How I Got Covered In Poison

Morning friends,

Please pray for me. I am covered with poison ivy. I will get through this but for the moment it’s pretty miserable.

Last week I went out to my front door, which I rarely do since we have a side entrance garage. I wanted to plant some geraniums in my two pots on my porch. I was shocked. My bushes were scraggly and overgrown. Poison ivy was everywhere. My day lilies were beautiful but way too plentiful making my front walk look like a continuous stream of yellow.

Whenever I drove up my driveway, I didn’t “see” how ugly my front entrance had become because it was still pretty far away (I live in the country). It was only when I stood in the midst of it did I understand how much I had neglected the front of my house.

Feeling motivated, I put my garden gloves on and began yanking out the weeks, the poison ivy and a few others things. I planted my geraniums in my pots but when I stepped back to take a look, the front still looked overgrown and ugly. The beauty of the geraniums was lost in the overgrown greenery.

It required more drastic measures. Sometimes it takes standing in the midst of ugly and seeing it for what it is that motivates us to make the necessary changes. I needed more help. I hired a landscaper to pull out my bushes

photo 1

photo 2

It’s still ugly but it looks better to me. Cleaner. I can see the beauty of my flowers.

photo 3

I’ve learned something. Sometimes it takes radical changes to recreate what you want to have. Yes, you might get injured in the process as I did by contracting poison ivy, but I think it’s a metaphor for real life.

Sometimes it takes unraveling the life you have in order to build the life you want. (Tweet that)

When I’m all done, I’ll share pictures of my new front entrance. It’s going to take a lot of work but it will be worth it and my poison will be gone.

Today’s blog comes from one of you. This woman has participated in my groups over the past few years and at this time has made the decision to stay well in her destructive marriage. I have asked her to share exactly what steps she took to be able to do that. Here are her words.

A couple having an argument.

I have been in an emotionally destructive marriage for almost 29 years. I did not realize though that it was an emotionally destructive marriage until a few years ago when I heard Leslie Vernick's talk on emotionally destructive relationships.

I struggled with my marriage beginning on the honeymoon. I prayed, read every book, prayed, went to counseling, prayed, did an intervention, prayed, tried to put into practice every idea I read and prayed. On the positive side, I learned how to pray. On the negative side, I had resigned that I just needed to try to be holy in a difficult situation and at some point either he would die or I would die and either way it was all good.

I had been having a dream that I was driving but could not open my eyes. After hearing Leslie’s talk, I had a name for the craziness that I had lived in for many years. I realized what I could not open my eyes to was the abuse in my marriage. I bought Leslie's book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and called a Christian counselor that I knew was helpful in working on boundaries.

With her guidance, I started working through Leslie's book and putting into practice the suggestions on the pages of her book. It also helped me name the specific types of abuse that were present in my marriage. I set out to work on my husband and instead the Lord started doing a major gut wrenching work in me. I had believed the lie that I had to be submissive even to evil to be a good Christian wife.

When Leslie's book Emotionally Destructive Marriage came out I signed up for her  CORE focus group on that book. I would write down on notecards conversations that she suggested in her books and practice them. I typed up a list of tools that the Lord was giving me for the task at hand.

One thing that was huge for me was to realize that the Lord hates abuse and was totally for me in standing up against the evil in my home. He showed me in tangible ways that He had my back and would help me. He showed me that He was my husband, my kinsmen redeemer and could meet all of my needs that my husband was not meeting.

Another thing that was huge was the realization that if I did not stand up against the evil, the evil would be “normal” to my children and set them up to repeat the pattern. I also felt tremendous spiritual warfare and felt led to share my story with some friends that the Lord revealed I could trust. I started asking them to pray.

Like Gideon, the Lord gave me an army to intervene on my behalf. At first, it was exhausting especially changing years of bad patterns. I had been deceptive in little things to avoid my husband's anger. The Lord convicted me that I had feared my husband's wrath more than the Lords when I read in a devotional “integrity frees, deceit enslaves”. As I changed the dance, my husband hated it and tried all the tricks to return to the previous dance.

As I continued the new dance, I got better at it and as the old dance did not work anymore my husband did less of the things that had undone me before. Even when I messed up, I saw the Lord use my mistakes to spur me on. A huge thing though was as I stepped back from the crazy cycle, my children realized who was crazy. They also saw me change and knew it was the Lord. Because they saw the real work He was doing in my life, that strengthened their relationships with the Lord,

I signed up for Empowered to Change and would listen to her interactions and coaching others' situations that were similar to mine. I watched the videos and saw that everything was biblically based and that she was speaking truth. I also saw the people in my “army” impacted by being a part of my story and started sharing with me how what the Lord was doing in me was impacting them. Nothing was wasted.

The Lord was bringing beauty from ashes. Also, in the Facebook group for Empowered to Change, there were others with similar stories who understood what I experienced. We prayed for each other, encouraged each other, and shared resources.

One of the most difficult parts of being in an emotionally destructive marriage is the isolation. I realized that I was a part of a huge community. I also realized that I had choices and I was not powerless. Leslie said “It is not whether you stay or go, but how you stay or go”. I am willing to stay or go. I take it one moment at a time and try to totally surrender to what the Lord is leading me to do.

At this point I choose to stay and feel like I am staying well.

I do not believe my husband has a core value to be a good husband. He wants to be married to me, but does not want a relationship with me. My life though is a thousand times better than it was before even though I am still in my situation. My husband provides well financially. I enjoy our times together as a family. My children now see truth. I continue to grow and get stronger.

Even when he does revert and say things that used to undo me, it is like I have up a shield of faith and the flaming arrows just fall to the ground and extinguish. They do not penetrate my heart and do damage anymore. The amazing thing is that now that I do not fear him, I am able to better love him. I continue to pray for him.

My hope is not in my husband though, it is in the Lord. That’s made all the difference.

Friends, what is your biggest challenge in staying well if that’s what you are attempting to do at this time?


  1. Leslie on July 8, 2015 at 7:20 am

    What a beautiful metaphor! She is getting rid of the poison so the beauty can shine forth! I remember having dreams before my ex-husband’s arrest. We were driving down a highway. He was driving us straight toward a semi truck. I had a choice to either cower in fear or stand up and proclaim God as my Savior even as we barreled straight toward our deaths. I remember standing up in the front seat of the car, spreading out my arms and waiting for the impact of the semi. It was only a few short months from the dream until my ex-husband was arrested. I believe God gave me that dream to prepare me for walking with Him even though the surprise discovery of my ex’s sexual addiction felt like it was killing me. I needed to uproot the poison and allow God to kill what I had… he could begin a new garden! Thank you for the beautiful story this morning. (

  2. Lisa Lenhart on July 8, 2015 at 7:38 am

    As I read this, I first thought of how much I loved Leslie’s statement, “Sometimes it takes unraveling the life you have in order to build the life you want.” Isn’t THAT the truth?
    And then as I read the blog I thought, “Amen! God is so good!” Isn’t it amazing how he works in the midst of such pain? I’ve been married 29 years also and after such destruction and deceit I have chosen not to stay. I, too, lived with it from my first year of marriage and it took Leslie saying to me that God loves me more than he loves the institution of marriage to wake up. I’m learning to believe that and live it.

  3. Kim on July 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

    My biggest challenge is that I’m not one to confront. I’m more comfortable being “at peace” with my circumstances. However, with my new parameters, I need to be constantly vigilant for old patterns of behaviors and responses which will suck me back into the unhealthy relationship I’ve had for almost 25 years. I no longer allow my husband to treat me poorly but I must confront that behavior, identify it, point it out. If I do not, who else will defend me? Who else will actively love my husband and refuse to hide his sin?

  4. Pam on July 8, 2015 at 8:08 am

    I used to think I had no choices. I used to think that he was the whole problem and needed to make all the changes and I knew he wouldn’t – so therefor I was stuck. I used to tell my husband that I was trapped. I was in a cage of my own making. But then, through Leslie’s book “How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong” the door of that cage cracked open. I began to learn that I had options, that though I couldn’t change him I could change me and with that change other changes would happen.

    I now had definition for what was really happening, and a plan for how to live right in the midst of all that was wrong.

    It wasn’t easy. I made a lot of mistakes and went back and forth for a while. But as I continue to focus on me and growing to know my Lord and Savior better, things are changing. The dance is definitely different. He can’t help but change too because I won’t dance to the old tunes anymore.

    Things are good right now. He has repented to me some for his harshness and negativity and criticisms. And he is changing some of his outward behaviors. I saw outward because he still believes the same things that “justified” his abusive behaviors in his mind. So I am not deluded into thinking that all is well now. Because he still believes that “he should be in control of everyone (especially me)” and that “he is always right and everyone else is wrong”, I am certain that things will get bad again. However I have a plan and I am stronger and those fiery darts will fall to the ground.

    Thank you so much for this post. I am in the middle of the garden working to pull out those weeds in my life. Perhaps that “poison ivy” will cover me soon – but I am ready for it. With the medicines of “conquer group” and supportive friends.

  5. Pamela Brooks on July 8, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Thanks so much for writing this out– especially your courageous application of the truth step by step. This is such an encouragement to my heart today!

  6. Pamela Brooks on July 8, 2015 at 8:21 am

    And thanks for writing about your poison ivy/landscaping adventures Leslie! (>Argh!Augh!<

    [When it comes to Poison Ivy? Steroids aren't always a bad thing…]

  7. Alene on July 8, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I asked the Lord to help me love him, see him, as a person beyond the problems and losses and impact. The problem can become all consuming and that is not what I want but I did need the Lord to help my heart.

    I am tackling life one step at a time, slowly getting stronger and healing, tackling some areas that are bringing some resolution to some areas of the mess.

    It is hard to wait on the Lord to solve this. The impact on me has been tremendous; so much was lost with the children, there are cracks in those relationships, so many dreams and ;possibilities were shattered, so much was lost relationally as I got isolated and overwhelmed and I’m not sure if and how those relationships can be repaired, I simply keep seeking to walk stronger in truth and love and take tiny steps.

    I often feel like Betsy Ten Boom in the concentration camp carrying a tiny pail of dirt; inadequate, but she did seek to do it well and it did make an impact.. All I can do is go forward from here and take the next step.

    I was thinking yesterday that I often feel like I am in a fog; Leslie said once when you are in a fog, concentrate on the white lines. When foggy situations or words happen, that is what I have to do. It limits my life. I am not driving on an open, clear road in mid day. That hasn’t been and isn’t my reality. It is hard to maintain the level of consistency I’d like at home or the level of peaceful creativity and interaction I’d like. I see the hope in the strength I am gaining to walk this better. I do tend to celebrate the smallest things and when I notice the bouquet of thanks at the end of the day…it often surprises me what I could get done.

  8. Betsy on July 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I love the metaphor of the poison ivy and digging out to make new.

    This year has been incredibly painful for me in my marriage. I have been looking at my “poison ivy” that has contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. I am learning how to rely on God not my husband. For the past year he has threatened divorce and now says that he doesn’t want a divorce, but will not be close to me because I am an untrustworthy person.

    My husband has shut down on me, does not respond to questions I ask him, shuts me out in many ways, is critical of me, yet is nice when he wants physical attention. ( we have since set a boundary that there will be no sexual intimacy, since I am basically a friend with benefits and he states he feels terrible after sex).

    I have asked for forgiveness, apologized over and over for my shortcomings, begged groveled – yet he keeps records of my wrongs and will not budge. I am sick over this.

