I Feel Guilty For Setting Boundaries

leslies parents










Good morning friends,

I’m in Chicago visiting my parents just before I head out to Grand Rapids to speak at Ada Bible Church Tuesday night. If you’re in the area, I would love to meet you. If you’d like to attend, go to dschwarz@adabible.org to sign up. I’ll be speaking on Building Healthy Relationships and Recognizing Destructive Ones.

This week’s question: I’ve read you book and blogs and I’m ready to say some hard words to my husband and implement tough consequences for his abuse and controlling behaviors if he won’t change. But I’m wrestling with feelings of guilt. For so many years I’ve endured his abuse and mistreatment; why am I wrestling with feelings of guilt? After all this time and all the destructive behavior, why do I feel bad about telling him the truth and finally setting boundaries? What is wrong with me? I feel like a bad wife and Christian. Can you help me gain some clarity?

Answer: Your question blends beautifully with this month’s newsletter, Nine Tactics of Manipulators. One of those tactics is guilt trips, and those of us who have been captured by the fear of man worry what other people think of us. We often feel guilty when we do something we know they won’t like or if they express anger, disapproval or disappointment for the thoughts we have, the desires we express or the stand we’ve taken. Obviously your husband is not going to like that you are going to be setting some boundaries or saying “no more” to some of his controlling and abusive behaviors

The question we all must wrestle with is, Does loving someone in a godly way require that we never say no? Does it mean we always put the other person’s needs, wants and feelings above our own? For a wife, it can be difficult to say no to her husband. After all, we want him to be happy. We’ve also been taught that submission means we give in to what our husband wants even if we have to sacrifice our own needs or dreams.

In addition, some of us find it very hard to disappoint people. It seems selfish to say no, yet you know you’re starting to feel uneasy and angry inside because it seems like you’re always the one sacrificing to meet the needs and wants of others. And, these same people never sacrifice their own desires to meet your needs or give you what you want. In addition, you may feel afraid to say no and pressured to always give in. As we grow to understand biblical love better, we learn that sometimes it’s not only appropriate to say no, but wise and right.

Manipulators define love in a skewed way. They say, “If you loved me, you’d do what I want”. Two year olds use this tactic on their mothers to get her to buy them something while standing in line at the grocery store. Most mothers are wise enough not to be manipulated by these tantrums. Nor do they feel guilty when they say no to their child. We know we can love our child and say no at the same time. We know that a firm “no” to our child is the most loving thing we can do. The same is true for other relationships. Saying “no” to manipulation is actually taking a stand against someone’s sin and selfishness. This is a good thing!

When the manipulator is a husband, friend or adult child who has a tantrum, it’s much harder not to get sucked into his or her drama. When he accuses us of being unloving and selfish because we’re not giving into his demands, we’re tempted to feel guilty. It’s tough to stay clear minded and firm under that kind of pressure.

How to Move Beyond Guilt:

If we want to break free from the trap of guilt, we must learn to distinguish the difference between true guilt and false guilt. Healthy guilt is a God given warning signal that we are violating his moral law. Unhealthy guilt results when we or another human being judges our actions, ideas or feelings as wrong, even if there is nothing sinful about them.

You are struggling because you are not sure if your guilt feelings are from God or because you know your husband will disapprove and continue to pressure you to do what he wants. First, we need to pray and ask God to search us and know our anxious thoughts and see if there is any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24). We can trust the Holy Spirit to bring to mind if there is anything we need to repent of or do differently. For example, sometimes God reveals to us that we have a growing heart of resentment toward our husband that we need to repent and let go of, but letting go of our own resentment and forgiving our spouse doesn’t mean continuing to enable his selfishness, manipulation or control to grow. This is not good for him, for you or for your marriage.

Jesus never violated God’s moral law so he was never guilty, but he refused to accept false guilt about disappointing people who expected otherwise. Jesus never equated love with being accommodating.

On the other hand, perhaps your guilt is really masking some fear. From your conservative Christian background, it may “feel” like you are doing the wrong thing by standing up for yourself. But you are standing up for truth, against injustice and abuse of power. You aren’t just standing up for yourself, but for your children and for your marriage. That is nothing to feel guilty about.

Friends, please share how you’ve broken free from the manipulator who uses guilt trips to keep you quiet, accommodating and passive.



  1. mommyof3 on April 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I completely understand this question and have had lots of issues with feeling “false guilt” myself. My husband and I recently separated and I wrestled with the guilt of what this would do to my children (I have 3 of them). What kind of guilt would my husband put on me? How would I feel since my whole life I never believed in separation? I’ve learned through Leslie’s teaching and other Christian resources that when in an emotional abusive/destructive relationship when you’ve tried everything else, sometimes you must take that hard step and separate. It took me over a year to get to that point because of the “guilt” I felt from all sides. Yes, it is hard, but is being treated disrespectfully and less than what you deserve any better? What does that teach our children who are learning from what they see?

    As I continue each day, yes it is hard. My in laws now see me as the “bad guy” and that is where some of the guilt comes in, but I must remember that what I am doing is for the best for all of us. I guess it was okay with them that their son treat me and his kids abusively as long as we stayed together..that’s what their family did!

    Can I recommend a book that I think you find very helpful. It is “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft. This is a great book for those of us going through emotional abuse. Prayers your way!

    Try and remember it IS hard to stand up to those who mistreat us, but I truly believe the alternative is MUCH worse!

    • Leslie Vernick on April 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Lundy Bancroft’s book is truly an eye opener for many women who have been in destructive marriages but it’s also been helpful to some men who are willing to take a look at themselves and work toward changing those patterns of entitlement.

      • mommyof3 on April 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm

        Yes, this was an eye opener for me and so was his other book, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” Two wonderful resources Leslie, but I have to say that your book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship has been a life savor for me. I’ve read it 2 times all the way through and refer to it all the time! Thank you for all that you do for those of us in destructive relationships!!!!

    • Gina on April 16, 2013 at 2:34 am

      I originally began to break free by attending a Christian 12-step recovery and codependency program, where I gained a sense of worth and objectivity regarding my situation. I highly recommend this. However, since breaking free from abuse is a spiritual battle, for me it has been an ongoing process where I experience gains and losses.

      I have appreciated Leslie’s explanation of a woman risking suffering for doing the right thing of speaking truth into her husband’s life (as opposed to passively suffering in silence). I have been doing this and AM experiencing suffering as a result, but it is better to know I’m suffering for doing good rather than for doing nothing.

      I am currently reading Bancroft’s book. It is very helpful. Gals, I must warn you, HIDE THIS BOOK! Unfortunately, my husband found it and is now using it against me. He diminished it as a feminist book while feeling personally validated by reading part of it. (Which type of logical fallacy is THAT?) He victimized himself (again) and applied the book to ME rather than to HIMSELF!

      He is convinced I am a “water torturer” (one of the abusive types listed in the book). He is convinced that my backing up relationally (his translation – withholding sex) is abusive revenge; that my seeking help is actually lying to people to convince them he is a bad person while I am good; that my speaking truth is instead manipulating him to believe he is wrong; and therefore I am abusive – a “water torturer”. His words do put doubt in my head about myself. I know I have sinned as well in my marriage, so AM I a “water torturer”? Is he right? How do I know? Should I admit to this? Is my husband mentally ill, or am I, or both? I hate being in this position (been here before), but then doesn’t he feel the same way? False or true guilt? It’s mentally torturous!

      My husband has also sought (unwise) counsel from his recovering alcoholic mother to get reassurance that he is normal while I am not. (So much for leaving and cleaving.) Unfortunately this shows me he still has worldly sorrow rather than Godly sorrow, so of course I will remain backed up from him until he proves otherwise.

      I feel afraid – again. We have 3 precious children as well. My face is swollen from crying. Have I broken free? Yes and no. It’s a spiritual battle. Gains and losses. Thankful for God’s grace in both. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will (gulp) fear no evil – for my true Husband is with me.

