check on me. The last I looked I am a grown woman and they won’t take a missing person report for much longer than that and I wasn’t missing, I just wasn’t reading my email. I felt safe until I heard a knock at my door and wasn’t expecting anyone. A couple of days ago there was a bag of Doritos sitting outside my door when I left. I thought that odd–I don’t eat salty snacks as a general rule. He says he didn’t put it there and I really believe he did just so I would talk/email him.

      I agree. The motives are all about him and have nothing to do with you or me. All is manipulation.

    • Kat on September 3, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Kelly- My heart goes out to you! My husband would do something cruel right before we left to go somewhere, and then expect me to hold his hand in the car. When I finally realized that giving in to him was making him think his sin was ok, I started saying no. Many times he turned the car around and we went home. Several times he got out of the car and started walking! It was hard to take his anger, but somehow I had greater peace in the long run. I will pray for you that God will give you strength. Remember that he goes before you and he is also behind you!

  6. Linda on September 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I have just left three months ago. I couldn’t take it anymore, my prayer is still that he will do what it takes to see heeling take place for himself. There is a website out ther called MEVAC (men ending verbal abuse and control). Leslie are you familiar with this ? Would you recommend I show this to my husband?

    • Alene on September 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      Men Ending Verbal Abuse And Control MEVAC has been created for men seriously trying to change.
      Mack, who created MEVAC, says: “There is hope for you! Finding out that you are a verbal abuser and controller is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. Your entire reality is shaken to the core. To find out that your relationships are broken, that those around you are frightened by you, that something is horribly wrong with you and the way you view and communicate with the world is a very scary and life changing event….We will help you. Once you have accepted the truth and began to walk down the right road to reforming yourself you will begin to find out that real relationships based on trust, respect and love are so much more rewarding.” QUOTE FROM THE WEBSITE. THERE IS A PLACE FOR VICTIMS TO LEAVE TESTIMONIALS – IT SAYS IT HELPS THOSE WHO ARE TRYING TO CHANGE. I LIKED THE COMPASSIONATE DESCRIPTION ABOVE.

  7. Ikzaalhandhaven on September 5, 2013 at 7:51 am

    There is something truly amazing going on here. It appears that some light is being shed on a topic that for far too many years has been swept under the rug and hidden. Many Godly Christian men and women have been living a kind of hell on earth in their own homes. When they finally get the courage to speak up and get help from their church leaders they are often driven further into despair. These ignorant brethren are like Job’s friends. They wound the wounded. Finally there is a place where this is allowed to come out in the open safely. There is a pattern here and church leaders need to open their eyes and see it. There are far too many unrepentant wolves in sheep’s clothing out there gobbling up the flock. My heart goes out to all those who are living under oppression. I used to think my situation was unique. What I am learning by reading all of these posts is that there is a lot of covert abuse going on in the church and the oppressed need help. Many times they are oppressed even more when they come in for council. That was certainly my story as well as many others I’m reading about here. Here is what I have learned from living with this type of person. Never get into a debate or an argument with an abusive sort. A narcissist always has to be right. Getting into a verbal or written exchange with an abusive type is like swimming in a pool with a shark. You wont make it. When I see that I am getting nowhere with my husband I remove myself from the situation. This can really upset him so I always paraphrase my departure with an explanation that I am very upset, I need to go somewhere to calm down, and then I will be back. He is extremely insecure and gets out of hand when he is scared. Here is another thing I have been doing recently with surprising results. My husband is too sensitive to accept any kind confrontation regardless of how carefully I word it. I started to use some non-verbal communication on him like animals do. I will bug my eyes out a little bit, sit upright and forward, make myself erect and straight, or any other non verbal language that communicates strength and dominance. Almost always my husband backs down and retreats. I never get that when I use words to communicate my feelings with him. It’s really strange but it works! I especially find it helpful at the very beginning of a cycle when things would have spun out of control quickly in years past. The key is that I am training myself to be sensitive to my “gut” feelings. When he crosses the line with me I no longer dismiss it but give myself the full attention and care that I need. Doesn’t sound Biblical in some circles but it works. We are still married after 34 years and for the most part happy! Has my husband changed deep down? I really don’t think so. There were many many times I thought he had but slowly he always reverts back to himself. Have I changed? You bet and he knows its not worth tangling with me. Doesn’t sound like a submissive wife that the church likes to manufacture but its what my husband needs to keep himself in line. If this site were available to me years ago I think I would have let my husband leave and eventually the children and I would have made it just fine. He really deep down has not changed but I have figured out a way to make it work. Hope this helps some of you out there. There are no easy answers to walking down this type of valley. God bless you all!