    I hand my marriage over to God daily – over and over. I am learning how to lean on God for all and to create a life for myself. I am powerless over my husband and how he choses to live his life.

    How long does healing in marriages take? What if nothing improves?

    This really stinks.

    • Judy on July 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      I was in the same situation. Other women on this blog along with Leslie’s book the emotionally destructive marriage helped me a great deal. Please take the advise on this site get your C.O.R.E. In place and pray and God will strengthen you. You can’t change your husband but you can help yourself. I have learned to put boundaries in place and slowly but surely I can see some light! The changes you start to see in your relationship are so empowering. I’ll be praying for you.

      • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

        A new CORE Class is starting in August. IF you’re interested contact Spaces are limited and usually fill up fast.

      • Betsy on July 11, 2015 at 9:33 pm

        Judy…can j ask you what kind of light do you see? What changes have you made? Has your husband begun to change? I am feeling frustrated and really alone in my marriage. I signed up for CORE.

        • Alene on July 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm

          I too have put some boundaries in place…and I too am seeing more and more light. Boundaries give you space to be you. They provide separateness so things aren’t intertwined. They simply make space for truth. They give you some strength. … if done in a humble, simple, steady way.

          They can be a simple statement or action.
          At first I truly didn’t know what it looked like and it was scary but it gets easier and easier.
          “I won’t listen to that type of thing; if you do it I’ll calmly leave the room and return to talk about solutions or something else” that was my first one. 🙂 It was a turning point.

          • Alene on July 22, 2015 at 5:30 pm

            But the light hasn’t just been bringing more and more clarity to me…it has helped my husband see in some ways and make a few adjustments and has impacted the children some as well. It is good whether other people respond or not…but I am thankful I have seen some response. Boundaries help me live in reality as well … that just because my husband made an outward adjustment doesn’t mean it applies in all situations or at heart level ownership.

    • pam on July 9, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Betsy, I am just confused that you use the word marriage to describe your relationship. The man you married has tricked you before the wedding and misrepresented his intentions. He wanted to use you to fill his own emotional deficits. You are not in a covenant marriage and never have been in one. To continue on such a path glorifies the devil. Have courage and leave the abuser to his work. Until he renounces Satan, you are just a foolish pawn being consumed by evil. This is not why Christ came to die for you. He loves you, and you are not to die for your husband’s sins. Christ did that. This dysfunctional relationship is keeping you from who God called you to be and prevents you from fulfilling his plan for your life. Get out!!! With Love from a Friend.

      • Betsy on July 10, 2015 at 10:47 am

        Pam This comment scares me.

        • pam on July 11, 2015 at 5:27 pm

          It was not my intent to frighten you. I am sorry. Believing my comments would require action. That probably seems impossible at the moment. What a few weeks and read what I wrote again. It is the truth. Satan is delights in evil and you are living in pure evil.

      • betsy on July 11, 2015 at 5:50 pm

        Me again Pam…how do you see that my husband has tricked me? I am confused.

        • pam on July 12, 2015 at 2:06 pm

          Betsy, He has tricked you into believing that his abuse is your fault. Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s Book, Why Does He doe That?

  9. Ann on July 8, 2015 at 10:40 am

    I appreciate this testimony as I too am learning to stay and be strong. The other day, God led me to Numbers 13 and 14. This is the report of how the spies came back from the promised land, reported that it was flowing with milk and honey but became fearful of the people there who were strong and the cities there that were “fortified and very large” and they saw the “descendants of Anak there” (giants). Instead of fearing God and embracing His promise that they would conquer this land, they chose to become like “grasshopppers in our own sight. and so we were in their sight.” The Israelites didn’t see themselves as God’s mighty warriors which they truly were, but instead saw themselves as powerless which resulted in them believing that their enemy saw them as powerless. When Joshua and Caleb spoke truth and reminded their fellow Israelites to “not fear the people of the land, they shall by our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; no not fear them.” The result of these words of truth was that the Israelites said they wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb. What happened next sends chills up my spine: “Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.” God appeared and spoke judgement on his rebellious people expressing His desire to destroy them. Moses’ response in Ch 14:13-19 has guided my prayers for my husband. It’s an amazing intercessory prayer. God’s response to Moses’ prayer is, “I have pardoned them according to your word.” God still pronounced judgement on those who did not listen to His voice. They would not enter into the promised land. God’s promise to Caleb is powerful: “But my servant Caleb, because HE HAS A DIFFERENT SPIRIT AND HAS FOLLOWED ME FULLY, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.” Joshua was included in the promise. God killed the other spies who had brought the bad report of the promised land.
    My take away is this: fear God, not man; see myself as God’s warrior strong in HIm and protected by Him, choose to speak the truth even if it means the possibility of suffering; choose to live with a “different spirit”, learn to intercede for my husband in a increasingly passionate, fervent way, enjoy the blessings of the victorious, joyfilled life that I have in Christ. As I learn to do this, my prayer is that my children will learn to walk in Christ’s promises and blessings as well.

    • pam on July 9, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Ann, Sometimes we hide behind scripture to deal with our own martyrdom. Christ didn’t die for you to be a martyr for your husband’s sins. Have courage, trust in God and leave your abusive relationship. It will not get better. You have done a good job talking yourself into misapplying scripture in order to find ways to cope with your terrible situation. Of course you can do this, you are strong in the Lord, yet you cheat Jesus of the life he called you to as you cling to martyrdom and false security. Break free from the evil unless you see the man in your life retentive and changed. Not someday, but now. If you see change happening now stay, if not please, oh please, set yourself free.

  10. » How I Got Covered In Poison on July 8, 2015 at 10:52 am

    […] How I Got Covered In Poison […]

  11. Jennifer on July 8, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Speaking of poison ivy, I feel staying in my marriage, I am poisoning myself with bitter, angry, resentful thoughts towards my husband. I do not love him, nor do I respect him. Our relationship started as an affair and broke up my first marriage (with two children) I went on to marry this man and had two more children. I resent the fact that he seduced me out of my first marriage when I was in a lonely vulnerable place. I take full responsibilty towards my choices but still I blame him for taking advantage of my place in life at the time. I do not want another broken family because I have seen what it did to my first two children. How do I stay well with all these bitter feelings I harbor towards this man?

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      Jennifer, whether you stay well or leave well you will have to work on you and build your CORE strength. It sounds like you will also have to forgive yourself for being foolish and being seduced into an affair realizing that you are a limited, finite, beautiful but broken human being who doesn’t always make the right choices, but can learn not to repeat them. You don’t want to look back on this time with regret because you didn’t get strong in God. You’re vulnerable all over again now. You don’t want to make the same mistake.

  12. Laura Di on July 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Dear Leslie,

    Oh my I can surely empathize with your poison ivy situation, it certainly causes temporary misery. Years ago I spoke out to God,”One time is enough, Lord!” It was and still is my plea to God when I am in a place where I can come into contact with poison ivy. When I was suffering a acquaintance “ a timely angel ” recommended a holistic remedy. Rhus Tox is the remedy that helped bring some relief.


    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Laurie, good to know. Another person told me to wash myself with a washcloth after exposure or possible exposure and that would remove the oil from the plant that causes the reaction. I will try those things.

  13. Jane on July 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    My biggest challenge in trying to “stay well” is living with all the negative emotion coming from my husband. Every day is literally a battle in my head and heart and body.

    Most of the things I say are questioned as to motives. Most of the decisions I make are considered second-rate. My encouragement is unaccepted and appears to be unwanted. His words and actions do not match and he gets annoyed when I ask about the contradiction.

    I get weary trying to stay well and wish there was an easier way, sometimes.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Jane, it is a wearying existence and that’s why you so need support, prayer and physical support as well as a circle of wise women who will encourage you and remind you of your value and worth.

    • pam on July 9, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Jane, You have every reason to be exhausted. You are actively being emotionally abused! Is there any way you can separate from your abuser for a period of time? This would enable you to build strength faster.

  14. Aleea on July 8, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    “My hope is not in my husband though, it is in the Lord. That’s made all the difference.” . . . . . .That is just AWESOME!!! (-Good for you, don’t EVER lose that!!!) -and that is the way it should be even with a good husband!!!  Jesus is our source and we give to each other the overflow.  This requires me realizing my husband is simply not capable of meeting my God needs, only Jesus is, and that resets my expectations. . . . For me, that makes the shortest distance between my loneliness and the solution to it the distance between my knees and the floor.  As I say, if God’s love fills me daily, I will then not do as many dysfunctional things to try to get little scraps of lonely love from anyone else.  I will be able to guard my heart while actually giving to others.
    In Numbers thirteen & fourteen we see the bottom line: We can always choose to stay where we are or risk what we have to gain so much more:  “I do not believe my husband has a core value to be a good husband. He wants to be married to me, but does not want a relationship with me.” . . . . Think about any parallel statement: I have a surgeon but he has absolutely no interest in being a good surgeon, nevertheless he wants to operate on me and my family and I am okay with that because. . . . .Because he “provides well financially.”  I have vast compassion as I am still in the service of my abusive mother (in my mind) and although I limit her physical presence, I have internalized her (-it is that sad.)  Nevertheless, wrong is wrong.  My sin (of accepting this and treating myself this way) is ever before me.
    “Friends, what is your biggest challenge in staying well if that’s what you are attempting to do at this time?”. . . . . . 1) Believing what God says and 2) Making time for myself.  I always pray: Lord, I do believe, please have mercy on me and help my unbelief.  God gives us complete, pure, radical choice and that makes unbelief pretty easy.  The early Christians said: “Faith without doubt is dead.”  Hmmm, I must have the most alive faith ever then.  . . . . On point two, . . . times schedules, deadlines, forms, travel. . . I think I’ll go crazy!  Too much standing in lines, errands, chores, et. al. . . . So, I have been trying to foster an atmosphere of genuine calm at home with lots of compliments “thank you” -courtesy language and gratitude!  As well as fostering an atmosphere of laughter.  Looking for ways to laugh together.  -Of course, balanced with Ecclesiastes seven: Better to spend time at funerals than at festivals.  Everyone dies–so the living should take this to heart.  Five minutes inside eternity and I will wish that I had sacrificed more, loved more, prayed more, given more. . . .
    Now, the only way to get there without bitterness and anger seems to be abandonment.  —Just total, complete abandonment to God.  I don’t do this well (—at all) but I can sure see it in the lives of those I want to be like: Just abandoning their whole existence, giving it all up to God.  Total abandonment to Him.  —Every minute of my life, as well as the whole course of my life.  Everything that happens. —All my concerns go into the hands of God.  I aim to forget myself, and from each moment on, think only of Him.  Everything has come to me by His will and by His permission anyway.  I utterly believe that everything that is happening to me is from God and is exactly what I need —just total, complete abandonment to God.

  15. Dianna on July 8, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you for addressing those who are staying well and for the person who has spelled out her journey and challenges.

    I tried to stay well more than once in the past two years of our marriage of sixteen years. The efforts were genuine and encouraging. The challenges that have kept us from reconciling are: 1) not facing the truth of honest issues; 2) his wanting to go back to where he thought was the best times, before our marriage; 3) his wanting to use sex – loving, honest sex to bond us, again, 4) trust issues never addressed and removed, 5) his not willing to take time to worth through the issues and heal, 6) his not willing to go to godly marriage counseling before reconciling.

