Pray for me. I’m feeling weary. Could I ask you to hold my arms up high like Aaron and Hur did for Moses when the Israelites were in battle with the Amalekites ([truth]Exodus 17:12[/truth])? He couldn’t do it without the help of faithful others who came alongside of him. I know God wants me in this battle for truth, justice, and real reconciliation of marriages but sometimes I just want to retire to a quiet beach and read novels. Please pray for me.
Question: Leslie, the counselor we, or mostly he, is seeing told me that when hubby acts one way in public and different at home, it’s because he feels safe with me. My husband was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused as a child. I had no idea to what extent, but neither did I know that those experiences would hurt our marriage.
Leslie, could you explain here, or on another post, why this happens.
Ladies, those of who have been posting, does your husband have childhood trauma? It would be interesting to know.
Answer: I have mixed feelings about answering your question. I want to tell the truth, but I don’t want you to hear from me that someone who experiences a traumatic childhood is automatically destined to become a future abuser. There are many people who have experienced some kinds of horrific abuse in childhood and have not become abusive.
I also want you to understand that having empathy and compassion for the pain your husband experienced as a child is not a valid reason to continue to allow yourself to be abused or mistreated even if your counselor says he feels “safe” with you.
It’s true: hurt people often hurt people. When a child is consistently subjected to traumatic abuse throughout childhood, the basic developmental growth processes that make that child capable of healthy adult relationships become arrested.
For example, we know that when a child’s primary caregiver is incapable, unwilling, or unable to regulate or absorb her infant’s distress, the child suffers extreme anxiety and as an adult he or she is unable to regulate his or her own affect (calm themselves down, name and process their feelings with compassion, modulate their anger appropriately).
Donald Dutton, who has written a book called The Batterer: A Psychological Profile says this: “I was dissatisfied and decided to pursue my own research into the origins of their personalities. I covered many areas, …but after I had engaged in this study for some time, I stumbled upon a feature I had not expected. And this clue indicated not a physiological, genetic, societal, or socially learned theory but rather a psychological basis for abuse that originated in early development.”
He goes on to say, “Although abusive men can’t express it verbally, they seemed to experience some early form of trauma that has numerous effects beyond just modeling abusive actions. These effects manifest themselves globally in their sense of self, their inability to trust, their delusional jealousy, their mood cycles, their view of the world. They form what I have come to call the abusive personality.”
He also says, “the psychological seeds of abusiveness are sown very early in life – even during infancy. The development of the abusive personality is a gradual process that builds over years. ….The seeds come from three distinct sources: being shamed, especially by one’s father; an insecure attachment to one’s mother, and the direct experience of abusiveness of the home. No one factor is sufficient to create the abusive personality; these elements must exist simultaneously for the abusive personality to develop. They create a potential for abusiveness that is shaped and refined by later experiences, but that potential develops early in life.”
John Gottman, PhD, who has done extensive research in marriage, researched violent couples and wrote a book with Neil Jacobson, PhD, called When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships. He says with regard to treatment plans, “It’s not that we lack sympathy for the perpetrators of domestic violence, because their lives have often been plagued by difficulties unfathomable to most of us. By labeling them as Pit Bulls and Cobras (Gottman and Jacobson found there are two very distinct types of abusers), we do not mean to imply that they are subhuman, simply that – as far as battered women are concerned – they are best thought of as predators. As scientists such as Dutton have pointed out, they are, in many ways, victims themselves. They were often abused, and Pit Bulls may often suffer from their own version of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, their own traumatic histories do not render them any less responsible for the battering. Whereas these histories may help explain the battering, they do not justify it.”
In my own counseling practice I have worked with men who have been horrifically abused and have not become abusive and I have worked with abusers who have not been traumatically abused as children. So we can’t find one defining reason why men abuse women, but certainly trauma and early childhood development play a role in one’s future abilities to maintain healthy relationships.
What does that mean for you? You didn’t specify how your husband was abusive but I hope with your counselor’s wisdom, your compassion and care, your husband will get the help he needs to heal, grow, and change. However, it’s also important for you not to feel like it’s acceptable for him to continue to abuse because he’s been hurt. Abuse is abuse, whether you are the victim or the perpetrator and it’s always wrong.
Stay compassionate towards your husband’s wounds and hurt, but stay strong, It’s important than he know, “This behavior is not acceptable and I can’t live together with you when you behave this way.”
That is your best chance of helping you and helping him.
Friends, are you aware of a traumatic childhood that your spouse experienced?
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Leslie, you are in many of our prayers. I ask for you to be protected from that serpent whose fingerprints of kill, steal, and destroy can stick to any of us in pursuit of of their call. You are a unique voice and I am asking the Lord to send you as many helpers as you need to fight this good fight. You know you are on the right path, sometimes, when the weariness prompts quitting…the devil doesn’t fool with one who isn’t thwarting his cause. He’s called you and He will equip you! Blessings, Exodus 18: 17-23.
Thanks for your encouraging words and prayers.
IS A HISTORY OF ABUSE – DOOMED – TO REPEAT ITSELF??
I wonder what the true answer is if we looked at the different cycles on people on this blog. Where it is said above, Jim Daly of Focus on Family, made a different decision. I’d like to see the statistics. Its one thing to know of someone in the media that did make a wise choice. But I’m wondering about the women who tell their stories on here. How many of you have seen your abusive situations heal and abusive cycles stopped?? I’d sure like to hear your Good News stories, if so…. My husband comes from 3 generations of abusive men who didn’t break the cycle. My husband will not even acknowledge abuse exists in his family. He is very ill and has several personality disorders, from physical beatings – mental cruelty- rigid rules and expectations, and has repeated them with our children. Our children recognize the cycle, but only one out of four has gone towards counseling and wanting to be well. What has your experience been?? Do you see genuine and lasting healing for your abusive situation?
Are your children still minors? If so, is it worth staying married to a destructive person? You need peace and healing, and deserve to get up every morning to WITHOUT another battle of abuse. You are worth so much more than that.
