I Want To Please God Most. Will Separating From A Destructive Spouse Ruin That?

Morning friends,

I imagine you’ve all read or heard in the news the expose’ on what’s happening within the Southern Baptist Church in their mishandling and covering up of abuse inside their ranks. It’s heartbreaking and sinful. It’s everything that’s against justice, truth, and the heart of God.

Abuse Of Faith

Southern Baptist Leaders And Volunteers Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Hundreds of Southern Baptist leaders, volunteers accused of sexual misconduct in bombshell investigation

But the good news is that change is coming. Slow, painful, but it is coming. Here is a link to the response for the breaking news from JD Greear, head of the denomination.

700 Is Not the Total Number: How to Get Help

Pray for them and the changes that all pastors of all denominations will need to make to create a culture of safety and truth where victims can share their story and be heard and protected. I am part of a team that is writing curriculum for Southern Baptist pastors and ministry leaders on how to see and biblically respond to reports or suspicions of abuse. Pray for us, that we would be heard, and that real change will take place.

If you have the ear of your pastor or elders, please pass on JD Grear’s response to these horrific charges. It shows humility, repentance and a willingness to rebuild shattered trust.

Today’s Question: How do you acknowledge the truth of what someone is doing to you and emotionally accept it when you are in a destructive relationship? Getting banged on the leg over and over is exhausting and painful. I acknowledge that I am being banged on the leg and that the banging is causing me to go limp and that pain is excruciating to my heart and soul. Now what do I do?

I have acknowledged the truth, emotionally accepted that I can have no expectations at all from the other person. This process has yielded the destruction of my personhood. How do you apply these concepts in a destructive relationship? My main goal is to gain wisdom and understand so that one day when I sit before God he will say well done good and faithful servant. I don’t want to disappoint God because my heart and mind did what they wanted instead of what God wanted. Help?

Answer: I’m not sure if you’re using a metaphor when you describe being banged on the leg or you are actually being banged on the leg, but acknowledging the truth of someone’s abusive behavior toward you and also accepting that they aren’t willing to change (yet) is an important part of your own emotional and mental health. Healthy people live in reality, not in fantasy. They acknowledge what is, not what they wish it would be.

That being the case, what do you do when your spouse is hurting you and won’t stop? That is the reality you live with day after day and you’re right, it is intolerable, excruciating painful and destructive to you, him and your marriage.  

I think as Christians we have often misunderstood Biblical love to mean that when someone treats us abusively, we quietly suffer without protest or consequence, and simply turn the other cheek over and over again. But when Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), he never said we shouldn’t avoid mistreatment, but simply that we were not to retaliate against it. He didn’t want us to become abusive in return. But Jesus did leave situations when he knew people were trying to harm him.

Allowing someone who we are in an intimate relationship with to continue to hurt and mistreat us isn’t biblical love, but fear and foolishness. We’re afraid to stand up to it because we don’t want to make things worse. We’re afraid that God will be displeased with us or we don’t have a good plan on what to do next if the abuse escalates. So we suffer silently and think that is God’s will. However, I think God and biblical love call us to do something far more courageous. But just as Jesus warned, that kind of love often involves suffering and sacrifice.

To love our spouse or an abuser in these kinds of situations, we must be willing to boldly (not disrespectfully) speak the truth to him (or her) about the sinfulness of the behavior and the effects on you, your marriage and even your spouse.

You indicated that the abuse is destroying your personhood and you’re right, but it’s also destroying his. This is not who God made him to be and human beings cannot feel good about themselves when they abuse, degrade and mistreat other people.

If you choose to give this gift of truth to your husband, he may retaliate with more abuse. When you love him enough to seek his true good it may cost you. Much like jumping into an icy pond to save a drowning child, God calls us to lay down ourselves for another person’s welfare (John 15:13). But the bible doesn’t ask us to lay ourselves down to enable someone to continue in sin. That wouldn’t be good for them or for us.

If your husband is unresponsive and unrepentant to your gift of loving truth, I would also be prepared to give the gift of consequences. Consequences (not punishment) can be a powerful teacher of life’s truths. If you plant weeds, don’t expect roses (Galatians 6:7). In other words, when you are abusive toward people, don’t expect a happy and loving marriage to result.

So let me map out how this might look like for you. You need to ask God to give you the courage to love your husband enough to speak the truth to him about what his attitudes and behaviors are doing to you, to him and to your marriage. You also need to have a plan in place as to how you will be safe if he retaliates against your gift of truth with more abuse. (For free help implementing a safety plan you can call the Domestic Abuse hotline at 1-799 SAFE).

But know this: God hates abuse and will empower you with the right words and right spirit to deliver them. We all have been taught that the Bible says God hates divorce but we forget God also hates a man covering himself with violence (Malachi 2:13-16).

God has a tender heart for those who are oppressed by bullies.

When you take this step, if your husband refuses to hear you, repent, and get help to change his behavior, then I would encourage you to take the next step and give him the gift of consequences. In other words, your message is this:

“Our marriage is so destructive to you, to me and to our children, I cannot continue to live this way or provide the benefits of married life without significant change.”

Separation may be necessary so he experiences the pain of his sin by losing his family life. Sometimes painful consequences are the only thing that wakes us up enough to put in the hard work necessary to change our destructive ways.  

