How Have You Been Taught to Make Nice and Pretend?

Morning friends,

We’re bracing for Hurricane Sandy. Schools, businesses, and most other places are closed. My son has come to help me as my husband is in sunny California helping my daughter who just had her third baby. Yesterday he said he felt a slight earthquake shake him out of bed.

I’m in the last legs of finishing up my book, so blogs are going to be a little shorter in the next few weeks. This week, I asked myself why does a woman allow herself to be abused, lied to and disrespected. How have we been taught as women to keep quiet, be passive, pretend and make nice? Here are my questions for you today:

How have you been taught…not to see what you see?

not to know what you know?

not to say what you must?

not to do what you ought?


Have you heard about the BRAND NEW group coaching program?


This small group coaching program is the culmination of 25 years of private practice and hundreds of hours helping women just like you.


  1. Carolyn on October 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    The answer to all four questions is – through the forceful misuse of scripture …

    I am not a feminist – I have a complementarian view of the gender/spousal roles… but I say the above because of having been severely impacted by a blind defense of the patriarchal paradigm. This predominant driving model for husbands in my view is distorted and unBiblical making authority and control the primary aim rather than servant-leadership and love as Christ demonstrated. For instance, I continue to experience the indirect message by male leadership that it is not a woman’s place to initiate problem-solving with her husband or to ask questions of men in general. To do so is equal to a violation of 1 Pet. 3:1, 4:8, and other similar verses. We are supposed to overlook confusions, concerns, and/or troubling patterns and just quietly move on. To NOT overlook is to have a desire for strife and a heart of unforgiveness. Therefore, a husband who does not want to be accountable for destructive behavior can just label his wife whatever desired (disrespectful, unsubmissive, contentious, discontent, etc.). This lie is then amazingly bought by male church leadership without question. Her requests for help and exploration of truth are dismissed. No need to explore matters, for if husband says something is true, it is. Favoritism and bias rules. Women are in essence indoctrinated to accept the belief that the right thing to do is abandon all confusions, hurts, perspectives, convictions and interests and just defer to husband in all things… If we think there is a problem or feel we are being mistreated, it is obviously due to the affect of the curse (Gen. 3 -woman’s desire for control )… On and on the craziness goes…. The bottom line is: We struggle in the very least with these four areas because of an unintentional passing of false teaching from one generation to the next… but in many cases we do so because of outright and intentional spiritual abuse.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 2, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Carolyn, I appreciate your comments and I find these issues very common in conservative churches. The last chapter of my new book is addressing this issue with the church. Pray I write with wisdom.

  2. Anne on October 30, 2012 at 12:47 am


    You have absolutely nailed it! I couldn’t improve on how you expressed this (willfull) blindness. Sad to say I have experienced a lot of this misuse/abuse of Scriptural teaching concerning husband/wife roles firsthand.

    Why can’t these men see that when Adam and Eve sinned, God sought out Adam first? My experience is that church leaders will zero in on the woman first as the problem. In many cases, when a woman goes to ask for help, it has taken her weeks, if not months or years to get up the courage to do so. Then, to be dismissed or to be attacked as THE problem just compounds the anguish and prolongs this kind of ungodly suffering!

    • M on January 26, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      I have this same problem with my dad, who thinks that he is the patriarch over our whole family. When I have gotten up the courage to confront him on patterns of behavior that hurt my husband and I, he uses Scripture to manipulate and abuse me. He doesn’t come out and say that I am being unsubmissive, but he has said I have dishonored God for getting a mature third party involved (ostensibly to protect my family unit and my husband from potential emotional/verbal abuse). He has never learned that I am his sister in Christ, and only want to have a better relationship with him, not attack him or abuse him. To be shamed for wanting to protect my family and remain loyal to my husband (who does not think I am being unsubmissive- on the contrary-) is to my mind a sick form of spiritual abuse. I am learning I don’t have to let it get me down anymore, but it means I have lost the relationship with my parents despite trying to work on it. (My mom tells me love covers all wrongs- which to her seems to mean covers up all wrongs. She seems to me to be indoctrinated with this false teaching that she can never stand up to her husband when he is wrong because he is her head and authority and therefore unchallengeable. She was taught this in the church, and had it reinforced by my dad’s expectations of things.)

  3. Amy on October 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I agree 100% with Carolyn also.

    Yes, I was taught by Christians not to really see what was happening, not to believe what I knew was happening, not to speak up against what was happening and certainly not to take any steps to stop what was happening…and what was happening was abuse.

    I was told to respect him no matter what because after all every man needs respect, they deserve it, and if I respected him he would start showing me the love I needed.

    I was told to submit no matter what, even if I thought or knew a decision he wanted to make was not necessarily a good one or the right one…basically shut up, do not offer your opinion, just let him be the boss and make the decisions. And be happy about it.

