I’m Separated. Should I Reach Out?

Morning friends,

I am on the next leg of my trip, in Toronto. I’ve been busy and I need your prayers that I can get better sleep and not get sick. I will be here all week and I have not slept well in Nashville so I am operating at half a tank. Hopefully, here I can catch up a bit. I don’t have to speak but I have other things and commitments I have to do. I fly home Friday and then head to Akron, Ohio to speak for two full days the following week.  

CONQUER closes next Monday and will not re-open until May 2020. If you’ve always thought about joining this amazing group, I’d encourage you to check it out here

This week’s question: I have been married for almost 19 years. Things have been in decline since year 2, but I have hung in there because I truly felt God brought us together and it would be wrong to separate or divorce. It would be like a slap in His face for His gift. I managed to see the good side of things and keep positive…. blah, blah. 

I have reached my limit. He has literally disregarded me and lived in another part of the house for the last year. I have tried to talk about our relationship, but when I finally can get him to sit down with me and I begin, his explosion starts to build. I simply cannot take any more of these – they are so stressful and upsetting and confusing to me. I have had MS problems for the last 7 years and increased stress causes my body to shut down, putting me in bed or at least immobile for days. 

I recently found your website and have realized just how abusive he has been and that God indeed does not want me to live like this. I moved in with my daughter on July 9 of this year. He may text me every 4 – 6 days but usually only has questions on how to care for the cats or other impersonal things. He has once said he was sorry. God was talking to him and he could see how I was giving him love but he was not giving to me. Another time he texted he was sorry he was so f—d up. Another time he said he hoped I was ok. But that has been it. 

My question is…. should I be contacting him in any way? What should I be doing? I have been working through your book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I am working on a list of things that I will not have in my life anymore. 

Also, I am reading your blogs and watching videos…. and signed up for the webinar on Monday. I realize I have enabled him to continue to some degree and need to work on myself too.

Answer: You’ve got three main objectives during this time. The first one is to get your body back to being as healthy and strong as possible. You can’t even think properly if you are not sleeping, and your body is continually stressed and sick. The stress of living in this situation has taken its toll and exacerbated your symptoms of MS. Living with toxic relationship stress compromises our immune system and therefore we can start to get sicker and weaker.

God is giving you a reprieve for your body to regroup. For you to rest, refresh, listen to your body and learn to nurture and nourish yourself, which includes removing yourself from that toxic environment. Your immune system is not able to fight off disease when it’s busy trying to get rid of all the stress hormones activated by living in an abusive and contentious relationship. It’s interesting that the writer of Proverbs warns us, “It’s better to live on the corner of a roof than with an angry and contentious woman (or man).” Proverbs 21:9  

“Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.”Proverbs 17:1

Why? Because God did not wire us to thrive in unsafe toxic relationships. He knows it will ruin our health. Proverbs 12:4 warns, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” Remember Proverbs is written to a young man by his father, so he’s talking about women or wives here, but the same truth applies to husbands who shame their wives. It’s like rottenness to your bones.

Therefore, when possible, we are to distance ourselves from such individuals and steward the health and body God has given us.

Your second main task is to do your own work to get as mentally, emotionally, spiritually clear, healthy and strong as you can. For starters, what is God’s character like to you? You said now you don’t think he wants you to be abused, but did you think God was okay with it before?  

Sometimes we have been taught lies that sound Biblically true, but keep us trapped in fear and shame. I was talking with someone recently who was afraid to make a mistake. I asked her why?  

She said, “Because then God will be mad at me or punish me or be disappointed in me.” 

I asked her, “Is that how you feel when your child is trying really hard to learn something new, like gymnastics, or piano and she makes a mistake? Are you disappointed? Do you have the expectation that she will never make a mistake?”

“No, of course not,” she said. “I’m proud of her for trying.” I asked her to think of a single Biblical character that never made mistakes. She couldn’t name anyone. And, God used them, mistakes and all.

God told a story about a servant who lived afraid of making a mistake. (Matthew 25:14-30). This man lived in fear of making a mistake. He was short-sighted and wasted his opportunity to grow and make something of his talents. Jesus rebuked him for living that way. Don’t let that be you.  

Therefore, do your work. Understand what kept you in this relationship while you were being so mistreated. It may have been erroneous beliefs about who God is or what he expects. Or it might even be some of your good qualities that have become weaknesses in some instances.  