You asked God for wisdom. You want what God wants. God says he generously gives his wisdom to anyone who asks for it (James 1:5). Hear me. God wants you to honor your commitment to him and your husband by loving well. God wants your husband to repent, to change, and to learn to love also. God isn’t asking you to be a “peace at any price” woman. As a wife, you have a unique opportunity to partner with God to be an extraordinary helpmate to your husband so that he will see his sin, repent, change, and grow into the man God made him to be. If he does, you have rescued your husband from the brink of death (James 5:20).

If he hardens his heart and refuses to listen, please know that God understands your disappointment and pain. Much of the Old Testament is that very story of God implementing tough love with Israel and Israel refusing to repent.  

God calls you to unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness, and unconditional kindness, but he never asks you to have an unconditional relationship or unconditional reconciliation with someone, especially when he or she is repeatedly abusive and unrepentant toward you.  Click To Tweet

Friends, when you woke up to the truth, what were your first steps to gain greater safety for yourself?  


  1. Moon Beam on February 13, 2019 at 6:38 am

    I had a rather surprising experience that became my wake up call. I worked as part of a group in a study abroad program for two weeks.

    For two whole weeks of my life I was not abused. I was so far away that my abusive spouse couldn’t touch me and communication via phone or email was impossible. I interacted with others who listened to me, valued me, laughed at my jokes and did treated me with the decency I did not experience at home. The contrast between those two weeks and my marital lifetime was shocking.

    It is because of this experience that I recommend others consider a time of refuge and separateness to reflect and assess the reality of their situation.

    • JoAnn on February 13, 2019 at 11:04 am

      Moon Beam, that is a great testimony! I agree, that getting out of the foggy atmosphere is needed. It’s like leaving a stuffy room and walking out into fresh air.

      • MC on February 13, 2019 at 11:41 am

        This is exactly what happened for me! During an out of state move, my husband and I lived apart for 2 months while he got started at his new job and I got the move dealt with. The experience of life with him away was eye-opening.

    • Been there on February 13, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      My exact experience. I knew things were bad but it took being away in a foreign country with total strangers who regarded me with more humanity than I had experienced at home before I decided no more. After a brief separation and several more years together, I finally worked hard, gained strength and ended a 28 year relationship.

    • Bek on February 13, 2019 at 7:31 pm

      Agreed! I took a trip to visit my best friend and siblings near the beach and the time away was filled with fun and love and calm and peace that I hadn’t realized my soul was DYING for at home. When I returned, I had a bit of a breakdown. My body physically did not want to be there now that I had been reminded what love and life tasted like. It was my turning point to get help, change my perspective and start dealing with the reality in front of me. I started getting awesome counseling and God met me in my need. My husband hasn’t change (except maybe to get a little worse), but I am now totally secure and can speak truth to him in hard situation when I used to run in fear of him.

      • MoonBeam on February 14, 2019 at 11:53 am

        I hear you Bek. Jesus came so that we could have life and have it more abundantly. Of course we can all survive our destructive homes, but it sure does disrespect and belittle Christ’s sacrifice. Our reasons are often very complex but I still ask myself, Why do we choose to enable a sinner again?

        • Robin on February 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm

          Good question, why do we enable a sinner after we have wisdom. Because we feel stuck???? I believe we think we will always be stuck. Unfortunately…..

          • Michele L on February 16, 2019 at 5:45 pm

            for me, sometimes enabling is so much easier than confronting. I am so tired at times I just dont want to deal with the inevitable attack that will arise when I stand up for myself or keep my boundary.

          • Nancy on February 17, 2019 at 10:38 pm

            I am becoming aware that when I enable bad behaviour my stomach knots up ( maybe this is because in not telling the truth, I internalize the lie…?)

            When I stand firm I may get attacked, but that is an external force that I can choose to NOT take in to my body (at the beginning I did a lot of walking away).

      • Michele L on February 16, 2019 at 5:42 pm

        Bek, when you wrote ” started getting awesome counseling and God met me in my need. My husband hasn’t change (except maybe to get a little worse), but I am now totally secure and can speak truth to him in hard situation when I used to run in fear of him.” I was encouraged! I am on that path to being secure, strong, and able to speak truth without cowering in fear, but I am at the beginning. thanks for sharing.

  2. Connie on February 13, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Thank you, Leslie, for your reply. And Moon Beam, for the great suggestion. When I checked myself into the psych ward during my first marriage, I felt like I’d been let out of a bad prison. So free! I know that sounds weird, and the doctor said I had no reason to be there. When he said he had to discharge me, I cried. That was my wakeup call. I had a friend tell him to leave and I never looked back. I had no intention of divorce, rather i thought we would get some good counseling, but he soon divorced me. This was over 20 years ago when there was little information like we get here, and the pastors were clueless too. But I hadn’t seen how bad it was till I was out.

  3. Nancy on February 13, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Hi Leslie,

    You asked what were the first steps taken to gain greater safety:

    In my case, my steps to implement safety were not for physical protection. I was never in any kind of physical danger.

    The safety I needed was for my heart. The Lord gave me Prov 4:23 a number of years earlier with regard to my relationship with my mother. Now I needed to guard my heart in my marriage.

    Over the years as our relationship deteriorated, I desperately tried to ‘save it’ by sharing, sharing and sharing some more; and our relationship became less and less mutual. The more I shared, the more he got scared ( and clammed up).

    After a big wake up call, I put communicated boundaries on the safe topics I could discuss with him. Discussing our relationship was completely off the table. I would no longer share my heart with him.

