I am in Canada, Ancaster to be exact, and it’s freezing here. I’ve become a Phoenix girl and cold weather is something I just don’t like anymore. But it is beautiful. I’m here for a meeting and staying in a lovely inn and so it’s not all bad. I just wish it was about 25 degrees warmer.
We have a lot of people signed up for my Webinar on May 22 called How long should you keep hoping for your destructive spouse to change and how will you know his change is real?
You don't want to miss it and please invite a friend. Remember, before the webinar even starts I will be sending you 3 videos to watch that answer 3 common questions I receive from people. #1 – If he doesn’t hit me is it still abuse? #2 – What are 3 common Christian teachings that keep abused women silent scared and stuck? And #3 – When should you say no to marriage counseling? I hope to see you there. Click here to register.
|This Week’s Question: I was a youth pastor’s wife and after 20 years felt like I finally came up for air when someone put your book Emotionally Destructive Marriage in my hand. I feel as if the truth God brought to my life through it saved me from insanity. I couldn’t believe that someone finally understood the games and manipulation and verbal cruelty that was going on, yet was masked with such outward charisma and shrouded with such false selflessness that I lived in a hidden world that the male church leaders would only direct me on how to be respectful and forgive 70×7.
After I went to the pastor's wife who saw through to what was happening, my husband lost his job which I was ready for and was part of what was a bold step for me in standing up for what was going on and praying that these natural consequences may be a wake-up call (The ammonia under the nose).
It was difficult and I felt so disloyal to my husband, but my integrity and sanity needed to find a place. However, in the meeting with my husband and two other male pastors, they informed me that this job loss was obviously 50 percent my fault as marriage problems are both sides.
I was devastated. My husband loved finally being told it was half my fault after several counselors had held him accountable for behavior that was destroying us. We are at a stage now where after three counselors that have come down on him for his behavior and tried to help, he found a Christian male counselor that has said he is none of the things that he has been told (narcissistic, etc) and feeds him what he wants to hear.
He pays to go see him every other week for two years which has completely broken the tiny bit left of our marriage. He is hard and unkind and has a new vocabulary to defend his actions. So, I have found support through godly friendship of other couples and women. And it wasn’t until I read the February question about “emotional separation” that I could understand what I was doing, but that my husband was saying things that left me feeling guilty and confused about my actions.
As well-meaning people in the church try to get involved that have no idea what is going on, I have just been unsure how to do this right. As my kids watch our marriage, do I talk to them about what is going on? They know things are strained, but they would be devastated to hear of any type of “separation” and yet…my biggest pain is the knowledge that they probably see me as civil and nice but unresponsive and unaffectionate and unconnected. I don’t know how to navigate living in the same house, sleeping in the same room, but being completely emotionally detached in the right way.
I have come to a place of peace. I have had years (decades) to have far gone past the place of needing or expecting any type of love from him. I am truly peacefully separated from him in that way, but for the kid’s sake, I really want to keep this together.
How do I do this without coming across dismissive and patronizing which is what he says? Is it wrong that I don’t ask him about things going on in his life and I don’t share anything about mine? I just don’t want to be connected with him at all. Talking to him almost always invites some sort of passive-aggressive, unexplainable to most, negative words.
I really could use an entire book on how to live my life if I am choosing that I think it truly is best for the kids if I can “stay well.” But I want to “stay well” separated from him emotionally(By the way, he isn’t striving to be connected with me at all either, so I am not resisting anything).
He just will use the “you are my wife!” line to make me question what God would expect of or want from me in this situation. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family and would not have ever thought there were marriages like this possible even in the secular world much less the Christian world.
So all my knowledge and my experience and relationship with the Lord has provided stability, but I yearn to help other women in this kind of pain to find understanding, compassion, clarity, and the tools needed to not just survive as I have been doing but to THRIVE.
But first I must figure out ME.
Thank you, Leslie! I wish I had the funds to learn directly underneath you for my sake, my girl’s sake, and the sake of other women. Your message is a lifesaver to me.
Answer: First, your church leaders were wrong. Your husband lost his job because of his sinful behaviors and his own unrepentant heart.
Abuse, addiction, and chronic adultery issues are NOT marriage problems, they are personal sin problems. Marriage counseling doesn’t work because the marriage is NOT the problem. Click To Tweet
Yes, abuse, addictions and chronic adultery cause marriage problems, but marriage problems do not cause abuse, addictions, and adultery. Do you hear the difference?
I’m curious what your husband means or expects from you when he says, “You’re my wife.” It might be interesting to ask him what he means when he says that? Does it mean you are his to own and control like “This is my car so I can wreck it if I want, or keep it dirty if I want?” Does it mean “wife” has certain responsibilities to fulfill and therefore you’re a bad “wife” if you’re not doing them?
I suspect it’s the latter and that’s hooking your guilt button. What do you feel guilty and confused about when he says those words? What are his ideas and expectations of a “good wife” and what is your idea of a “good wife” and what is God’s idea of a “good wife.”
For example, were you a “good wife” to expose his lack of integrity and abuse in the marriage to the church? Obviously, he didn’t think so. But did you? Did God? Is it being a good wife refusing to lie and pretend that the two of you have a repaired relationship when there is no relationship at all or, from what you say, is he even interested in doing the repair work?
I think if you can wade through those questions a bit and settle them in your mind, he might have less power over your emotions or conscience when he says those words. Is emotionally detaching from the marriage yet staying together for the children causing you some internal conflict that contributes to your guilt?