    Basically, he has not learned to remove the ‘rose-colored, fantasy glasses’ to face godly truth and worth. I have tried and wanted to share what I have learned from Leslie Vernick and other counselors to him, for him, even if our marriage would not be healed. I could not. He would not see truth. I cannot go back to the days of not facing truth, for me and for life with God’s word and character as my plumbline.

    I wish I knew how to face truth and trust God’s shielding before we were married, or even along the way, but that did not happen. Did not seem to be able to face the truth without being removed from living with my husband. It is sad, but truth and God is sovereign. I pray and hope to set a better example with others, especially the young ones.

    I applaud you who are honestly ‘staying well.’ I pray that you will be able to stand well and that the truth will be seen in your lives for your loved ones.

    • Robin on July 9, 2015 at 12:09 am

      I learned how to stay well, after spending 30 years not staying well. I followed Leslie,s counsel in her book to speak up, stand up and stand back. For me these were critical boundary settings that showed me what was in his heart. These boundaries drove us further apart quickly- and as mentioned above all the negativity, dishonest motives, and increased destructive behaviors let me know it was time to separate. I used a year to build up my core, work on myself and forgiving him, but as truth became more apparent that he desired no changes, God opened the door of escape for me. After 30 long years of destructive living, I’m very glad today that I took a year too work on staying well. Now I can live without any regrets.

      • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:09 pm

        Robin, thanks for sharing how important leaving with no regrets is. When we have done all we know we can do, we can let go and leave it up to God.

      • kim on July 11, 2015 at 6:19 pm

        Im coming to the end of the staying well journey. As I stand firm. His true shallow love and selfish motivation gets louder. I find the more I see the easier it is. Whereas, I would have been destroyed by such revelation prior to growing separate and building a new identity S the Lord as my Lord. I needed to tear down that alter where I worshiped my husband and I became a target of welcomed abuse of rejection and abandonment. Just own my part so I can in good conscience release him to win his. It is very liberating to no longer question my every thought but instead walk in peace knowing I’ve not had that much power and neither does he. God is on the throne in every area. Peace in the storm. Im having really good day. Praise God

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Thanks Dianna.

    • pam on July 9, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      Diana, What is your husband’s relationship like with his Mother? Dr. Paul Hegstrom talks about the Mother/Son dynamic in which a mother takes her son’s emotional self (often due to her poor marriage) which leaves a son only available to bond via sex with another woman. A son would not consider sex with his mother, so that is all he has available as a victim of “emotional incest” by his mother. Try Paul’s book, Angry Men and the Women who love them for more information.

      • pam on July 12, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        Yes. Try his other books too such as Broken Children, Grown Up Pain. The most important author to study is the work Lundy Bancroft has done with abusive men. It answers all the why questions in our circumstances. I rejoice with the last blogger who is living free. It will be so exciting to hear how alive she feels in the coming years!

  16. Ellen on July 9, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  17. Samella on July 9, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I have been trying to stay well also. The first thing I needed was to learn how to protect myself from my husband’s bullying. Leslie’s CORE class started the lessons and then I found a counselor who also helped.

    Things got worse at home because our dance had changed. But, I was prepared for that. It took several months but he eventually started to change his dance as well. We are now working on learning new steps, but the draw to go back to the old way is still very much alive. My counselor said that the common folklore of “30 days to change a habit” is FALSE! It might actually take up to 30 MONTHS or longer!

    So now I realize I need to be in it for the long haul and to not be discouraged when one of us slips back into the old dance. We have fewer slips and get back on track much quicker than we ever have.

    PS. Our church counselors over the years have been kind and gracious but didn’t know how to deal with a destructive relationship. We have been blessed to find 2 solid professional Christian counselors who are worth their weight in gold. May God bless all of you who are trying to stay well!

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Samella, So good to hear that you worked on your CORE and by your changing the dance, the dance at home began to change – first for the worst as he tried to get you to go back to your old dance, but as you stayed strong, he realized, he would need to learn new steps if he wanted to stay with you.

  18. Jennifer on July 9, 2015 at 10:31 am

    It helps to hear others’ stories, thanks for sharing

  19. Lonely wife on July 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I could have written this!
    Married 29 years….not realizing just how destructive my marriage was until a few years ago…and as I’ve worked on myself, and calmed down, no more arguing with my husband, just acceptance that he will not change, my kids have now seen the truth with their own eyes…they know their Dad has issues and runs from God, and is stubborn and proud!
    We have “peace” in our home…and I contribute that all to God….finding Leslie’s book, and then this blog has helped me tremendously and three years ago my husband was offered a new job which requires him to travel about 10-12 days out of the month…which gives us all a break, so I thank God for that!
    And THIS!!
    “I do not believe my husband has a core value to be a good husband. He wants to be married to me, but does not want a relationship with me. My life though is a thousand times better than it was before even though I am still in my situation. My husband provides well financially. I enjoy our times together as a family. My children now see truth. I continue to grow and get stronger.”
    Again, I could have written this part also!! This is sooo true in my own life, and with Leslie’s books and this blog, I’ve accepted it.
    My husband doesn’t want or need a relationship with me…so I find my contentment in other areas….my relationship with Jesus, my children, friends, church ministry, etc…and I feel content.
    Thank you for posting this Leslie…I’ve been questioned many times as to WHY I’m staying in my marriage….and it’s good to know that others are also staying well and making it work.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks for sharing lonely wife.

      • Lonely wife on July 13, 2015 at 3:24 am

        I’m praying for you Leslie…I’ve had poison ivy twice….awful, awful stuff!

  20. Betsy on July 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    I just left a very painful therapy session where my husband sees me as someone that lives in the same house as him and helps to raise the children. That’s it. He has no desire at this point to see anything else. he is SO FULL of rage.

    How in the world do I stand for a marriage and be a Godly wife knowing this?

    My heart is in shreds.

    • Jennifer on July 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Betsy, that is how I feel about my husband. I’m not sure how to repair a marriage with those feelings (or even if I want to) I want to co-parent and have the luxery of two incomes without the pain of divorce, but Leslie other than praying for “heart surgery” to have a change of heart, how does one cope either with these feelings or knowing someone else feels this way?

      • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 6:03 pm

        Jennifer and Betsy, the stories of women who stay well, do not have any expectations of a good marriage. They stay for other reasons – financial, kids, grandkids, health, and build a God-centered life within the confines of an empty marriage. Its the letting go of the wanting a good marriage part that is tough. Once you accept that (emotionally) then you are in a better position to figure out how you live. YOu cannot repair a marriage all by yourself. Let’s look at it the opposite way. Even if the abuser or destructive person wanted to rebuild his marriage and did all the necessary changes on himself, he can’t repair a relationship all by myself. It still would require his wife to forgive, to learn to trust again, to be willing to be vulnerable. She may not and therefore the marriage cannot be rebuilt, even if they stay together. In the same way, you can do all the right things, and your husband’s may still choose to remain hard hearted, stubborn, proud, angry, and unwilling. How do you “live” in that reality gracefully and faithfully is the challenge.

        • Betsy on July 10, 2015 at 3:35 pm


          I do have to say that I played a big role in the breakdown of our marriage. I can only describe it as feeling like I crawled into an abyss and could not get out. My husband begged and pleaded with me that he couldn’t live the way we were living any more. I was not able to understand what he was saying. I think I had so much of my own rage and hurt going on that I was not able to respond to him. I feel horrible about my inability to show up the way he wanted and needed. I am learning what it means to have been a disrespectful wife and how I can change. However, my husband brought his own issues into our marriage and it is up to him to work those out. He may or may not. Either way, where we are right now STINKS and I have to build myself up internally and through the help of God to be strong and courageous. I signed up for the CORE class in August. I am so excited to be me.

          • Leslie Vernick on July 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm

            Betsy it takes courage and humility to own your own stuff and your inability to “hear” where your husband was coming from. That may help some of the ladies understand their husband’s stuck places too. But you are wise to remember that the only person you can work on and change is you and I”m so glad you are starting with our CORE focus class in August. I think it will be a big help to you.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 9, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      You can stand for a marriage but you cannot make a marriage all by yourself. Your husband does not want to stand with you for a good marriage. Your options? Stand as a godly woman for your marriage. Be a godly wife – which means speak the truth in love. Don’t lie, or pretend. Don’t make excuses and don’t over function which disguises the true condition of your marriage. And Guard your heart against temptation (sexual and bitterness and resentment towards him). They devil may have his way with him but don’t allow him to have his way with you.

      • Betsy on July 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm

        How does one talk to their children about the breakdown of their parents marriage, and why mom and dad do little together, and why there is tension. I know they feel it. Do I share with them my position? Should my husband and I sit our boys down and tell them what is going on? My children are 14, 17, and 31 ( from husbands first marriage).

        • Leslie Vernick on July 10, 2015 at 4:10 pm

          Your kids are old enough to know something of your marital story – they sense it, they see it, it would be better for you and your husband to give them some words to describe what’s going on otherwise they will have their own thoughts which may not be true and may actually cause them more distress than the actual truth. I don’t know your story but you can say something like “We are working on the big suitcases of junk we brought into the marriage that made us being able to communicate, trust, and love well almost impossible. Of course you guys can see the effects of that but we want you to know that we are each working as hard as we can to grow and change, but only God determines how fast we grow. So I hope you guys will pray for us so we will have God’s strength to turn our marriage into something new. We love you guys lots.”

          • Alene on July 11, 2015 at 2:32 pm

            Thanks Leslie, seeking to walk well with children involved is hard. How can a wife do that if she is the only one willing to speak? what would that sound like? I know it can’t undermine their relationship with their dad in any way.

          • Betsy on July 11, 2015 at 9:40 pm

            This is beautiful Leslie. Thank you.

  21. Betsy on July 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Jennifer – I hope Leslie can answer. As I said to our therapist today ” I have no idea how to live like this.”

    I do not want a divorce. My husband has been threatening a divorce for a year and just recently told me that he doesn’t want a divorce, yet refuses to connect to me emotionally. I feel like a dirt mat.

    I believe in marriage restoration. My support system has been encouraging me that it will take a L-O-N-G time to rebuild trust. I wear my wedding rings. He does not. I feel that he is and has been, emotionally abusive throughout our marriage.

  22. betsy on July 9, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you so much Leslie.

    Can you clarify for me what you mean by ” over function which disquises the true condition of your marriage.”

    • Alene on July 11, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Betsy, Leslie may have some thoughts as well…I’ll add some thoughts from my story. I was trying to keep things together and I found out it is much better to live the truth but that takes CORE strength which I am gaining, and simple observational truth statements which I’ve added to my tool belt, I tried to stay positive but was overly optimistic which caused me to live in fantasy that things would change or not be straightforward about what I was really dealing with or take appropriate action (which I am still learning but definitely doing better), act like nothing was wrong in front of the kids (which did not help them walk in truth or develop good boundaries and healthy approaches), and overcompensated for him (especially letting his frustration push me to try to make things better or help our one son instead of just parenting him in a normal honest straightforward way, I tried to make the one son better to avoid h’s frustration and avoiding anger does not work),, trying to fix or hold things together. It was crazy making. I pretended. I felt the emotional pain. It is better to walk in CORE strength.

  23. pam on July 9, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Spiritualizing your experience can make you feel holy and superior to your spouse and your difficult situation. It is a pseudo solution and you are lying to yourself. Our Lord did not intend for you to use his scriptures in such a way. Please love yourself more and leave this abusive relationship, even if just for a season.