  8. Carolyn on September 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you, Leslie, for this check-list. You have shared similar ones before and they have always been so helpful. We all have an innate understanding of what true repentance looks like….the Holy Spirit brings discernment. But sometimes we just need to have it confirmed by another trusted human being — like you.

    “He accepts responsibility”
    Hasn’t happened.

    “He makes amends”
    Of course, this can’t happen until #1 is met…. So, no to this one, too.

    “There is willingness instead of willfulness.”
    No, not this one either… Instead, there’s still Entitlement to trust without earning it… Entitlement to relationship without repairing the damage…. Entitlement to forgiveness without asking for it…. And desire to continue blame-shifting…. These remain the prime characteristics encountered …

    The only thing close to this 3rd category of “willingness” has been the fact my husband attends a weekly men’s meeting at church for pornography addicts, but I believe this is ONLY part of a defense strategy – to build support and trust with significant leaders involved in our broken marriage. The discovery of this particular destructive behavior happened to have evidence which could not be destroyed, so he was backed into a corner and it became in his best interest to attend these meetings in order to appear sincerely repentant. … He continues, however, to violate a number of things understood to be no-nos for porn addicts, one of which is use of computer in a private closed-off setting … and, the bottom-line is, he continues to deny all other forms of destructiveness (the continued dishonesty, manipulation, spirit of entitlement, cold indifference, unapproachability, passivity in parenting, presumptiveness, blame-shifting, etc.. ) Based on his lack of heart-change in our private relationship, I have to wonder what, in fact, really goes on in that men’s meeting. It seems like a complete farce… like an organizational “front” for something really more like a “boys club” or a “troop gathering” for comrades in the ditch of bad marriages — a place to come together for respite and commiseration … with ultimate purpose of devising new strategies for fighting the bad guy ( which turns out to be us, the wounded wives!! )… I have to wonder because of all the inconsistencies… including even these other two noted, the strident lack of self-awareness and lack of willingness to receive feedback. Attending this men’s mtg is the only thing close to being an observable factor out of all of the ones listed, but because all the other factors fall flat and are nonexistent, the necessary question must be asked : Is this really a trustworthy group — a group of genuinely repentant men with godly intent to hold one another accountable ? Or are they ALL pretenders like my husband? I am just not seeing convincing evidence of the former. If they are indeed trying to hold one another accountable (and I do hope this is the case), then my husband has fooled this group just like he has successfully fooled everyone else (except God and me).

    • Ikzalhandhaven on September 5, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Recently I read a book by Jonathan Welton called “eyes of Honor”. Jonathan is a former porn addict and he does not recommend men getting together in groups such as what you were talking about. It’s a good read but if your husband is as close minded as you say he probably would not read it if you gave it to him. You might want to read it for yourself. I understand what you’re saying about your husband being able to full so many people. The same thing is happening to me. Praying for you and us dear friend. And thanking God in the middle of this crazy mess

      • Leslie Vernick on September 9, 2013 at 10:15 am

        I am not aware of this book. I’ll have to look for it.

  9. Jody on September 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I have been reading these comments for a while and wanting to add to them. I wish when people talked about their spouses, they could elaborate as to what negative things they did to cause a separation. I have written a little before, but not lately. My husband and I have been separated for over three years. We tried counseling but he kept saying he no longer desired to work on the marriage. Recently, we have talked and it seems this is due to the hard work or embarrassment a revelation may cause. We have been married 22 years, since 1991. From 1993 to 1997 approximately, my husband abused my younger brother in our home and in my parents home. He was 13 to 17 years old at the time. I was not aware of this, and it happened once or twice a year. Before my brother went to college, he borrowed a car from a friend’s dad and came to our house and told me. At the time, we both felt it best to not make it public but be aware and both felt it was isolated. My brother has since came out as homosexual. Also, due to an affair and other accusations against me, we told my family which in time led to a separation. Due to statue of limitations, he was not prosecuted, and now, he will not discuss with anyone what he did or did not do and thinks I am recording every conversation. This is because they are trying to remove the 10 year statue to no statue. I am trying to tell him he needs to make a sincere apology, take ownership of what he did, and work toward restoration. He is afraid of admitting as he is afraid he will be held accountable for things he didn’t intend to happen. when my brother came to me, he said after the initial circumstance which briefly was, my brother(12 or 13)and husband talking, and keeping a conversation going while my husband used the bathroom with the door open, which led to arousal and exposure. After that, my brother said he may have made himself available in part and that he was aware of a same sex attraction since the age of 4 or 5. From being abused myself by a babysitter, I know in a small way, how an abused person will be drawn in again, seeking attention, almost under a spell. So, I feel this fear of unknown consequences is stronger than the work it would take to reconcile. He also has recently said he is going to reduce the amount of money he gives me monthly from 1500 to 1200. This is because he says that would be closer to child support. We have four children, two in school, 8th and 11th and two in college, living at home and paying for their own schooling. He is a self-employed insurance man and after subtracting expenses, makes less the 25000 and year. I work two full-time jobs and one part-time coaching job, the second and third jobs are to pay down debt. In reality, he can’t afford to give me 1500 a month even though he lives free with his mother. Part of the list of concerns I have had for years includes financial responsibilities. I desire to remain friendly, so have not moved to a legal separation, and also, that is not my desire. He is a very good person and I am still attracted to his good qualities but sometimes to a fault, which led to an affair also. He recently was not invited to his nephews wedding because they did not want to have to worry about his conduct with their guests. He could not understand, and disowned his nephew, who is on his side of the family. He seems narcistic, controlling, and at times like someone with aspergers since he has little or no empathy in regard to how this has affected my parents and brother. He also doesn’t get social cues, forces eye-contact, is active-but-odd, hates change in that he has a hard time getting rid of old things, misunderstands people, and excellent knowledge but not in completing work on time. I know this is long but feedback would be appreciated. He refuses to see the “elephant” in the room and blames me for lack of admiration, affirmation and affection, always wanting me to read books such as His needs, Her needs. I have been drawing strength from this blog and from daily reading my Bible. He professes to be a Christian. What feedback would your readers have?