      • Leslie Vernick on April 16, 2013 at 7:38 am

        Gina you give a good example of the crazy making that goes on. No you are not perfect. So there could be elements of truth in the things your spouse accuses you of. THat’s where it becomes fuzzy. Because you do look within and are willing to take responsibility, an abusers accusations of wrong-doing on your part do make you question yourself (rightly so), but then that’s where it starts to break down. You then become responsible for the entire marital breakdown. You are the one abusing him. You are the one who is grossly sinning against him while he has been innocent – doing no wrong. Keep going to your support group. Without fresh air and godly wisdom it’s easy to get muddled and confused. Thanks for sharing.

      • Sojourner on April 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm

        Dearheart I am right. there. with. you! There is so much confusion in breaking free from this! Why are we here in the first place? My thought is an overly sensitive conscience got us here and unless we learn to listen to what God says instead of how we feel or what others tell us, we will continue these same patterns (Psalm 3:5-6). It is spiritual battle, I know if I stop one second from saturating myself in prayer and His Word, I’m going to have a bad day!

        Something else I feel God has given me is Prov 22:24-25
        “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
        do not associate with one easily angered,
        or you may learn their ways
        and get yourself ensnared.”
        I must confess, I have learned some of his ways and I NEED to stay walking in the spirit to keep from continuing those patterns. My husband is QUICK to point out when I make a mistake! My poor children! When I loose my temper with them I am quick to repent and even ask them to pray for me. —– THAT is the difference! My husb does not offer repentance and for years had me convinced that I was wrong (acting as God) to even suggest it.

        I would guess your husb is similar to mine in that he has is quite self-centered (don’t get me wrong my husband can do some very nice things for me- but it is usually just in playing the role of the loving husband). One of the “crazy making” tactics mine uses is tears, never with an apology or admittance of guilt. I realized that as much as my heart goes out to him, his tears (and almost everything he does) is about himself. Realizing that helps me not treat him like a little lost puppy. He’s NOT! I am quick to forgive and forget, in a healthy relationship that would be a blessing. However, I am seeing that while I need to continue forgiving, I also need to remember all he has done that he has not owned. If he has not owned it, he will not change it and we’re just waiting for the behaviors to resurface because the attitudes are the same. So, I need to remember.

        Just last night after a sweet embrace, I brought up his sin (in a very loving tender way) and he snapped right out of his “loving husband” role to the “accuser”. Firing back with “what are YOU going to do to fix YOUR problems”. I was able to respond by telling him that abuse & adultry are not the same as domestic imperfections, but I did walk away questioning myself. “maybe it is me? What if he’s right? Am I ruining a good marriage by being demanding? Am I just giving into my flesh and the worldly lies of feminisim? I SO want to be a godly wife and reflect Christ’s Kingdom to a lost and dying world! Maybe,like Eve, I have been deceived?”
        It is HARD to break free when you are constantly told why you think and feel what you do!

        Its even harder when people don’t believe you and excuse the abuse as him just being a guy, you being overly sensitive, wanting to userp his authority, etc, etc, and then telling you that your job as a wife is to ONLY look at yourself and work on the log in your eye (for the rest of your life…) and grow in godliness by better submission. The twisted lies from hell! They are an assault against who God created us to be AND they keep our husbands, families and churches BOUND! No wonder we are in the state we are in! I have heard for YEARS that our country is a mess because of the breakdown of the family unit (translated divorce). Maybe it IS because of the breakdown of the family, maybe it is the preservation of brokendown families that leave them paralized to effectively do Kingdom work. Wives and children oppressed and husbands bound in sin. All with the church’s stamp of approval! Maybe THAT is the problem!
        Can we pray for eachother?

      • Elayne on May 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm

        Remember it is only a Shadow of death. Even tho it feels like death. I in same place after 36 yrs. more than half my life. GOD will show u each step to take . Be patient w yourself and learn boundaries

        • Gina on May 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

          Thanks for your encouragement, Elayne. Sorry to hear of your long-time situation as well.

          I have been learning to set boundaries with my husband for the last 5 of 17 years of marriage. Like Leslie said in an above post, I am frequently just mentally & emotionally worn out – “boundary fatigued”, as they call it in my church’s recovery program. I feel like I have to spend so much of my energy setting boundaries with my husband and surviving my marriage that I am less effective in other areas such as motherhood, homeschooling, ministry outside the home, and hospitality. I don’t intend to portray myself as a victim here – I consider myself an overcomer now; but it’s just the reality of my situation – I’m worn out.

          Like I imagine all of you wives in these situations do, I mourn the loss of the God-designed marriage relationship I have longed for. Though I must frequently refocus my center and inner peace on the Lord Himself rather than on my desire for a joyous and harmonious marriage, it still hurts to have to constantly set boundaries with rather than just be able to enjoy one’s husband, and then be blamed for not loving him when I do so.

          It is comforting to meet other women in similar situations. I have not found this in my circle of friends at church. I appreciate the camaraderie!


          • janet on May 14, 2013 at 11:09 am

            Hi Gina, I liked the way you described the loss in your life due to another’s sin and how it has affected you. I like the way your described boundary fatigue and I can relate to your inability to be supported within your church body. that problem in itself is also painful to experience and also a loss. I also loved mostly how you acknowledged and spoke real truths about what is happening in your life without being cruel and ugly. thank you for sharing this, it validates what I am going through and helps ease the crazy making. I know that our wonderful lord will continue to guide us in his truths. I see you breaking free from lies and it is so awesome to witness and is a great encouragement to me! thank you so much for sharing. it is very helpful to me. your sister in Christ. janet

          • Gina on May 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

            Thank you for your sweet and encouraging response, Janet. I pray for God to strengthen you in your journey and comfort you in your pain and loss. Yes, it IS so refreshing and empowering to be able to recognize the lies. We can praise God for that!

          • janet on May 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm

            amen sister…hallelujah

  2. Linda Stoll on April 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    This is super, Leslie! The enemy of our souls {and our marriages} heaps on the guilt til it’s like a thick, wet, heavy blanket that immobilizes us.

    But the Holy Spirit convicts of specific sins to which we can repent and move ahead with confidence and freedom.

    What a huge difference!

  3. edee on April 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    For 30 years i gave into a manioulater. Until there was no me. The pattern gets worse along with the abuse. I finally found a christian therapist who taught me that i was important to god and by allowing this childish behavior i was saying i have no value other than making this person happy. I thimk my fear came from knowing if i said no that he would leave. And he did, he found someone while we were still married. Then i realized this person i put so much importance in was really my idol. Now thats some hard words. But jesus has carried me through this and though ive lost my marriage. Ive gained my true identity in god. I took the risk! thank you lord1 As far as guilt goes you overcome it with truth!

    Rescued by Jesus

    • Leslie Vernick on April 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      You’re so right – the pattern gets worse if you don’t stop it. The problem is we try to change the other person instead of changing ourselves to not be such victims again and again. I’m glad you found a good therapist who helped you know the diffence between helping somoene grow and enabling someone to continue in dysfunctional and sinful patterns.

      • Sojourner on April 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        “The problem is we try to change the other person instead of changing ourselves”

        TRUE! I’m just starting to see this. I didn’t think I was trying to change him because I was doing what I was advised and working on me. BUT, I was not learning to protect or develop what God had created in me, I was learning to throw that away and supress (ie “submit”) so that he would be a better husband. Talk about “crazy making”!