    Now we had a mutual relationship again. Standing in that place of mutuality was the starting point of change.

  4. Chuck on February 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    I left my wife seven months ago. We had been in marriage counseling for about four months(Feb-may 2018). I was told by the counselor that I wasn’t trying because I just couldn’t forget the years of verbal and narcissistic abuse, on one day and just go the next like nothing ever happened. A couple of months after I left she began individual counseling with the marriage counselor we had. I had started counseling for my self in Jan 2018, because I thought I was going crazy and I had no self esteem left. I have not been a perfect husband by any means but about five years ago she stopped having anything to do with me, physically and would be nice when she wanted something. Once she had what she wanted things went back to the same. We are both Christians, I have seen outward changes, but don’t trust that they are internal. My instinct keeps telling me no don’t go back. Just as the poster above, I don’t want to dishonor God, but I get physically ill thinking about returning to her. My children,in their mid twenties, weren’t really surprised by my moving out. I appreciate leslie’s advice so much, since I found out about her at Divorce Care. JoAnn thank you for your input also, very sage advice.

    • Nancy on February 13, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      Thanks for sharing here, Chuck. Glad you are plugged into a counsellor.

  5. Mona on February 13, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    I was in a destructive relationship for 10 years…Married for five of those years. I had many ‘wake up calls’ that I didn’t heed. However I now believe that God allowed me to stay…or rather keep returning to my abusive relationship in order to establish a pattern of abuse. I take responsibility for my part in not valuing myself more. And sadly, the counsel from church people helpers and my Pastor were well meaning but only caused more confusion, as they were saying “try harder”, “love him anyway”….”He has heart issues”. All good advice under normal circumstances. But it was listening to God….putting all distractions aside, that enabled me to the hear the Truth. He led me to right and enlightening literature and Biblical messages that opened my eyes to my worth as a Believing wife and the injustice of what I was enduring. From there, I found a Christian counselor, who believed and cared about the emotional and psychological abuse. I put boundaries up that would not allow any dialogue between my husband and I that would confuse or discourage me from making informed and Biblical decisions to get myself to safety. With a plan in place, I left the rest in God’s hands. I believe with all of my heart that He has made a way for me from then (May 2018) to now ( Feb 2019). I have a lot of work to do to heal..forgive myself and my husband in time….and to become whole again. For me, I trust that God did not see any other way. Some of you may be able to salvage your relationships and I encourage that you set boundaries and continue good, godly counsel. Not everybody’s pathway looks the same. I am just so grateful to my sovereign Lord that He rescued me….and will never forsake me. I don’t know what ‘whole me’ looks like, but I know He will restore to me all that was taken and I am so blessed to have such a loving Father.

  6. Annie on February 13, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    My waking up started with an article an old friend posted on facebook, probably for her daughters sake. Dealbreakers advice for single women by Natalie Hoffman. Then a counsellor who said to me , have you heard of the abuse cycle?…you are in it…! Then I just started to read everything I could find on the internet, and erase my history carefully each time. Read Lundy Bancroft in the bookstore so I didnt have to hide it in my house. Gradually recognized and acknowledged what sort of marriage I was in. Grieved… started to drop comments with 1 then 2 friends to test their response I guess. Then gradually started putting up unspoken boundaries, dared to have some conversations with H which of course were not done effectively and didnt produce change, but finally I could understand the dynamics. Writers and friends are the biggest thing that keeps me unconfused, especially when his responses are entirely predicted by these writers.

  7. JoAnn on February 13, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Annie, where are you on that journey now? Still with him, or have you left? I am so glad that you have some supportive friends who help you to stay clear. Via con Dios, dear one.

    • Annie on February 14, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      JoAnn I am still living in the same house, but have my own room now. I wrestle with leaving but likely now wrestle mostly with the timing. I have a strong legalistic Christian upbringing so those voices were strong in my head to get me in this situation (idolizing marriage and divorce being a huge sin running a close second to being a pregnant teenager) and have kept me here longer.

      • JoAnn on February 15, 2019 at 12:02 am

        Annie (and others), there is a book you might find helpful called “Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship” by Dr. Ramona Probasco. It is a good addition to the other books mentioned here, including Leslie’s. In it, she gives some very good help for how to prepare to leave, just in case you might need to leave quickly. Leslie also has advice on how to leave in her book, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.” You may not be ready to leave now, but just taking a few steps toward independence can help you to feel more powerful.

        • Annie on February 15, 2019 at 12:05 pm

          Thanks JoAnn I have not heard of this one

          • JoAnn on February 16, 2019 at 11:25 pm

            It is copyrighted 2018, so it is new. I have found it very helpful.

  8. Starlight on February 13, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    I have learned at least in my own situation that fleeing from evil pleases God and is in his will! I was married to a very corrupt and angry man who was a serial cheater, a con artist who was financially abusive and he became physically abusive as well. As much as I agonized about leaving my child’s father God so clearly led me away from him and has provided and protected us in so many ways! My life had turned into an recognizable nightmare with no way out. I finally called police to report his abuse, I was so frightened to leave but God guided me and helped me so much in so many ways, he really honoured those steps of faith when it was so scary to take that first & necessary step! I understand that many people’s situations are much less black & white than mine.