    • Robin on November 7, 2013 at 3:37 am

      Is it possible for a man to want to work on his marriage, if he isn’t given consequences for his abusive behaviors??
      Sometimes it takes alot to move a woman to a place where she will stand up as Leslie recommends in her bks. How many yrs do we tolerate abusive behaviors—- without realizing its time for a consequence?? This blog is helping all of us to have support and strength, which we are grateful for. May we use that strength to love our spouses enough to do what is the very best for them. They need accountability, consequences, and counseling if we are going to expect a change.

  10. Erika on September 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I am so happy to have found this website. What a blessing it has been to me already.

    I don’t know if you address this in your new book (or elsewhere) Leslie, or if anyone else could weigh in…but my “problem” is that while my husband has stopped a lot (not all) of his abusive behaviors toward me, I still feel completely disconnected from him. I don’t want to be around him at all, actually. I still feel as if every day in our relationship is filled with suffering. Am I crazy for not wanting to “keep trying” even though he has demonstrated a lot of change?

    A little background: we have been married 9 years – I am 32 and have three young children. Our entire marriage has been miserable due to subtle (other times not-so-subtle) emotional abuse. To give you some perspective, by the time we had been married for just 3 months I was involuntarily committed for several days after trying to take a handful of sleeping pills. Prior to meeting him I had been a very normal, happy, intelligent young woman who was excited about life. But the way he treated me (and made me wholeheartedly believe I was at fault for all of it) destroyed my spirit.

    About 4 years ago I finally started realizing that the problem in the relationship wasn’t me, it was him. I knew nothing about emotionally and spiritually abusive relationships until I providentially read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft — and later your book, Leslie: “Emotionally Destructive Relationships.” It was like the whole world opened up to me! The veil of fog lifted and for the first time in 5 years I felt SANE again.

    I separated from him twice. Once for two days, the other was for 6 months (1.5 years ago). During the second separation I was blessed to finally find a counselor who understood emotional abuse and was able to help me tremendously. My husband saw his own counselor for awhile, but eventually began marital counseling with me because it appeared he was finally willing to acknowledge his abuse and make efforts to change.

    We moved back in together and he DID stop a very large portion of the abusive tactics he had been using for the past 9 years. However, the one major thing he did not stop was pressuring me for sex. Shortly after moving back in he began trying to be intimate, wouldn’t give me any personal space, and would get confrontational with me if I didn’t take a shower with him every morning. I felt our relationship had been completely destroyed after all the sorts of things he had said and done to me, and while I truly felt I was making progress in forgiving him, I wasn’t ready to reestablish our sex life until our friendship and trust could be somewhat rebuilt.