        • standing up on April 21, 2013 at 11:12 am

          Sojourner, Wow, can I relate to your story! I’ve been married 26 years to an emotionally abusive man. I’ve tried everything to “fix” him & attempt to create some normalcy in our home- with 4 kids. I’ve tried being more submissive, more loving, more sexy, more firm (in words only) with very little change.
          The fear of abandonment that I carry from childhood has kept me stuck. It wasn’t until I had 2 years of counseling for mother abandonment that I coulod see how that affected other areas of my life, namely my marriage. I had such a fear that he would leave if I took too big of a step- like going to the elders of my church for help, or separating. I had such a fear of what it would be like to be separated- lonely, traumatic. But that is such a lie from the evil one! My two kids still at home & myself separated 3 months ago from my husband & it has been peaceful!! We can enjoy each others company & be loving & have a peaceful environment! My husband has refused to take ownership of anything & refused to go to counseling- but in the last few weeks has finally initiated counseling on his own. He knows I’m serious this time!
          What I mainly wanted to share with you & others- struggling with the idea of SUBMISSION- search for this on the internet & read: “What Does ‘Submit in Everything’ Really Mean? The Nature & Scope of Marital Submission” by Steven Tracy. Very important read! Submission in scripture has been wrongly interpreted by many well-meaning Christians.

          • Leslie Vernick on April 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm

            Standing Up – I too found Steven Tracy’s article very helpful and recommend others read it. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “firm words” didn’t result in any change. Only firm consequences will. I wish our words carried more weight with these kinds of individuals but they don’t or won’t until they see we mean them by follow through with firm actions/consequences.

          • standing up on April 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

            I should have mentioned- I daily must be in prayer & in the Word to combat the lies & be directed by the Lord for the next step! I love Meredith Andrews song & lyrics- “not for a moment, will You forsake me”!!

          • standing up on April 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

            Ms Vernick- How honored I am to receive your comment. I have the utmost respect for you- after devouring your book: “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship”. It has been a life saver for me! And so wonderful to find a resource full of scripture for this issue! I have passed it on to others, including the pastors at my church, where they have struggled & sometimes failed to know how to come alongside women in the church in destructive relationships. They are studying it! : ) Thank you for your boldness & interest in offering help & wisdom!!

          • Leslie Vernick on April 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

            You’re most welcome. For those who might want more study help on my book,I have written a study guide to go with the book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. It’s on a CD so you can put it in your computer and print as many study guides as you like – in case you want to do it as a small group or a pastoral staff wants to use it as such. It’s on my website, store page.

          • janet on April 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm

            standing up, i love what you have written, i can relate also… i have also studied submission… i have found in these studies that many well meaning christians who are our brothers and sisters have not been the bereans that they needed to be. instead they have taken the word of many who came before them without studying this on their own. what helped me most was observing the relationship between god and jesus. what i observe with god is how he
            respects jesus and all of us. (how could our great god respect us all like this when we don’t deserve this is still baffling to me)god does not throw his weight around which he could, god does not dismiss my thoughts and opinions, god does not force me to do his will for his own good and growth. there is so much more to describe about our fabulous lord…but just observing our relationship with god, just that in itself removes all this submission lies and bondages. just as this submission lies creates bondages for women, the man is also in bondage because he is not growing in the likeness of god. god is so wonderful and the more we grow to know his character the more free we become. god’s truth sets us free and he speaks to each of us, not just to pastors.
            god is faithful and will open the doors if we knock. another good book on this subject is craig Keener, Paul, Women and Wives. he is a real berean. much of christianity and even judaism has been so strongly influenced by philosophy. the best way to have any relationship is simply observing the relationship that god has with his people and it is very clear how to behave with one another. i am so blessed with this conversation. let’s remember that it is not just women who are in bondage but men too with this falsehood of submission. god is just so faithful and awesome.

      • Sojourner on April 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm

        Standing up,
        A thought I was just sharing with a friend as i tried to explain what is going on in my life right now (separating from husband and being judged & rejected by many around us);

        “‘ when you stand up and say “No. That’s not right. I will not allow it.’ There are many who will tell you that, in the name of love sit down and be quiet! When you don’t, you add to the list of people you have offended by not ‘submitting’ to them.”

        We may become very good at submitting, but if we are submitting to evil, how can that please God???

  4. Dora Mat on April 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    As I read this, I am working on overcoming fear of man. I have been told that I often take the part of a door mat. I never would have thought that to be true, but now I can see it. I usually just “help out” people without giving it a thought. My husband screamed at me the other day and said “that’s enough! and “just say another word”. I don’t think he would ever hurt me physically… but someone asked me how I felt when he said that to me and I never had thought about that before… I just thought well he’s struggling with something and I walked away…

    But I felt hurt – worthless, inferior, rejected, etc.. coming to realize that I just do things to please people, but meanwhile my needs aren’t getting met, my identity is damaged, and it’s affecting all other areas in my life. So now I am trying to learn to be more assertive and set up those boundaries and express my needs… like help with the housework! I believe that becoming assertive and washing “welcome” off my back is going to bring me Freedom in many ways!

    I really want to hear more about manipulation, does the news letter come through this blog?

    • Leslie Vernick on April 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      My newsletter can be received by signing up for the free webinar Does God Want me to be Happy which is on my home page of my website, top right hand corner. You receive the webinar and then receive my newsletter twice a month. You’ll find lots of extra news there you won’t want to miss. I will be doing a free webinar on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage that you won’t want to miss on May 15th, so sign up for the newsletter and all the details will be in there.

  5. janet on April 16, 2013 at 8:14 am

    i think all that you are seeing in yourself and your relationship is a great sign of your growing spiritual health and emotional health and you are well on your way to learning and growing from what the spirit is going to teach you. what helped me with the unhealthy guilt is knowing who i was in christ and what christ said about me. then when the manipulation came i just compared this to what christ said. if it didn’t line up, it was incorrect. i also only allowed trusted healthy people to comment for my growth and insight into my situation. leslie vernick’s site was one of them and my good friend jeannette and jann and april were the others. you can do this for your well being and for that of your family which ironically includes your husband. it is also for his well being, it is a way that he can be sanctified also because natural consequences teach alot. hang in there and remember what and who you are in christ. a loved child, a forgiven child, a teachable child a smart child a valued child in a healthy relationship with a faithful father who always listens and who he himself will not be controlled or manipulated for our sake. this is a good model to follow of how someone should treat you. your sister in christ janet

    • Deb H on April 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Janet – Thank you for the words “remember what and who you are in christ. a loved child, a forgiven child, a teachable child a smart child a valued child in a healthy relationship with a faithful father who always listens and who he himself will not be controlled or manipulated for our sake”

      I will post this for a daily reminder at my work desk and I know it will give my the lift I need daily and sometimes hourly!

      • janet on April 16, 2013 at 5:38 pm

        i think we just experienced how god never wastes a hurt..
        thank you for the blessing.

  6. Sandra on April 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

    March 9,2012 I separated from my husband because of emotional abuse. I read The Wizard of Oz and the other Narcissist and was overwhelmed at how much he emulated the narcissist role. In the 9 common tactics of Manipulators he is at least 1 to 4 of every one of the topics. I have set boundaries and for the most part it has helped me regain sanity. The main boundary of returning to the home is that we go to counseling. I have been going but he has excuse after excuse of why he can’t go. He has started drinking and smoking again and has stated that he will quit if I come back home. My response to that was, “That is something you can only do, I can’t do it for you”. One year and one month, And I am clinging to my Savior. The song that ministers to me the most is “While I’m waiting” by John Waller Thank you for your Blog! Be Blessed

    • Brenda on April 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      I encourage you to continue clinging to your Saviour, Sandra; He is the Source of everything you need as you continue to build your life with Him as your solid Foundation. Until your husband learns that he, and not you or anyone else, is responsible for his drinking and smoking and ALL of his problems, he will not stop his manipulation. Without this understanding, he will not take responsibility for his life, but, instead, will continue to place his anger and the onus for his difficulties onto whoever is near him and is willing to receive his abuses. I am glad you are no longer willing to be that person, Sandra.