  9. Sonshine Seeker on February 13, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    I got a nosebleed while in church. I stepped out of the service, away from my family to get a tissue in the ladies room. My nosebleed would not stop so I lingered near the little lending library in the narthex. On top of the shelf was Paul Hegstrom’s book, Angry Men and The Women who Love Them. It was the first time I ever saw such a title. I browsed the copy, check it out and then hides it in my Bible cover.

    That book opened my eyes. The writing was helpful at the time and eventually my husband and I attended group and private sessions with LifeSkils International. The program misses the mark on many levels and enables abusive behavior by giving all kinds of reasons to feel sorry for the abuser without any accountability for their actions. Yet, at the time it was at least some kind of program for Christians.

    • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      Wow Sonshine, I love when God puts us in just the right place to get the help we need! I am sorry the lifeskils missed the mark, I find that the conservative churches also enables abusive behavior. Glad you are on a path of healing!

  10. Barbara B on February 13, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    I resonate with the lady who wrote the original question because I think everyone on this blog has such a strong desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord. For that reason, the first steps I took for safety all revolved finding out God’s view of my situation. I needed to know that He would approve of whatever actions I took next, whether that meant submitting or resisting.

    By seeking God through prayer and through His word, I learned that His Spirit never guides me into sin, so when He leads me to resist, it might seem insubmissive in the church’s eyes, but that action is holy to God. It was also important for me to learn that He will never be angry with me no matter what, even if I make a wrong move or fall short of perfect love. It seems like once I got those two issues settled, I could relax a little more and just think, “What makes the most obvious sense in this situation?” Not that it becomes easy, of course! But it does help with clarity.

    Fear of disappointing God can be paralyzing, so I think that has to be the first step. It definitely was for me.

    • Nancy on February 13, 2019 at 9:41 pm

      These are such important points Barbara.

      We always have to keep in mind that there is nothing we can do that will separate us from the love of God. Praise Him 🙂

      ‘getting that straight’, as you said, is the foundation from which we can step out into making changes.

      What you said about the Spirit never leading you into sin, is right on too.

  11. Michele L on February 13, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I have ineffectively fought against my husbands neglect and abusive anger with my own anger, arguing in circles trying to get back to the original issue that I brought up. Since I read Leslie’s book I started to recognize some of the underlying issues, but it didnt seem to fully fit my situation, and of course we were being counselled in ways that made matters worse. So I kept searching, reading all sorts of books to fix whatever was wrong with me to fix my marriage. Then I came across ‘self-centered spouse, help for chronically broken marriages’ by Brad Hambrick…I honestly expected another ‘we are all self centered so focus on yourself’ booklet, but it explains the verses in Matthew, dont cast your pearls before swing, dont try to feed a wile dog… what a spouse who is a ‘pig’ or ‘dog’ acts like and I realized that my husband is BOTH! He is content to be in his mud and sop up every effort I put into our marriage and still demand I love him better… then when he is ‘down’ or whatnot, he is like the wild dog, attacking against his own bad feelings making me the reason. Once I understood that I sought help from the counselors in working that out but it wasnt helpful, it was then they started asking me how I could say things better to give my husband a chance to respond well…sigh. More recently my new, and wonderful, counselor was really sick and was out of work for 6 weeks! that was end of 2018 and I found Leslie’s blog, and her facebook videos and have devoured them, they ALL make so much sense to me now. Then someone mentioned they watch Patrick Doyle when they start to doubt if the issues are all in there head and so I started watching those videos.

    Anyhow about 2 years ago I tried to seperate to show him how serious it was but I let pressure from him and the counselor to go back. I had to tell him he sinned and needed to repent for me to go home, so he did…but it wasnt real, but the implication from the counselor was I would be punishing if I didnt go back. I was scared to death, cried for an hour, then decided that when God has asked me to do hard things I am usually scared so He must want me to go home. Anyhow, a year later, we…as in he… had a big fight and H finally seemed to hit a wall, so to speak, I had told him unless he knew he was loveable that he would never feel loved,no matter what I do and asked him if he KNEW God loved him and he cried, a serious cry, not a self-pity cry like normal. So I explained that was probably the starting point, he needed to figure that out. He then asked me how I figured that out since I have spent the last few years trying to believe God loved me, so I told him. He was supposed to be working on those insecurites, on God’s love for him, but he was getting angrier and angrier every day. I suggested he needed to move out because he views me as the problem, the issue, and if he is hurting and his view is clouded because he is working on those insecurities it might be best for both of us for him to do it elsewhere. He did end up leaving at the request of one of the pastors but they put him up on property but only had 1 month, then they sent him home! In that month I slept, I mean…SLEPT like I hadnt in many years. My body started to relax and then I found out he was coming home, no discussion first, just he had no where else to go…not that he looked or humbled himself to ask family or friends. Since then things have only gotten worse. I put the boundary in to be in seperate rooms. I went back to not sleeping well though. I have found out that he is only waiting for me to be ready to restore the relationship. I dont know that he ever worked on those insecurities but it doesnt seem to be, I dont know that he KNOWS that God loves him…he is still blaming me for every time he blows up at me, calling me ridiculous when I ask him to put his hand down when he is angry because it scares me. He hoovers if I go to church during the same service as him, and I try to stay away. I have asked him to not buy me gifts because there are always strings attached to them. I have to respond in a way that makes him FEEL appreciated…saying thank you is only being polite. I tried to just put off opening his gifts until he wasnt around, but when I told him that I do that on purpose because of the pressure to respond exactly right is too much so I would like if he didnt buy gifts….so the next WEEK he bought a gift and asked me to open it WITH him in the room!!!! seriously didnt hear a word I said, he just figured because he put so much effort in then I would like it…the gift issue has never been about liking it. So then I was firm about not wanting a gift and I thought he got it since he had to return the gift he bought. This Christmas I made sure we were not doing gifts for each other and just made sure we both had extra spending money in the budget. Then my birthday rolls around two weeks ago and he mentioned to my mom that he was torn because I dont want a gift… so I thought, oh good, he gets it… but NOPE he bought me a gift. I told him, I dont know what to do with it since I didnt want a gift and proceeded to suggest if he wanted he could put the flowers somewhere as a decoration and he blew up at me! this incident was the first time i tried writing out the issue to him. I told him I thought he was sinful in his response and since he is telling me he wasnt angry, maybe he didnt realize how blowing up at me affects me.. to which he wrote back with more ‘blowing up’ and then saying he wasnt gonna talk about it. I told him he didnt need to talk but he did need to know he was sinning. In two weeks he has said NOTHING to me about it, no apology, no comment. My thought in the last two weeks is….if he can not honor my words and respect that choice in something as simple as gift giving and chooses what HE wants to do instead then he will not be able to honor or respect more important issues in our marriage. I thank God for giving me these understandings of my what my ‘marriage’ truly is so that I can be truthful with myself.