From your perspective your marriage relationship is dead. You said you have zero expectations, but it also sounds like you desire zero connection, not even superficial polite chitchat that roommates might have. You mentioned that you wonder if your children might view you as disinterested, unaffectionate or detached from their dad. Yes, they might, and if so then they will create a story in their head about why you are this way.
For example, they might think, “Mom is unforgiving. Dad tries so hard to make her happy and nothing makes her happy.” Or they might think, “Mom is so mean to dad. She treats him bad. I feel so sorry for him.” Or they might think, “Mom has problems. She must not be a very good Christian because she treats dad so indifferently.” Or they might think, “Mom is just not a very affectionate person, that’s why she acts that way.” Or they might think, “My parents have a bad marriage, I don’t want one like that.” Or they might think, “This is normal marriage after you’re married for this many years. My mom and dad don’t really like each other.”
You have no idea what they are telling themselves about what they observe.
Herein lies your dilemma. Your children WILL create a story (reason) about why you are the way you are or treat their father the way you do. Therefore, when you have a choice tell them the truth, why leave them to their own made up story?
Even if you tell them the truth, they still may not believe you, but at least now you have it out there for them to know why you behave the way you behave or why things are not warmer and friendlier between you and their father.
As I’ve said in previous blogs, telling the truth does not mean dishing all the ugly details about what their father has done. But you may have to say more than just “we’re struggling.” And what is he saying to the kids about why things are the way they are between you? Do you know?
I appreciate your desire to keep your family together for the benefit of your children. For some women that is an extremely important goal. And will you continue to stay once your children launch out of the nest and into their own lives?
And if not, will this come as a total surprise to them if they still believe their parents are still a couple and not just parents? In my work with this whole issue, it’s sometimes the older kids that have a much harder time accepting that you can’t “do it anymore” than the younger kids.
But my question for you is what exactly are you modeling to your children, especially as they are getting older? And, is this the model of Christian marriage you want them to see? Or even is this the model of a bad marriage you want them to see – and how a partner handles it?
If not, then what do you tell them? I’ve written other blogs on whether or not to tell the kids and even what to tell them so I won't rehash that here. But you can read the blog post, here and here.
However, you ended your question with “I have to figure out me.” And that’s a good place to start. What’s important to you? How do you stay well and communicate to your kids why you and their father are not in a good place, more than your struggling, your marriage is dying (or already dead), but you both want to be good parents. Are you planning to try to stay well after the kids leave your home? Then what? What are his expectations of “life together” and what are yours?
You said that you needed to protect your integrity and sanity more than your husband’s false image and that’s why you told the truth to the church. I’m wondering if those same values also need to be in place as you figure out you. To keep up a false image of an intact marriage and family is costly when it’s not the truth. It sounds like you are attempting to do it with as much integrity and sanity as you can muster by emotionally detaching from your expectations of a reciprocal or mutual relationship, but your fear is your kids will “see it” as bad mom or a bad wife.
And they might. Therefore why not just be honest with them, especially as they are getting older and say, “Dad and I are more than struggling. We are done struggling and we sort of just exist. I don’t know how to fix this. We’ve been to a multitude of counselors and nothing has changed and I just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”
Now your kids have a context for your actions or non-actions. They still might not like it, but by your words, they at least know why you act the way you do with their father.
Friends, what words of wisdom might you have for our dear sister who loves her children, loves God, wants to stay well but finding it challenging?
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The truth is that it is a hard,challenging place to live.The most significant relationship(excluding our relationship with the Lord) is with our spouse.This is how God designed it to be.And yet….I grieve with every story and know personally the profound pain this causes.I stayed as long as I could…and then I couldn’t.There is no formula,although Leslie gives practical,wise advice in navigating these turbulent waters.I am at peace with my decision to separate and am praying about how long to remain in this state before finalizing the divorce.It isn’t my hearts desire yet may be necessary at some point.My son is grown and married to a wonderful young woman. I am intentional in my relationship with them and seek to honor their marriage by maintaining good boundaries with them.I pray that God,in his rich grace and mercy,will help them have the marriage my husband and I weren’t able to have.I did stay until after my son finished college,although I don’t necessarily believe that should always be the goal.The greatest gift I can give them is to live my life with integrity and honesty now.I admit I didn’t say much to my son but he told me he understands and loves me.Again,this is a hard place and I am so grateful for all the love and support I have received as I have traveled this difficult path.God knows our hearts as moms and loves our children even more than we do.Trust Him to make a way….
“The greatest gift I can give them is to live my life with integrity and honesty now.”
This is so true!
I feel very similar although the loss in my life is a bit different, painful indeed but I continue to trust God with His ways.
Janice, I’m so sorry for what you have gone through but I admire your strength and your courage. God sees you and all that is taking place. His Promises always prevail💕
I just want to say that I hear you and know the desire of your heart and applaud your willingness to see reality. I, too, was married to a youth pastor and was SO amazed at Leslie’s writings to feel understood. My then-husband eventually began an affair, and then more. One thing I learned in counseling was to identify my “bottom line” behaviors of what I could live with: I needed kindness and faithfulness. He had a lot of rage issues, and I truly think we could have overcome those…things were getting better as I learned to enforce boundaries and he no longer had an audience for his fits. But he got involved with another woman and so I asked him leave.
Even though it was never what I desired, I filed for divorce. I had little children (2, 4 and 5 years at the time) and was devastated. However, God was so close to me during that time and I never knew the peace we had in our home until he was gone.
Of course there is so much more to the unfolding of our story. I can say that years later he admitted that I was a good wife and apologized. It is painful to be away from my children two nights each week while they are with dad and SO challenging to try and co-parent with someone who has differing values.