  7. Deb H on April 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I am going through the process of ‘finding me’ as I have felt lost for so long. I am trying to decide if my marriage can work or not. I don’t think it will as the issues we have are ones my spouse does not wish to change but he now knows that I am healing and getting stronger and standing up for what is right in our marriage. I appreciate the comments as the one from mommyof3 really hits home for me. I feel the marriage is no longer able to be saved but I am afraid to leave due to the guilt his family will push on me. His mother is already doing so knowing that we haven’t been getting along. My husbands manipulation is him telling me that he has always been this way and he isn’t going to change. He tells me it is me that changed. Well, yes, I have! I am a stronger more independant woman that is standing up for what is right. Not only what is right for me but what is right for my children and my spouse. It isn’t right for him to be stuck with me if I am miserable just like it isn’t right for me to be stuck with him making me miserable. He has a way of making me feel like everything is my fault and that I cannot do anything right. I am sure if we separate this will be my fault as well. Now that I am looking at this from the correct angle I will accept blame as I want the best for each of us in this situation and if some of us find happiness that is a blame I am ok with.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Deb, You can say something to your husband like “Yes I have changed. I want to be the person God calls me to be and that means seeking and speaking truth, not pretending or covering up wrong doing whether it is in myself or in others. I would hope you would want them same. If not, I’m not going backwards. That’s not healthy for me, for you, or for our children.” Then let God speak to him from there.

    • mommyof3 on April 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Deb H, don’t let your husband twist anything around on you. I know it’s hard, but you know what is right and what’s not. Be strong, pray and let God lead you down the right path for you. Only you know that and try not to worry about what ANYONE says!

  8. Patricia Mallory on April 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Just stay in touch with christian counseling and rely on God thru His word and support groups to keep you from getting beat down over and over. Patricia

  9. Brenda on April 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    It is so very important to set boundaries for yourself as to what you will and will not receive as acceptable behavior from another, be that words or actions, and even attitudes. I am writing as the wife of a wonderful husband who had the strength to stand firm and set these boundaries at a time in our marriage when I was the one abusing him verbally and emotionally in our marriage. If he had not done this, while at the same time, supporting and encouraging me in the positive steps I made to move forward to make improvement, I know our marriage would not have survived, and I would still be raging and manipulating others today.

    Leslie, I used nearly every one of the tactics of manipulators you listed in this newsletter, both against my husband and against my friends; it was their ability to stand firm in the love of God, along with their refusal to enable me to continue with these unhealthy methods of communication, that helped me to find newness of life, in addition to one other major thing my husband and friends did, for which I can never thank them enough: they encouraged and supported me to pray, to read the Word of God, and to attend a good, Bible-believing church. In addition, I sought out godly Christian counselling that was based on the Bible. In all of these things, my husband has accompanied me and fully participated. Without the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I would never have found the healing in my heart and in my marriage, for it was in looking into God’s Word, as in a mirror, and realizing how far off the mark I was – as a woman and a wife – from the person God had created me to be that really motivated me to ask Jesus to transform me by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. I also wanted to return the patient love that I saw my husband giving to me, and which I knew I did not deserve in any way; for to me, he was “Jesus with skin on;” I only wanted an opportunity to love him back in a similar fashion, rather than being purely a taker, as I had been for the first years of our marriage.

    I have since learned that my motivation in all things must be, above all else, to glorify God; when this is my first priority, and I fix my eyes on Jesus, allowing Him to be my strength and my sufficiency, I will find victory in Him in all things.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm


      Thank you so much for your honesty vulnerability. IT’s so good to see that God’s plan for restoration and reconciliation work when BOTH people are willing to follow his plan. PRaise God for a loving husband and friends who loved you enough to tell you the truth and refuse to enable destructive behaviors to continue. Praise God that he spoke loud and clear to your heart and you humbled yourself enough to be taught and to do the hard work of change. The results are there for all to see that these destructive patterns can be broken but we need the support and wisdom to follow GOd’s plan.

      • Ellen on April 17, 2013 at 6:50 am

        Brenda, your words were such an encouragement. There are so few who manage to find a way out of these patterns. My husband was an abuser and a manipulater. I started to change the way I related to his bad behavior. He is much much better now. I could see that he was deeply wounded from childhood. It took 35 years of “hell” before he got the healing. It is a beautiful thing to witness. God is still in the business of changing and healing hearts. All Praise and Glory to Him.

        • Brenda on April 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

          Thank you, Ellen, I am so glad to hear your husband is on the journey to healing. From my experience, it is key – and often the very trigger factor – that those in core relationships with abusive people alter their behavior so that a clear message is sent to the abuser that their harmful actions and patterns of communication will no longer be tolerated in the relationship. It takes a great deal of courage to stand firm in the face of abuse and do what you are doing, and I am so grateful that you and your husband are being rewarded by seeing the Light of Christ at the end of a very dark tunnel. Truly, all praise and glory to God for granting your husband the healing he need and for giving you His strength and sufficiency to stand strong in Christ to know He would see you through. May the Lord bind you together in the bond of His glorious peace and love for many years to come. I ask this for both of you in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

      • Brenda on April 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        Leslie, you are very welcome. I know that, in the very early stages when I first sought healing for the intense inner rage with which I was dealing, one of the greatest blocks I came up against was a lack of information and help for the abuser who wanted to stop abusing. The vast majority of information I came across stated that the abusers did not want help. While I do recognize that it was tremendously difficult to acknowledge that I had, indeed, developed the behavior that I swore I would never carry out against the ones I loved, the traits I had seen in my dad that had terrified me growing up, once I became willing to admit I needed help, it was this lack of quality information and help that made it far more difficult to move forward. I was very well aware that I had a hair-trigger temper that moved me quickly from zero to a state of explosive rage in milliseconds over something seemingly minute, and yet I had no idea as to how to stop myself from this emotional reaction. The Word of God was, and continues to be, a life-saver for me, and I encourage both those who are struggling with the problem of being abusive, as well as those who are in relationship with abusive friends, family members, and spouses, to turn to the Bible often.

        Leslie, I also want to tell you how grateful I am to you for putting out information to help those who are struggling in relationships with women and men who abuse others, as well as vital help for the abusers, so that they can see that their behavior is NOT okay. I do realize that some will refuse to recognize their abuse regardless of what is before them, but for those of us who are ready to heal, what you are doing is vital, and so much more is needed. Thank you for your willingness to help. Truly, you are a blessing, and I pray God rewards you beyond your wildest dreams from His glorious riches in Christ Jesus! Amen.

  10. Alice on April 17, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Thank you everyone that has contributed here. I have been drinking in every word. Your words have healing in them aside from all the practical advice. Thank you for the hope you give me for a better day!

    • Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

      We have such a great community of people who are an encouragement to me too.

  11. Patricia Mallory on April 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I appreciate all the replies to help one another. I too, have lived “walking on eggshells” around my husband so i wouldn’t rock the boat. We have been separated longer than we’ve been married, so i could get my head on straight.When he would call, it was always nice talk, but when i get back in the house, he starts in again. I’m beginning to believe I’m better off on my own. I even get anxiety attacks which can come on when I’m unawares. I went to Drs. to check out what is happening to me, and when I tell them about our marriage, they have told me If you value your life, you must leave or suffer worse fate than this. I take no medication, and have gotten by, by my wits to survive. He’s an emotional and verbal abuser, and everyone thinks he is so wonderful- like I did, once. Love,has to be truthful, as I pretended… just to endure this for almost 15 yrs. I pray, and considered going back even tho I feel its worse if I do. Thank God, for Leslie, and this site to help people like us. now, he’s signed up for a face job, and is pressuring me to do the same. Surgery in 1 month. Any suggestion?