    for the first 15 years or our 26 years of marriage I was equally as toxic *many of those years were fighting back against the abuse* as my husband and the Lord saw fit to help me change so I want to give my husband time to change now that I am seeing the truth, and learning to implement boundaries….however it is so hard. We have 4 generations living here, which is helpful because there are enough people for buffering, if you know what I am saying. However my mom and gramps leave in just a couple weeks for a few months and my body has already started to tense up and stress when I think about it. I still tense up when I come home and H is home unexpectedly. I was telling my counselor I need to find somewhere to go on the weekends when he is home. 🙁

    • Ruth on February 14, 2019 at 10:05 am

      Bless your heart ❤️. Wow, he totally runs over your boundaries. I totally get the gift boundary. How rude and presumptuous to ignore your feelings on this! No wonder you’re having sleep problems. ☹️
      I wish he could go to a family members house, but I’m guessing nobody wants him. 🤪

      • Michele L on February 14, 2019 at 3:52 pm

        Ruth, Thank you. His family would want him…anyone who isnt me would want him…he is only harsh in his own home, not typically with others. He has an aunt who is/was a christian counselor that I think would totally understand but he refuses to humble himself to do that. He is sad that he isnt in ‘our’ room but not sad about the reason he isnt. I am just thankful the Lord keeps showing me these things because it is so easy to lean back into the relationship when he is calm and caring.

    • Annie on February 14, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Michele I found Brad Hambrick really great too for identifying and explaining the really under the radar stuff that made me question myself and then, later tried to explain to others. Mine is a combination of both types. No porn, drugs, physical abuse or adultery. More like emotional neglect, blameshifting and condescension. I was awestruck when I began reading Brad and Leslie that not only could someone exactly describe my life which I never spoke about, but there were a huge number of women living the exact same life. None of the Christian marriage teaching I had growing up ever described this,

      • Michele L on February 14, 2019 at 3:55 pm

        exactly like my husband Annie! I remember reading Brad Hambrick and crying my eyes thru the entire booklet. I asked our counselor to read it because I had some questions. He had already read it with us in mind but didnt think it applied! How blinded he was to the real issues, but I cant blame him because I was too. I told him I thought it was a matter of perspective because that booklet described the entirety of my marriage. I am thankful to have stumbled on it…and to this community! God is so gracious to me.

    • Nancy on February 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      Your ‘gift boundary’ exposes his intentions.

      Well done. Keep it up 🙂

      • Michele L on February 14, 2019 at 3:58 pm

        Thank you Nancy! I was feeling like such a jerk for the way I felt over the gift and even though I think I handled it well I still felt horrible, especially since my closest friend seemed sad that I didnt graciously accept it but she also understands that the gift isnt given just out of love but with strings. Why is it so hard for us to not feel all the guilt over things that are clearly not our issues? sigh. I guess I should just be thankful the Lord has seen fit to gift me with empathy and emotions. 🙂

        • Nancy on February 14, 2019 at 4:40 pm

          Hi Michele,

          Personally, I also ‘feel all the guilt over things that are clearly not [my] issues”. For me this is about a lack of appropriate boundaries.

          I see that nasty feeling of false guilt as a dragon that increases in size when I set boundaries – that dragon always scared me into relinquishing.

          Now that I know that there is nothing that can separate me from the love of God, and that The Lord encourages me to guard my heart, I can stand firm…and you know what? That dragon invariably deflates, and reveals a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors!

          It continues to be scary work for me…going up against these nasty feelings! I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely healthy in this area, but I thank God for His constant nudge to do the work of opening myself to His healing, and walking in His loving way ❤️

          • Michele L on February 14, 2019 at 4:53 pm

            thank you Nancy, your explanation is helpful and your story encouraging.

    • Free on February 15, 2019 at 5:07 am

      Michele, I am really glad you found this site. I hope you soak in the support her and pour over every resource you can find on domestic abuse. You are living with a very, very destructive person. Statistically his personality and character issues endure until death. If he had any inclination towards change, he would havev hanged by now. After the first correction showed no active participation and self initiated engagement on HIS part, the odds for change dramatically decrease.