Becky, my children are ages 27-to-41. They are all out on their own. I left my husband 5 months ago, and filed for divorce. I do and am pursuing a peaceful, healing journey. Leaving was the wisest thing I could do, for myself and my children. Thank you for your kind words. Leslie’s ministry has done much to lead me down the right path……
X did not ever mention childhood abuse until months after I seperated. I asked his sister and she said her dad, who died when they were very young, could be very abusive towards their mother. She didn’t remember anything happening to X. He claims he was burned with a cigarette lighter in their car and ignored because he was found imitating his dad. I never heard anything bad about their dad for the first 22 years that I knew this family. I feel he used this as an excuse in attempt to win me back by feeling sorry for him. It didn’t work.
My sister and I were abused sexually, verbally and physically by our stepfather and did not abuse our children when we were grown. We both married abusive men, my sister at 15 and me at 17. We were both divorced by our early 20’s and it did not get better from there. I believe my brother, who was stepfather’s biological son was also abused from birth. By age 5 he took a fireplace poker and aimed it at my mother and said voices told him to do it. He sexually abused my daughter and my sister’s daughter in his early teen’s. We did not know until our daughter’s were in their late teens. My brother is enabled by our mother and at 47 still lives with her. I don’t believe he has ever had a job, but puts himself through his own personal hell, which my daughter is very content with.
Abuse damages everyone it touches. This lady being told that her husband feels comfortable with her in showing his abuse is absurd. That is unacceptable. Of course an abuser feels comfortable abusing his victims. He thinks he is entitled to do so. Being abused does not mean that you become an abuser. That is a choice.
I totally agree Brenda!
AND! They choose victims for many reasons, but if it has to do with unfinished business with a parent then of course they would feel very comfortable and familiar because it reminds them of childhood in some way.
I’m so sorry for your past. Wow. I thank God for using you mightily here. XO!
Vikki, I pray often that God will use everything that has happened to me and in my family for His glory and that it will help even one person to leave the abuse they are going through or better yet not enter into it in the first place. I am so pleased with the work that Leslie is doing and the growing number of Pastors that are standing up against the behavior of abusers. It fills my heart with such joy. I tip my hat to Ps Jeff Crippen, Ps Sam Powell and Ps Chris Moles. Without them and those like them bringing the church out of the fog I shutter to think how much worse abuse could get.
Yes, my soon to be ex had a horrible parenting situation.
His father was silent while his mother physically and emotionally abused her sons.
I feel it takes a person pretty self aware after coming out of that type of home to say that they legitimately need help and legitimately are wrong in their actions- because thats all “normal” to them.
I think for us, it breaks trust. I cant imagine the trust broken between parent and child in this type of abuse but when they marry, they demand trust instead of know how to earn it.
This was great timing for me as I’ve considered reconciliation but while words may have changed in the past months the actions haven’t. Although he’s been in counseling, change for severe abuse takes a very long time if ever. I am not safe to return even after nearly a year.
I dont wish him harm, enough has been done already.
Understanding, empathizing and having compassion does not mean continuing to allow someone to abuse you.
Thank you Leslie.
I am praying for you in this season of pouring out. No doubt your work involves your whole being and I will pray for a beach in your soul until you can get to one. 🙂 Thank you isn’t enough for your work. May God refresh, restore, and bless you on our behalf.
I agree with this advice totally! I believe that abusive men/people can be changed by the grace of God through His Word and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I am not sure that significant change is possible without God’s intervention. Of course, God can use other people to affect some change but ultimately the change has to occur deeply in the person’s spirit and there must be a lasting heart change which I believe only God can accomplish through His Spirit. And many times this change occurs after God brings a person to a place of brokenness. In my own experience, my ex-spouse was in an abusive (alcoholic father) home and he witnessed his mother being abused until he left home as a teenager to be raised by his grandparents. His mother had grown up in a home with an abusive mother and a father who enabled the mother. Then, my ex-spouse was drafted into the Army and was sent to the battlefront in VietNam. He experienced extremely traumatic things there. In teaching a young 19 year-old how to spot land mines, he did not detect one as they moved together through the jungle and the young boy stepped on it and it blew him up. It also injured my ex-spouse in the spine, back, and legs such that he was in critical condition. However, the soldiers gathered up the 19 year-old’s body parts as they are supposed to do and I’m sure the trauma from all of this played a role in “shocking” my ex’s spirit to the point that he was diagnosed with ptsd after returning home. He struggled with that for many years before I met him. He made progress through the years but would snap back into modes of anger, stress, anxiety, paranoia, and would become abusive very quickly. His VA counselor tried to get me to understand that he was really two people and basically a good and safe relationship with him would be highly difficult. My heart loved the good side and feared the bad side. I left the relationship and discovered I could still be fulfilled in my teaching career and my family. But I continued to see him at church and he seemed to change over time. I began to believe after 4 to 5 years of being with him in church and on mission trips, etc. that he was truly a born-again Christian and that God had done a remarkable work in him. I believed he had changed because I wanted to believe it. I married him because I thought he was a different human being than the one I had known 10 years previously. But I was wrong. Soon after marriage, the old abusive behaviors appeared again and even pastoral counseling didn’t help. In fact, the counseling made him worse and angrier. I realized that I had seen small hints that he could possibly not be changed but I ignored those hints/red flags. Once I totally separated from him, his true heart condition came out and he became like a spoiled child who pitched fits and behaved unruly. However, at church he was charming and controlled. I have never understood how an abusive person can maintain that control when he wants to keep his “good” image and yet lose control so easily with someone he claims to love. I learned however that my tendency had been to enable him (I have a very compassionate heart.) and so I had to learn tough love and apply it just for my own safety and welfare. When one finds that she is losing “herself” in the struggles with an abusive partner, it’s time to pull away from the abuser and get control of one’s life and find peace. Otherwise, there will be two “lost” lives—-his and yours. I had to accept that only God can change my ex-spouse and that I had to just pray for him and yes, forgive him (he never apologized or asked for forgiveness)but I knew I had to get rid of the bitterness and resentments and move toward a healthier life for myself or I would be of no good to anyone. I learned that I was not his savior. It’s not my job to change him or figure out what he needs. The best one can do for an abusive partner is to step back and quit enabling him to mistreat and abuse. Encourage him to get help for his condition and let him do whatever he chooses to do. That’s difficult if you are a compassionate person but it is totally necessary. Sometimes, it requires weeping and praying until your grief gradually diminishes. I do know people who have been terribly abused in their childhoods and they are not abusive toward others. They may have ptsd to some degree but it does not manifest into abusiveness toward other people. The most loving thing one can do for an abusive person is to point out their problem, set boundaries, walk away, encourage they get help, and pray! Give it up to God. If God’s plan is to save him, that will eventually happen in God’s timing. If not, the person may find a way to cope and yet his life will never be filled with peace and joy! It’s sad but true! Leslie, you have a tough mission in life; God has given you great discernment and insight and strength. I know sometimes it does get stressful and because you have such a special heart for those who suffer from injustices, your spirit must certainly become weary. I certainly will be praying for you! You are molded in a wonderful way by God and your work is so important for His Kingdom. I cannot write in words how you have helped me and how you have been a bright light during my last year of struggling to understand what I must do. I am now divorced and I feel so much lighter and more hopeful. I guess through this blog I have learned there are so many hurting women who are lost in this abusive struggle. I am so thankful I am no longer lost in it! Now, I can fulfill the purposes and plans God has for me! Thank you, dear Leslie, for all that you are and all that you have shown me!