    • Brenda on April 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Hi Patricia,

      You spoke such a very important truth: “Love has to be truthful.” When there is honesty in a love relationship, there is an absence of pressure, and both partners in the marriage are free to be themselves. May I ask why you are being pressured to get a face job? Do you want this face job? The Lord accepts you exactly as you are right now, for He loves and accepts you unconditionally; if your husband does not and cannot accept you if you do not want a face lift and do not choose to have one, then that is a clear indication that he is still using manipulation tactics. Pressuring you to do anything is one such tactic. If you feel fear to say “No,” then there is still emotional abuse involved in this relationship, Patricia, and it is not a safe place for you.

      I hope this helps.

  12. Michele on April 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Hi-Thank you for your help on this. I separated from my husband almost 3 years ago. It was emotionally/mentally abusive but there was always a reason. I tried to “save it” or “fix it” by being supportive, non-confrontational, and perfect, so I didn’t have to go through divorce. He says he wants to get back together again mainly for the sake of the kids and it will save money if we are back together. I’ve seen small changes but I don’t think he understands everything though I’ve tried to express the issues. I know I’m not innocent or perfect. But I truly want the best for myself and the kids going forward. We’ve come too far. I know God can restore but I also want to protect myself from hurt. I’m afraid of getting back together and getting hurt worse or putting the kids in an unhealthy environment. How do you know when they have truly changed? Or when we could be ready to move back together? Or am I just fearing the divorce so much that I’m even considering it? My thinking isn’t as clear as I would like it to be after so many years of being deceived and manipulated. Thanks so much!

    • Sojourner on April 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      I’m just starting out on my journey out of the fog, but some things I feel God has given me to look for before moving forward in our relationship are;

      He must display true contrition; first of all full ownership for what he has done (not you did things too) and brokeness over how that grieves God and has hurt us.

      He must display an attitude of true, biblical love as outlined in 1Cor13.

      He must display fruit of walking in the spirit (Gal 5:22)

      He must be willing to accept boundaries that I need to heal (some ideas from spouses of sex addiction…)

      He must, of his own accord enroll in serious therapy for his addictions. Not just seeing a counselor or having an accountability partner.

      He must be able to demostrate love and respect for me as an individual. That means cherishing my autonomy instead of being threatened by it.

      I know it sounds hard and “He MuST, He Must…” But when I see these things, all of which are reasonable in a healthy relationship, then I will know that the underlying attitudes that led to the abuse have been addressed. Anything else would be mere behavior modification and the abuse would resurface either in a different form or at a different time.

      We all need to be changed by God and when we are our lives bear fruit. I’m looking for fruit! Then I will know!

      • Leslie Vernick on April 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

        I think you have a great list here. Be sure to watch my video on my home page, How Can You Tell when Someone is Truly Sorry. Those also go along with your thoughts about actions speak louder than words. What we’re in essence looking for is a change of heart that moves into a change in habits.

        • Sandra on April 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm

          I’ve been separated for one year and 2 months. He has taken no ownership for what he says and does. He doesn’t display any remorse. He says still that he doesn’t need any type of therapy or counseling. He says he doesn’t need anyone to tell him how to treat his wife. We have been to several marriage classes over the past 11 years and he does good for a month maybe and then the old behaviors and patterns resurface. I have been going to counseling since I left. My stinkin thinkin would want my to feel sorry for him but I can’t change him. I can only change me!

          • Brenda on April 21, 2013 at 8:31 pm

            You are completely right in saying you are the only one you can change; however, that is no small thing, Sandra. In the context of a relationship, especially a primary relationship such as marriage, when one partner makes positive alterations to him- or herself and the way in which he or she communicates, that change is often the very impetus needed to transform the nature of the union. It is impossible for one person to control and manipulate another who refuses to be controlled and manipulated. However, for those of us who have learned that it is okay to use abusive tactics on our marriage partners and others, or that we have to submit to such tactics in our relationships, we have to have our minds renewed and our hearts transformed so that we come to understand on a deep level that manipulation and control in relationships is wrong. Unfortunately, until we are faced with severe loss, such as the end of the relationship, this change often does not happen. That is why the changes you have been making in your own life, including your willingness to remain separated from your husband until and unless he is willing to change his attitude, are so very significant. Though I understand how deeply painful it is to be separated, as long as your husband keeps his attitude that says, “he doesn’t need anyone to tell him how to treat his wife,” he is highly unlikely to maintain long-term change without a transformational shift in his heart attitude.

            I personally needed such a shift, but it was only as my husband, standing on the Word of God, spoke to me about my behaviour and refused to react to my manipulative attempts to bait him, that such a shift began to take place. As the Lord Jesus convicted me of my need to change, I gradually opened myself up to allow Him to transform my mind, will, and emotions. The more I studied God’s Word, the more I came to see how very wrong I was in my manipulation and abuse of my husband, friends, and other family members. By the power of Christ, I was able to change my outlook, words, and actions, and the Lord Jesus did a healing work in our marriage, as well as in the lives of both myself and my husband. The process is ongoing, but I never want to turn back, and I am thankful that I have a husband who was willing to stand up and force change in our marriage and to our Lord Jesus, whose healing touch enabled me to get my eyes off of myself and onto Him and His ways. I pray, Sandra, as you continue to work on yourself, that your husband is able to come to the realization that he, too, needs to make serious changes.

      • Gina on April 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

        I agree with Leslie – a great list. Over the years, when I’ve set boundaries with my husband and let him know that a specific behavior is unacceptable and must stop, he has deflected and accused me of expecting perfection from him, thereby victimizing himself and dumping his problem in my lap.

        A pastor we met with at our church yesterday thankfully reminded my husband that Jesus did say, “Go and sin no more”. If a person can’t stop a repetitive sin, then he must get help and stop deflecting.

        I’m thankful that my husband admitted to the pastor that he needs help and is willing to pursue individual counseling, but I will still wait as long as needed to see Godly sorrow in him rather than worldly sorrow.

        I do wish he would see a psychiatrist instead, but I mentioned it in front of the pastor and he didn’t acknowledge it, rather saying that cognitive therapy with a lay counselor would be effective since my husband was confessing. I’m trying to mentally let go of that and trust God with it, though not quite there yet.

        • Sojourner on April 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm

          Thanks! I’m new to all of this, but God has really blessed me to be able to see and understand what is going on….

          That is encouraging that your pastor addressed his deflecting and that your husband responded willingly! I’m praying for MUCH fruit from this!

          Something you said made me think about something, maybe it has nothing to do with your situation, please feel free to ignore it if it doesn’t apply, but what I’m learning is that I too quickly gave in to being controlled because of my own insecurities and wanting to be “quiet & gentle”. I’m learning that even at the risk of being rejected it is important to be heard AND that I do actually have not only a right but a duty to input into my marriage. That’s hard, I’m really fighting “I have a right” it sounds SO selfish and feministic, but its NOT. God GAVE me thoughts, feelings and conscience to CONTRIBUTE to my marriage, not to stuff in a garbage bag and let my husband take them to the curb if they offend him. Actually, by not honoring those things about myself I was dishonoring the One who made me and robbing my family. Its only because of those precious gifts that I am now able to, in love call my husband to godliness. Anyway, all that to say, when you said,
          “I do wish he would see a psychiatrist instead, but I mentioned it in front of the pastor and he didn’t acknowledge it, rather saying that cognitive therapy with a lay counselor would be effective since my husband was confessing. I’m trying to mentally let go of that and trust God with it, though not quite there yet.”

          it made me wonder if you felt like you didn’t have the right to input into this situation? Just because the pastor overlooked your request, doesn’t mean it was wrong and maybe you are not ready to let go of it because you’re not supposed to? I don’t know, I’m not saying you should go demand that things go your way, but if after searching this out with God you still feel strongly, maybe you should persue this further (either by bringing up your concern again to the pastor and asking for a reason why he does or does not agree, or even seeking a professional yourself to get their input?)