For me, I had to think of what I would tell my daughter, if she was in my situation. That helped bring clarity. I had to consider what kind of marriage I was modeling as normal to all my children. I want my boys to know that it’s not acceptable to treat a woman with disrespect, and there are consequences when it happens.
Finally, I had to pray that God would forgive me if I was making a mistake. I never had that peace in my heart about the decision to divorce…because I knew it would be trading one set of difficulties for another. However, God has filled in the gaps where I have fallen short. He has been so gracious and kind to provide emotionally and in every other way. Once the divorce-decision was made, I have experienced deep peace and safety.
I respect those women who choose to stay. I don’t know the ages of your children, and I believe providing truth according to Leslie’s ideas is important for your own sanity and to fill in where there are blanks. Are there other safe people to whom you can share? Friends? Family? Like your former pastor’s wife, you will find many who see though his mask, even as he tries to deny it.
I am praying for you today.
My heart feels for you. My story was with a worship pastor. I so admire the women that can stay well but I knew that for my own health and with the lack of true repentance from him I needed to leave well. Keep working hard on you and your healing. The age of the kids makes a huge difference in what you can share but speaking honestly in an age appropriate manner will help them to figure out how to process how they are most likely treated by their father either now or later on.
Yes, I understand too. I have detached emotionally to a large degree. He makes the appearance of being so loving towards me while I appear distant to him in front of the children. Yet, they choose to not be around him much. Kids read through more than we think. I, too, desire to “stay well” for the kids’ sake. The second oldest, 18, is perceptive. When a conversation came up about the subject, I simply said many things have been done and said behind closed doors that I have needed to set boundaries on. She understood.
Speaking up as a ministry wife feels like double jeopardy…you must lay your marriage and your livelihood on the line. I was living overseas with my husband working in missions with our children when yet another series of abusive events and addictions were brought to light. My church family has been 100% supportive of me and believed me without blaming me. They called him back and asked for his resignation. In the past year, I’ve seen God carry my children and I back to the states in the palm of His hand, giving us safety and provision to this day. Leslie’s advice has been invaluable to me, and while I had hoped to see my marriage restored, it doesn’t seem like that’s what the end of this path is. I do not want my children to grow up seeing regular abuse, chronic lying, and addiction as normal things. God is faithful and He will guide and provide each step of the way.
Thank you for this article. I felt so many of the same things you wrote about. When you mentioned, living falsely, it made me think of how dishonest I’ve lived in the post thirty years. So much truth and knowledge in this post. Thank you so much
The desire to stay and stay well is very difficult, yet by God’s grace there is peace and strength for the needs of each day, just as this dear lady describes. I think it might be better to shut the door on the husband’s input, though. Why should he get to have a voice when it comes to complaining about her “patronizing” etc., but doesn’t want to use his voice when it comes to kindness and relationship connection. That’s not how it works. If he doesn’t want to relate, he doesn’t get to have input, period.
Thank you so much for this post. It is where I’m finding myself right now and I appreciate your admonition for honesty with older children. I need to work on this!
Secondly, I am only an hour from Ancaster and can’t believe you are so close! Are you speaking at all while you are here, where I might come and listen?? And I am tired of the cold too! 😉
I feel for this writer and I am thankful that she does mention support in her life. I would also like to know what her husband means when he says “you are my wife”. I think this comment is very important and will help her see his posture and if he has made any progress toward healthy growth.
I would assess maybe not given the back ground she gave. Maybe even a step backward to reinforcing his twisted beliefs.
My hypothesis is that the comment is about his wife needing to be a person who does Not hold him accountable but enables his destructive behaviors and attitudes.
Something like, “ your my wife, so you need to tolerate (fill in the blank)”
His history of 3 other counselors holding him accountable ended each time until he found a counselor who would tell him what he wanted to hear.
To the writer, the healthiest and most loving thing you can do for you and for him, and especially your children watching is to hold him accountable, invite him into health and healing.
My husband had a really hard time with this in his recovery, in fact he loved the kind of people who who say, “ it takes two”, “it’s a 50/50 problem” and on and on
In fact, at one point he would get to taking 95% of the problem (which yes was his behavior and choices) and want to focus on 5% of what he thought my part was😂.
Our counselor was very good at bringing him back to the reality that he still didn’t want to discuss ‘his part’.
This is a sticky road at times because someone like your h has to have a lot of interventions to help assist him in learning how to look at himself and grow. You as someone who decides to stay also has to be equipped to know how to live in an environment to face this often, shining light on it each and every time, and with no tolerance of his poor coping skills that were destructive to your home, marriage and Peace.
I think I can kind of picture this situation when you said your husband still wanted to talk about your alleged five percent of the fault or responsibility. Was it kind of one of those moments that seem like an adult version of a tantrum? …Not necessarily that there is yelling, but just hard-headed, immature uncooperativeness?…kind of like when you deal with a toddler, and they are still flailing their limbs because they don’t want to be dealt with? I have experienced this so many times— not at the counselor’s office so much, but just my husband not willing to be told that he is wrong.
Ultimately what it was… was an avoidance tactic that was so ingrained!! Glad it happened on a regular basis.. and yes ‘no yelling’ but a quick spin move to focus on ‘well not the biggest part of the issue’ and to my own defects early on I was willing to discuss ‘my part’ and take responsibility for my part even if it was 5 % or not.
Our counselor helped us stop this! It was a big wake up call for me to see what was AcTUALLY taking place- H avoiding and not wanting to be accountable for his behavior or how his behavior or choices affected me.