Thanks Peg. I’m glad you are no longer lost in it too.
What she said, Leslie.
I am praying for you every day – you carry such an important part of what God is doing.
Thank you so much. I deeply appreciate it.
Wonderful words of wisdom. I will take them to heart, especially when I begin to doubt myself. It takes strength to do the tough love thing, but it is out of my hands. I look forward to that lighter, hopeful feeling when I’m on the other side of this.
In “Boundaries” by Cloud & Townsend, there are some warnings they give once a person takes steps to stop the abuse merry-go-round. One of the warnings is that that we (the abused) will begin to question and doubt whether we’ve made the right choice by setting up boundaries and that is because we realize that we MISS the very few perhaps good parts that we had in the relationship and our hearts are very compassionate and that causes us to enable the person who is abusing us. Yes, it takes RESOLVE to do the tough love thing! It takes incredible fortitude and it also takes realizing that you are doing the loving thing for that person by setting up boundaries and forcing that person to at least know that you are holding him accountable. Nobody else will do that for him! You are probably his best friend and yet he abuses you and forgets that. My ex did the same thing. I am the one person who did the MOST for him. I saw him through spinal surgery and helped him to recover. I found him the right surgeon and kept up with his medicines, etc. LONG LIST OF THINGS I DID FOR HIM!!! And yet, he abused me! I had to learn to not look back and to keep moving forward beyond the enabling. Keep pressing on to that light and that place of peace that you will one day have. Yes, you will get to the other side and there will be moments when you remember…..and you’ll wish things could have been different. But you are moving toward a place of peace and light and finding yourself (the real Cindy) again. I have found myself again. I plant flowers and enjoy my morning coffee on my patio. I play any kind of music I want to play (my ex criticized my music when I played piano solos—he called it funeral music). So, my life is mine again! Cindy, keep believing that you’re on the right track because you are!!! You are not his savior. Let God deal with him but keep praying for him. I have not stopped praying for my ex. I still care for him but I care more for my welfare and my health because my children and grandchildren need me to be healthy and whole! And God needs for me to accomplish things for the Kingdom! I am helping to plant a new church in my town. A group of about 30 of us have withdrawn from our former church and we are starting a reformed church. This is making so much difference in my life right now. So, I’d say find something that you can put your heart into—-something new that you want to accomplish or learn. I also have begun to paint again. I used to paint long ago and I now am doing that again. Gradually, the sorrow from your loss will diminish day after day and you will wake up feeling a little more hopeful. Give it time and trust God to bring you through this! Best wishes!
Great article, but it describes abusive men. Do the same principles apply to women who grew up in an abusive environment and they themselves become abusers? If she is in denial about her abusiveness, how can she be made aware of it?
I think trauma in childhood damages people and their ability to form healthy attachment and have healthy relationships whether they are male or female. I think women who are severely abused as children more often tend to become repeat victims than become abusers, however women are also capable of heinous abuse against their children, their spouse and others.
Denial is something you can’ “make” someone aware of. Jesus called it blindness and as good as Jesus was, he couldn’t make the Pharisee’s aware of their blindness to their own pride, self righteousness and envy, even when he directly told them to their face. When someone doesn’t want to see, they won’t see. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:22,23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Thank you for responding so quick to my question. If they won’t/can’t see it, acknowledge it, take responsibility and make changes, then what? We’ve been together 15 years and things just continue to decline. I’ve enabled it for all these years and now that I’m trying to communicate that I’m not willing to continue this way, it’s getting nastier. Am I the dysfunctional one that is creating all the problems as she states, or is she the abuser! In one of your videos you said something that really summed up the way I feel: I am in a legal marriage, but there is no relational marriage. I just don’t know where to start. I don’t want to be around my house, my work productivity has declined and there is just no joy. If you can, please point me in the right direction for the first step, other than praying and relying on Him. Thanks.
Michael, I would encourage you to get your own therapy and/or coaching for some of your enabling behaviors, perhaps some co-dependency issues that will help you build your CORE strength in order to not get sucked into the storm that will follow your boundaries and changes. You will need to have support to stand strong and hopefully in a loving way invite your wife to healthy change as well. You also may find my other book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship helpful for you at this time of healing and feeling at a loss of what you can do next.
Thanks again Leslie for the response. I downloaded the book last night. It’s already been an incredible eye opener. I just read the part that I have given God’s authority over my life to the other person and replaced God’s words of truth and life with her words. Ouch! I’ve become destructive myself instead of growing healthier in my brokeness. I also read earlier your explanation of the difference between counseling and coaching. I like the coaching approach. I hope at some time in the near future I can discuss the possibility of coaching with you, if that’s an option. Thank you.
I’m glad it’s helpful to you. Sure, my coaching page on my website give information on coaching as well as the application one fills out to have an initial interview.