    • Aleea on July 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you for your thoughts.  I really do appreciate your feedback and I will pray about what you are suggesting. . . . .You know what? . . . .I can’t wait for the next version of these blog experiences (video conferencing, in real time. . .where we can see each other, share resources instantly, etc.) . . . Yes, it will still have glitches and things to work out but the amount of misunderstandings from just static written words where what one is referencing gets confused. . . .Well, the misunderstandings are truly incredible.  So much of communication is lost without being face-to-face. . . Wow. . .Anyway, I do not feel superior to my husband in any way (RE: the issues I brought into our marriage) or you or anyone.  At least I don’t feel that way.  In fact, one of my issues is low self-esteem.  You say: “Our Lord did not intend for you to use his scriptures in such a way.” I’ll think about that too but Pam, you did not give me much to go on.  I try to stay with conservative interpretations only.  I don’t do source criticism, form criticism, textual criticism, redaction criticism, or even mainstream consensus Biblical interpretation (RE: Jesus Seminar-style.) -I know, “Jesus Seminar” sounds good, it is not! SEE:  . . . .Anyway, if you will be more specific, I can be too (-I don’t bite and I am not that bright, obviously, ha, ha, ha, ha, so please feel free.)  Also,  if you ever see me becoming prideful or taking God’s glory – please, please immediately rebuke me!  -And if you would have time, please pray for me!  There is much power in prayer!

  24. Samella on July 10, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I believe “over function” means to be the wife AND the husband, the mom AND the dad, so that he doesn’t have any responsibilities because you’re trying to hold everything together without your husband pulling his weight. Going on vacation? You plan, cook, pack, watch the kids etc… and he sits around and complains that you didn’t bring his favorite pillow. You plan a date night and he sits there silently while you try to carry the whole conversation. Over function: doing it all in the hopes that you’ll make your husband happy. But, it doesn’t work.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 10, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      You’re right Samella over-functioning means you are working double time to be responsible and meet the needs of everyone in the family where your spouse is not pulling his own weight and criticizing you for the way you do what you do without helping. When we over-function – we enable lazyness and selfishness and an attitude of entitlement which does not bode well in relationships and is not good for you or him.

      • Maria on July 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm

        Leslie, when it comes to my children I feel that I need to “over function” ie. pick up the slack when he decides not to be a good parent. The parent-child relelationship is based on sacrifice by the parent and my husband who is extremely self centered is a lot of times not capable of putting his selfish desires aside for the good of the children. When I do the extra stuff that he really should be doing for the kids, I bear no resentment or anger because of my love for my kids. I think Lundy Bancroft made a comment in one of his books or blog about the need to be a much better parent when the other parent is too selfish to be a good parent. In this case for the kids, isn’t over functioning necessary?

        • Leslie Vernick on July 10, 2015 at 6:59 pm

          Maria, I agree you may need to be a better parent when you don’t have a partner who helps you but I think when you “overfunction” continuously, what you teach your children is that you are not a person, but a machine. That you don’t have your own needs or feelings. You exist solely to meet their needs and I think that is one of the worst things you can teach your children. When they get older they will treat you like your spouse treated you because they will expect you to have no needs, no feelings, no opinions of your own. You exist to serve them. That is not a good place to be. Please love your children well, but also teach them to love you back.

          • Maria on July 11, 2015 at 9:10 am

            Leslie, could you please give me some practical examples on how to teach my children to love me back?

          • Leslie Vernick on July 11, 2015 at 10:51 am

            Perhaps I’ll write a longer blog post about this but for starters, you teach them to obey you (when they are little). You teach them not to hit you,kick you, bite you when they are angry. You say Ouch, that hurts Mommy and let them feel for your pain so that they develop empathy and compassion for you and remorse for the pain they have caused. You tell them not now, I am busy doing something I need to do for me, so they realize that you also have a life apart from tending to their needs. You ask them to help you when you need help instead of pretending you are a superhero mom who never needs any help or a martyr sacrificing your all to keep them all happy. Love is actions, not necessarily words and so you want to teach your kids to treat you with respect, to act in loving ways towards you (and others) by being compassionate when you are tired or sick or hurt. You don’t want to NEED your kids to take care of you, they are kids and you are the adult, but you want them to care about you and show that in their attitudes and actions.

  25. Susanne on July 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Dear sisters, for the latter part of my 13 year marriage to an abusive man, I really tried to stay as well as possible and not try to fix my marriage all by myself. I persevered through all the emotional abuse until it escalated into violent, physical abuse. I, as well as other women in similar situations, did not want my marriage to end, nor did I even think of ever going through a divorce! After much prayer and counselling I realized that if I stayed after him physically hurting me, I was in a very dangerous situation, as well as it would speak a wrong message loud and clear to my husband. By leaving, it spoke volumes to him. I was no longer enabling his sin. That was 3 years ago. He has just filed for a divorce. At first this really bothered me. After all, I thought, he had no biblical reason for divorce, but I certainly did. Again, it was his decision and he has to answer to God for what he does, not me. We all make our own choices in life. Although I wept for a long time after separating from my husband, I knew that I had made the right decision for my own safety and well being. Yes, most of us question ourselves afterwards. It is good to search our own hearts, but not to beat ourselves up. I’m now at peace and trusting God each day. Now that is how I am truly staying well and looking forward to what God has for me in the days to come.

  26. Kim on July 10, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Leslie, I am so grateful for your work. I just know you have helped countless women in their time of need. Thank you for your giving them a voice.

    I am writing here.(excuse the typos) I guess I am adding it here because I just need to feel that I am heard. Sitting in this space with others who are hurting that can identify with my pain, gives me strength to stay in the truth. I gain emotional support and empathy from others when I listen to their journey and share about mine. I am learning empathy doesn’t break down my door to get to me, sometimes, I have to ask for it. Thanks to all of you precious women who are vulnerable and are willing to tell their story and stay committed to their personal journey to become whole in Christ. By the word of your testimony, the word of God and the blood of the Lamb I’m Praying for testimonies that will lead others to follow the truth.

    Here’s a few pieces of my story:
    I have been married 28 years to the only man I have ever loved. We met when he was 20 and I was 21. I am a SAHM, my husband is a small business owner, I do administrative work, have been homeschooling my 4 children. This year, my youngest graduated. As a person, I have been a self-sufficient, independent and strong. As a wife, I’ve been submissive, dependent and deferring to a fault. I feel that I have made life very easy, as a codependent, it was like I was raising a 5th son, but this one earned an income that I needed.

    The CRISIS the set cause the bombs to go off:
    We had a several major crisis come our way in 2010 and they blew the lid off our marriage, revealing all that was missing, the disconnect emotionally and the true shallowness of my husband’s love for me, his narcissism and lack of care for our marriage.

    My DIY Approach to make things better:
    I worked hard to try to restore connection by setting up date nights, taking a lingerie challenge, reading and studying through books, that I now know and feel only caused more destruction, leaving me to believe I was souly to blame for our disconnect. To name a few….Created to Be His Helpmeet, The Excellent Wife, The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage. I went through them with a group of ladies I knew in my church and home school community.

    Sadly, His mother died from cancer during this same time. Having been an only child to a single mom, it destroyed him. He became increasingly distant and indifferent, except when the 11:30 hour came around and he wanted sex. I had learned to set boundaries and ask for what I needed. When I approached him in love and asked that we work on being more connected. I suggested ways to do that, sharing with him my need to feel like I was there in the room, that I wasn’t invisible. I wanted to work on our emotional connecting, that love making wouldn’t be reduced to a sex act or physical release for him, but a mutual expression of love. He got angry, and left the room. He decided to move into another bedroom. At first, I tried to let it go and accept it as his way of grieving, but then he started blaming me and telling me I am nota good wife.

    I wonder, now, if maybe he was relieved as, perhaps, he was already getting his needs met somewhere else? We were so disconnected. and slipping further and further apart. He would leave the house, without saying a word, be gone out until late at night, leave early and never gives specifics of his whereabouts. I was an insecure mess. I cried day and night, my whole family was in turmoil. He is extremely independent, spends money independently, keeps things from me, like what he does with his free time. He deflects his anger about money, calling it HIS, but won’t own his decisions to buy things we couldn’t afford. I experience a lot of passive aggressive behavior and misdirected anger. I felt like crawling under a rock and dying.

    During this time, Out of desperation, I’ve faithfully been tuning into Christian Counseling websites and podcasts like, June Hunt and Mark Gungor, (while, he is not a counselor, he gives straight forward advice on what is not acceptable. He is funny too. His advice validates my worth to be valued as a cherished wife, who should take action to separate as a means to get my husbands attention. To create a crisis. It isn’t about divorce, it is about seeking reconciliation) I have listened to NewLife Live for years, but now I listen to their podcasts daily. I started attending Celebrate Recovery (Codependency issues) and I’ve spent the past 3 1/2 years working on me. I’ve gone through 2 step studies and I still attend weekly. It is helping, but I continue to struggle with abandonment, rejection and being blamed for our problems.

    A few years ago, I bought your book “Emotional destructive marriages”, It was my little secret book. I felt that My bible study friends would judge that I was putting the blame on my husband. After reading it, I felt affirmed, “I wasn’t crazy!” I saw my life on the pages of your book. I decided to share the info with the co-leader from one of my bible studies, as a result, I was asked to leave the group because I was going against the biblical submissive role by my analyzing his behavior instead of just submitting and trying harder.. She said that I was making the group unsafe. I was blown away. I agreed to leave, but I continued to attend my CR group.

    After over 4 years of emotional abandonment and no willingness to on his part to work on us, I started snooping, it felt dirty, but I did it anyway. I found more than I hoped, and decided to hire an attorney and file for separation. First, I read the book “Think Financially, not emotionally” It helped me to be sound in my preparation, not stupid.

    He made me out to be the bad guy, how could I do this, it got ugly at first, but eventually he said he has things to work on, we both have a lot of problems and I am not his enemy. He was not repentant, but he explained that he wanted to come back home. I think he realized it was more expensive than he imagined. “It’s Cheaper to keep her”

    I, now, know he was having an affair all along. I was called a fool and naive by friends. I couldn’t believe he could do such a thing. I believed his excuses for his distance, he told me, without sex, we are not really husband and wife, after all, he was no longer getting the benefits of marriage.

    1 Day before mediation, he wrote a letter sharing that he had lied and, infact, cheated. Nothing more. He said he was sorry for hurting our family, but gave no disclosure as to what he has done. At the mediation meeting with his pastor and his wife and the associate pastor. This was Not through my church, but I had arranged it, called the pastor myself and felt it was a start. I needed a Matthew 18 setting and we had no mutual support to be that liason. Approximately the same time as moving out of bedroom, he stopped attending our church, the one we had been a part of for 12 years. He left when the men confronted him about his needing me to change. He won’t admit it, he says he had to leave, that they had differences in theology. I stayed this time, telling him, I need my church family, I cannot isolate myself anymore. I now know it all was on the same timeline, moving out of our room, leaving church and the beginning of a 1 1/2 long affair.

    During, the mediation meeting, his disclosure consisted of “I have had several emotional affairs over the past 5 years and one became physical, it has been in the past 1 1/2″ That is it. that is all I got. The pastor and his wife came across as if that was good enough. They even remarked how I wasn’t emotional. I told them, I have cried for years, I was just waiting for the truth, this meeting was about me, it was about getting answers. They said I should forgive and set up a time to work on the root issues. They told me to note that he apparently wasn’t happy and focus on that. I pointed out. ” I have problem, where is his concern for me and how this has hurt me? I have not heard him express his remorse for breaking our vows, damaging my trust or hurting me. I told them, “no” that is not enough, I want details and I want it volunteered. The asked us to close by sharing, individually, words of hope to one another. I was like, “All I can offer is that I am here in this meeting, that is my expression of hope.” The meeting lasted 3 hours.