      You don’t need to answer publicly, but how are your finances? Can you manage without the destructive person’s influence in your life? Can you begin to organize your future to that.end? You know, pack a safety bag, gather essential documents, refresh you resume, research living arrangements, cut expenses, see a lawyer, contact a domestic violence center, you need to do this and more to be prepared for the future

      Living in fear is one of the first reasons most secular counselors indicate for leaving a relationship. Why do we Christians blame ourselves or think we can change another person? You are in danger Michele and you were designed for more. None of this is your fault. You story is classic, you are yoked to an evil fool. Stop focusing on your abusers behavior, concentrate instead on what you want and what you need.

      • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 2:00 pm

        Free. Thank you I am finding great support here! I am still learning, just this morning I watched a couple short videos on dealing with a narcissist and for the first time can honestly say that is what I am dealing with.

        I do not really have the financial means at the moment to move, plus I am responsible for my grandfather and my mother. In those ways H is really good. They are a good buffer in our home too, so I can avoid most potential issues. However it also adds a layer of stress, but I think the benefits out-weigh the stress. I have health issues that keep me from working in any field I am qualified to work. I am working on strengthening myself, healing with the help of my counselor, and waiting on the Lord to direct me. I want to give Clyde the benefit of my strengthened position for a time to see if he ‘wakes up’, but that is secondary to being strong for myself. I am not opposed to leaving because I know God will take care of me if he directs me to go, but I am waiting on the Lord to direct the next clear step and so far that is what he is directing. thank you for the encouragement and practical steps to prepare. It is so helpful to have people who actually GET what I am going thru.

    • Veronica on February 15, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Maybe his love language is gift giving . (5 Languages of Love)I found it sweet that he asked your mom , he really doesn’t know what to do.( How We Love ) might be a big help to him and you. I have less empathy when someone isn’t trying at all . It sounds like he is trying he just needs more tools to work with.
      I’m just thinking if my son came to me n said I’m thinking of giving my wife a gift but she said she doesn’t want gifts from me…… my heart as a mom would ache for him.

      • Barbara B on February 15, 2019 at 11:51 am

        Hi Veronica and Michele,

        I think the point of The 5 Languages of Love is that when we want others to feel loved, we speak to them in their language, not ours. Maybe I am missing something in the book, but that’s definitely the message I heard and try to practice. And I hope other people will learn about my love language and speak to me in my language, just as I do for them!

        I have grown sons and my heart might ache for them, too, but I would also say, “Well, what DOES she want from you? Give her that.” And I might even think to myself (but never say), “duh.”

        From a distance we can only speculate, but it sure seems to me that Michele’s husband is playing a power game with her. I could be wrong but either way, he seems to be unable to accept her decision that really shouldn’t be a big deal. “No gifts” is not hard to understand or carry out in respect to her preference.

        • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

          Barbara, your understanding of the languages is correct. And as I have told Veronica, I have spent so many years trying to speak my husbands well, but he always wanted more, it is never enough. Yet he will tell me, ‘I can’t speak your love language’..sigh. I agree about the conversation you would have with your sons! So important to teach our boys to honor and respect their wives. I just havent figured out why he doesnt save himself the frustration of buying me gifts he knows I dont want, but I can only speculate that he is sure if he just gets it correct i will be happy, he will feel good about himself and all will be right. Not buying a gift doesnt give him any chance of feeling good because I wouldnt praise him for that.

      • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 1:36 pm

        Veronica… what you may be missing is that this is a string of incidences in which HIS preference over rides mine. Yeah, wanting to get me a gift seems sweet, until you realize that I HAVE to respond to that gift exactly the way HE needs me to so that HE feels good about HIMSELF and when I dont then HE says I am ungrateful. Those strings attached to his gifts have nearly strangled me. I freeze when he gives me a gift so I can’t respond in anyway because of this pattern. In my marriage, what TRYING would look like for my husband would be to TRY to NOT do what HE wants to do and TRY to do what I would like, but see that doesnt come naturally to a narcissist. So his pain in what to do about my birthday was about HIM… not about me.

        His love language is NOT gifts. I have done the languages, I have done many, many things to try to figure out how to love him and it just doesnt work because he doesnt know how to receive love. I have worked to speak his love language and he has been most abusive in that area to me…it is never enough, the more I do the more he wants.

        I get your heart Veronica, you sound like me for the last 25+ years. Just figure out how to love him better. That has kept us in this pattern of abuse, because I do all the work and he sops it up and demands more and more from me. The moment I dont give him what he *needs* or actually need something from him, like grace when my dad died because I was so drained from helping my family….then He blows up, gets angry, says I dont appreciate him, I take advantage of him, etc.

        I get that your heart would break for your son, but if my son came to me saying his wife doesnt want a gift from him but he wants to get her one, then I would ask him why she doesnt want one, and suggest that he honor and respect her requests until they can work through whatever the reasons are.

        Anyhow, thanks for the suggestions.

        • Nancy on February 15, 2019 at 2:46 pm

          Very well articulated, Michele.