I agree with Leslie that you need to have your own counselor or coach to help you with the co-dependency tendencies. I had to have two counselors and they really made all the difference at first. Then, I read Leslie’s books and Cloud & Townsend’s “Boundaries” and Gary Chapman’s “The Five Languages of Apology.” Actually, I bought the Chapman book for my abusive husband (now my ex) and he got very angry when I asked him to read it. As you wrote,you are beginning to confront and reveal to your wife that you are not willing to live in the way you have been living with her any longer and things are getting nastier—Cloud & Townsend write in their book to expect that once you attempt to express your feelings about her behavior. Leslie is right about building your CORE strength and that takes work every day! I read her books and underlined many things and made notes in the margins as I read. Then, I would go over and over these notes and re-read those underlined parts over and over until I started getting stronger and more resolved. I don’t know if you are a Christian or not, but if you are, find comfort in reading the Bible. Read from the book of Psalms (I really like Psalm 34 a lot.) and read them aloud. It helped me so much to pray aloud and read the Bible aloud. I also talked out the things I wanted to say to my then-husband. I also wrote him letters. All of it helped to make me stronger. But initially, I found two good counselors and went faithfully to them. That’s the beginning of my breaking away from the madness! God bless you!
Michael: I feel for you. I’m in a similar situation and it is incredibly difficult when someone keeps trying to make you responsible for their problems/behavior. All the books mentioned here have been incredibly helpful, and there are many that deal with our enabling tendencies. The one thing I have found most helpful was a list of promises from the Bible in which you insert your name into the passage: My love will never fail you (your name) 1 Cor 13:8; I am with you (your name) and I will help you because I am your God (Is 41:10; and so on. You are a chosen child of God – He loves you always. Believe it, and tell yourself that every time you find yourself discouraged and you will soon find yourself looking at things with a different perspective.
You are in my prayers.
don’t be surprised that it is getting “nastier.” That is to be expected when you are upsetting the homeostasis that has been in your home all these years. I , too, experienced that and out of fear, would back down time and again. It was only when I refused to back down no matter HOW “nasty and ugly” it got, that my husband began taking me seriously. It is along process, M, and I can only speak for my situation, that my hub was at least willing to go to counseling, but it took 27 years. ( I do NOT suggest waiting that long to take some action, though. It was very destructive to our family.) Check out Leslie’s “Manipulators and the 9 Tactics they use” It was eye-opening and I recognized all 9 of the tactics he was using and all 3 of the reasons I was letting him. Ignorance is NOT bliss. May God continue to bless you as you honor Him with your steadfastness, and your willingness to seek the knowledge that can help your wife and family.
Leslie wrapping you in prayers. The ministry you have is hard and there is not usually a win/win situation that often will energize someone. You do need to take time to just chill somewhere quiet with a good book, not abuse related to recharge your batteries. Do not give up the good fight but make sure you take time out to look up to God and see the beauty he has created and not look at the mess we have made of things.
I find when I am immersed in books and situations dealing with abuse that I sometimes go to a dark place that this is hopeless and that we will never make progress in the war on abuse.
Thanks Cindy, I will be taking time off in two weeks to just read and hang out at the beach. That is always energizing for me.
So glad you Are taking some down time. Giving out constantly to hurting people is both deeply fulfiing but also draining. Kick back. Watch funny movies Refresh your soul. Blessings and love. Poppy
Thanks Poppy. Hope you are also taking some time to refresh.
Thanks to both Peg and Leslie
Leslie, the struggle is hard and ongoing. The abuser only wants to kill, steal destroy any chance of joy and peace. Keep up your voice for women in the church being abused and being told , the man is the head, and silenced by this. It is very wide spread. Your words help me to know my heart and mind are correct when I discern abuse. The Lord wants all His daughters treated kind just as Joseph did Mary back in his day.
Thanks Teresa. I appreciate the reminder.
I will certainly pray for you as God has placed you on the front lines of this spiritual battle to reveal truth and expose perversions and distortions in the area of marriage.
It is distressing that the arena where the battle seems most intense is within the church, among it’s leaders.
However, this was also the arena where Jesus met with the most intense opposition when he brought the good news of the gospel. Good news intended for all people, including women and wives.
Likewise, I hear you saying that God intends that marriage be a good thing for the wife too, not only for the husband.
When this is in balance everyone benefits – her husband
herself and the children. Children thrive best under circumstances where their Mom and Dad are meeting each other needs in a mutually satisfying way. God is also glorified when the marriage reflects the beautiful relationship Christ initiated and cultivates with his bride, the church.
It is very detracting from the goodness of the Lord and his good design of marriage and godly family life when a Christian wife and mother is exhausted and worn down on a regular basis because that is “par for the course” as her role in the family unit. A Christian wife who is treated like a beast of burden rather than any other human being who needs (and deserves) to be loved, heard, respected and valued. If this isn’t happening in her marriage and home, and it isn’t happening in her church, where in the world is it going to happen?
Please keep fighting this battle Leslie, for all Christian women and for the future generations we are raising in our homes. Please enjoy some time on the beach reading novels but come back strengthened, encouraged and prepared to keep doing what the Lord has called you too. I will pray that our Lord will equip you and surround you with many supportive prayer warriors. Count me as one of them.
My husband’s mother was emotionally and sometimes physically abusive to his father and to him. It sounds like she had mental health problems (I never met her – she was dead when I met him.) His father was probably passive-aggressive: he was the son of an alcoholic or near-alcoholic, which no doubt affected him. My husband (I will call him X) is passive-aggressive.
X had suppressed all memories of his mother’s abuse and only recovered them a few weeks ago while attending an abuser programme. The other men on the pregramme were talking about their childhood memories of abuse, and the abuse they carried out themselves, and it brought back the memories. The other men had all been abused themselves.
Through the programme X has gained some awareness of how his past has affected him and how his behaviour has affected me and the kids. He is now making efforts to restrain himself from lying, fishing for pity and lashing out at me with spiteful words and actions. He says he wants to cooperate with God, change his behaviour and become the man God meant him to be. Please, ladies, pray that he will persevere in this. (It has been four weeks so far.) It will take him a lot of work to change his habits. Thank you.
I am praying for you, Leslie. You are doing very valuable work for God. We all appreciate it very much.