    I was told how women are just more sensitive and after all, they were just words, it wasn’t like he hit me or the children. Just respond differently. Let it roll off your back when he told you how stupid you are, because he’s just stressed at work. Or when he makes you the butt of a joke in a group just laugh along with it and don’t take it so personally, he’s just having fun.

    I was taught to serve him, make him feel like the king of the castle. Do not speak up for your own needs, because if you do nothing but take care of his needs he will reciprocate and not be so selfish. It didn’t matter if you were never sexually satisfied or made to feel special, do not be so selfish.

    And I suppose to be fair, I stayed in the beginning before I became a Christian because I was confused about what was happening, I really didn’t know any different about how marriage should be and I did not have much self esteem.
    After becoming a Christian, 10 years into that marriage, I then stayed because I was made to feel I was just making a big deal over nothing and God would never bless me if I left. I taught how much God hates divorce and I felt certain He would hate me too if I took the steps to leave.

    Twenty years of staying with someone that was hateful, hurtful and certainly not living a Christian life although he professed to be a Christian. I think the dynamics of why a woman (or even a man) stays in an abusive relationship is very complex, but for me it came down to feeling controlled by someone else and not knowing how or being too afraid of breaking the cycle.

    Thankfully God brought a wonderful man into my life over two years ago and we married last November. I now know what a healthy relationship is all about. My husband has shown me what true love looks like and how a Christian husband is supposed to treat his wife and it is definitely not as a door mat.

  4. Kim on November 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I agree with you ladies 100%. I also want to add that my FOO (Family of origin) was extremely non-confrontation on top of being Christian. And we children we taught that we were responsible for our parents’ moods and shouldn’t have our own opinions or emotions. Also, we had to act the part of a perfect family and let no one into our family dynamics to get a real glimpse.

    So I had a lot of training in this area which made me ready-made for my husband’s take-over of me.

  5. Anonymous 2 on November 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    pg 1 of 2
    Are there 2 blogs on this same topic somehow?

    Leslie, i am prayerful that you flourished through Sandy, looking forward to that new book! Anonymous, my heart goes out to you; i pray that you would find peace in CHRIST in all of your life situations.

    i originally started this post with my identity, but rather than cause unneeded pain, and since the internet records everything, i opted for anonymity. Unfortunate, because true peace requires knowing and being known.

    My wife filed for divorce in May of 2011, almost 13 years to the day of our marriage. In January of 2010, she took our children from me while we were on a cruise with her parents. From January of 2010 until she moved out on August 27, 2011, i had no mechanism to positively interact with my girls (6 and 9 at the time). Since she was a stay at home mom, she stayed between us, and gave her temper & feelings full reign over her actions, horrific comes close.

    The threat of a PFA moved me out of the bedroom and bathroom. i have been cut, hit, scratched, verbally and mentally abused, etc, etc. I have only responded physically to restrain in order to protect myself. Full mouth kissing has not occurred for 10 years. Intercourse not for six or seven. She would agree to other alternatives, and then begin to physically abuse me in the middle of the sex. The last physical interaction was before the cruise, yet my wife continued to expose herself and taunt me with the prospect until she moved out 22 months later. Not Good!

    i certainly enabled her behavior, not making an excuse for her, but i was not prepared. My responses were not always appropriate, I was hurt and I am human, and fallen. If we started fresh today, i think things could be different, after all, I believed that I loved her, so there was something possible there. i realize that success would require a spiritual transformation for her.

    She has the same private / public masks you describe anonymous. Her ability to do good in some situations and to act so outrageously in others is something only JESUS can address. I believe that she learned it from her parents, and that her life has been / is hellish in ways I cannot imagine. She has a huge support group that tells her she is entitled to behave this way.

    I only offer the above to establish my credentials as a survivor (not a thriver yet ) of an abusive relationship.

    While i recognize that i did not make my initial decisions based on good information, i also recognize my responsibility in making them. With wise counsel, i chose to stay, and to put into place boundaries and behaviors that were appropriate, and GOD honoring for both of us. (Gal 6:7) She was unwilling to accept that, and finally chose to leave.

    It was / is a huge struggle to reconnect with my daughters once custody was ordered, but those relationships now feel secure to me (It took 11 months of 50% custody). My girls are learning about JESUS (Truth and Love). My girls mother continues to have a huge impact on their life, and she currently has 75% custody, in spite of a court ordered Child Custody Evaluation with disproved all of the heinous acts she accused me of, and demonstrated that my children and I love each other and interact well together. Her mask was successful in fooling the Psychologist. Our children need to be taught to “see what they see, know what they know, say what they must, and do what they ought, otherwise this generational sin my wife brought into the marriage will never be stopped. (Eph 6:4)

    • Leslie Vernick on November 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      Yes, I do have two blogs – same topic and different locations. I put this blog on this site when I launched my new webiste in September. But haven’t closed the old site down until everybody gets used to coming over here. The old site is There are many older blogs on that site for those of you who are new. I’ve been writing on this for several years now.