    I wrote him a letter listing some non negotiables, l haven’t seen any of these met. The main items are: No female friends, no contact with any of the past women for any reason, No massages (he would go weekly for therapy), He must show his phone and phone bill, if I ask, all monies earned are to be deposited in our account, his whereabouts need to shared before, with how and how long. Trust can be rebuilt, but he has work to repair it.

    Bottom line: I don’t feel safe, my security as been destroyed. I am missing all the puzzle pieces, like: Do they still talk? Who broke it off? Are they still in contact? Did they say they loved each other? etc.. He has done nothing to repair the damage, instead, he is spending his time examining our financial records from 2008 on, when we should be in counseling and he should be auditing his current unchanged behavior. He should wrk on building character.

    He has written to me trying to explain how unhappy he has been for 30 years. What? He feels he that had no choice. He was lonely, frustrated and unhappy. He said that he did it because his needs were not being met, I was not making him happy. To make the stab deeper, he told me, it was no accident, that he made a willful decision to be with the woman, it wasn’t an act of falling into lust or because of a sexual addiction issues. I might add, he claims to be a Christian, prays, and reads his bible. When I bring up the word, he gets angry. I gave up trying to reason with him and seeking the word with him. I have set a hard boundary and I am tired, frustrated, hurt, betrayed, experiencing anxiety, trauma, that makes my body convulse. I have peace in my heart, but the fact he lives here is killing me. We have until July to resolve or make separation final. I vacillate back and forth, fearing I am giving up on God to heal our marriage. It takes 2 to reconcile, I know that, I forgive him completely, that I am not withholding. I pray for him and our circumstances.

    He moved out within a week of being served, but within 2 weeks, he moved back. He said he was sick, couldn’t sleep or eat. and has lost 10 lbs. I have lost of 20 lbs over the past 3 years. Has he noticed? “No!” He set up a bedroom area for himself in the garage. My kids were mad about his leaving, asking “Why did you make him leave?” I assured them I did not. I had no grounds to force him out. I would have to have a domestic violence complaint to do that. When he was served, I never asked him to move out, he just did.

    My 2 middle sons turned to marijuana and alcohol use to numb their pain. Over the past 1 1/2 years it has taken its toll. One son, got a DUI after totaling our vehicle that my husband let me drive. The other smokes pot daily and has no ambition. Neither will listen to reason, they blame the chaos on me. I started going to Alanon and I have setting boundaries, owning my own choices, but not theirs. It is hard because I know this has all caused them pain and they are only trying to cope. I do not know how to help, I can’t even get help for myself, except to quit. My oldest moved out and got married. It is amazing how much healthier he is now. I moved my youngest out to live with them and he is being mentored and encouraged to live outside of our chaos. I lost my family, my home, my marriage, but I will not lose my life.

    I found the courage to find an attorney and serve him came After I discovered disturbing info while snooping. I found a lease agreement for an apartment with a move in date for the same month. He didn’t know that I knew that. I never told him what I found either. I was little by little, finding other things, like: phone records, a separate and secret bank account, he wa listing things for sell on craigslist. etc. He refers to himself as being less than a dog in his own house and projecting that on me. I want peace, but trapped in the reminder that God hates divorce, the church’s disapproval and his pastor telling me to stop listening to others. He warned me, I better be sure that I am listening to God. I keep thinking, “I will wait, give it more time, God can do a miracle”. My friends say, “You have given it too much time”

    I am teetering back and forth. I have grown a lot, I can handle the truth, I am not afraid of being alone or broke, I am afraid to disappoint God, by showing a lack of faith and impatience.

    I started this letter a few months ago. In May I moved out and our court date is this next Tues. July 14th. Just 2 days ago, he has confessed to more. He says there was yet another women and I deserve the truth. After telling me, via text, (A hard boundary I’ve set is, I don’t talk to him face to face. I only allow voice mails and texts. I have an accountability partner screen them for me as I have a heard time not allowing him to get into my head.) My suspicion is that he is saying these things to make himself feel better? I notice that he does not show any concern for how these revelations cause me pain. I did reply telling him that he needs to tell his adult children, ages 18, 20, 22 and 24. The deserve the truth too. They are confused and blame me for filing for separation and moving out. They get mad saying, “Why don’t you two just work it out?”

    Next Monday the 13th is 31 years since we started dating. I am sad, but hopeful that I will get my life back. I have been studying Luke 9:23-24 and the verse brings me hope. I have to lose my life to gain it, but maybe I need to lose my marriage to gain anything that looks like marriage.

    I am choosing to focus on the TRUTH above all things. That means watching what he does, stop believing what I want to hear over the truth. Sanity is looking and doing what is true. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I am finding sanity in cutting through the empty promises, wishful thinking and stepping back, and patiently,giving myself the permission to look at what is real and not condemn myself for believing lies for so long. Instead, switching gears and Investing my time and thoughts toward reading, hearing, studying, meditating on, memorizing and applying God’s word and experiencing the renewing of my mind. .

    Blessings, Kim

    • Jennifer on July 10, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      Your story really breaks my heart, thanks for sharing Kim

    • Betsy on July 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Wow Kim What a honest pouring out of your heart. Thank you.

    • Susanne on July 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      Kim, Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am keeping you in prayer and believing for God to move on your behalf on July 14. God bless you!

      • Robin on July 10, 2015 at 5:53 pm

        Kim, I will be praying also. I am so sorry for all you’ve been through!!

    • Leslie Vernick on July 10, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      Kim, you are wise to focus on TRUTH and the truth sets us free. We may not like the hard truth but nothing has changed with your husband at all. He may be confessing to you some things, but it’s for his benefit (clear conscious – or manipulation – who knows) rather than to reconcile or repair your relationships. God doesn’t change someone’s heart against their will and although your husband claims to be a Christian he isn’t behaving like one – and the only thing we can judge is behaviors/actions not words or promises. But continue to work on you, get stronger. God knows your heart, he knows you would love to have a healthy marriage and family, but he hates something even more than he hates divorce, he hates abuse, he hates injustice, he hates pride and deceit. I think you’ve had a full dose of those in your marriage not to mention adultery which is biblical grounds for divorce in most conservative Christians’s eyes.

    • Sandy on July 12, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Thank for sharing, Kim! May God Bless you with continued wisdom, strength, and courage!!

      • Lonely wife on July 13, 2015 at 3:40 am

        Praying for you Kim…I have to say reading what you wrote was hard, because I see some similarities in my own marriage.
        I’ve given up any hope that my husband will ever change, and I’m preparing myself for when he cheats on me again….he’s had two emotional affairs that I know of…I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop since my husband hasn’t been repentant or concerned for how his affairs made me feel!
        I’m working on my core…that’s all I can do at the moment.
        Bless you Kim for sharing your heart…I’ll pray for your children also, how sad that they are blaming you… 🙁

        • Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 12:41 am

          Maybe giving up hope isn’t the best idea here – maybe it’s giving up letting your life revolve around that particular desired outcome. God can do wonderful things – but you have a life to live and a purpose He put you here for, and it doesn’t revolve around your spouse. It revolves around God. Perhaps if we learn to follow God’s lead, and not our own we’d have an easier time! (I know I fall into that boat!)

    • Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 12:45 am

      I read something awhile back that strikes a chord with the beginning of your letter – maybe it will help you as much as it is helping me: Let your mess become your message – God will help you if you let Him.

      That isn’t verbatim, but the concept is from Joyce Meyers

  27. Robin on July 10, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Reading Kims letter, and those of many of the women I am heart broken for what they’ve experienced. I too, wanted to obey Gods Word and be pleasing to Him. I am so thankful for the support on this blog for myself and for many on here. Its so difficult to not believe what your church leaders are telling you, and what you thought you knew in the Scriptures. I would just like to encourage anyone that is struggling with being obedient to Gods Word- be sure you find someone who can walk beside you- hopefully a trained therapist- to help you interpret the Scriptures rightly, in the midst of a very abusive and destructive relationship. Im so deeply thankful for some of the resources we have available today, but lets all be aware of who might be near us that doesn’t know about these resources. I feel like Leslie’s book on a destructive marriage, and her videos online saved me from many many more years of living and being stuck in a very destructive marriage. My heart just goes out to those women who are hurting and doing everything they know to do- and yet it seems their pain just increases. I hope we will all be vigilant in looking for someone we can lift up, hand a cool drink of water, or help them get where they can find the help needed. This battle of fighting evil and destruction in our homes will only be conquered if each one of us does our part. Amen. Amen.

    • Susanne on July 11, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Amen Robin….well said

  28. kim on July 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    The empathy, I so needed , you’ve poured out and I thank the Lord for your kind and supportive words. Tears, healing tears, flow as I read your replies and stories of belief that our Lord will redeem all that has been lost and broken. Grace to you all as you live your lives authentically before the Lord. May we continue to Pour out our lives as a sacrifice of faith. H e does and will redeem all things to himself.

    • pam on July 13, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Keeping these things a secret is one of the ways destructive people keep their power. When we expose their behavior we stop enabling them. This can be dangerous without help and an escape plan, but necessary for change. It can feel very lonely living in such a twisted, abusive relationship that we hold on to God as a lifeboat. This is wonderful, but God wanted so much more for us than to just be our lifeboat. He want us to live fully or his wouldn’t have told us how much he loves us or sent his precious son to die for us.

  29. Lisa on July 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm


    Never accept the narrative from your husband, children, pastor, etc… that you caused him to commit adultery or any other sin. They are *his* sins and his sins only. That lie keeps women in that vicious “if only I try harder” cycle. His actions reveal the real him. He is a secretive man just like my husband. There is no mutual transparency.

    It is murderous to cause so much destruction and then care not to disclose entirely, not repent, and not make restitution to you. He should have an iron clad plan to work on restoring your trust no matter how many boundaries and years it takes.

    Hold all you are doing in your legal matters, and as you have done with finding things, close to your vest. Disclosing to him only gives him time to come up with a lie to cover for himself. Keep texts, emails brief thereby not allowing him to pull you into his craziness. Keep good boundaries with your children, never accepting disrespect.

    If the divorce proceeds then *don’t* play fair, play smart in financial matters looking to your future needs as well as current—taking into consideration taxes and inflation on what is being offered. Don’t allow his attorney to pressure you into a settlement. He’s examining financial records—you do the same—make copies of tax returns for at least the last five years and copies of bills, bank statements, insurance policies, check registers, that lease agreement, receipts of money spent on his shmoopie!—some courts will make him pay it back to you and any other piece of evidence financial or otherwise. Do all that without his knowledge.
    Any chance you have access to any computers he uses; copy the hard drives. My husband wiped ours clean and had them replaced. He must have had much to hide.

    • Lisa on July 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Save all those texts and voice mails!!!

    • kim on July 13, 2015 at 2:43 am

      Yes, like I said, I read “think financially, not emotionally” the week before I filed and followed the suggestions given. Opened private bank account. P.o. box. applied for credit cards. I have handled all our finances for nearly 29 years. He is just learning how to email and do online banking. But he has went against the court ordered restraining order and closed bank accounts and withheld income from our co owned business. He has run out of people to fool. I was the one person who kept hoping for and believing he’d turn a new leaf. Sadly, He cut that tree down. I pray for him and my boys. Praying That he’ll turn his heart to God and become the father they need I don’t need to stay married to him for that to happen. To anyone who feels that their value is based on their husband’s words. Stop! Read God’s word. We don’t have to earn love. We are to love and care for our spouses unconditionally. They are to love us sacrificially too.

    • Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 12:36 am

      No one “causes” someone else to do something. We all decide/choose what we will do, and only we are responsible for that decision.

      I remember being called the “reason” my spouse drank… I didn’t force him to – I didn’t hold a gun to his head and make him drink – it was his choice.

      If I get mad and spew ugliness around – no one forced me to do it – it was my choice. I could have made a different choice.

  30. betsy on July 11, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Pam.. I hope I can remember to read the comment again. I have been believing that the state of our marriage is all my fault because that is what I hear from my husband. After a while of hearing this plus everything that is wrong with me, I question myself ALOT. Am I crazy? Is he always right?

    • pam on July 13, 2015 at 8:20 am

      I think Leslie’s programs are going to be a great help for you. Don’t stop there. Read some of the other resources mentioned and attend workshop. You are worth all the effort you are putting into getting smarter and stronger.

  31. Brenda on July 12, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Sometimes it takes unraveling the life you have in order to build the life you want.

    That is so true. After 2 years parted it is still unraveling and building at the same time.

    • Betsy on July 12, 2015 at 8:45 am

      Brenda. I would love to know what you are going through and how this statement applies to your marriage. I believe the same for mine, I pray and hope that the 2×4 that God it me over the head with, the coming undone emotionally and spiritually, and my life unraveling is what needed to happen in order to rebuild my marriage.

    • Susanne on July 12, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      Brenda, I believe I know what you’re saying. After 3 years I can see my life still unraveling and yes, the Lord is helping me to rebuild, slowly, in His way and His timing. Things usually don’t happen overnight do they?

    • Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 12:30 am

      Stay strong Brenda. You have God on your side and all of us behind you. I think I know what you mean, I had “a day” like that today… just remember who you belong to, and what He’s done for you. Praying for you!

  32. betsy on July 12, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Pam.. Now I get it.. Yep. You are right. He has been saying through this year that the way things are in our relationship are the consequence of my behavior.,this absolutely eats me up. I heard very similar shaming statements all throughout my childhood. I internalized that I am such a failure so naturally I make a mess out of everything I touch..and I have carried this into my marriage. That’s I have had enough of believing that what my husband says is the gospel. He is mean and rude and I take it. This must be his way of staying in control and staying attached to Satan and not God.

    Several times this week he has wanted to be intimate and I refused. Last night I said to him that when you want to be a husband and be in a marriage with me, then I am all yours.

    This morning he said something about regretting how he has been treating me with disdain. He said more, however I didn’t hear it because I could feel myself start to panic. I left the house to go to church because I immediately felt a cloud of panic coming.

    I come home and he barely talks to me, leaves without saying good bye, and talks to me with a tone of voice that makes me feel like I am an idiot.
    Oh God..we really need u in this marriage and home

    Thank u Pam for reaching out to me. I need it

    • Lonely wife on July 13, 2015 at 3:55 am

      Yes Betsy…the same thing happens here. My husband and I haven’t been intimate for over a year…I stopped having sex with him last June…and that all it was…sex.
      Every now and then he’ll ask me how long this is going to continue, and I tell him, “That’s up to you…when I feel safe with you again, when I feel loved by you in the RIGHT way…when I can see that you are working to change yourself, then I can see us having a marriage that is honoring to God, and we can develop intimacy together.”
      His response. “Oh, Ok.”
      And that’s it. He refuses counseling…he refuses to talk to me about anything that could connect us emotionally…I feel he is drawing even farther away from God, not that he has a personal relationship with God anyway…
      I’ll have praise music on in my car…and he turns it off…If I have it on in the house…he turns it off.
      I serve in a few ministries at my church that I really enjoy…he will help me in these ministries…all for show…and complains the whole time there, and wants to leave as soon as we are done.
      I think I’m going to ask him to stop coming with me….it stresses me out to have him complaining the whole time.
      I feel such joy serving others and it hurts me that we can’t share that.
      All my heart desires is to have a Godly husband to lead me and our family.

      • pam on July 13, 2015 at 8:23 am

        Lonely wife, Do you feel you are honoring your husband? Is he difficult or destructive? Can you live well without being bitter? I hear the fun and fulfillment you are enjoying with your church friends and activities. Is there anything in your actions that is keeping your husband from seeing Christ in you? I hear a lot of “I love you if”…..

        • pam on July 13, 2015 at 8:26 am

          Lonely, I re-read you post and now I see the part about his infidelity. That is certainly destructive. Adultery is grounds for divorce. What is stopping you?

          • Lonely wife on July 15, 2015 at 12:37 am

            Pam…I feel that for the time being God wants me to stay in the marriage.
            As for “honoring my husband” he would say NO, but he blames me for everything…after his 2nd emotional affair, the first one occurring only 2 yrs into our marriage, the latest one 4 yrs ago, I do have a hard very time respecting him, I will be honest.
            He is destructive…emotionally manipulative, he lies when it helps him, no matter who he hurts, after his 2nd affair, I tried to be more submissive, more loving and kind…and he soaked it all in and gave NOTHING in return!
            He blamed me for his affair, and has never shown true repentance, only saying “I apologized, now you need to get over it!”
            He’s been diagnosed at Passive Aggressive…if you’re not familiar with PA behavior, google it…PAs are very difficult to live with, never accepting responsibility for their actions, they’ve been called “a boy in a mans body”, and that is true.
            As for living well, I’m trying, LOL! It’s not easy….but I’m doing better now then I was a year ago, so that’s progress.

          • pam on July 15, 2015 at 9:42 am

            Please help me understand why you stay in this situation? Are you bound financially?

  33. pam on July 13, 2015 at 8:04 am

    I hear your love for the Lord. I want to challenge you to imagine stripping away all biblical talk and get to the facts. Are you being loved and respected by your husband? Has her ever or is he now destructive? Where do you see this relationship in 5 years. It is nearly impossible to imagine living in such a relationship without leaning heavily on scriptures and the Lord to survive. The point is that the scriptures are to help you THRIVE, not just survive. Spiritualizing your situation in a coping strategy you are using to endure abuse. Are you familiar with the power and control wheel used to explain abuse?

    • Aleea on July 14, 2015 at 5:03 am

      You say: “. . . .I want to challenge you to imagine stripping away all biblical talk and get to the facts.”
      Okay, I’ll do that. You know what?  . . . I hope we are not talking past each other because that happens a lot with blog comments.  –Remember, in my original post above, I am referring to our guest writer’s husband not my own. I hope that was clear. Anyway, I very much appreciate your comments and questions and I will answer them for myself and my own husband anyway. They made me think, always a worthwhile exercise!  If I have not understood you, please explain more.  As often happens, I never really thought about it your way before.  -Wow, my perspective is often, really, so narrow.  I think (-but I could easily be wrong), I see now what you are saying!  So, let’s honestly walk through this: no special pleading for my side (-as you say: imagine stripping away all “biblical talk”) and no logical fallacies, magical thinking, appeals to emotion, circular reasoning,  This is not easy for me because I do have miles of “biblical talk” but I will give it a go!  . . .So, what does this whole thing look like when the scriptures, re: “biblical talk”, all my psychological overhead re: more “biblical talk”, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are off to the side.  -Okay, I have that whole thought structure off to the side for this thought experiment.  Honestly, here is what I see:  I use scriptures to numb/ anesthetize myself (-Okay, I’ll concede that point, I do.)  More than that, I am using God as a drug too (-yes, Yes I am. I’ll concede that point also.) Those who want to take the Bible seriously (Me, for example, with all my “biblical talk”. -I understand you don’t mean that in a pejorative way!) are caught increasingly by the conflict between Biblical accounts and empirically derived knowledge about personality disorders, neuropsychological issues, etc. Sure, I see that. . . .Alright, I’m leaving the thought experiment now. To me, it is not timeless truth if it needs text deconstruction to fix the culturally, psychologically unacceptable “hard” parts.

      So, your other questions re: my husband not our guest writers husband:
      1) Are you being loved and respected by your husband?  Yes, I am.
      2) Has he ever or is he now been destructive? Yes, he destroys our property (things) when he is angry (mostly his own, for example his bikes.)
      3) Where do you see this relationship in 5 years?  I see that I am healed and that my healing has motivated my husband to heal.  In fact, he may not even need healing if I can heal.

    • pam on July 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

      Beautiful Aleea, You have a gift with the written word. How lovely it is to read your responses. Thank you for running through the thought processes with me. I followed everything you wrote until the very end. Can you really change your husband? I hope you don’t really believe that your transformation will lead to his transform. We can not own another person’s soul and sin, as much as we would like that to occur. God loves your husband even more that you do, let him be God. This man may need some heavy consequences, not more love, to heal. I am also concerned about the destructive behavior. What stops him from hitting you? What does he get out of destroying things? It may take years but eventually just breaking his own things doesn’t give the same buzz it used to. He moves on to other things. He wants Power and Control over a variety of things for complex reasons. Are you, in anyway, covering up for his bad behavior episodes? Does he ever show his “temper” when you are in public? With other men? Of course not, he does these things in secret, because they are not a reaction to emotion, but rather a very well planned explosion, to gain power. Check out Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does he do that? Do you see any other behaviors from this wheel happening in you life. If so, all the self help you do will never, ever fix or change this man. You can’t be the sacrifice for HIS sin.

    • Aleea on July 14, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      You ask: “Can you really change your husband?” . . . .No, you’re absolutely right; I can’t change him but if my husband chooses, God can.  I guess, I always thought I could, maybe, influence him like all of you have influenced me to get better (-go to counseling, -clean my heart, et. al.)  You ask: “What stops him from hitting you?  -I don’t really know but it’s never been an issue.  I don’t know why.  I assume he loves me and is mad at his golf clubs, mower, chainsaw,  “What does he get out of destroying things?”  -That’s an excellent question.  When I have asked him before he says that, -whatever it happens to be chainsaw, lawnmower, golf club, etc.- is garbage.  You go on to say: “It may take years but eventually just breaking his own things doesn’t give the same buzz it used to.  He moves on to other things.  He wants Power and Control over a variety of things for complex reasons.”  -I would have to say that you are correct.  I could easily see that would be the progression, the trajectory but nine years have gone by and I don’t see him progressing with the years.  “Are you, in anyway, covering up for his bad behavior episodes?”  -No, broken things just stay broken and they stay where they were broken for all to see.  No denial, no minimization, no blaming, no escalation.  “Does he ever show his “temper” when you are in public?”  No, and no veiled statements or threats.  “With other men?”  Not that I see but I can ask them.  I really don’t know that.  The theory of the “planned explosion,” to gain power may be true but I never reward that behavior in ANY way (-At least I hope I do not).  When he breaks something, the reward may be that he gets a break from me lecturing about various topics usually related to the Bible.  Hmmm; I’ll have to reflect on that.  I really tend to lecture.  Also, I will check out Lundy Bancroft’s book, I know I have wanted to read it.  “Do you see any other behaviors from this wheel happening in your life?” -Occasionally, he drinks too much and I may be enabling that by letting alcohol in the house.  Other than that, no but that wheel is so extensive and crosses many frameworks so it would be easy to miss things.  “You can’t be the sacrifice for HIS sin.” -I agree, but I have sin issues too.  I want to be the change I want to see in our marriage and the world.  That is why I am in counseling.  He is going next, then together and he has already agreed.
      Pam, here is my operating hypothesis: God without you -won’t. You without God, can’t.  We just can’t get there without the Lord Jesus but at the same time, God will not force us against our wills!  . . . I was thinking today, we want to give God our lousy stinking sins.  What do we think He does with them?  He doesn’t want our sins, He wants our wills, He wants our careers, He wants my selfish heart not to live in selfishness.  . . . I have heard my husband praying in secret (when he thought no one could hear) asking God to reveal himself more to him.  I am sure any step he makes in Jesus Christ, I’m sure that enrages the devil.  If knowledge could change the world, we would’ve changed it long ago.  The real battle is an invisible struggle which we engage against seriously dangerous entities. . . . . So, Luke eighteen verse eight (-and I will take a summer break from N.T. Greek and will do this in French): Je vous dis que bientôt il leur fera justice. Mais quand le fils de l’homme viendra, trouvera-t-il de la foi sur la terre? “. . . When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?  No, HE will not, absolutely not.   
      Thank you Pam!  Excellent questions that really got me thinking.