PS I don’t mean he fishes for pity about his childhood. I mean he does it whenever he feels bad about anything – including the bad consequences of choices he has made, such as to borrow money from the bank without any plan as to how to pay it back. In his mind up till now, if he felt bad, it was because someone was making him feel bad on purpose. Even if he was fed up waiting for the traffic lights to change. (He felt someone was controlling the lights so as to get at him.) None of the bad feelings were anything to do with his choices, as he never did anything wrong. He didn’t take responsibility for his actions.
Especially odd is that he would expect pity and sympathy from me because he felt bad about feeling distanced from me, as a result of me objecting to a lie or spiteful act of his!
Leslie, my husband’s parents were alcoholics and his mother gave birth to 13 children during his childhood (he being the the 9th). His said his mother was unstable and his father used a razor strap on him and his siblings when they misbehaved. I don’t think they received nurturing, and wonder if my husband has an attachment disorder. In fact, none of his siblings are/were “stable.” My heart and prayers go out to them and this dear lady. God doesn’t expect her to be subjected to abuse, due to her husband’s childhood abuse/neglect, however. I now understand this from my own abusive marriage, but stayed for 57 years!
It’s so amazing that your posts are so timely in my life. I have been gone for almost seven months now, and for the first six months, my husband was angry about me leaving – blaming me for everything wrong in the relationship. In one of our phone conversations, he revealed that he had been repeatedly sexually abused at 12 years of age by one of his step-fathers. His mother has been in 47 relationships. When he was 26, after nothing clicked on his life, he fled to college, a small Christian college, and we met and married. I remember having reservations then, but regretfully, I wasn’t as strong in the Lord as I should have been, and I married him. I have two beautiful daughters ( so my regret isn’t marrying him, but NOT pursuing that close, intimate, discerning relationship with the Lord) They are what has kept me going most days in our marriage. We haven’t had a good marriage, ever, but I thought it was my cross to bear, that dying to self was what being a Christian meant. And it IS but not dying FOR your husband, DYING for JESUS! Just this last month, I’ve felt things could possible be turning with my husband. He’s said things to me like, “I don’t blame you for leaving” and “I know it’s something I have to work on.” I’ve been emotionally battered often and physically abused around a dozen times in our 17 year marriage. Last night, though, the crazy-making returned. We met at a restaurant after our daughters’ dance recital, and at the table I was looking on my phone, before the food came. I read something aloud from my phone and he didn’t hear it. I was distracted, yes, I admit, but he proceeded to say, “What?” and when I didn’t answer, he said my name in the way he says it that makes me feel like I’m his two year old child who needs reprimanding, and the flood of bad memories came to my mind. I made it through dinner and after the girls and I left, I texted him and told him I didn’t want to be treated as a child anymore regardless of my disappointing behavior. He texted me a rant basically saying we need conflict resolution and that I was overreacting about the whole thing. He also said I was “spiritually wrong” for not having a time table for a reconciliation – a statement I’d made, meaning it wasn’t something I could plan or make happen. All of this to say, yes, my husband has been abused, and I think he can change, but I’m leaning toward a divorce right now because I feel that it may be the only way to
save myself from being lost in the crazy-making. Any advice anyone has is always so helpful. And, Leslie, please rest and renew because you have been a direct line to God’s love, a big, flashing billboard, showing us The Way. Thank you for everything you do, and I will pray for you!
I’m praying for you, for refreshment. What pops into my mind is that maybe you are as Moses when he was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and had the burden of judging for all the people. His father-in-law said this was not good, he needed to delegate and only take the cases that were too hard for the men he appointed to help him. I’m praying for people to come along side you to help you, too. I appreciate you so very much. Your ministry validated me when I was weak and uncertain. God bless you.
I have been reading a number of books since Leslie opened my eyes to my husband’s destructive behavior (I have read all of Leslie’s). One book is called The Emotionally Unavailable Man and it has 2 sides, one for the wife and other for the man to read. It pointed out that the men who are most unlikely to change their behavior are the ones who have a type of detachment disorder from childhood. I believe this is an issue for my husband who was raised by a black maid while his mother worked. This was in Memphis in the 60’s and 70’s with all the racial tension. The black maid/nanny was not always treated well by the family and if you saw the movie, “The Help”, the children often bond more with the maid and then after years of helping,and loving, she is abruptly let go. My husband had the same maid for 12 years. I think he resented that his mother wasn’t available for him as much as he wanted, thus the attachment issues. He still feels bad to this day that he didn’t keep in touch with his maid and didn’t get to say good bye and admits he treated her badly sometimes. I think to have someone who practically raised you suddenly leave has to be pretty traumatic.
Thanks for letting us know your prayer needs Leslie! I will be praying for you! I thank God for you and your ministry!
I’m sure it is quite traumatic. I still think of that poor little girl in that movie “The Help” where the maid said to they little girl “You is good, you is kind, you is important” and how powerful that was in that baby’s life. And then, to have that maid abruptly dismissed and have her mother – a detached, cold woman raise her would be life changing.
Thanks for your prayers.
I don’t know if this helps anyone but I was sexually abused growing up by a relative and physically abused in the name of disciplining. As a young adult I came to a conclusion that I did not want any children I would have in the future to experience what i went through. I chose to go to counseling to settle many issues. To see what my blind spots were and to over come them. I sought God through this time and knew that he would help change the ways that I had learned. It was hard work and by Gods’ grace I got a handle on how to deal with issues.
As I deal with a husband who is controlling, verbally and emotionally abusive I have used many techniques that my counselor had taught me. With Gods’ help and being willing to really look at myself to ask what do I do now? I realize that I can only change me. I can only change the course of my marriage for the better if we both change.
If any one abuses another person it is because they made the choice to to do so. We all can change from how we were brought up but it is still the choice to change that makes the difference.
This leads me to the place of making the decision of what I will allow myself to endure. Please pray for me and my children in the coming weeks.
Leslie I will be praying for you and your family. Through Gods’ help you have given encouragement to so many who needed the guidance. My God bless you greatly and give you peace.
Good for you Carol. I’m glad you saw the trajectory of your life, made different choices and got the help to move forward in a healthy way. Thanks for your prayers.