Was it immaturity from where he was, of course! Tremendous immaturity. I haven’t ever come across a person with abusive behavior/ abusive mindset that doesn’t also have a serious issue with emotional/mental immaturity.
He eventually had to decide (based on requirements I invited him into) if he was going to get to work and get ALL the help needed for his own transformation and the ability to repair all the the damage he did to the marriage.
This is very well explained Aly.
The avoidance tactic is reinforced when their spouse is unwilling to stand firm. I think for many of us, we are so much more comfortable looking inward and exploring ourselves (perhaps in an attempt to become better people) than we are standing firm – which allows the other person to look at themselves.
I found myself doing this with a sales person the other day. He had charged our credit card (that was already in the system) without checking with me how I wanted to pay for a new service. I had wanted to pay cash. He apologized and explained that he could not undo his mistake. He gave me something for free which I told him I appreciated. (All good so far). As I was leaving, he told me that he appreciated my understanding and said ‘once again, I’m sorry for not checking with you’. Instead of saying ‘thank you’ here’s what I said, “well, I could have told you in advance’.
I left there feeling diminished. Did he make me feel that way? No. He took responsibility and was professional about his mistake. It was my own heart posture (where my words came from) that diminished me. There should have been no place in that scenario for me taking ANY responsibility. As a salesperson, he never should taken money from our card before checking. But I found a way to ‘take 5% of ‘my share’ regardless.
This is an ingrained habit, that a manipulator sees a mile away.
Great story and an excellent example of how it works with a manipulator as well as how it is supposed to work in polite society. I see your interaction with the clerk not as something that diminishes you. In my opinion it shows you are a graceful person. He owned up to what he had done, didn’t excuse it, and sincerely apologized. You showed grace and kindness by giving him a bit of a way to “save face” It showed that you forgave him without actually having to say the words “I forgive you” which in that context might have come across as being rather snotty. It let him know in a nice way that it was ok and you weren’t holding it against him
Isn’t that the way it should work in polite society? In marriage? When there are two people of good will that have the best interest of the other person in mind, I see that as a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with (small) issues. The problem comes in when one of the people has the best interest of self in mind. Then that 5% just becomes an excuse justify or dismiss the 95% and is then perpetually used to attack and manipulate the other person until the next incident which gives them even more ammo.
I believe that Leslie’s last email really hit this nail on the head.
“The mistake churches make in these instances is defining these problems as a marriage problem. Repetitive abuse (of any kind), addictions, chronic deceit or adultery are NOT marriage problems. They cause marriage problems for sure, but at their heart, they are personal sin problems. Individual character issues that must be addressed before the damage of those issues within the marriage can be repaired.
Marriage counseling for serious personal sin issues doesn’t work. Why not? Because the problem isn’t the marriage. The core problem is misdiagnosed. It’s like giving someone with lung cancer an antibiotic because you misdiagnose their nagging cough as bronchitis. Antibiotics are great for bronchitis, but impotent for lung cancer.”
The vast majority in polite society (the church) want all problems in a marriage to be the fault of both people. We have been spoon fed this notion that if there is separation or divorce, it is the fault of both parties “it takes two to tango” This may be true in a lot of situations, but it is not true in a lot of others. But it is so much easier to blame both people because then nobody has the responsibility to call out sin in the life of one person. This notion of joint responsibility for the marriage is so not Biblical. God does not hold us accountable for the sins of others and we don’t pay for the sins of others. From the time of Adam and Eve, we have sought to blame others for our sins. Did God allow that in the garden? NO. God held Adam responsible for his part, Eve responsible for her part, and the snake responsible for his part.
I know when I was in the midst of everything, I had the mistaken idea that I was helping my marriage when I would take the responsibility for her sins. It was sort of like if I could make that sin go away, then all would be well. It doesn’t work like that. Last time I checked, Jesus was the only one that has ever taken on the sins of others.
Hmmmm, you’ve given me something to think about Sheep. I like how you explained my actions as graceful. From a distance I see what you mean and hope that this was the case. Maybe mutual respect in relationships is still a difficult experience for me to accept without needing to ‘feel diminished’ after an interaction.
I do pray for a greater ability to ‘receive’ ; be it to recieve apologies, or to receive gratitude, or even feedback. I would have felt much better about myself had I simply said, “thanks” or even “no worries” to the salesman.
I like how you ended with only Jesus taking on the sins of others. I had the same mindset about my h’s sin (but I defined it then, as his pain) :If only I could ‘face his pain, for him’ then our marriage would be healed. A big pay-off for me in that ‘rescuing mindset’ was that I was able to continue to avoid my own sin.
I think this might be called a ‘Messiah trap’.
I think that that all of us really worry about how our kids are going to see us. I think that this is part of what keeps us stuck in a really bad place for so long. I worried about how my kids would see me, I worried about if they would ever see the truth of the situation. I worried about them being from a broken home if I actually stood up to the things she was doing.
One of my real wake up moments was after my wife stopped going to marriage counseling (thankfully we had a marriage counselor that quickly recognized the problem was her sin/abuse issues) I was meeting with the counselor by myself and I was just in the absolute pit of existence. She asked me what is keeping me from divorcing her. Part of that would have been my commitment to the permanence of marriage even though I had Biblical grounds for divorce, but my answer to her was “Because I don’t want my kids to be from a broken home” She gently answered that with something I will never forget. She said “I’m sorry, but they already are from a broken home. They just don’t know it. And right now everything is in the dark, they don’t know what is going on, but they know that everything is wrong. It is like there is a giant dead elephant in the middle of the room. Nobody can see it, but everyone keeps tiptoeing around it and it is making everyone sick.”