    I had been up front with him about this from the beginning, but he would still pressure me, touch me in places that made me uncomfortable and every week or so get very irritated and cold. Sometimes he would ignore me and refuse to speak to me for an entire day. He started to say that the WHOLE reason he couldn’t be nice was because I had “let the devil come between us” by refusing him sex. I was “causing” him to sin. Of course for years and years I had NEVER refused his sexual advances, always making myself “available” to him, and yet he had still treated me poorly back then…

    I feel guilty constantly about not being intimate with him, but at the same time I just cannot stomach having him touch me. 🙁 I feel like our emotional relationship is utterly nonexistent and to let him just use me for his sexual needs would be like being raped. I literally want to just run from him. Am I crazy?! Sometimes I think that I must be a very cold woman…but then I remember how I wasn’t like this before and so I think that must not be true. About once a month he texts me from work, telling me how bitter he is and how I am a “failure” as a wife. Sometimes I believe it. But most of the time I just wonder if it’s OK that I want out, and don’t want to “keep trying.”

    I want to do what’s right with God and I don’t want to just act as if marriage can be thrown away without some hard work. But…when is enough, enough? If a man has shown he can change, at least in some things, do I have an obligation to stay? I’m so tired.

    • Erika on September 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I should also mention that he is not a good father…is usually unkind or overly harsh with the kids, and is rarely available to them. He says that it’s because he’s stressed out due to our poor marriage, and that if we had a good relationship (ie: I made him happy) he would be a better father.

      It is hard to have positive feelings toward him when he acts like he does with them. 🙁 I see how much they suffer due to his behavior toward them and it upsets me deeply. My 7 year old daughter is hurt by him on a daily basis and has mentioned that she wishes he didn’t live here (though of course at other times she is desperate for his attention and love). My 4.5 year old son used to outright refuse to let my husband hug him goodnight…now he usually just goes off on his own and plays and doesn’t try to get dad’s attention.

      I know leaving won’t fix any of these issues, and will likely make them worse. Still, I hate that they have to endure such treatment. 🙁

      • Leslie Vernick on September 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm


        Leaving won’t fix these issues but leaving may protect your children from chronic abuse and/or neglect. You will need to be wise and mindful of the damage you see. Your children are young. Lots of women here have seen the negative consequences as their children grew older and wished they were brave enough to make different decisions.

    • Leslie Vernick on September 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      I think your question merits thought and I’ll answer it in next week’s blog.

    • Robin on October 26, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Erika, sounds like you have some tough decisions to make. Let me tell you briefly, what I endured. 30 yrs of intense emotional daily abuse, while raising 4 lovely children.I became unavailable to my children, because of so much intense pain from the abuse. The abuser doesn’t change because he always got away with blaming it on someone else. It is worth it for your children’s sake- to separate until there is a genuine change … The damage that can be done to young children is not worth – what you will pay. If I had to do it again, I’d separate A.S.A.P . for the best option for my children. My life has changed significantly, I am receiving help and healing, but there have been huge costs to my family. Abuse destroys and abuse steals. Please consider very carefully, what you are allowing in your home.

    • Marianne on October 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Getting away from my husband who did almost the exact same things – like pressuring me for sex constantly, expecting me to take showers with him every day, etc, – helped me to gain perspective and not be drawn into the confusion and crazy-making he dished out.

      I absolutely LOVE going to sleep in bed by myself with no demands!!! (I am separated).

      Also, bringing in people to tell them what’s been happening in my marriage was very helpful. Now eyes are on us – bringing in people protects me to some degree and lends some accountability for both of us. I don’t have to take his poor treatment of me. And he has to answer for himself. I bought into the rule I grew up with “what goes on in this house stays in this house.” I felt I was being disloyal if I “told.”

      After over ten infidelities on his part, I finally woke up because I got strong and healthy by being in a counseling group of women who were in similar situations. These women were able to point out the things I accepted as normal when they weren’t. Having men and couples come along side us was helpful and him moving out was key.

      I have seen no change in him at all. It’s sad, but that’s his choice. I am not responsible for his choices, he is. So, I will be divorced soon.

      I am excited about life!

Leave a Comment

Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?

Read More

How To Protect My Client From More Abuse During Visitation

Morning friends,Thanks for your prayers. It’s been a busy week with my puppy, Addie. I forgot how much work new puppies are. But she’s been a joy to have and she is starting to connect the dots that her potty stuff needs to go outside. Oops, maybe I spoke too soon, another accident this morning….


Four Ways To Create Emotional Distance in a Destructive Relationship

Morning friends, I’m on my way to California to attend a seminar and meet my assistant Kim, for the very first time.  In the age of virtual, Kim has been managing the technical part of things since February from where she lives in California while I’m located in Pennsylvania.  This will be fun for us both – although…


Topic: I was stalked and emotionally abused. How do I get healthy?

Good evening friends, I’d appreciate your prayers as I had out to Illinois this weekend to speak for the East Lynn Women’s Retreat on Saturday. I will stop by my family’s home in Chicago for Sunday and Monday and I’m looking forward to visiting with my mom who had surgery last Friday. Please pray for…