  34. Deb on July 14, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I have been in an emotionally abusive marriage for years.
    I thought I had to submit to his meanness.
    I was wrong.
    I have thought about a divorce many times but all I hear is how hard divorce is and how hard it is on the children.
    I have been in health decline for a long time so divorce was out and when you do not have money for divorce and dont know how you would take care of yourself and your children, you stay and put up with more than you would normally put up with.
    We have no relationship and have not had one in years. He would blame me but i am not to blame.
    I have loved him when he did not love me back.
    I have pampered him and taken care of him even though he has not cared about me and it showed.
    You know when you are loved and you know when you are not. Actions speak louder than words.

    I regret marrying my husband and I really regret staying married to him, at the advice of many.

  35. Kathy on July 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I applaud those of you who are able to stay and be content. I agree with Leslie that one of the hardest things to give up is the desire for a good marriage, a “real” marriage.

    Like one of the comments above, I have also had the experience of watching everything deteriorate once I stopped dancing to his tune. Once I stood up and stopped reacting, not allowing him to effect me, things deteriorated very quickly. It became clear he never really wanted to work on anything, or stay.

    I don’t have children, but I strongly encourage those of you who do have them and are living in a destructive relationship to take it very seriously. Make the change – either to stay well or to leave for the sake of your children’s futures if you won’t do it for yourself. I was married to someone who had lived through 2 destructive marriages as a child and no one addressed it or dealt with it – some may not even have realized it! It showed in our marriage. The sense of entitlement, the inability to allow others their own opinions and thoughts, the need for total control at all costs… I could go on, but you all know what I’m talking about. Not dealing with it may well ruin your child’s marriage later.

    There are things I may have done differently, but I’m not sure it would have made a difference… they have to be in a place where they are willing to take responsibility for their own mistakes, and that’s hard for them.

    Prayers for all of you who are in this type of situation!

    • Robin on July 14, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Kathy, I love every word and thought you shared- I could have very well written your exact response to this post. I have hesitated to say much before but I feel even if I rattle a few cages- it doesn’t hurt to ask the question. So I address the ladies on this post and ask- what does it really mean to ‘stay well’??? I really stumble over that thought. While I believe it is a viable option as Leslie has pointed out; and while I understand with a very tender heart some of the dillema’s you may be in with small children- I feel I must ask– is it working for you to stay well?? I have asked myself that question many times and never was able to stay in a love-less marriage. I recently was divorced because I grew so weary and was suffering many physical weaknesses because of the constant having to be alert and ready to respond in a way that he can hear truth, while I’m wearing myself out. abusers don’t tend to listen well to truth that could help them but they become very proficient at performing like they want too, to get what they need. I went through a huge struggle of not wanting to be divorced and split my family up. But honestly ‘staying well’ didn’t make sense to me after I became healthy minded and wasn’t willing to be disrespected, treated lowly with no wifely privileges, and just was worn out. Today 3 of my 4 children are alienated from me because of the stand I took against their father. I spoke very real and hard truths in the declaration I wrote for the court. I tell you that so you can see I understand what ‘loss’ is. But I can assure you of this— I did stand well until the pain of staying well was not worth the cost to my family. My children are paying highly today because they grew up in a home where Mom and Dad had no unity and it wasn’t a secret. They were verbally abused and denied most days if their childhoods. I was very good at denying and wanting to believe if I just got help everything would be okay. Ladies it wasn’t okay and it’s not okay today. Yes God has rescued me and He is mending my many wounds. But it all came at a very high price. Please, please, please don’t close your eyes from the true reality happening in your home. If you need to stay well- consider it as an option until you can get healthy enough to move forward. I’m not saying you can’t stay well. I’m asking you to closely look at your situation and ask yourself, am I really staying well. Is this working for my children ?? Measure the cost to your family and know that destructive relationships grow destructive children and families.

  36. Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Aleea & Pam – It may have been helpful to mention that this progressed over nearly 20 years. The last 10 were rapid progressions – mainly because I realized something wasn’t
    “right” and started to gently push back. I want to point out that if you go through the questionnaire Leslie has for abusive relationships and find you are in one – it WILL progress. I denied this for almost 9 years – eventually it became undeniable and it was fortunate that occurred before there was a legal/criminal issue. One thing I’ve learned – if this is the situation you find yourself in, IT WILL KEEP PROGRESSING unless the other party has enough desire to change to do the work ON THEMSELVES – FOR THEMSELVES. You are responsible for yourself, and they are responsible for themselves.

    I want to also mention one other thing – many of you mention the use of sex as a manipulation tool of your partners – that isn’t always true. Sometimes, it it just plain with-held for no given reason. This is definitely against biblical principals, but is harder to “justify” when you’re trying to explain what is going on to a pastor or counselor.

    One final thing – Lundy Bancroft’s book is superb. It is not a biblical perspective, but it is a very clear insight as to what makes these people do what they do… and it’s very understandable – not technobabble.

    • pam on July 15, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Kathy, you speak the truth. Thank you. I think we need to hear more talk about escape plans and how to be prepared to flea in an emergency. I also think it is important to help women get out of denial about the profound way their chaotic households are harming their children. The cycle repeats itself over and over, with new dysfunctions. If one truly loves their children, they must fine the courage to leave. “Staying well is for adults”, it doesn’t apply to children. They can not “stay well”, they are victims of abuse by both Mom and Dad. Unfortunately, their healthier parent made a terrible choice of who to sleep with or who would be a good father, and now they suffer. The healthier parent needs to find the strength and resources to save the children.

    • Aleea on July 16, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Thank you so much.  I will get and read Lundy Bancroft’s book.  I like understandable – not technobabble.  I very much like my counselor but one of the books she suggested “Reclaiming Your Story” . . . well, -it was a hard read. I read it anyeway. Typical sentence: “. . . . We often try to find a regressive solution by attempting to recover the prefixation or uterine state of existence, but this is different from the redemptive state of being free from the idol. . . . .” —I get that but would it not just be easier to say: If you serve idols, you have not surrendered to God.  
      You also say: “I find it very interesting to see how much animal behavior parallels human behavior.”  . . . Evolutionary biologists have models for why all this is happening and they explain lots of the data (–data just meaning husbands and wives behaviors.)  It is not faith affirming but has explanatory scope; explanatory power; plausibility; it is not ad hoc; contains fewer suppositions, etc. . . .Anyway, having good human relations is tough work!

  37. Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 12:59 am

    I feel for you! Passive aggressive can be such a hard thing to deal with. I had that problem too. I could see it – have trained a few horses with that personality trait – but somehow I always expected that he’d see how much it hurt me. It didn’t work – any more than I could expect a horse to see it. I find it very interesting to see how much animal behavior parallels human behavior.

  38. pam on July 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Aleea, the lecturing has to stop, even I find it tiring. I can imagine how your husband must feel having to live with it. Your husband doesn’t value himself. That is why he breaks things when he can’t take another minute of your lecture. Remember the proverb about being “better to live on the roof of the house than to live with a nagging wife?” He hears you, knows a lot of what you are saying is true and it hurts him. He drinks to cover his hurt and feelings of inadequacy too. I like what Kathy wrote though, it WILL progress to greater violence. You haven’t changed the dance enough yet for that to be necessary for him.

    I would like you to think about what you liked to do before you were ever married. When you were a girl, what did you dream of? If you weren’t sucked up in responsibilities what is your passion? Dance, travel, sailing, painting? What is it? Aleea, it is time to live your life and incorporate an childhood dream into reality. You do have the time, yes you do, just cut out all the lecture and biblical obsession thinking and replace it with actually living life. This is a bit harsh, once again this is the difficulty of communicating via a blog, but we are willing to do it because we women in difficulty situations need it.

    • pam on July 15, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Sorry for the grammatical errors in my last post.

    • Susanne on July 15, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Alea and Pam, I can only speak from my own experience, dealing with an abusive husband. It started out one year after we were married. It was emotional, verbal abuse for a long time. Then he started throwing things and pounding his fist, which were very destructive acts of violence. I prayed and prayed. We went to various counselors, separately and together. I went to a Christian counselor (who recommended Leslie’s site to me) and another counselor for some practical information on abuse. The latter one provided me with material, showing me the cycle of abuse. Sure enough, in time, my husband’s anger and rage escalated and he pushed me down so fast and so hard, I didn’t see it coming. I was injured. It took that incident to really open my eyes to the dangers of an abusive man. When I told him I was afraid of him, he said “you’re afraid of me? we’re through”. Of course he denied saying that, among other things. Always denial or blaming someone else. Anyway, though all of this I guess I’m trying to say, yes, just like a drug addict, after awhile, it’s not enough. They want more control and it can become very dangerous than you might ever comprehend. It’s not easy to leave, however, sometimes it’s the best thing to do for your own health and safety, as well as allowing him to suffer the consequences of his own actions.

    • Aleea on July 16, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Sorry for the delay.  . . . . I hear what you are saying and I very much appreciate it.  You are not being harsh, at all.  Absolutely not.  You are speaking truth and that is always refreshing, always good!  Even if it hurts and breaks my heart –and it does.  I am really sensitive and I get weary of the truth too.  Pam, I am just terrified of the trajectory you propose (re: lecturing).  -You see the trajectory, right?  It is post-modern deconstruction of Christianity (RE: Christianity in the no-spin zone.)  You or anyone can write me ( anytime if you want to hear why I use the lecturing to keep all that from coming back.  I don’t ever want to take conversations away from the general blog because everyone is better than anyone but I just don’t think that conversation (-very long, extremely complicated, too depressing, too is helpful to most here and I want to be respectful!  .….That’s a story that takes one (as my counselor Dr. Meier and I just went on) through the gnashing rocks of Christian Orthodoxy all the way to the VERY furthest shores of your imagination. . . . That is one wild ride.  I think we were both in the water multiple times.  But that is what happens when you do your level best to be brave and completely, totally honest (-with no question begging, no special pleading, no magical thinking, etc.)  The truth will set you free but first it will shatter your heart to pieces.