At some point I realized that my “staying well” wasn’t working and that I was doing more damage to my kids by continuing to pretend that this was what a normal family was.
You have been through a lot of chaos and you have been dragged onto the crazy roller coaster (of your wife’s repetitive character issues).
First, it takes great courage to listen and take in what your counselor so bravely offered you.
Second, it takes such Courage and strength to have your next actions align with not contributing to the scene (the denial of the dead elephants).
It is a crime scene?Yes, by Jesus’s standards & biblical truths, it is.
I have children too that I raise in hopes to desire a heart after God’s own. I have no control over their choices especially when they are old enough to really make these choices for themselves at an adult level.
My hope and prayer is that I have been obedient to model for them the importance of not contributing into denial or ‘family of origin crime scenes’. They still have their free will to choose how to be, how to invest, and my prayer is that for their own hearts they will chose authentic loving growing broken people to be in the company of, rather than counterfeits or those who need truth tellers to contribute to the denial of the scene.
When I was a child, I didn’t have a free choice to not contribute technically (I was certainly outnumbered), then I became older seeked earnestly to listen to God’s wisdom and I saw I could choose differently.
Sheep, I hope you are experiencing the beauty of God’s peace even in painful (undesired) outcomes. I continue to pray for you and your children.
Love the ‘dead elephant’ analogy being linked to a crime scene! So. Good.
As I’ve shared before a major ‘validation moment’ for me as an adult (having grown up in an ‘unacknowledged crime scene’) was when my focus on the family counsellor told me that I grew up with ‘not only an elephant that no one acknowledged, but the rotting corpse of an elephant, that no one acknowledged’. This explained SO MUCH.
Yes. An unacknowledged dead elephant will eventually make everyone sick. It especially messes with a child’s mind. Since it’s the truth that sets us free, then we mustn’t deny the crime scene we live in.
I can relate to the same thing of feeling that I didn’t want my kids from a “broken home”. I never thought of it that they already are. It definitely is dysfunctional due to the chaos in our marriage.
I have found it interesting how many on here are people who are/were in ministry. I am also in the same boat as a minister. It puts a whole new dimension on the situation.
I’ve really struggled with what will be the affect on the kids if I separate. I’m a SAHM and homeschool them. Our lives will totally be turned upside down in a separation. That’s very scary. But I have seen the affects on them through them being more disobedient and disrespectful very much due to their father’s lack of consistency in discipline and in character.
He makes comments that our marital issues are 50/50. When I explained that there are times that one spouse is contributing a lot more than the other one to the destruction of the marriage, he will say that I am the one doing that. He will say that he is working so hard for his family and such and he doesn’t know why I am “acting the way I am” (when I’m trying to have boundaries.). When I try to explain why I am acting the way I am, he will create discussions explaining why he doesn’t understand that when he is treating me so “good”.
The counselor told me that kids will start to blame the non-abusive parent if that parent does not do something about the problem (leave, set boundaries that the spouse respects…) I have seen that in my children. They will say I am doing the same thing he is when I am not.
One Step at a Time.
I can really relate to your situation as I am in full time ministry myself and my kids have been homeschooled too. I was so afraid that the backlash of me setting boundaries and eventually separating and divorcing would totally end my job and then how would I pay for everything? Also, I was so afraid of what would happen to my children, both personally and for school.
So far, most of my fears have not been justified. We are “almost” divorced now and though it hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been near as bad as I had imagined it would be. My ministry has been fine (so far), those that i work for have been very supportive and they are fully behind me. I ended up putting some of my kids in public school and so far that is working out really well.
The kids seem to be doing better than I ever imagined they could be. My wife tries to convince others that the problems were the fault of both people. I think some have fallen for that, but the longer things go on, the more actual truth comes out and the fewer people believe all of that.
People seem shocked when they find out we are divorcing, because we were “that” family. But sadly, I don’t think people care near as much as I would have thought they would. They all have their own lives to live.
I think your counselor is probably right. The longer things go on without the truth coming to light, the more “normal” the abuse and disfunction become. I think the kids could blame the victim because their lives are easier if they believe the abuser.
I can relate to the author of this letter. I’m in a similar position right now, with trying to stay well, having emotionally detached and preferring that we live as roommates. However, I don’t find myself in a place of peace for long. The cycle of abuse is apparent, and my husband likes to shake things up when he is feeling ignored. He often tells me “You’re my wife, now start acting like it,” expecting the physical benefits and the affection of marriage without any of the emotional investment, and no repentance whatsoever for his abuse.
He started an argument the other night, and I walked away several times asking him to stop because the children were asleep. He said they couldn’t hear. Yet, my daughter asked me the next day if dad had met someone online. I answered with regret, but truthfully. She rolled her eyes and sighed in disgust before walking away. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. She shouldn’t have to have heard that.
My husband has told me I am 98% of the problems in the marriage. He misses me at the “girlfriend stage”. When I became a wife, he says that I turned cold and mean. Funny that he doesn’t correlate my change in behavior with the discovery of all of the sexual affairs and online dating he was up to until the day before we married. We had twins right away, and he didn’t know how to care for them, nor did he care to learn. They were 6 months old when I found out about the other women, which he denied despite printed evidence of his conversations with them. I was in the throes of serious postpartum depression and had no support, and no family nearby. No childcare, no breaks, no help, no friends. I was terrified for them to be alone with him. I remember once I begged him to let me sleep in on a weekend morning (he began work at noon and regularly slept right up until leaving, staying awake until 2 a.m. every night on the internet, as I slept alone). As the babies woke up, he tried to let them lay in their soaking wet diaper, crying and hungry after a full night’s sleep, yelling at them from the other room to lay back down so he could go back to sleep. I was so angry, and so exhausted, and so hopeless. But I got up and fed and changed my children while he slept in past noon that day. Resentment came quickly. There are many, many other stories I could tell. He doesn’t see any of this, and feels I pretended to be sweet and nice until I sunk my “hooks” into him by signing the marriage license. There is no personal insight whatsoever on his part.