For example, you are generous and kind but have no boundaries on when you need to say no or are enabling destructive or sinful behavior to continue.   Or, you are a loyal person and therefore you feel guilty leaving someone, even when that person is causing you harm. Or it could be that you were afraid to get a job or go back to college or even speak up for yourself under the false teaching that a good wife gives her husband the decision making power for her life. Whatever it is, explore your own history of relationships, and see how God is using this separation to mature you into more of the woman he’s called you to become.

The last area that needs to be looked at is your marriage. You can only do that in the context of the first two. If your body remains weak and you haven’t done your work or your spouse hasn’t done his work, there is no rebuilding new history between you. If you get back together without both of you doing your work you will repeat your old history together. That’s the last thing you want to do. God cares about the sanctity of your marriage but not more than yours and your husband’s health or sanity.

To answer your question, should you reach out to him? It depends on why you want to? Do you miss him and long for connection? Are you trying to see if he still cares? Are you angry and just want to let him know how much he’s hurt you? All of the above might be legitimate in the proper context but from what you wrote, right now you don’t have any evidence that he is doing his own work. He hasn’t inquired about what he needs to do to rebuild trust or get you to come home. He hasn’t come to the end of himself.  

He may feel shame as he made these statements about being messed up. But knowing you’re messed up and doing the work to stop being messed up are very different things. On the other hand, healthy shame and guilt motivate us to not repeat those shameful behaviors. Toxic shame goes into lying, pretending and hiding. 

Think about why you want to contact him and whether contacting him right now will be helpful to you or more hurtful. If he uses his charm or spiritual sounding language will you be sucked back into the destructive dance? Can you stay in CORE? Can you honestly speak the truth about your experience being married to him and not get into JADE (justifying, arguing, defending or explaining) why you decided to separate?  

I know this time feels like limbo-land. You don’t know what’s going to happen and it feels uncertain and unstable. Yet the reality of life is that none of us know for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year, you’re just more acutely aware of it right now.  

But ultimately, we all decide whether or not we will walk by faith and trust God for today and whatever happens tomorrow, or not. But those who choose to trust God, get the grace and strength to handle the uncertainty of tomorrow. Click To Tweet

Friends, what happened when you contacted your spouse who did not show much resolve to change or what happened what you didn’t?  Share your experience.  


  1. Bernadette(Tina) Grenadier on October 16, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Dear Leslie, I am so grateful that I have found your teachings. I am telling everyone about you and also reposting your videos on Facebook.

    I’m sorry that you are not sleeping well in Tennessee as this is where I was born.
    I’m praying for a beautiful refreshing for you.


  2. sheep on October 17, 2019 at 10:22 am

    When faced with the decision of choosing repentance, change, and a real marriage Vs. separation leading to divorce, my wife chose to separate and continue to pretend nothing was wrong. I didn’t reach out emotionally (or in any other way) to her either. (grey rock principal) Because she needed to feel the full impact of her decision, and I needed to see if there would be any repentance/change in her that would make me willing to try again. Toward the end there were a few words from her that might have meant something, but there was no action to back them up, and we are now divorced.

    If I would have stayed emotionally attached, it would have made things so much more difficult, and it would have made it really hard to tell if there were any meaningful changes in her life.

  3. Libbie on October 17, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    I unfortunately kept emotionally attached, and still remain so, to some degree since being separated for 8 months. It’s a work in progress, and I know that my husband and I are making this much harder on ourselves remaining in contact and conversation at times. I go “grey rock” for periods of time, and then become overwhelmed with compassion or guilt when he asks for me to show him that I care about him or want this marriage. And then we begin friendly discussions, or dinner….but then it’s never enough. He gets angry because the following night I will have plans or not spend time with him, and says he doesn’t feel like I’m fully committed. I guess we are just confusing ourselves by the back and forth.
    Early on after leaving, I made requests for him to work on his anger issues, quit drinking, and attend AA meetings at least twice a week. He has done the first two, but quit attending meetings after about 3 weeks.
    In the meantime, I have been working on myself, and trying to be strong, reading Leslie’s book and Lundy Bancroft’s book “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, which helps me not feel as crazy. Because of these books, I have more of an awareness of when he blame shifts or gaslights and can recognize it. It’s when I let my guard down, and he appeals to my emotion or heart, that I feel like he needs me to help him in this process. I LOVE the above analogy about it being like watching a man drowning, and calling your name for help. That is exactly how it feels.
    I would recommend LOTS of prayer to get through and trying to show strength and grace, without getting too involved. Easier said than done, I know.