      “When you were a girl, what did you dream of?”  -I wanted to work with animals on a wildlife preserve like Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Then I found out how wild, wild animals really are.  What is your passion?  I have two (-besides the Lord and my immediate family): 1) Corporate Tax Law: mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs, Sections 355 to Section 7428 of the IRS tax code (-somebody has to be passionate about it and it is way cooler than you would think!) and 2) The first 500 years of Christianity (Many scholars have told me during my life that most of the things we know about Christianity’s origins are better left unsaid.  That was all I needed to hear.)
      You say: “Sure enough, in time, my husband’s anger and rage escalated and he pushed me down so fast and so hard, I didn’t see it coming. I was injured.”  -I am so, so sorry.  Horrible, just horrible and I realize that could happen to me.  I’m not too blind to see that but (and here is an excuse) I just feel I have so many other issues that, . . . well, that one has to be third or fourth.  Being knocked down could be worth it if God is involved.  I would gladly be knocked clean off my horse and be blinded for three days like Paul near Damascus to get a chance to talk with Jesus like he did.  Here are the questions I have no answers for: I’m invested in delay because. . . . I don’t take back my power because. . . . .I accept that I am not worth protecting because. . . . I spend all my energy trying because. . . . You know what?  Some of that equipment is junk and deserves what it got.  When you pull that chainsaw cord 50 plus times after the shop has rebuilt it, well, maybe it is a piece of garbage.  I lessen the blame for my husband because. . . . . I have no answer to that question either.  I am invested in blanking out and delay because. . . I just don’t know.  We are working on all that in counseling but it is as slow as molasses.

  39. Samella on July 15, 2015 at 10:32 am

    A couple of thoughts on staying well…some men are never ever going to change and it’s important to figure out if your husband can or cannot change. (As a believer, I know that God is sovereign and can do anything. So, what I’m talking about is in the realm of what is real right now, not what might someday be possible with a gracious God.)

    Some men seem to be hurting and in need of help but don’t know anything different from their destructive ways. They need educated. If they are humbled somehow, I think they can change. Other men seem to be just plain evil. Prayers, love, trying harder… won’t make any difference.

    Women who love destructive men usually aren’t good at figuring out what kind of men they have. That’s where community helps. Other people often can see what we can’t. Ask for input. You might be surprised.

    One resource I also found helpful was The Human Magnet Syndrome by Ross Rosenberg. He had a chart of different kinds of destructive people. It helped me pinpoint where my husband was. That gave me hope that he could change and he actually has been changing because of an awesome counselor. That has given me real hope to stay well.

  40. Kathy on July 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Samella – Praise God! It’s so encouraging to hear a “turn-around” story – even if its still in progress. You are so right in saying that some don’t know anything different. It’s hard to face that some won’t/cannot change, but most do not. I will pray that it continues for you!

  41. Angie on July 20, 2015 at 10:18 am

    After 15 terrible married years I became a Christian …I thought great every thing will be ok soon….wrong….I really wanted to walk with God I knew the bible said God hated divorce…..I really tried…hard. After about 15 years as a Christian God revealed a sin which really wasn’t helping our situation to finally get my attention it had to be an audible voice…….with practice I overcame the sin things improved a little.then after 40 years God revealed via quite a few startling co incidences that my H was Asperger……my heart softened some…..what I want to point out here and what nobody really ever talks about is we have an enemy…..whose job it is to kill steal and destroy….our eyes hearts and ears are so often kept in darkness by the enemy of our souls……..even the saintly Daniel had his prayers interfered with……

  42. betsy on July 22, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Alene, thank you for sharing. Setting boundaries is very scary. YIKES!!! I have started to have the confidence to speak up for myself and it feels great. Not everyday am I am able to follow through with setting boundaries or speaking up for myself. I am learning that when I allow things to happen, or not happen, or things are said and don’t stand up for myself, that God grieves for me. I need to learn how to be a brave woman and have a voice.

  43. Pamela on July 26, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Hello Dear Ladies,
    One of the last things my closest friend said to me a few months before she died this last May was “I wasn’t strong enough to say NO!”

    I am new to this blog. I first heard about Leslie’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, last year when hearing her interviewed on Christian radio. I got and read the book immediately. I then suggested my best friend read it also. She did, and was blown away by the truths it holds. We had very meaningful discussions concerning how the truths in this book related to us. I was then finally convinced that All men don’t act the way my husband did! IT WASN’T RIGHT!!

    FINALLY, my thoughts about my very painful marriage were confirmed and explained. My pastor and prayer group friends had been no help. I had tried to explain to them what was happening but they were clueless as to how to address my struggles. I had had counseling off and on since 2006 and I’ve been on anti-anxiety meds, for years.
    I hope what I have to say will in some way help my sisters in Christ who suffer in a fearful, lonely marriage.

    Next month will be my 49th wedding anniversary.
    The first 10 years were acceptable. After our daughter was born my husband began to change. The next 8 years were difficult, almost ending with me committing suicide due to severe depression. I was only 38 years old at the time.I was utterly without hope; afraid of my husband’s outbursts and verbal abuse. But I didn’t know that all husbands weren’t like that. My Dad had been like that also. I was intimidated by both of them. I lost a lot of weight, looking anorexic due to the stress. Counseling didn’t help. I finally got enough nerve to leave my husband for awhile.

    Neither my husband or I was a Christian at the time. After reading the book Love Life, by Christian author Dr. Wheat, my husband had a change of heart and talked me into moving back home. It was during the next year that we both became believers. He treated me with love and respect for the next 20 or so years.

    Then we moved to another city where he became involved with local politics and put me on the back burner, so to speak. He was taken advantage of and betrayed by people in the community. He turned his disillusionment and anger toward me, thus beginning again the cycle of abusive behavior.
    Now, to make the rest of this as short as possible: I have spent the last 10 years or so trying to to make my marriage better, praying for God to heal it…reading books, the Bible, getting counseling, trying to change my husband and coming to terms that only an act of God will heal his hurts and make him into a loving husband again. I have tried to be a “better” wife, trying to be understanding, the martyr, even cooking the way his mother cooked! (once).. being the good Christian wife. He would control himself for a little while, but it never lasted fore more that 2 months. My health has suffered terribly, always living in FEAR of the next outburst.
    My counselor and friends would say, “So what if he gets mad .Let him”. But what they didn’t understand is that it was so incredibly frightening for me to have this big guy stand there and yell at me, the negative body language, throwing things, banging things around, twisting things around, making things appear they were my fault, or when it was obviously his fault, he would seldom say he was sorry.

    Well, the following is how I finally got my SPINE! This last Spring I was weaning off my Zoloft (planning on changing to Prozac, for my lack of enough Serotonin) when I began to have feelings of being more easily irritated and a greater lack of patience. We were on a month long cruise in the Mediterranean. My husband was tired and was acting like a jerk, making our outings stressful for all in our party Normally I wouldn’t have said anything to him or if I did it would have been done sheepishly. BUT my new found boldness made me take him aside and in no uncertain terms tell him that we were ALL tired but we were all trying to make the best of it. I actually told him his “shitty” attitude wasn’t helping! (I never swear, so this really surprised both of us!) Well, was he ever shocked !. He stayed on the ship the next 2 days sleeping and whatever (missing Rome and the Cinque Terra:( ). BUT, after that he acted agreeably the rest of the trip. I came home with a new found sense of boldness.
    I found out when I came home that my closest friend had died two days before my return. I was and am still devastated. Then I helped my precious daughter ( only child) move to Maui. So.. the last 1 1/2 months I have been mourning the loss of my one close friend, the closeness of my daughter, and the realization that I well never have a loving peaceful marriage..Feeling very much alone and deserted.
    BUT, I have learned that it’s sooo worth standing up to my husband! I will NEVER allow him to get away with mistreating me again.
    Again, my best friend, Debi, said to me “I wasn’t strong enough to say NO”. She was, and I am also convinced, so worn down by her husband and family that her immune system was not able to fight the onslaught of the cancer. I have determined in my heart and soul that I will not EVER allow myself to be yelled at or manipulated by my husband of anyone else, for that matter, again. It’s not right for me to enable him to continue to sin just because of my fear. God does NOT want me to do that!

    Debi was a great lover of her Jesus. With a great amount of faith in her Saviour. She would often end her letters and texts to me with the words “LOVE YOU MORE” Well, my dear Debi here’s to you! May your life and death be a sounding board and a reminder to my new friends and I that there is purpose in everything, yes, and at the same time we must LEARN AND GO FORWARD WITH SPINE!!

    • Leslie Vernick on July 27, 2015 at 8:18 am

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m doing a free webinar on depression on Thursday August 6th and I think so many women become depleted and depressed living in these toxic homes. It’s so important that we find our spine – our voice and stand up to abuse and destructive behavior. Sometimes when we do, it does shock someone awake to realize that their behavior is unacceptable and destructive.

      • Pamela on July 27, 2015 at 4:32 pm

        Hi Leslie,
        I would like to participate in your upcoming webinar on Depression. My doctor and therapist have both told me I am suffering from moderate depression at this time. (Loss of my best friend, my daughter’s company and hope of a loving marriage)
        I am not seeing on your website how to sign up for the webinar. How can I do this?
        Thanx, Pamela

  44. Greta on August 23, 2015 at 10:16 am

    My story is similar. I’ve lived in an emotionally destructive marriage for almost 24 years. A few years ago I surrendered to God and started setting boundaries and working on myself. So freeing and empowering! My husband still wants to do marriage the old way itand I refuse. The biggest challenge is my aching for a loving marriage, for my husband to love me and cover me and he just doesn’t know how and refuses to learn. I’m concerned about the kids and what they are learning as “normal” as they see parents who don’t have a marriage. I feel exhausted from living on the guard everyday because I never know what crazy thing my husband will come up with to bait me. It’s exhausting to do everyday life with a teenage child and a busy household carrying this burden.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 24, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      Yes it is exhausting. Make sure you have plenty of support and anchor yourself in God’s love and care for you.

      • Greta on September 21, 2015 at 11:37 am

        At this point I don’t know what to do. We had separated for me to heal from his affair and for both of us to work on ourselves. He moved back in when it was thought we were ready to put a new marriage back together. All of this under the guidance of a counselor. Over the last year and the half he has gone back to do marriage the old way. How do I deal with a husband that seemed like he had made heart changes but now he has regressed? I have refused to engage with him emotionally because he is emotionally unsafe and if we are not emotionally connected, I can’t be sexually engaged because I won’t put my legitimate needs as a woman aside and pretend his sinful behavior is not happening. But I don’t know what boundary to implement or if I should give him an ultimatum. Progress towards a healthy marriage has been so slow the last 1-1/2 years.

  45. Hopeful on September 21, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Greta I certainly relate to the slow progress. Through out my marriage trial, several women have told me that the healing and change takes several months, even years.

    My situation is a bit different, but I know that I slip back into old behavior as well.I am not sure what us happening with your husband and his behavior. Does he have an accountability partner? Keeping you in prayer. This is such a difficult time.

  46. Greta on September 21, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Thank you for your response. He has no accountability. He stopped seeing our counselor and going to church. He is not in any support group. I’ve learned it’s not my job to tell him what he needs to do to grow. I set my boundaries and I wait on the Lord.

    • Hopeful on September 22, 2015 at 5:30 am


      ..setting boundaries and waiting on in the Lord is the best thing to do. I am learning how to do this as well. I want God to do something NOW…however I am learning that throughout the wait, God continues to refine me which is good for my spiritual growth. I am learning that whether my martiage makes it or not…I WILL MAKE IT AND BE OKAY.

      keeping you in prayer. let Go and Let God.

  47. Hope on November 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    This is SO encouraging! Thank you!

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