Do I ever tell the kids about his neglect and treatment of them as babies? I always fear that they will just think I was exhausted and unhappy in photos, and it was somehow their fault. It wasn’t. And how do you tell them without getting accused of parental alienation?
This is awful! I’m so very sorry! This is not a marriage (covenant broken) and certainly not a parenting partnership of any sort. This person you call husband is not someone who you can ask anything from even if it’s for the care of your children. Neglect is a form of abuse.
Depending on the ages of your children, your answers should be reality to them. Given your daughters last question, I am assuming they are of age to understand some areas of the unhealth they are being exposed to.
It’s better for them to see clarity and not find unhealthy coping strategies of denial.
Telling them the truth is not you being guilty of parenting alienation… sounds like your h has reaped that on his own by his own choices?
Are you working with a professional counselor that your children can also see?
Also, I wouldn’t necessarily define your posture or choices as resentment. But about your safety and the result of severely broken trust in a sacred place where you are supposed to feel safe and supported and have a partner that you can rely on. When a spouse abandons their commitments and vows on many levels, it shatters things. This is not your fault that your husband chose to not stay true and honor his sacred covenant and chose to abandon his responsibilities as a husband and father.
Going to work and earning money for a family is only part of a parenting responsibility. I happen to work outside the home and when I come home I don’t stop or clock out of my parenting responsibilities that continue once I get home.
Even children at a young age feel the indirect pain of their mother being mistreated or neglected by their spouse.
Aly, I can see that they feel the pain of our situation, and it comes out as withdrawal and/or defiance. I need out soon, for the sake of our mental health. I am praying for God to provide.
Thank you for the validation of my situation. When my husband explains his side, I am still at that stage where he can cause me to feel confused, as if maybe it is all my fault. I want to be free from the guilt (or at least learn to live with it) of suggesting divorce when he explains how it will impoverish us both, or how I will spend Christmas alone, how he can’t see living without us, or how he plans to go for joint custody. His statement on joint custody makes me SICK, as he would be doing that purely for financial reasons, and not to spend time with his children. Even the time he has with them now with us all together (evenings and weekends) are him wanting them to go to bed, or letting them roam the house and make awful messes and then yelling at them, as if the lack of supervision is their fault (overflowing the tub during a bath, dumping toy boxes out and walking away, experiments in the kitchen with food products that get everywhere). Meanwhile, I am cleaning out the basement, doing laundry, or other house work duties as he rules the house from his chair. My son used to cling to any male attention (scout leader, teacher), but now he has quit scouts because he doesn’t have the skills the other boys have that their fathers have obviously instilled in them (throwing a football, knowing the names/functions of different tools). His leaders were good to him, but clueless as to the level of male inexperience my son had. My son felt embarrassed, inadequate, and ashamed. My husband had promised to do the background check required to participate in scouts, but never did, so my son declined to go on the father/son camp out he was looking forward to. Now he wants nothing to do with his father. His father blames me, and suggests that I have done or said something to interfere in their relationship. I have little hope that he can turn into one of those “fun dads” that can manage to entertain their kids a couple weekends a month after divorce. I don’t think he is even capable of that much quality time, and I see the kids turned loose on their own to be unsupervised online, outside, or around whatever woman of the week their dad decides to introduce. I expect another woman to enter the relationship soon after divorce, given that my resignation will mean a job opening to take care of him, and he liked to be fully “staffed” as he is unwilling to manage himself.
I am bitter, and feeling that way is exhausting. But this is just a season of life. I have hope that it will get better, and I know God walks in this valley with me. It will be okay eventually.
I don’t understand you when you say this is just a season of life?
What evidence do you have that it will eventually get better?
Have you seen the abuse wheel?
Your son’s experience is so very sad actually excruciating. Get custody!! and you throw the ball and you teach him, of you can’t find other men in your church who will mentor him.
When I say a “time in life”, I’m speaking about Ecclesiastes 3. “A time to tear down, a time to build…a time to mourn, a time to dance…”, etc. I feel like I am in a time just before deliverance, and am actively waiting (not passively by just wishing, but actually preparing) for change. I do not believe this situation will get better unless I leave. I have seen the abuse wheel. The first counselor I ever had, took it out on our very first visit ten years ago, and asked me to make a place to leave. If only I had listened.
I had considered other men in our church to mentor him, but that actually got very weird, very fast. I felt like women, even women with whom I was friendly, saw us as intrusive or attempting to infringe on their family time. One of the scout leaders was single, and I sensed he was getting the wrong idea about my intentions. Not to mention how humbling it is to ask for this kind of help, when people feel like they want to know the back story as to why dad isn’t involved but is in the home. It made my son feel abandoned and pitied. I am happy to play with him, and we have taken to looking up a lot of YouTube tutorials on fixing things, throwing, etc., but I am not an athlete. It’s also difficult to get quality time when your mom has three younger siblings to care for. But we do what we can.
Jolene, I think it is great you told your daughter the truth. I wouldn’t bring up the stuff about when she was a baby because she can’t relate or understand what you went through. She can understand what she is going through now. Must you really live with her father/ your husband? I think it is great that you have started to take a stand but I fear your daughter will tolerate a man treating her just like your husband treats you. If mom can take it she can too. In fact maybe that is what marriage is like. Maybe all Dad’s cheat just like my Dad.