        • Veronica on February 15, 2019 at 3:55 pm

          Point taken. It must get tiring. Yet you are still searching for help. That shows your strong character. I too am determined when I want something. The How We Love program has helped so many people locally. If you have every done the cd’s they are not for the weak. It’s tough to get through. My last group was with 12 people some single some divorced some married. A few tears and of course I had to provide GREAT desserts. Seriously though it seems like you are willing to work hard. I have found as I do the class and then set up the next person to do one in their home it always turns out to be the couple/person who struggled the most. Look at Leslie, she has this great ministry all birthed out of her childhood pain. Not that we look or even like the pain but the enemy would want us to waste it. Seems like a win win to me when we learn from it and empower others as Leslie does. Then we are the victors.

          • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 4:27 pm

            Yes Veronica, I look forward to the day the Lord uses all this for others. I have already seen him use the abuse of my childhood to help others. Recently someone told me the thing about me that helps them is that I understand pain, I understand hurting. Isnt that such a sweet thing for the Lord to have them say to encourage me?!!!!

          • Ruth on February 16, 2019 at 8:49 pm

            Veronica, I don’t think Michelle needs to be lured into more hoops to jump through with this man. I have read the How We Love Books. It’s great, but it can’t fix abusers and narcissists.

      • Robin on February 16, 2019 at 7:29 pm

        Gifts can be given in place of Truth. My husband tried to woo me with a trip to France; but after we had listened to Leslie’s tapes together, he had nothing to say. I think we need to be mindful what is the motive behind the gift.

  12. Annie on February 15, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Michele one step of my growth was a point when I gave my self permission not to “stay well” perfectly. My legalistic background set me up for always having to do everything right and at times I read that into Leslie’s messaging, ok great here is a way I can do everything perfectly again. I think it was important for me to look back and figure out the how and why I got myself into this mess ( so I dont keep repeating this pattern and also come out stronger) . Then went before God and repented for those aspects. Guilt after repentance will drown you. Accept that you are doing your best to struggle through a predicament that most people around you have no clue of the dynamics and you are only learning. Its Ok if you make mistakes, he has been making mistakes for decades. God has also told me many times now that it is not my job to fix this marriage.

    • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 1:48 pm

      Annie, thank you! that is very encouraging. I have seen how badly I have handled things in the beginning of our marriage, partly because of the abuse of my childhood (as a way of understand, not blaming my FOO, jut understanding the ways I have learned to cope). I have, as the Lord has taught me over the years, repented to both the Lord and my Husband. Unlike the Lord, I think in some ways repenting to my husband has strengthened his position that I was at fault…sigh. However, I get what you are saying…my issue was growing up with an angry dad and I learned to try to do things perfectly so I didnt get beat like my brother. I brought that with me into my faith, which came later, and became legalistic all on my own, but mostly to myself as well. I dont tend to hold others to my standard but that is probably due to God’s grace in giving me the gift of mercy. I am just now starting to learn to give myself grace in these moments that I mess up and move forward. Such a great reminder because it is such a hard change and I appreciate you messaging me!

      • Annie on February 15, 2019 at 2:16 pm

        I also think strength to not react comes from knowing you can walk away. Slowly I am coming to terms with all the things that might happen if I walk away. Disapproval, financial instability, blame for H’s failures until the end of time. I still have a few non- negotiables at this moment, things ( people) I am not willing to lose. But God keeps telling me in different ways I am going to be OK. Usually in big convo’s with H I would at some point cry. The things he was saying although hurtful were not hurting me but I would cry because I felt stuck. Last time I did not cry and I walked away with a much greater understanding of my situation and my options, and also a few more things I will get blamed for. I am figuring out what I am afraid of losing and talking to God about it, and gradually letting them go.

      • Sophia on February 18, 2019 at 10:02 am

        Thank you Michele for all of your courageous work and sharing. I too brought a lot of enabling patterns (from a very chaotic home and raging dad) into our marriage. So many times I thought submission looked like ‘doormat’. This never helped me nor my husband! Much personal work on my part has involved a 180 on my behaviors from the past. Sad to say this is a disappointment to those around me. It is OK not to be OK. (As Sheila Walsh says). I am on a different journey now. Anyway, thank you again for your courage!!!❤️

    • Nancy on February 15, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Annie,

      I want to give you an image. Our hearts think in pictures, I believe.

      Do you know what the father did when he saw his prodigal son, off in the distance, returning to him?

      He picked up his ‘skirts’ and RAN to his son.

      Older men never exposed their legs and they certainly NEVER ran. This would have been considered highly undignified; but The father DIDN’T CARE.

      He RAN towards his son.

      This is how our Father responds when we turn back to him ( repentance).

      If there is guilt after repentance please know that this is an attack from the enemy.

      Your father RUNS towards you with open arms when you turn to face him ❤️

      • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 4:33 pm

        Nancy, I LOVE that analogy!

        Annie, Yes, knowing I can walk away has made it ‘easier’ to deal rather than thinking I am completely trapped by my circumstances. I also notice that the stronger I get, the more I dont ‘take it’ the angrier H is getting when these situations arise. It reminds me that I am doing things better because he is not getting the reaction that he is used to…i.e. me getting upset, emotional, trying to get him to understand, etc…all things he is used to using to justify his abusiveness. I am still praying this will make an impact on H but if it doesnt I still am trusting God to direct and provide me.

      • Robin on February 15, 2019 at 4:39 pm

        Nancy, you write so eloquently; what a beautiful picture u painted for Annie, and all of us to remember.