  6. Anonymous 2 on November 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Anon 2
    pg 2 of 2

    Through all of this, I am becoming aware that there are basic human interaction skills which I have not learned. I apparently just flat out do not see or understand them, and worse, I have learned behaviors which can obscure those misunderstandings. Certainly they were / are a point of frustration for my wife. They are also an opportunity for me to learn humility, and submit myself to another who has sight in those areas I lack. It is difficult, but the HOLY SPIRIT is available to all who believe, and that voice is always true. (Prov 11:2, 13:10, 15:22)

    I own my own business. My wife worked there for about two years, quitting about three months before she filed for divorce. Her tenure there was sufficient for her to teach her behaviors to many of my employees. This has been extremely difficult for me, however it really emphasized how badly I need to learn how to effectively deal with abusive behavior and setting boundaries. Currently, I am looking for a person with discernment to stand in the gap with me and handle the communication with my employees, while teaching me what I need to learn.

    I have men who have rallied around me for support over the past 10 years with this. Prior to that time, I mostly talked about work, weather and sports. I only accept input from people who want to save the marriage if that is possible in a GOD Honoring manner. I can “let the unbeliever leave”, but not force them out (1Cor 7:15).

    Men and Women are really different, and really similar (as I think you can see from above). Emerson Eggrichs with “Love and Respect”, Bill & Pam Farrell with “Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti”, etc really get it. Find a group that is comprised of couples who are studying these principles, and see if you can attend as a single. Having other couples open up in a group setting, and sharing how they interact in a constructive manner was huge for me to recognize the male / female differences, and to have a desire for them.

    Anonymous, I am so happy to hear that you are healing. Surround yourself with more than four GODly women so they can share in your burdens and offer wise counsel (Gal 6:2). Work hard to forgive your husband, and in so doing you will protect yourself from the poison of bitterness. (Eph 4:32, Col 3:13) Trust wildly in JESUS, and live, GOD wants nothing less for HIS Children! Be open to the possibility of a reconciled relationship with your husband (certainly predicated on his changed behavior, and acknowledgement of his wrong behavior (which could take the rest of his life)), which is truly best for all concerned, if it occurs. And if not, then let it go, and move on 

    Leslie’s book on Emotionally Destructive relationships has exceptionally wise counsel in this area, imho 

    GOD has blessed me amazingly in spite of my trials over the past decade. HE is truly in charge, and I continue to learn to die. One step, one day at a time 

    Carolyn, Kim, Amy and Anne – you ladies definitely get it imho!

    May GOD Richly Bless All of You!

  7. jennifer on November 20, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Anonymous2, you have truly blessed me with your testimony. I finally confronted my husband today about his verbal abuse and hurtful comments but he brushed it off as if it were no concern. According to him, i just dont listen well enough and have an aversion to being told what is best for me. You truly give me hope for myself when i see how strong you are. Its just that i feel so weak at times and feel so hopeless. Ive only been married for 4 1/2yrs but the last 3 1/2 have been a horror. Ive cried and prayed and begged and pleaded. I didnt used to believe that God would have me leave him but im beginning to see that it is not the Lords will for me to be abused in this way and its ok for me to protect my mind and my heart. I love my husband dearly and feel so torn that it sometimes feels as if im coming apart at the seams. I would greatly appreciate anyones prayers. I will remember to trust wildly in JESUS! Thank you so much Leslie for this place to come and bleed openly…and heal. Bless you.

Leave a Comment

Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?

Read More

Why Marital Counseling Isn’t Wise with Destructive/Abusive Marriages

Morning Friends, I hope you had a beautiful weekend.  The weather here was just perfect yesterday. We’ve had so much rain and cloud cover lately, it was wonderful to have a sunny, low humidity day. I have a special surprise for you.  Click here to listen to Abagail’s Dreams.  It is a new song written…


What’s the Difference Between a Difficult, Disappointing and Destructive Marriage?

Good morning friends: Is it possible to mistake outspokenness for emotionally destructive speech? How do we tell the difference between a difficult relationship, a disappointing one, and a relationship that is destructive? This week’s question: I come from an abusive background (physical, emotional, verbal). I am divorced for more than 3 years. I’m dating a…


Our Marriage Counselor Isn’t Helping. Help!

  Morning Friends, I’m in Chicago this weekend celebrating my dad and step-mom’s fiftieth anniversary.  We had a wonderful celebration last night and I’m heading back home today.  I appreciate all of you. Question: My husband and I have been going to counseling for several months now. The man who is counseling us doesn’t help…