I agree that we need to be in separate households. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible right now. I’m praying that God will provide soon.
Jolene, Your children are already old enough to realize that your marriage is broken, and so are their hearts. The reason they do not have a real relationship with their father is that he has never invested in a relationship with them. He didn’t bond with them or care for them as babies and doesn’t now. I suspect that once he doesn’t have to engage with them at all, he will lose interest in his court ordered time with them.
Jolene, you already have a very good reason to divorce him: his adultery. No one would fault you there, and the court would favor you for sure. Start preparing to separate. Get the kids into school, and look for a job to support yourself. Get legal advice. Work with a counselor to make a plan. This is a horrible situation you and your children are in, and it’s affecting the kids more than you realize. The Lord is with you and He will provide, but you have to take the first steps.
Jolene, start squirreling away money. Even if it’s $10 here, $20 there. Ask the grocery store if you can have cash back….some will do that. Have a friend you can trust keep the money for you. And even if it takes a year +, it’s something you will have when you make your fresh start. I did this for over a year, and had a little over $1,000. It helped so much!
I’ve emotionally detached from my husband which also means I’m not interested in intimacy. He doesn’t understand the emotional detachment although he sees I’m doing it. He doesn’t seem to understand boundaries and how he has crossed them, nor take responsibility for his verbally abusive and emotionally abusive actions over the years. Sometimes, he will say he is “sorry for everything” without saying what he is sorry for. He will say I need to forgive and that I’m holding grudges. I have told him repeatedly that I am not holding grudges, but I don’t trust him after the way he has acted and that it will take time for me to trust again. He will ask “how” he has acted and project onto me his behavior saying I’m doing those things or start talking about how hard hearted I am. So, I have found I cannot talk to him about heart to heart issues or about his behavior because he will not accept or own his behavior. He gets accusing when he sees me standing my ground to not be intimate. He says it is necessary for marriage and that if we are not intimate then we are opening the door for Satan to tempt us and that I am opening the door for other men to be interested in me or me in them.
I don’t see how a person can stay healthy in a situation where the other spouse will not accept boundaries. I don’t see how the people in these blogs are saying that they are detaching and setting boundaries, getting away with that without their spouses accusing them or projecting onto them their own behavior and starting a whole new series of cycles.
Step you can’t stay healthy in a destructive relationship. It can work to have boundaries and detach in difficult relationships, but you have to physically remove yourself from a destructive person. Someone gave you poor advice.
The detaching helps as you prepare to leave or make arrangements to enforce that your abusive partner leaves.
You are in more physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual danger than you realize. Have you read “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck?
Moon Beam, People of the Lie was recommended to me by the first counselor I started seeing when I was in an extremely destructive marriage 25 yrs ago. Reading it was life changing for me. It helped me come to the sad realization that there are many people who do not have good will toward others. Interestingly, I had been victimized my entire life up to that point by people who did not have good will toward me. I wish I could say that I broke the cycle after reading the book. At the time, I was seperated from my abusive husband and in the process of a divorce. I became a Christian just prior to the seperation. A couple of years later, I met my current husband. He was so different from my ex-husband, yet there were some red flags that seemed rather minor in comparison. After we got married, I was so very determined to have a God honoring marriage tht I overlooked repeated destructive patterns of behavior. When I would attempt to address problems, he was so tightly defended and highly skilled at avoidance, blame shifting, minimizing, manipulation, projection, transference, etc. that I would end up in a state of total confusion. We attempted marriage counseling but of course it was not helpful. He was deeply in denial and 100% convinced that he didn’t have a problem. We have been married 21 yrs but I emotionally detatched from him many years ago. At first he would try to break my boundaries and accuse me of being uncaring, unforgiving, etc. As I have become better educated about covert N.P.D. and the tactics they employ, I have made it perfectly clear that I have no intention to continue the masquerade. He is much less defensive now when I speak up and for the most part he agrees that he has serious character defects, but he has absolutely no interest in dealing with them. He evidently gets adequate supply from the people that he meets through his business as he is a very knowledgeable and highly skilled mobile RV repair tech. He has 5 children, 6 grandchildren, four siblings and 15 nieces/nephews that he does not have relationship with. So, so sad!
One step, I just want you to know you aren’t alone. Setting boundaries with regards to no intimacy does not come without consequences for me (husband’s anger, tantrums, accusations, ultimatums). I also justify the boundaries from a place of broken trust and safety. I have decided that my personal dignity is more important than his need for release, and I would rather take the tantrum than to feel used, dirty, and defiled ever again. I have read that men who require sex to feel love in the relationship usually lack the capacity to emotionally connect due to immaturity or halted emotional development, and they truly do feel they “need” that intense experience of sex to connect. Women need the emotional connection to be physically intimate. Quite the dilemma. I have conceded to his needs far too many times to know that it hurts me more than it helps us. The lack of my husband’s personal insight into his own contribution to these issues likely means it will never resolve. I encourage you to read up on sexual abuse in marriage if you haven’t already done so. I didn’t realize it could exist, or that I was living in it.
Overtime my husband turned violent. Rape follows and is a part of it. He won’t take no for any answer. The only solution is removing yourself from an evil person. The coercion and manipulative behavior escalates overtime. The detachment can’t be sustained in the abuser’s presence because they up their abuse to get what they want.