          Either way, I’m so happy for you that the situation is being addressed! Blessings to you!

          • Gina on April 21, 2013 at 1:13 am

            Hmmm . . . very thought provoking. I’ll think and pray about your input, Sojourner. Thanks!

        • Brenda on April 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

          Hi Gina,

          I join with you in giving thanks to God that your husband admitted to your pastor that he needs help and that he is willing to pursue individual counselling. The words your pastor spoke are truly wise, and, if he – or another godly pastor – is willing to continue meeting with you and your husband, my experience suggests that his wisdom will be equally, if not more, effective and productive in helping your husband to bear fruit that leads him to reflect the image and likeness of Christ when he looks at his reflection in the mirror than will that of a psychiatrist. While I truly understand that you desire professional help for your husband, yourself, and your marriage, unless the psychiatrist your husband sees is steeped in biblical knowledge and the wisdom of the Lord, your husband is more likely than not to be given worldly knowledge and medication that leads him away from both the Truth of Christ and the repentance that leads to godly, rather than worldly, sorrow. I also want to assure you that most godly men and women who pastor churches today are also professionals who have been trained in counselling their flock. This link to a sermon series on the Bible and Psychology by Pastor Jim Savastio my be of help to you:


          Gina, the following, for the most part, has been my experience in receiving counselling from psychiatry and pyshology versus that of good, godly pastoral counselling: In regard to psychology and psychiatry, I was taught rational emotive therapy and given a large variety psychotropic drugs. Cognitive therapies are worldly ways of thinking that contradict the Bible, for the Word of God tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8, NKJV) I had become addicted to reasoning, and it took me a long time to overcome my intense need to figure out everything that was happening and to understand each and every feeling and thought that I had, rather than releasing my emotions and trusting the Lord to guide me.

          Not only was I deeply dependent on reasoning after years of seeing psychiatrists and psychologists, but I also had to spend many months withdrawing from a number of psychotropic medications, drugs that fogged my mind and made it virtually impossible for me to remain awake and study the Word of God. I had been told that I would need these medications for the rest of my life in order to function “normally” in society; however, today I am taking no psychiatric medications for depression, anxiety, or any other reason, and I am feeling much better than I ever have as a result of basing my life on the Word of God, giving Christ first place in my life, and allowing the Lord to guide me as I do my very best to obediently listen to His will for me day by day. When I sin and stray off His path for my life, I repent and receive His forgiveness and that of those I have hurt by my words or actions, and I return to the road set out for me by my loving Saviour. Christ had never been offered to me as a Solution to my struggles when I was going from psychiatrist to psychiatrist. Most of the psychiatrists from whom I had received counsel did not know the Lord, and the majority mocked my faith and discouraged me from pursuing it. This is not the case with all psychiatry and psychology, but if you and your husband pursue that path, I encourage you to seek out and choose a psychiatrist who knows and trusts in Christ as his or her Lord and Saviour.

          On the other hand, the learned men and women who taught me from the Scriptures, and who encouraged me to get into the Word of God, helped me to build my life with Jesus Christ as my Solid Foundation. Today, I know that Jesus is my Refuge and my Strong Tower, and it is because of this that I am able to receive correction and repent of my sin and not be insecure in doing so. Without having my identity solidly rooted in Christ, instead of in the approval of humanity, I do not believe this would be possible. This foundation has been built through a steady feeding on the Word of God, so that I am assured beyond the shadow of a doubt of the Lord’s unconditional love for me. His perfect, unconditional love has cast out my life-controlling fears, and these fears drove my former rage, which in turn, led me to verbally and emotionally abuse my husband, friends, and other family members. Without learning of Christ’s love, I do not believe I would have healed, and without the teaching of loving pastors and others who know the Word of God, I believe I would still be both emotionally and verbally abusive, as well as full of shame and self-loathing today. In order to open myself up to receive the inner healing I so desperately needed, so that the fears within me could be faced and countered, I had to learn of the perfect love of God that casts all fear out of doors; I had to know that I was loved and accepted unconditionally, and there is truly only One Who can offer such love: our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ:

          God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. (1 John 4:9-18, NLT)

          Gina, I hope that my words have been an encouragement to you as you and your husband go forward, and I will be praying for both of you as you seek to renew and strenthen the bonds of your love in Christ Jesus your Lord. May the Lord pour the fullness of His Holy Spirit into your hearts that you may be empowered and encouraged in Him, even as He draws you close to Himself and embraces you in His everlasting arms of love. May Almighty God shelter you both beneath His wings and cover you with His all-surpassing peace in Christ Jesus our Lord that you may be comforted, and that you may both stand strong in and on His Word of Truth for your marriage. I ask these things in the holy and precious name of Jesus, Amen.

          • Brenda on April 20, 2013 at 9:34 am

            Gina, as an addendum to my reply regarding pastoral counselling versus psychiatry, I wanted to say that I in no way meant to criticize or condemn anyone for taking medication of any kind. If it were not for the help of medication, I would have been in serious trouble on more than one occasion. Nor was my intention to condemn psychiatry and psychology in general; I have been helped by both godly psychologists and psychiatrists who have encouraged and supported me in my walk with Jesus. My intent was only to say that it is important to ask questions and to pray, seeking first and foremost the counsel of the Lord before making any decision about our bodies or our minds. I pray I have not offended you or anyone else.

          • Leslie Vernick on April 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm

            I agree Brenda – for some people medication is absolutely crucial for their mental health, but it is important not to be passive and sometimes people are overmedicated. Ask questions, read information about what you are taking and why. There are good psychiatrists out there and not so good. But I’d say the same for counselors – both secular and biblical. Just because someone has a working knowledge of God’s word doesn’t necessarily make them wise or a good counselor. The Pharisee’s knew the law, but Jesus described their teaching as the blind leading the blind. Again, ask good questions of whoever you are allowing you to “influence” your thinking – whether he or she be a medical doctor, pastor, or counselor or even the television or internet. Not everything you hear is the truth.

          • Gina on April 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

            Thank you Brenda and Leslie-

            I’m not offended, Brenda. Your reply was very helpful because you shared your personal experience.

            I was thinking psychiatry because Steven Arterburn and Milan Yerkovich of New Life Live said that’s what my husband needed when I spoke to them. They are Christians and I respect their advice, but I am desiring 2nd opinions regarding their advice. I would be wrong to put God in a box and believe He can only work in one situation. I also have to let go of control of this.

            Of all the times my husband and I have been to counseling in the last 17 years, this was the FIRST time HE was the one to initiate it, which I consider a good sign that perhaps he is truly ready to work on his issues. Since he chose to go to the pastor/counselor at our church, I want to respect that and trust God to work this for our good. This pastor didn’t say anything unwise or unbiblical during our visit, so I want to choose to let go and let God. I just needed reassurance that it is okay to let go of pursuing the psychiatric route, and your reply, Brenda, helped with that. My husband does not desire it at all, anyway.

            I do believe that psychology and Christianity can coexist in the same way that getting treatment for a broken leg and being a Christian can, but I agree that we should be wise in our choice of practitioner for either need and not be led astray spiritually.

            Thanks again!

          • Sojourner on May 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm

            “I had become addicted to reasoning,”

            Such a true condition for so many of us! Great verse to counter it and happens to be a theme verse for me. Prov 3:5-8
            How amny times are we cautioned not to be wise in our own eyes? I think overcoming the temptation to make gods of ourselves and our reasoning is tough, but so essential.
            In my own life I have seen the emotional imbalance that comes from this distortion. Prov 3:5-8 is a perfect counter to that!

