Lessons From Sarah’s Story

Good afternoon friends,

Pray for me as I feel I’m on a bit of overload. I am dedicating this weekend to try to sort things out and clean up my office “piles”. Pray that I am able gain my own clarity on using my time well and not neglecting good self-care.

Today’s Question: I have spoken in depth to my leaders about your book. They just really won't address the issue of emotional, financial, or verbal abuse. I was asked if I think my situation is worse than Sarah in the Bible and what Abraham did to her!

Yet there was a speaker at our Biblical counseling conference that spoke on the very topic and recommended your book! I am wondering what you think about divorce?

As I read your blog and comments from other women some have been separated for many years. How do you go on with life? I am not entering this lightly. I have been taught the only grounds for divorce are infidelity, abandonment, and if the unbelieving spouse walks away from the marriage.

I just don't know how to keep going on like this. My husband won't work. He threatens me with divorce and then comes back and says he didn't mean it.

There is so much like this that has gone on for many years. My children are very stressed. I just want to be right in Gods eyes. I fear losing his blessing if I go the route of divorce. Would that be consequences for me?

Answer: As I read your letter I feel heartsick. Heartsick for your turmoil and grief. Heartsick for the blindness of your leaders who God has given the charge to protect the flock, yet remain blind to how they enable bullies to bully or fools to continue their foolishness because they refuse to support wives who want to implement consequences for destructive behaviors.

Let’s look more closely at the story of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham threw Sarah under the bus twice because of his own selfishness and fears. Read Genesis 12 and Genesis 20 for the stories.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

What is the lesson here in these stories? Why did God put them in the Bible?

The lesson most Christian’s take from this story is to emphasize Sarah’s submissiveness. Peter did that when he wrote about her in 1 Peter 3:6. But Peter also went on to warn husband’s to live with their wives in an understanding way, showing honor to her since she is an equal or joint heir with him before God.

However, the error Christians make is that they extrapolate from Sarah’s example that a wife who is being mistreated should simply submit to her husband’s foolishness regardless of what it costs her. The underlying belief here is that if she is to be protected, God will protect her like he did Sarah.

But this is short sighted theology and not in line with the whole counsel of God. First, let’s look at the context of the story: Abraham and Sarah were nomads. They had no family nearby or “church” community to provide accountability or protection. They lived in a very patriarchal culture where women had little choice and few rights.

When Abraham told Sarah to lie and say she was his sister, God was Sarah’s only protection. She had no one to call, no one to turn to and therefore God Himself stepped in to protect her from Abraham’s foolishness and selfishness, not only once, but twice. Although Abraham was a man chosen by God, he still was a sinner and was selfish and unloving towards his wife.

As believers, God calls us to be His ambassadors. We are to be imitators of God. The Church is called represent Him and His character to a hurting and broken world (however imperfectly we may live it out).

Therefore, if we are going to be “like God” and represent His character, what is the Church’s responsibility individually and corporately toward those who are mistreated, oppressed, or taken advantage of by someone else’s abusive, foolish, and selfish behaviors? Is it to be passive? To turn a blind eye? To keep silent and by our silence empower the bully or fool to think his or her behaviors are not all that bad or wrong or harmful?

Or, was God giving us an example for us to follow by rescuing Sarah out of Abraham’s foolish decision. Was he saying that He cares about the spouse who has to live out the painful consequences of their spouse’s poor choices and that we are to do likewise as examples of His character and His heart?

The Bible says we are to “Open our mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open our mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8,9.

I could quote verse after verse about how God hates injustice, oppression, revilers, pride, liars, and those who misuse their authority to hurt others. Why is it that the church only thinks God hates divorce? Why is it that they would rather support revilers, liars, the oppressor and the proud just to keep a marriage together when the spouse (although not sinless) is screaming for help from those who are supposed to represent the heart of God and provide protection?

You say your church teaches that the only grounds for divorce are infidelity, abandonment and being an unbeliever who wants to leave. From what you describe, I think you have been abandoned. You are not being loved or cherished or taken care of or supported or protected. He may have not left the home, but he has left the marriage.

God cares about you and your children. I will say it again. I believe God cares every bit as much about your safety and sanity than He does the sanctity of the marriage. He cared about Sarah’s safety and He cares about yours.


  1. Brenda on February 12, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Amen, Leslie. I will be praying for you and this lady who asked today’s question.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks Brenda. I deeply appreciate it and I’m sure she will too.

      • Ruth on February 18, 2014 at 3:22 pm

        I will be praying for the husband too as it sounds as though he needs some prayer also.