I’m so sorry you experienced this, Moon Beam. You are correct, it can turn violent. And sometimes it isn’t violent, but it is still rape. Like when you know your only choice is to give in quietly or fight and wake your children, and you are crying throughout, saying you don’t want to, and he ignores you and says “well, if you’re sure…” and has his way. Disgusting.
You know Step, it would seem your husband should be saying he is sorry. He should be changing his behavior and apologizing. I hope your precious children can’t hear the terrible way he speaks to you. This cycle can go on and on, only you can break it. Only you can set yourself free.
One Step at a Time.
” I’m sorry for everything” actually means I’m sorry for nothing. I have heard that many times and it is just an attempt to manipulate you into feeling guilty for believing that everything he does is bad. (even though you never said everything is bad) When I and the counselor gently confronted my wife about her abusive behavior she replied with “I’m sorry for everything! and I’m sorry that I have made your entire life so miserable” Note, nobody ever said that she should be sorry for everything and nobody said that she had made my entire life miserable. But the whole thing was really clarified the next day when she announce to me that she had been thinking about it and she decided that she isn’t abusive and that I should never bring it up again. 🙂
Repentance. A clear change in attitude, direction, heart, actions and mind. Real repentance always seems to be what is really lacking in abusers. You can’t repent if you won’t see your own sin as God sees it, and you can’t repent if your heart is full of pride.
For me, I couldn’t see a way to live in honesty and stay well. I couldn’t see a way to live any longer pretending for the world that we were “that” family, and I couldn’t see a way for me to let my kids continue to believe that ours was what a marriage was supposed to look like. She couldn’t promise to be faithful, let alone admit or deal with her abusive ways, so we are now almost divorced. I haven’t felt the peace that I now feel for a very long time.
This is very well said!
Sheep, that roar you hear in the background is us cheering for you. Having walked along with you on your journey and watched you deal with your struggles, I have to say, it is so encouraging to read what you have written in this thread. The lord has really been merciful to you and given you wisdom and strength to move forward on a treacherous road. But you have done it with grace and courage. Well done!
I’ve agree about “I’m sorry for everything.” My H did the same thing where when I labeled something he was doing as abusive he didn’t agree and told me not to use that word. He would also bring up topics we had discussed repeatedly (like even multiple times a day, every day for weeks or months on end) to the point that I felt like loosing my mind. When I called it “harassment” he accused me of being harassing and told me not to use that word. He was told by the counselor to stop but he didn’t. Later some others told him to stop and he did about those particular issues, but now other things have become issues. Even the kids were getting upset over his repeated conversations turned arguments. Of course, in them he always projected me as being the one in the wrong and saying I wouldn’t listen to him even though I listened to him way more than he did to me and even though it was for hours at a time sometimes. The kids heard plenty. For me the last straw was when he was telling them I was lying or that I had a man in my life and I wanted to leave him and take he kids and go to this other man. —although there never has been another man. He was making up stories and blaming me for things I wasn’t doing — in front of them. His latest thing has been to basically tell me I cannot take the kids places without his permission and that if I do, he will call child protective services on me. He has several times told me they are also his kids. So, I can imagine a separation will turn nasty.
I think you need to call child protective services and start a record. Tell them about your husband’s abuse. Then when he does go crazy, they have a record. It will help you get more custody in court. Also, record he rants in your phone. This too will help.
Sheep, I love your statement – I’m sorry for everything” actually means I’m sorry for nothing. BINGO! 🙂
Thank you so much. You guys here have been such a help and encouragement to me over the last couple of years. You have been so supportive, you have challenged my thinking, you have helped me to see clearly. I have learned from you, I have seen my own story played out in your lives… some are further down the road, others are just setting their feet on the path. In some of you I have seen where I have been, in others I have seen where I am going, and unfortunately, in some I have seen where I never want to go. Some of you patiently walk this road again and again with each new person that joins our community and there have been a few come and go that are most likely themselves abusers because they display the same manipulative and destructive traits that so many of us have seen in our homes.
I always look forward to Wednesday mornings so that I can see what God has led Leslie to say this week.
Hi you all,
I have been an ardent follower of this blog and have recommended it to some friends struggling in their marriages though I have never commented. I am an African from Nairobi Kenya and was so grateful to the Lord when He led me to this site. I can relate to the stories shared here having been married and gone through a divorce. In Africa, being married is often seen as a barge of honor and divorce is frowned upon both culturally and especially in churches. The level of abuse that women and children endure in order to stay married is unbelievable. When I decided to file for divorce from a man whom everybody admired and aspired to be like, i was ostracized by the society, family and church. I did not fit anywhere. But the Lord was with me and I felt his guidance, peace and strength throughout a most difficult journey. My children were young, manipulated and lied to by the father, I did not have the resources that he had, but I had the Lord with me. Now they are big and can see right through him and we have a very good relationship which they do not have with their father. For those wondering what to did in difficult crazy driving relationships and know they cannot handle it anymore, my advice as one who has been through it is to trust the Lord and take the necessary steps as He guides you. My desire is to see more women especially in Africa enlightened on Gods love for them and their children and nobody needs to go through the madness that marriage can turn out to be. I loved the analogy of “the dead elephant in the room” that eventually makes everybody sick. Thank you Leslie for a wonderful blog.
Oh Lydia, thank you so very much for sharing your story! We are obviously worlds apart as far as country/culture but I can certainly identify with your struggle of being a Christian, married to a man that others admire (but knowing his behavior behind closed doors is far from admirable.) I can only imagine the persecution you endured when you divorced. You said – “I did not have the resources that he had, but the Lord was with me” – what a powerful testimony! ❤❤❤