My husband was abused as a child and is now in treatment for alcohol and PTSD. I knew about some but not the extent of it. He never wanted to spank our kids because he was afraid of losing control, actually he never wanted to have kids. One day he decided maybe we should and now 30 years later I find he did that just to make me happy. I know he has resented them much of the time. He was distant and not much involved in discipline but each of them was abused emotionally and they have not gotten over it. Most of the abuse was directed at me, which caused them to distance themselves from thier dad and he never recognized it as abuse because it was nothing like what his father did to him. I always thought he just had a bad temper and tried to make things better, losing my self and self esteem in the process. At one point things got really bad and our pastor came over and talked to him. The bad verbal abuse stopped but I was still walking on eggshells knowing he could explode at any time. We finally went to abuse counseling at my request and he refused to accept any responsibility and as is common, claimed I was the abuser for being so emotionally distant. When he started getting counseling about his past, it became his excuse for his bad behavior and inability to ever connect emotionally and he accused me of punishing him for not giving me emotional support, something he was incapable of giving because of the abuse. So here we are after 10 months of counseling, just two people living in the same house, barely speaking. Through all the counseling I’ve seen how resentful of me he really is and though he has appologized, I still don’t think he has a clue as to how his actions have wounded me.I asked him how his father’s abuse made him feel and he says there is no comparison. He wants to “move on” and have a “loving,Biblical(submissive) wife now. At least he has stopped demanding it of me.
Praying for rest and renewal for your heart, mind,and body. Thanks for beginning this important work, Leslie. You are mentoring so many with your words of wisdom, causing a ripple effect that will continue to grow. I find comfort in this verse when I am weary: “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” I hope you can find some time to sit by the water with a good book soon, knowing He’s got this thing you’ve been called to in the palm of His hand. 🙂
You are in my prayers. The enemy works hardest when he sees Godly progress. So many people from biblical circles do not want to discuss the subject of abuse or give the canned speech about submission and headship. You and your work have been a blessing to so many, myself included. I am so much stronger and better off thanks to your work. Thank you for all you do!!!!!!
My ex abuser came from an abusive and alcoholic family. The ex does not admit his Dad being abusive, but based on stories I have heard, Dad was abusive. The ex still does not see his behavior as abusive either, he does admit to having a temper but does not see a problem with his behavior. According to him, the problem, of course, is everyone else.
I am reading a book by Jay Adams entitled Competent to Counsel and I have realized as I have read it that the counselor my ex and I were first referred to was totally unequipped to give us biblical counseling and also my pastor really wasn’t equipped to know how to deal with the issue of abuse. Jay Adams writes that nouthetic counseling, another name for biblical counseling, is not common within the realm of most Christian churches and usually a pastor will refer members to a secular counselor who is ill-equipped to address the total picture of destructive behaviors within Christian marriages. I would venture to say that many women who are living in abusive marriages or relationships are sent to counselors who really do not know how to go about helping the couple. In my particular case, the counselor who counseled us jointly rambled around in his questioning and allowed my spouse to interrupt me repeatedly and did not attempt to guide the sessions. So, I see such a deep need for counselors who are qualified to really help. So, I am beginning to feel “burdened” about this great need such that I am considering studying to become a biblical counselor. If I had not discovered Leslie, I may still be wandering around lost in an abusive marriage thinking I had to weather it the best I could. We need many many Leslies in order to bring the help folks truly need.
Peg, I am also on the same path regarding your desire to be a Biblical counselor. After my experiences growing up in a home where the affects of alcoholism and one parent’s default to same sex attraction and then divorce, as a result from childhood sexual abuse, all of which had such a traumatic affect on my life, and then experiencing in my marriage, what I came to realize was emotional abuse; as I am healing and changing, I feel empowered to want to help others with the truth of God’s Word that sets us free! I also feel that burden for the need that Leslie has so courageously championed in the work that she does within the church.
Pam and others, we need lots of biblical counselors in the church who are going to speak up against abuse of any kind. We’ve just all read about the cover up of sexual abuse by a Sovereign Grace church and often church leadership does not want to “see” that it is happening right under our noses, in front of our eyes, sitting in the chairs in front of us. We need lots of voices out there saying the same thing until they can’t ignore it anymore.
AMEN! Leslie, I believe one of the reasons church leadership finds the word “abuse” so sticky is that they have no idea what it encompasses and/or what to do about it! They are not educated about it and therefore want to shove it under the rug! But I find that true about many other sinful behaviors within the church body. Everyone in my former church knew who the gossipers were and would try to avoid even conversing with them but many of us got cornered. I was one of the few who would call them out on their gossip or just walk off and refuse to listen. But they are allowed to keep on with their sinful behavior and are never confronted and disciplined. When the elders/deacons won’t hold these folks accountable, then we have a major problem with our church leadership. My hope is that somehow I can make a difference in my little corner of the world. Leslie, you have become a beacon all across this country. I wish I could afford to attend one of your coaching sessions. I know I would be so enlightened and inspired! Yes, we need many voices saying what you are teaching. You are having an impact whether you feel that or not. You impacted my life immensely! I hope I can do the same for others.
Peg, let your light shine bright.
Good for you, Pam! As I read so many of the testimonies on this blog, I become that much more passionate about the work that needs to be done EVERYWHERE! My heart just weeps for those who are in the midst of the darkness of abuse and are trying so hard to find answers and pull themselves up above the madness! Even our input on this blog I’m sure helps others as I relied on this blog so much when I was moving forward slowly but surely out of the despair of my destructive marriage. So, I am hungry to help others and I know with God’s help, I can do just that! I have a lot of work ahead but I feel impelled by the Holy Spirit to do this! Pam, best wishes as you begin your journey to become God’s instrument to help others out of the lost state they find themselves trapped in. God bless you!
“being shamed, especially by one’s father; an insecure attachment to one’s mother, and the direct experience of abusiveness of the home.”
Yes to all of these! His dad shamed & physically abused him, mom abandoned him, and believe he was sexually abused.
I’m his third marriage. Second protective order. Second domestic violence conviction. We’ve been separated a year and I’m finally going forward with divorce. It’s hard. Outside of the marriage he is the most likable and charismatic guy around. It’s sad. I feel so sorry for what has been done to him… and me.
I appreciate Leslie Vernik for being Biblically sound AND sympathetic to the difficulty in making the choice to leave. So many tell you to stay because of religious reasons or tell you to just leave. Thanks for walking me through to my own decision.