  13. tryingtodogood on April 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

    First thank you Leslie!!!! I have read “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” ad it was so helpful to me. After 29 years of marriage I realized somehow through the grace of Gd that my marriage was in terrible shape. I was so unhappy and suffered from depression on and off the whole time. I began to read everything I could get my hands on and started to realize my husband had been abusive from the beginning. He did almost all of the 9 things manipulators do, but I always thought it was me because everyone thought he was so wonderful. He was an elder in church and was always getting praised. Inside I would think “if they only knew-he never read the bible or prayed with his family.” Over the years whenever I would cry or beg him to stay home and spend time with me, he would turn it on me and my “problems” and go right out the door.
    I was alone raising children and never got any support or attention, even when I told him I cried myself to sleep at night. Nothing ever worked or changed. He was selfish and bullied me over every decision or discussion.
    When I realized all of this and told him I may leave, he begged me to stay and even said he had a vision from God. I agreed to stay and there have been changes, but he draws the line at counseling and won’t go. It’s been two years but he still falls into old patterns whenever I disagree or want to discuss anything. His father was terribly abusive and I see the same patterns. Like if I disagree with him, even on a philosophical matter, he gets an angry look on his face and starts to “push” his point onto me. I’ve told him this is an intimidation tactic and he says “I’m not doing anything.”
    Leslie, I am worn out after 31 years of this and don’t have the energy to keep my guard up with every single interaction. I feel that he needs help with a professional to work on his issues instead of making me his “therapist.” I have a counselor that has helped me a great deal. My husband just still doesn’t want anyone to know how he really is. I’ve done so much painful work but we’re just not getting very far. Manipulators simply wear you out and after all these years I have no strength left. I only know that I simply won’t tolerate being abused anymore 🙁

    • Leslie Vernick on April 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Manipulators and abusers can wear us out and that’s why it’s crucial for you to have good support and strong boundaries. It was only after your husband faced the reality of you leaving (consequences) did he start to modify his behaviors – at least slightly. Yet he still refuses to get help for himself. Bravo that you are courageous enough to call him on his intimidation but sadly, he doesn’t want to see or look at himself very clearly. Now 31 years later you don’t know what to do next. But I’d encourage you to keep working through your own issues and speak compassionately with him about his issues implementing consistent and clear consequences if he continues his abusive and/or manipulative behaviors.

      • tryingtodogood on April 26, 2013 at 9:56 am

        Thank you Leslie. I am encouraged and will keep praying for guidance. I only have two friends that know about this because he is always on best behavior around others and I’ve been afraid to even admit his behavior to anyone else. My family is all gone, and my in-laws are all there is (and they all suffer from the same patterns). Our church all think he is the greatest too because he acts perfect in front of them. I’m afraid of him getting angry if he finds out I’m even thinking of him in this way (as an abuser). Anyway, thank you for your continued work and writing.

        • Brenda on April 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

          tryingtodogood, it is your fear that your husband is counting on to keep you quiet, as well as to maintain his manipulation and control over you. It is only when his behaviour is confronted and those who are being affected by his abuse refuse to tolerate his manipulation and control that he will be forced to alter his behaviour or face losing those nearest and dearest to him, along with his reputation. However, in saying this, confrontation should only be done with others present if there is any threat whatsoever of your husband becoming violent, or any other danger to you. It is essential that you make provisions for your safety, tryingtodogood. From my esperience as a past abuser who has recovered with the blessed help and strength of my Lord and Saviour, any attempts to appease your husband through “keeping the peace” will not be effective, as this is part of his pattern to manipulate and control you, as well as to keep you submissive to him in a manner that is not godly. When Jesus tells us in His Word to submit to our husbands, He is referring to wives who have husbands who are loving their wives as Christ loves His Church, and Jesus never abuses His people in any way, nor does He attempt to manipulate them through fear and control. I urge you to lean on Christ and to continue to seek and build support around you so that you can grow in the strength of the Lord to the point of being able to tell your husband that his behaviour is no longer acceptable to you, and that, if he wants to continue in the marriage, he will have to seek help for his anger-management issues.

          I will be praying for you, tryingtodogood.

        • Mildred on April 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

          trying to do good:

          Why are you afraid of him getting angry? Been married 40 plus years to my high school sweet heart. Just finally, these last 8 years, getting TOTALLY FREED UP and enjoying my,even now our, married life together. The truth sets us free. Be not intimidated by another’s anger. Perfect love cast out all fear. Allow the Lord to search your heart and to purify your motives when speaking and thinking of your husband. I identified to my husband the moment that his response was onery, mean-spirited and I used the term “abusive”, often! Of course his response was that I was criticizing and accusing him, and he likened my accusations to satan’s tactics against him. (smile)I did not try to persuade him or to prove my point with him about his behavior. He pretended not to understand and so I relinquished all of my heart’s need to be understood by him. I just remained calm and identified behavior patterns that I took issue with. I fully knew that only GOD could enable his mind to find merit in the truth of my “unfavorable” words about him. Anger is a tactic used to shut wives down and to get them to back off (go away & shut up) or perhaps, even to become somewhat uncertain and question the validity of what it is that they think or feel.(smile) I no longer have the need to be infallible myself: when I misbehave by being overly demanding or critical or insensitive, NOW, I simply acknowlege or admit it to GOD,self & hubby, then accept John 1:9 (repent, accept cleansing of my spirit and change (by GRACE of Holy Spirit) my behavior.
          Most IMPORTANTLY I FORGIVE those things about my husband that cause me to be disappointed enough to resist,reject, and devalue him. Free-at-last!!!!!!!!!!! Life is GRAND & I no longer relish or desire to come to the end of our marriage by death. Also, hey! this 2013 I decided to take the initiate and renew my Celebrate special marital moments: Anniversary, Valentine’s Day! Our husbands, unfortunately at times, seem to derive so much pleasure from the discontentment of their wives. The last three years i have denied both satan and my honey such delight! I have decided to be of “great price in the sight” of GOD,(and only to be achieved by the GRACE:enabling Power of the Holy Sirit) as I follow the example of Sarah and women of old:1 Peter 3:3-6 King James Version (KJV)

          3 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

          2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

          3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

          4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

          5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

          6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

          I am NO LONGER A “DO GOODER” and I am NO LONGER AFRAID with any AMAZEMENT! Even NOW, I am yet being transformed into the very IMAGE of A VIRTUOUS Woman of GOD…in the hidden dispositions of my heart & into an ornament(jewel) of great price, before the sight of my GOD!!!! So, the decades of turmoil and the years of the captivity of struggling (seemingly alone) to be, authentically righteous,& blameless before ourAlmighty GOD, are being shredded & my contentment & the forgotten delight of joy is returning and flooding into my soul, even as I type these words to YOU! At last, but not least, I have to rfinally to embrace the UNCONDITIONAL, AGAPE LOVE of GOD, for me and to trust HIM to be able to Administer Longsuffering & Mercy,Fullness of Inner Healing & Divine Discipline to all others: Why else would a man abuse his own wife, unless he actually despised his own self,within?

          Love and Peace to YOU & Your Family,
          p.s. I can also NOW actually pray for the deliverance from the carnal attitudes of both me and my husband. Therefore, as I permit him to have the same measure of GOD’s Grace that I previously only gathered unto myself, I am able to generate: purposefully (with intention, to give expression to) much more compassion & kindness towards him. So much so that I am able to actually NOW receive both emotional & physical comfort in our intimate exchanges. Gone is the resentment and righteous indignation & carnal contempt & rejection.(Instead the Holy Spirit has replaced my broken hearted-woundedness with actual “FAVOR” for such an undeserving one as he)
          It does not even pain me to make the choice to “gift” him with my respect, appreciation, agreement, pleasantness, compliments, affirmation, appropriate silences,graciously overlooking or even being subject to his human error of prideful obstinance) WOW!!! I am familiar with the inclination to be contemptous in my wounded-fearful-vain heart: Christ Blood has redeemed us all, forever!!! PEACE!