    • Ruth on February 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Brenda, maybe you could also include the husband and children in your prayers?

    • Anna on February 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      I refer to the interesting subject/blog titled “Am I controlling?” posted on February 4, 2014, and particularly Steve’s thought provoking comments posted on February 5, 2014 as they may also apply to this situation? Steve says:

      “Leslie’s response to this woman is spot on, assuming that the woman’s account is accurate. I have no reason to doubt her story, nor do I have cause to doubt that her husband is self-centered, manipulative louse”.

      “But this assessment is limited because it is one-dimensional. We know nothing of the man’s point of view. We cannot determine if our dear sister (and I say that because I, by no means, want to malign her character) is prone to recounting events with total objectivity, or given to fanciful tales of distortion and outright fantasy. We just don’t know”.

      “Okay, full disclosure here: I am one of those poor excuses of a husband who has to deal with the fallout of my sin. Change a few details, and this letter could have been written by my wife. In fact, I have seen similar letters that my wife has written to others, including to Leslie”.

      “And although many facts were twisted, while others were completely made up, much of the ugliness was true. Of greater harm is what was missing from that account: that a marriage is made up of two sinful people, who both need to deal with destructive issues, and it ignores (in my case) the marvelous redemptive work that Christ can do in those same sinners’ lives”.

      “In our situation, it has been nearly 14 years since my sinful destructive behavior wreaked havoc on our lives. I have been far from perfect since then, but there has been no repeat, despite my wife’s public accusations otherwise. She has allowed anger, bitterness and fear to rule her life to the point where it has alienated the children from her, as well as others. She seeks out validation for her rage from others, who only hear her distortions. When they eventually figure out that the reality is not what they’ve been told, she moves on to others who tell her what she wants to hear”.

      “I didn’t mean to preach, nor invalidate this woman’s heartache over a difficult marriage. I simply wanted to point out that in a situation such as this, one can only draw limited conclusions. The bigger picture is simply not available”.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 18, 2014 at 6:13 pm

        He’s right, the bigger picture is not available, but it is often not available even when you hear both sides because our “story” does come through our own interpretative lens. So it’s not as if her picture is subjective and his picture is the objective one. Both stories are subjective and so it takes wisdom and discernment – to understand the deeper themes that run across the marital history, not to decide which person is telling the story EXACTLY the way it was.

        • Laurie on February 19, 2014 at 1:39 am

          A comment that “Anna???” made above is about how this is one dimensional. In my circumstance, I have begged my husband to go WITH me to a counselor and/or our pastor. His response is always it needs to stay in the family or it is me that has the problem not him. I know I have become angry and bitter over my marriage circumstances, but there is no positive communication going on. I feel at least if we went to counseling together we could see each other’s perspective better because there would be someone as a mediator that could control the discussion and not let one person monopolize the conversation or be condescending to the other. Is this why we only see one side of the picture? Is the person who is verbally abusive not shutting up long enough to see the other person’s point of view. Is the one being abused constantly being belittled instead of having a calm conversation so that it seems like it is always going to be that way?

          • Peg on February 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm

            Counseling with my spouse was an ordeal! But at least, I did get in some of my points with another person listening and TRYING to curb my spouse’s constant interruptions and SHOUTS! Part of the abusive/controlling personality is to SHOUT out over the one who is trying to bring truth to the forefront. They don’t want to even give their victim the opportunity to confront them with the truth. Whenever I attempted to just respond to my spouse’s false statements and accusations and mockings, I was met with great shouts and emotional outbursts, similar to a child throwing a tantrum. This was his way to block out any chance I might have of speaking truth into his behaviors. After counseling with our pastor, he sent us to another professional counselor. That counselor requested that my husband not interrupt me and that he not shout. He would not abide by that rule and even justified his interrupting me with this, “I ought to be able to interrupt my wife if I want to.” So, that counselor dismissed us after two sessions and said he COULD NOT help us. My husband fell into tears and was in disbelief that someone would dismiss him. The abusive person DOES NOT want to care about the feelings of his/her victim and certainly does not want to deal with opposition or disagreement to his/her point of view. Their perspective is warped and totally dysfunctional. It’s also part of the control mechanism that they use to make their victim feel helpless and devalued. I have had to totally disconnect from my spouse. There’s no contact whatsoever. I even left my church (that’s another story—-the folks there stroke his feathers and cannot believe that this man they see on Wed. and Sunday could ever be mean, hateful, rude, abusive) so that I don’t have to see him or be aware of his presence. That has made him angrier. But I am feeling stronger and more stable emotionally as days go by and I don’t have to deal with him. If he would agree to get help, I would not be involved in his counseling sessions except perhaps to state my concerns in an initial session. Once the counselor heard my side, I would bow out of the sessions. It’s not me who is creating the problem. My spouse is explosive and cannot control his mouth. That’s HIS problem. It is no longer my problem. So, the counselor would have to work with him individually. But that possibility is growing weaker and weaker. I do not believe that my spouse will ever agree to seek the right kind of help. My pastor will eventually address the serious issues with him and if he/my spouse does not acknowledge that he needs to seek help in order to begin the process of reconciliation, then, I will be facing a serious decision–whether to proceed with divorce. At least in the counseling with my pastor, it became very obvious just who has the anger problem. That was another thing that would happen in the counseling sessions. My spouse would turn to me and shout with an ugly face, “You have an anger problem!” It was so rude and so hurtful. But I know that is his way of trying to make himself feel less guilty. How sad are their minds and lives! How pitiful their hearts are!!!