Prayers for you Leslie. To rest and be restored so that you can continue to make a positive influence on so many. Like Peg says, we need many more like you to help in this fight. Without people like you, so many are suffering in silence, not understanding what is happening. I pray for you, and potential counselors such as Peg, to help our nation to leave this path of destruction. I hope and pray that my daughter never has to go through what I have. Knowledge is power. If we can stick together we have a chance of winning this fight!
Leslie, I pray for rest and restoration for you. Your work is very important! You are a voice for those who, for years and years, had no voice. Please take care of yourself and I pray that God would give you fresh strength to fight for and equip those who don’t know how to do it for themselves. El Roi is God Who Sees for Hagar and I love that story…but I am also very grateful that He blessed us with someone like you, dearest Leslie, who helps us see. Blessings to you, dear sister!
I just read your response and you were spot on. I just recently got divorced from a man that I loved for 25 years. In our marriage there were signs that he was both physically and sexually abused but he had repressed those memories for the most part. 5 years ago, they started coming bubbling back to the surface. He felt worthless and went down a path of self abuse. There were 5 suicide attempts in the last 2 years and the final straw for me was when we separated and he almost finished the job. He was in and out of treatment and couldn’t celebrate the fact that he had broken the cycle. It was indeed the most difficult thing I have ever been through. We are both still friends and probably still love each other, however sometimes the differences are too much for either of us to bear. I just want to encourage those in these situations, do not give up. God is there in the darkness and you are stronger than you know. I never thought at this point in my life I would be unmarried because of divorce, but for me it has been an awakening. I am happy again and the world around me is not so dark. Hang in there, you will be strong when you are ready to make decisions that you need to make. God bless you all.
your words are like water for my thirsty soul, and I believe for many others. I pray for you to receive strength, new energy and all you need to keepon fighting for the Lord egenst the Enemy.
Thank you so much for being here for me.
Thanks Tayna. Your prayers are deeply appreciated and felt.
Leslie: You have such a gift – a calling that I’m so glad you are following. Prayers go out to you that you be refreshed, refilled and rejuvenated – able to continue to shed light on a long hidden problem.
What you are doing in the Christian community is so important, so necessary and SO overdue! You have helped me and so many others see through the smoke screen that emotional abusers create. And you do it in such a loving, compassionate way that lifts people up.
I can only imagine the weight you must carry as you listen to all the ugliness. If anyone could claim PTSD, it might be you. I pray that your heart be lightened and strengthened for continued service in the Lord’s kingdom. You have blessed so many with your service. Thank you!
Thanks Kathy for your encouragement and prayers. Yes sometimes when I start having nightmares about other people’s problems it’s time for a break. Secondary PTSD is common among people-helpers who work with trauma victims.
Father God, I pray on behalf of Your daughter Leslie. I ask that You place a hedge of protection around her as she seeks to carry on in her calling to help others. I pray that Your Spirit would refresh and renew her weary soul. May she come to realize that if You are asking her to “be still and know that You are God” for a short session so You can replenish her so let such be so. We thank You, Father God, for all that Leslie has been doing in the lives of many and we praise You for all the wonderful things You are doing in and through her. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Leslie…just read many of the above accounts about generational abuse. I am a credentialed Biblical counselor on the west coast and deal with many women (and a few men) from abusive backgrounds and/or with abusive spouses. My purpose in this reply, however, is this: my father grew up with a Godly mom and a very abusive father. My grandfather not only abused his own children (physically, sexually, etc) but started in on his grandchildren as well. Thankfully, he died before i was born. One evening my mom (who had chased my grandfather out of the house with a butcher knife when he tried to rape her) asked my dad why he was so different from his father and his brothers (who chose silence to “protect” their mom when their own daughters were abused). After a few moments he quietly responded, “Because I chose to be different.”
My own husband was gang-raped twice as a child by older schoolmates…once in 5th grade and once in 8th grade. He also chose to be different and is an amazing father and now, grandfather.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can chose to be different than those who so horrifically abuse us. That is a promise from God Himself (Isaiah 43:1-5; Phil. 4:13 to name just two).
God bless you as you rest with your Abba on the beach.
I’m so glad you are a credentialed Biblical counselor who understands abuse. Yes how we handle our hurts from our past is our choice but sometimes we don’t even realize we have a choice. This is the power of the gospel and we need to help people see and know the truth. Thanks for your work with abused people.. . . and for your prayers for me as I take a little rest next week.
You are welcome for the prayers, Leslie…and I agree with you about the fact that some don’t know they have a choice…some don’t even know why they are so angry (or isolate like my husband did)until God reveals it to them. I also feel blessed when God allows me a bit part in the healing process. Those time when I cry with counselees are precious to my soul as well. I’m sure you can say the same. What an amazing privilege to watch God’s Light and Truth break over the face of someone who has been so broken and rejected…sometimes for decades. He is truly amazing in His Grace and Love.
Blessings Warrioress of the King…rest well.
You bring up a very interesting and good point: By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to be different than those who so horrifically abuse us. It’s the Holy Spirit’s indwelling a person that makes all the difference. Without that empowerment of the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit), one has no discernment and is in the darkness about their sinfulness. I remember two adult male friends of mine just within the past 10 years who are really good men as far as I can tell but when I began to approach them with the Gospel and told them they were both sinners, they both refuted that and said, “No, I am not a sinner!” That blew me away but as time has gone by I see how their lives are not oriented toward Christ and they are in the darkness; one lusted after married and unmarried women and openly talked about it and the other one frequently visited palm readers and openly shared that as well. The Holy Spirit’s presence is the way out of that darkness, but that’s God’s choice whether He plants the Holy Spirit in them or not. So, the power of the Gospel gives the knowledge of light and brings that conviction of sinfulness through the Holy Spirit’s work. I finally had to realize and accept that my ex-husband was possibly not even totally aware of his sinful ways because he’s still in the darkness (unsaved)even though he proclaims he’s a Christian. I cannot change that; only God can! Just wondering—-was your dad a saved person as he grew up? How about your husband? Is he saved?