          • janet on April 29, 2013 at 9:52 am

            MIldred, i was wondering if when you made these great truthful statements to your husband did he get in your face and threaten to harm you?
            not all women’s husband’s will respond like your husband. it takes great courage to make changes when there is a real concern for violence. men control women with potential violence and women have to then decide, do i feel like today seeing if he will really make do on his threats and am i prepared to live on my own financially when i call the cops and it comes to that. i am happy for you, that this is working for you,Mildred. does your husband threaten physical violence or use body language to threaten physical harm?

  14. tryingtodogood on April 28, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Thank you Brenda. I took my shot last evening and mentioned an example of a time when my husband displayed very hurtful behavior toward me-our grown children were there too. What happened was He was deep in conversation with the kids and it was time to serve dessert (my birthday cake) and I asked him to please scoop the ice cream for me (something he always does because of arthritis in my wrists). He said yes. I went to get the cake and ice cream out and called to him. He ignored me. After a moment I went and stood beside him at the table and said please help scoop the ice cream before it melts. He got up with a mad look on his face, huffing and puffing and complied (as if he hadn’t already agreed). After I served all the plates he sat back down with a glare on his face and gave me, and everyone else for that matter, the silent treatment for the rest of the evening.
    As usual I felt guilty and figured I must have done something wrong, but with prayer and some time I realized I did nothing wrong. This has been the case thousands of times over our marriage, and I always end up apologizing.
    Last night he first claimed he didn’t remember the incident from my birthday, then he claimed he wasn’t angry at all. I KNOW my kids noticed his behavior, and it saddens me to think that they’ve seen it many times in the past. It’s just been ignored because I have cowered in defeat. It has been so painful coming to the light about this and I believe God must have a reason for this awakening in me, but sometimes I just wish I could go back to when I didn’t realize it and be numb again. Does the above situation sound like manipulation? Now that I’m realizing these things, there’s an overwhelming temptation to doubt myself and am afraid what if I’m wrong? My body is filled with pain too from the constant tension. I am also terrified at the thought of my marriage possibly ending. I just don’t see him ever changing, or admitting he even needs to at all. Thank you so much for the prayers.

    • janet on April 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

      trying to do good: i too struggle with the statements you made: I am also terrified at the thought of my marriage possibly ending. I just don’t see him ever changing, or admitting he even needs to at all. Thank you so much for the prayers.
      i am in the process of processing these fears and truths and i encourage you that god will show you the way through all of this if you keep seeking him. it is scary for me too, so much to lose and then i ask myself what am i losing? don’t have the answer yet. is there anyone out there who is dealing with this same thing… i need helpful insight into this. i can lose my entire family. what do i do? thank you again for all your help.

      • tryingtodogood on May 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

        I understand what you’re saying about what would you be losing??? I only have one brother alive for family, the rest are my in-laws. Lately though I have come to realize that they are very toxic as well. They constantly make insulting jabs, talk over me and show no respect for my values. I love them, but I really am to the point where I don’t to spend time with them anymore. I have entertained them for over 30 years for my husband’s sake (they wouldn’t call or come around if I didn’t “plan” something and invite them) so what’s the loss? It is encouraging to know you are coping with the same things 🙂 It’s also a huge energy drain to keep myself on guard to counter my husband’s tactics, but I guess it’s only right to try now that I know what he’s doing. I have just begun to call him on his manipulations and many times outright lies! I really feel empowered by the knowledge I’ve gained here and in the books on the subject. So far he has not been able to refute the truth when I tell him in complete confidence that I know what he’s doing, and why (for control or to get out of something) right to his face. I asked him if he thought of me as stupid and he said “no.” I don’t know if he is just trying to placate me or if truly gets it, but I have told him this is it and I won’t tolerate things as they have been.
        The Lord is helping to really understand His command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s like all the Judaic laws, a list of “dos & don’ts” that just don’t work. My husband wants a list of what to do & not do to me, but if we love someone as our own selves we won’t do anything that’s not in their best interests-which means NO abuse, control, intimidation or the like. Abusers put their own interests first and use any number of tactics to get their way. That in no way shape or form resembles Christ-like behavior.
        Anyway, no matter what may happen with these situations we’re in, we cannot lose Jesus Christ, and we will be so blessed and cared for as we walk where He leads.

  15. John Lategan on November 22, 2013 at 11:39 am

    There’s a time to say yes
    And a time to say no
    But the personal boundary line
    Is not the way to know
    For life is not simple
    And our hearts are a mess
    There’s sin and the enemy
    And all kinds of stress
    But now God is with us
    He will show us the way
    The personal boundary line
    Will lead you astray
    For The Lord will lead us each moment of the day
    But we must look to him and remember to pray

  16. John Lategan on November 24, 2013 at 8:42 am

    The truth is, it is our human nature to to set boundaries to suit ourselves.
    We believe we are in the right when we may be the one with the problem.
    Or maybe we both have a problem and bring out the worst in each other.
    We make personal boundaries that are self centered.
    It is against our human nature to set boundaries that are going to make us uncomfortable or cause us pain and suffering.
    As christians God has called us to live according to His boundaries( will).
    God has called to overcome our boundaries to do his will.
    God’s will is that we love our neighbor as our self-that we love without limits.
    God’s will is that we put others before ourself and suffer for the greater good.
    God has called us to love our enemies and do good to them.
    God has called us to deny ourselves and give without expecting anything in return.
    This goes against our human nature and that’s why God has given us His Holy Spirit to enable and empower us to live according to his will.
    We must be led by his Spirit not by our personal boundaries.
    Personal boundaries are a temptation to do our will rather than God’s will.
    We must submit to God and let him take control of our lives.

    “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”
    Proverbs 3:6

    • Leslie Vernick on November 25, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      John, thank you for your comments and I think they are spot on unless you believe that the greater good God calls us to suffer for is to keep a marriage together at all costs and at any price and then I would have to differ with you on that. I also believe that some people could take what you’ve written to mean that a woman in an abusive marriage should have no personal boundaries and whatever her husband does to her is God’s will because if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t happen. God’s word says that we are not to be overcome by evil but rather overcome evil with good. Overcome is an active word not a passive word. It implies some action to overcome that evil. In cases of marital abuse I think that means:

      It is good to protect yourself from evil people; Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.”
      It is good to bring the deeds of darkness to the light. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, rather expose them.
      It is good to allow an abusive/destructive/unrepentant sinner experience the consequences of his behavior so he may come to his senses and repent. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived, whatever a man sows, he also reaps.”
      It is good to be gracious and compassionate towards an unrepentant sinner as God is gracious and compassionate on them also, but he does not have personal relationship or fellowship with unrepentant sinners and we should not place that burden on ourselves either. Jesus says in Matthew 18:5, “If someone refuses to listen after you have called them to repentance, treat them as you would a pagan and tax collector” All Jews knew exactly what that means and it did not mean that you trusted this person or had close relationship with him/her even if you were respectful and kind.

  17. John Lategan on November 26, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Hi Leslie
    As you rightly said we are called to live according to God’s boundaries-God’s will.
    The teaching of personal boundaries however is a temptation for us to set boundaries according to our will.
    It is against our human nature to set boundaries that are difficult, uncomfortable or cause us pain and suffering.
    It is against our human nature to put others before ourselves, to love our neighbor as our self, and to love our enemies and do good to them.
    These are God’s boundaries. We can’t have the best of both worlds.
    The Christian life is not easy. But God has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us.
    We must be led by His Sprit.
    We must pray at all times and God will show us the way.
    God will show us when to say yes and when to say no.
    God will show us when to flee from evil.and correct those that are wrong.
    God leads and teaches us through His word, conviction and good advice from others.
    God has also given us common sense and wisdom.
    God will certainly let us know when we’ve gone down the wrong road.
    If God is with us who can be against us.
    But we must have faith in Him.
    We must submit and let God take control of our lives.

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