    • Ruth on February 15, 2019 at 8:19 pm

      Annie, that’s beautiful advice 😊

      • Ruth on February 15, 2019 at 8:26 pm

        I’m trying to reply to Annie’s Post to Michelle on Friday at 12:28pm. But my reply keeps going to the bottom of the page LOL 😝

        • Michele L on February 15, 2019 at 11:15 pm

          Ruth you replied right. It just brings your reply to the bottom of the other replies to Annies. there was some side shift in comments as a result of her reply to me, yours is the last response to Annie, so it goes to the bottom, but not indented. Hope that helps!

    • Ruth on February 15, 2019 at 8:21 pm

      Annie, that is beautiful advice. 😊

      • Annie on February 16, 2019 at 2:11 pm

        🙂 Thanks Ruth, its advice to self! BTW I haven’t figured out how all the indents work either. Kudos to Michele!

        • JoAnn on February 16, 2019 at 11:32 pm

          Annie, if there’s no reply icon after an entry, just go up to the last message that has one, and when you enter your reply, it will go to the right place in the order of messages. What I am waiting for to be fixed is that I am not getting notices in my email of new messages. Jael says they are having a problem, but it has been going on for a while now. I hope they get it fixed. I have to scroll through all the messages to find the new entries. Is that what y’all are doing?

          • Debi on February 18, 2019 at 3:39 pm

            I haven’t been getting notices in my email of new messages either for some time.

          • Leslie Vernick on February 19, 2019 at 1:05 pm

            I thought that was fixed. I will check again.

  13. Just One on February 15, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve lived with a very difficult man for many years-too embarrassed to tell you how many. Just recently, I ran across a video describing someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. I couldn’t believe how well it fit my husband-pretty much to a T. I then searched other Christian resources and learned more about this type of disorder. It is a form of mental illness and you cannot reason with someone like this. It reminds me of a verse in Proverbs that tells us not to speak into the ears of a fool, lest they despise the wisdom of your words. I had been trying to reason with him to no avail. Just knowing what I’m dealing with, what to expect and not to expect is helping me begin to deal with this situation. I still love and forgive him though, and want to handle this properly and fairly.

    I can identify with the person who is afraid that she’ll displease God if she seperates from her husband. I have looked to scripture for guidance. The passage in ICorinthians 7:10-16 commands that the wife is not to depart from her husband. But by looking at the whole passage carefully, I’m realizing that the Lord knows that remaining isn’t always the way to go. If that was the case, v.11 wouldn’t give us a choice to remain single or return to our H. We would just be directed to return to them. V.16 tells us that we don’t have to feel responsible for their salvation. Actually, the only time that I felt that God got through to my H. is when I left for about a month. But it wasn’t a complete repentance and he soon returned to his old self.

    It’s just so hard to go forward, knowing that leaving would be very rough on everyone. But, if I think about where he is heading after this life if he doesn’t repent and turn to the Lord, if He leads (which I’m not quite sure yet), I have to look to Him for the strength to do it.

    • Michele L on February 18, 2019 at 3:53 pm

      Just One… Thank you for sharing. Thank you for the scripture reference, I had never noticed that. Often our counselor would go down to the unbelieving spouse part and say I needed to stay based on that. Something else I noticed today about those verses is that Paul says it is him not the Lord saying about an unbelieving spouse…NKJV vs 12 ‘But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.’

      I too just made the connection to my husband being a narcissist. I never saw it because he isn’t like you see in the movies. I always thought a narcissist wants to put others down, but as I watched some videos they were saying some of the exact ways I have described H.

      One last thought, dont be embarrassed by how many years you stayed, look back and think how strong you were to stay that long and that you are now learning all that you have been dealing with.


  14. just one on February 18, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks for your encouraging words, Michele. I like the your insight on v.12. Since they’re Paul’s thoughts, not the Lord’s command, they don’t carry as much weight. That being the case, Paul’s direction must not apply in all circumstances. God knew that down through the centuries, many men would be abusers and shouldn’t be allowed to share a household with his children. Another passage of scripture I’ve not been looking at correctly is 1Peter 3:1-6. I was concentrating on being in subjection to my h. I tried so hard to please him in order to win him to the Lord. But they are to observe our pure devotion to and trust in the Lord to possibly win them. We are Sarah’s daughters (v.6) when we do well without fear. Too often, I’ve gone along with things that weren’t right out of fear. A life riddled with compromise has kept me from both winning him and a close relationship to the Lord. I feel like the Lord is opening my eyes. He’s so patient and merciful!

  15. Jolene on February 20, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    Beautifully written post, Leslie. Thank you. And quite timely for my situation. I think my husband is mentally ill, in addition to a personality disorder, and he refuses to get help. I am struggling with “in sickness and health”, but I have my and my children’s mental health to consider as well. He is convinced I am cheating on him (paranoia), has hidden recording devices around the house and the vehicle, and twists around what I do or say to fit his suspicion. I am not cheating. No offense to men, but I don’t foresee myself EVER being involved with another man. EVER.

    If you would all please pray for us as we are finally preparing to leave over the next few months, I would be grateful. Pray for God’s protection and provision. My heart lifts at the thought of having a day free of being screamed at and called the most horrible of names. Bless all of us going through this, and Leslie for sharing her wisdom.

    • Moon Beam on February 22, 2019 at 5:12 am

      Praying now Jolene. Praying for wisdom, lodging, safety, financial capability to remain apart and God’s speed.

      I look forward to hearing m your testimony of how Good loved you and ministered to your needs.

      Must you wait months, not weeks? Please notify some authorities. You and your family are in extreme danger.

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