Hello Peg…thank you for your thoughts. My father was raised by a Godly mother and he met the Lord through her. My husband is, and has been since childhood, a committed Christian, although he would tell you that most of his growth has come over the past 30 years (he’s 60). Regarding the Holy Spirit: Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that “whosoever believeth in Him” (KJV) will have eternal life (which means, they have the Holy Spirit the instant they believe in Him for salvation). I love the way the Message (Eugene Peterson) translates this passage: “This is how much God loved the world. He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed, by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted, anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a kind Son of God when introduced to him.” John 3:16-18
That being said, most are probably aware that, even with the indwelling Holy Spirit as our counselor, guide, comforter, etc. we still do not always obey and follow Him. We can, and do, continue to sin…sometimes we are so stubborn we cannot hear his “still small voice”. How we respond in any circumstance or situation is still our choice…even as Christians. Many of Paul’s letters to Christians address this.
Thank you again for your response. Blessings as you heal and grow in the arms of our loving Father.
I am lifting you up in pray to have the strength and courage to continue in this important work you do. I can only imagine the weariness you feel, but I will say that your words have been such an encouragement and source of strength to me over the years. Five years ago I started walking the road towards divorce after a 20 year abusive marriage and have been remarried for 2 1/2 years now.
There is hope and life after abuse.
Blessings to you!
BTW, the post for today is password protected and I could not read it. Does anyone know why that is or how to obtain a password?? I didn’t know if I missed something. Thank you!
The blog for this week hasn’t posted yet, that’s why it’s password protected. Kim just put it up there for me to look at and we’re searching for an appropriate picture. It should be up first thing tomorrow morning. Thanks so much for your prayers. They are so precious to me.
Wow, I’m so blown away by the responses and everyone’s support and kindness. My wife and I have been married 15 years. Our anniversary was last September and I was so excited at what I thought was a great milestone and she barely acknowledged it. I was so disappointed, tried to make a point of it, but it just brought up hostility. I’m glad I found this sight. I honestly believed I was the only one going through something like this and felt like such a loser. Peg, I will check out those books, work on my CORE and get my own coaching. Thanks for reminding me of Ps 34.
Kathy, in my most recent conversation with my wife, she restated that if I did what I was supposed to do, she wouldn’t be as miserable as she is. For years, she’s made it clear it’s my lack of carrying the load that’s caused our problems. I will start inserting my name into those verses. Thank you so much for the prayers. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone who I have never met pray for me! It’s pretty cool.
Debby, thanks for the advice. Anytime I’ve tried to bring up our issues, it’s met with hostility. I usually just back down. In February, I finally had enough and left for 2 weeks. My thought I was a complete as for taking that course of action even though it was my counselors suggestion. We have been to counseling a few times, but she always comes up with a reason to not continue. A couple of years ago we met with someone from church who was awesome. But after a few sessions, she didn’t want to go back. She said the only reason I wanted to go was that I needed someone to say it was all her fault! This same counselor persuaded my wife to join a trauma/abuse victims group program at Church. It’s for those who have suffered serious abuse and it’s supposed to be a multi – year program but my wife stopped going after a year. I will re read 9 Tactics and thank you as well for the blessings.
God sees your faithfulness and your hearts desire to please Him! Can you clarify your sentence “I felt like a complete __________ for taking that action…” I think you are saying “loser?” or “quitter?” Both of which are a lie and are coming from your trying to take responsibility for someone else’s actions. Did you come back and what had your wife done, as far as her accountability or change, made you decide to come back? I did the same thing several times and came back too soon. Each time was met with a period of time where my husband was being nice and really watching his ps and qs but then he went right back with the manipulation tactics. You are held accountable for YOUR actions only (such as retaliating, speaking truth but in an ugly way, etc.) NOT for putting a clear boundary and holding her accountable to follow it. Do you know what you are even looking for as far as a “marker” for when to know if you should come back? Leslie’s materials should help you in putting into words exactly what your expectations are for reconciliation. One of the most important truths I have learned through this journey is unconditional love does NOT require unconditional fellowship! Don’t give up on God’s ability to bring healing to your wife and your marriage but don’t continue sacrificing yourself to get it.
To answer your question, my husband’s mother was extremely neglectful. She married and divorced several times when he was young. He has very few memories of his younger years. In elementary school, she married a man, whom she thought walked on water, but he was horrible. My husband has told me some scary stories of how this man treated him, and how his mother back him up. My husband married a woman when he was in his early 20’s. She was from an abusive home as well. My hubby told me, he knew on his first night of marriage, he’d made a big mistake. During that marriage, they had two kids; a girl and three years later a boy. This woman ran off all my husband’s friends, and he basically lived in a large closet with his computer to stay away from her. Not long after their second child came along, and ten years of marriage, she kicked him out and told him she wanted a divorce.
Fast forward 12 years. In their teen years, the kids decided they wanted to live with mom. They have no rules to follow, can come and go as they please -vs- our home that has structure, chores, curfews, bedtime, etc. She has neglected the everyway you can think of, she has beat them, taught them to lie, steal, not to be accountable for anything. The daughter, now 18, is a mental and emotional basket case. The son, 15, has flunked out of 9th grade, refuses to go to school, and been expelled throughout his school years for bad behavior, pulled knives on people. His behavior is so bad, he’s not allowed to be in our home, unless my husband is here to supervise. They both use drugs. His ex-wife will take no accountability for anything, it’s always someone’s fault, usually she blames my husband for all her woes. She has taught her kids, their dad is a horrible father. They now won’t speak to him. She refuses to work, expecting us to support HER through child support.
In sharing this, I think I’ve shared both sides of this question. My husband was neglected and abused. He has shown signs of abusive behavior early in our marriage, but through much prayer, etc. he has truly changed. His kids grew up in an severely abusive home with their mother, and they are both severely messed up. The daughter gets into seriously bad relationships. Everyone that knows the son has voiced concern, if he doesn’t change his ways, he will either hurt himself, hurt someone else, or both. Our fear is he will end up in prison.
Abuse is truly hard to break, but in my husband’s case, he has changed. He has learned to set up strict boundaries with his ex, as well as with his kids. That has helped tremendously. His ex-wife has progressively gotten worse over the years. Time will only tell what will happen to his kids.
Great examples of the choices we have to make even when the bad things happen to us.