    • JoAnn on October 17, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      Libbie, I would like to offer that it takes more love, tough love, to DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to incite him to change, than to keep on throwing a life line to a drowning man. The truth is, he could pull you into the water with him. The boundaries must be firm for them to work. Nancy’s testimony is applicable here. She said it was hard, and I believe that. But she stood firm, and it made all the difference.

    • Aly on October 17, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      I think JoAnn has some important wisdom here. You might also consider AlAnon.

      • Libbie on October 18, 2019 at 9:04 am

        Thank you ladies. And Aly, you are not the first person to recommend AlAnon to me…. 3 or 4 close family members and friends have suggested it. I just need to get the courage and make the time to go. I think I have a God given talent of compassion and forgiving pretty easily; however, the sin in me, causes me to “misuse” it, and without boundaries, I am an enabler.

        • Aly on October 18, 2019 at 10:46 pm

          Have you signed up for any of Leslie’s classes or workshops? This may be a good step especially if your struggling with courage as you mentioned.
          Alanon is good and I often recommend it as long as someone is also involved with another program where I felt connected and supported.

  4. One step at a time on October 17, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I think reaching out can really confuse things if there is a lot of work left to be done before any possibility of reconciling. I’m still waiting for my h to move out. He keeps “hoovering” and asking me to call off the legal separation and tells me how we “don’t have to do this.” I need space to think, process, heal…and so far he isn’t working on making sure that can happen. In fact, he is contesting certain aspects of the separation.

    Others (counselors, leadership…) seem to be trying to make sure we stay connected. The counselor will give one of us instructions on things and tell that one to tell the other one. The wife of one of the counselors told me she wanted me to commit to fast and pray for my marriage. I don’t feel I should or can fast and pray when I’m barely surviving day to day and walking on eggshells all the time because he is still around in the same house. Too much needs to happen for reconciliation to even be on the table to take place, as he has not even repented for his abusive behavior. Yet, these people (not my family and closest friends–but the other people who have influence in the situation) are all pushing for reconciliation to be the goal. I get that–I see why they want it. But I’m concerned that when it is made such a goal, then the issues that really need to be dealt with are not addressed, because “that couple is going to reconcile anyway.” I don’t know…but something about all this just seems so “off” to me. I almost want to tell others “will you please just back off and let healing and the natural process of things take place?”

    Any of the rest of you experience this?

    • JoAnn on October 19, 2019 at 12:00 am

      Wow, Nancy! Yes and amen to everything you said so eloquently. Your insight and experience are expressed so well.

    • sheep on October 19, 2019 at 12:46 am

      Hi One Step,

      I totally understand what you are saying. For a long time, I put that pressure on myself and others put that pressure on me. Note that I said others put that pressure on me. Pressure was not put on her because she wouldn’t listen to or accept any pressure to change. She didn’t see the need for reconciliation because her needs were being met. She was quite happy with the situation. Pressure to prematurely reconcile is not helpful for either one of you. It is showing their love for the institution of marriage, not their love for the two people in the marriage.

      I believe that my personal pressure and the pressure from others to reconcile before her huge sin issues were even acknowledged, let alone dealt with, did a lot of damage to me, but probably more so to her. It helped her to pretend that she was in a good place and that eventually people would forget what she had done and things would go back to “normal”.

      We continued to live in the same house even when we should have been separated. This didn’t help anything. Even after she decided she would move out instead of reconcile, it still took months for her to actually go. All this did was drive the hurts deeper and postpone the inevitable.

      I have to say that things became so much clearer after she moved out. It really helped clear away the fog that had cluttered my mind.

      I think I would probably tell him that as long as he continue to ignore your need for him to move out, as long as he keeps trying to manipulate you into doing what he wants, and until he deals with these things on a heart level… Then there is absolutely 0% chance of reconciliation. Obviously, I don’t know your situation… but if he continues to manipulate the situation and he just won’t leave, you may have to take that step yourself.

      • One step at a time on October 19, 2019 at 1:09 am

        Thank you for your response. I agree–it can be damaging if pressure is put on a person to reconcile when the situation is not ready for it. That is one of my main concerns. I’m concerned that the situation will drag on and on and he won’t move out–although he has been told by others that he needs to. So, hopefully he will listen and do that sooner rather than later.

        • Autumn on October 21, 2019 at 8:08 pm

          One step if he was going to move out he would have done so by now. Please don’t keep your life and growth on hold, tethered by his nonsense and Tom foolery. You deserve better. I hope you action plan does not delay another day. Glad you have found a good counseling. Breaking through denial and building our self worth takes time. You can do that even faster and more efficiently without living with your dysfunctional partner.

          • One step at a time on October 22, 2019 at 11:40 pm

            Autumn, Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, my hands are somewhat tied as to the timing of everything due to some others being involved in the situation and having control over it. I think also that his counselor might be advising him NOT to move out. I’m not sure, but due to comments my h has made in regards to us being a “family” and that we probably won’t separate (even though the papers were served a month ago) and that he isn’t moving out…I’m thinking he has his counselor’s support. After all, the counselor told me to not do anything to make him want to move (regardless of the fact that he has done that to me during the duration of the many years we have been married.)
            It’s a huge complicated mess of which I cannot go into detail here. Sigh.

          • One step at a time on October 23, 2019 at 5:30 pm

            Yes, the law superceeds, but there are some other aspects that affect the situation…you can see a little bit of mention of it down on the very last post of mine on this blog. I’m between a rock and a hard place and I cannot really go into detail on here.

    • One step at a time on October 19, 2019 at 1:06 am

      You were “right on” with your response. It really put into perspective what I was thinking and feeling but couldn’t quite come up with the right words to write down. Thank you for taking the time to formulate a thoughtful response.

    • Hope on October 20, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      I feel like you, Nancy, done explaining, convincing, trying. And “done being vulnerable with my husband”–as that just offers up my heart to be hurt again. A very long road–25+ years and Done. I’m trying to stay well until I can leave well (and safely.) I’m not really hoping for reconciliation right now or maybe ever. I’m praying that each of us can be whole. He fits the criteria for Aspergers, which complicates everything. He has many communication challenges, low or no empathy, lives like I’m his business partner, struggles to understand the basics of what a relationship/marriage even IS. And explodes/punishes if I bring up anything about “us” or our marriage. Living in the same small house, together but alone. I’m trying (good and bad days) to be respectful while doing my own recovery work, quietly reclaiming my life. I have a wonderful counselor, a few trusted family members and close friends who know/”get” my journey…Still–it’s so hard! I struggle with loneliness a lot. I feel like a secret agent on a mission to become whole and free!

      • JoAnn on October 20, 2019 at 11:37 pm

        Hope, are you working on an exit plan with your counselor? By setting up s clear, step-by-step plan and then ticking off the items one by one, you will begin to feel more Hope and strength. By getting out of this relationship, you can make room for more meaningful relationship, and especially a deeper and more vital relationship with the Lord.

        • Hope on October 21, 2019 at 10:54 am

          Thanks, JoAnn. Yes, my counselor is helping me with a plan, grateful for that. And I am making progress… But the process is so slow and stressful. I don’t know any other way to do this, because it isn’t safe for me to be open with my husband. And it doesn’t change anything. Needing courage and endurance..!

      • Janice D on October 23, 2019 at 5:27 am

        Hi,One Step…What I’m hearing from you is that there are many voices weighing in on your situation ( counselors,leadership)yet you are feeling pressured to back down from your decision to separate.Is that right?You are the only one who knows what being married to your husband has been like.The Holy Spirit is given to every believer and is a wonderful counselor.It is wise to seek help and be accountable,yet we must ultimately learn to trust the Lords leading in our lives.This blog is a great place to be and I’m glad you are here.Many prayers are being lifted up for your safety and peace of mind as you move out of the fog and into clarity.Many of us are on the same journey and understand what you are going through.Many times well meaning people have their own agenda and what you describe as pushy sounds manipulative to me…something to think about.Keep moving forward,speaking the truth in love. God loves you and knows every detail of your life.He is committed to your wellbeing.

        • JoAnn on October 23, 2019 at 11:45 am

          Janice D, I fully agree with you. This is why it can be helpful, even necessary, to limit your circle of confidantes to those who understand and support your decisions. Sometimes, you might need to assure others that you are seeking appropriate counsel and thank them for their concern and prayers. Good enough.

  5. Vi on October 19, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Thank you everyone for your stories and insight. I am finding them all so helpful as I try to decide to stay well or leave well.

    I thought I had detached emotionally from my h but find I keep getting pulled back in; thanks to you all, I now know why and where I need to focus my own work still.

    I am learning so much about myself from reading the posts and am gaining clarity on my “marriage” from your personal experiences. Thank you for sharing.

    And thank you, Leslie, for your wisdom and for the time and effort you’ve given to me through your books and website.

  6. Autumn on October 21, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Have you gotten any legal consultation? It is probably that you may be due support when you separate. That should help you speed up your exit date considerably. I know we Christians cringe at the thought of talking to a divorce attorney. Yet, as ugly as it is, you need to learn the laws in the state you live in, especially if it is a state that allows for legal separation. I would strongly encourage you to secure a protective order. Most states will give you at least a 30 day temporary order and then decide if you can have an extension (often for years), after the court reviews your case.

    You may say that you weren’t going to involve any legal action. Maybe you would say you were just going to separate on your own accord and in your own way. I would argue that approach is not strong enough. The only hope for change is a firm consequence.

    You leaving in your own way without legal consultation, in my opinion, can be dangerous. Have you filed any reports with the authorities about your domestic situation? You may need to prepare what is called an “undisclosed safe house.” If you have a car, find a neighbor’s garage to park it in or park blocks away and get someone to walk you to your safe house. If you share your concern with the police, they will usually offer protective assistance and patrol your safe house.

    God’s Speed for your safety, Louisa.

  7. Moonbeam on October 21, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    I am just wondering Louisa, if you have no intimacy in your relationship, is your husband using pornography?

  8. One step at a time on October 22, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    What’s your experience with different counselors? The counselor that was assigned to my h is being quite pushy (to me) requiring me to meet with him (the counselor) for a couple of days of counseling (although I’m actually working with a different counselor and that was the original plan. He already has a lot of info from me of what has been going on in our marriage. Are counselors typically pushy? I would think they couldn’t be (unless they are trying to help a person change who doesn’t see why they need to change, maybe?). I feel very uncomfortable with him, but he went to a “higher up” to verify that I was required to meet with him.

    • Aly on October 22, 2019 at 10:55 pm

      One Step,
      Have your personal counselor work with the other counselor. You can sign release paperwork for this to happen if you want to?
      Most counselors are not this aggressive to see individuals from my understanding. This is why having your own counselor intervene will assist with you not getting in a situation that may not be beneficial. Not saying it’s not overall but it might give you the protection you need during this time.

      • One step at a time on October 22, 2019 at 11:33 pm

        Hi Aly,
        My counselor and I are going to meet to discuss this. Yes, we did sign release paperwork a few weeks ago. Which makes it more confusing as to why he isn’t reaching out to her and why he is being so pushy with me.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 23, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Who is doing the “requiring” What higher up? Unless something is court ordered, you are not required unless your church is using their authority to “require” something. But don’t let yourself be controlled or bullied like this. IT’s totally inappropriate.

      • One step at a time on October 23, 2019 at 3:05 pm

        Leslie, thank you so much for your response. I don’t want to give too many details on here but the higher ups are authorities higher than our local church due to us being involved in ministry. They assigned two different counselors to us with the understanding that I might work with his counselor further down the road after his issues are dealt with. –which they haven’t been even started to be dealt with. His counselors comments and texts have made me feel exactly that–bullied or forced to work with him. I told him I have my own counselor who has been assigned to me and he promptly went to the higher up. I feel very uncomfortable with the pressure.

        • Leslie Vernick on October 23, 2019 at 9:15 pm

          Thanks for clarifying and I don’t blame you and I would speak to your experience with those who assigned that counselor to help you both.

  9. JoAnn on October 23, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Louisa, Maybe it’s time to begin planning to move out, even if it’s to only a one room apartment. Getting out of the fog will help you to think more clearly and see where to go from here. If you have a shared bank account, then set up a separate one for yourself in a different bank, and begin to put your income there. Get some help from a women’s crisis center to find a counselor; some centers provide free counseling. If you begin to take some steps now, you will begin to feel empowered to do more.

  10. Iesha on November 5, 2019 at 6:57 pm


    I know that you said your husband doesn’t watch pornography. However, everything you described about your husband is almost EXACTLY the way my husband is. My husband is a sex addict. Sex addiction activities can vary including pornography, massage parlors, strip clubs, affairs, etc. I’m praying that the LORD reveals to you what is truly going on with your husband. You may not be as concerned about it right now with all that you’ve gone through but it can be helpful to know the root issues as you pray for him. It’s definitely a good decision to separate from him. He needs to suffer consequences for his destructive behavior. Limit your contact with him as much as possible until you begin to discern a real change in him. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. My sister I pray that God overwhelms you with His love and that He gives you peace and strength in this season of your life.

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