          • Valerie on February 22, 2014 at 8:46 am

            I don’t know your whole story but I also begged my husband for years to go to counseling and it only gave me more pain. Please watch Leslie’s video on why joint counseling isn’t effective in destructive relationships. I spent 20 years believing his problem was ignorance…if only I could say things in a way he could understand he wouldn’t be so hurtful and would feel awful about the way he’s hurt me. I thought we had a difficult marriage…but I was gravely mistaken. When he finally gave in to joint counseling he effectively got a refill at the gas pump while I was the one being doused with gasoline. Once you start counseling you will be bullied into continuing as you H keeps getting his free refills.

            If your husband is abusive he knows exactly what he’s doing and feigns ignorance when it suits him. Maybe your husband isn’t abusive…but if he is, please reconsider changing your strategy to bring healing to your life.

  2. Karen on February 12, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I was in an abusive marriage much longer than I should have because God hates divorce. What I have discovered is that God loves me more than He hates divorce. For so many years He said trust me…I thought he meant trust me and stay. I was wrong, he said trust me and go. As a dear friend and my brother told me…my ex broke the covenant, I did the paperwork. After 9 years of freedom, I know now this was never God’s intent for me or my children to stay in the marriage. My children are adults yet are still impacted from the abuse. Praying courage for her.

  3. Ann on February 12, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you,Leslie.I am in the midst of filing for divorce from an emotionally abusive husband who is a ” leader” in the Christian community,although many are now recognizing his deceptive ways.In the state of Va.one is required to provide fault( even though we have been separated a full year)My fault charges are very definitely emotional abuse( emotional affairs that he admitted,a physical affair recently that he will not admit to,financial control ,verbal abuse and true abandonment from the marriage)I am struggling with providing the ” list” of incidences that meet the requirement in order to file.13 .says that ” love does not keep a record of wrongs”.
    I feel greatly for this woman and would encourage her to heed your advice and interpretation of the Biblical verses you cited.She has been abandoned by her husband in so many ways,with no signs of real repentance and change.I believe also that we are models for younger women and need the courage to stand for truth in a gracious manner.Thank you,Leslie,for your giving each of us that strength,encouragement and validation.

    • Valerie on February 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Ann, as I have studied this passage this is how I interpret “love not keeping a record of wrongs”. Based on the commentaries I have read and what I feel to be consistent with the rest of scripture is that keeping a record refers to expecting the account to be balanced (as in revenge or demand of payment, balancing out an account) and not to actually remembering what has been done to you. The word “logízomai” referring to an accounting principle. You did this so now you owe me that. Putting it in the bank so to speak.

      What else does that same verse say? Doesn’t it also state the love rejoices in the truth? If you don’t know or can’t remember what has been done is that the truth? If we were expected to forget and never bring up what has been done, how can we rejoice in the truth?

      To not hold people accountable for wrongdoing isn’t biblical. It is denying God’s principle of sowing and reaping.

    • Barbara Roberts on February 14, 2014 at 1:27 am

      Hi Ann, you may like to read this post on what ‘love does not keep a record of wrongs’ means.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 14, 2014 at 9:20 am

        Thanks for providing these links to your site. I’m terrible with technology and don’t know how to do that yet, but I am learning and just hired a new assistant who KNOWS how to do that so I’m very excited.

        • Barbara Roberts on February 15, 2014 at 6:48 am

          Cool Leslie! I would never have thought your were not great at that kind of stuff, but there you go! We are all at different stages of getting over our techno-phobia, eh? Well, those of us in the older bracket, anyway. 🙂

  4. Shirley on February 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I stayed too, until forced to leave for my safety, and then I sought Christiancounseling to see if it was okay. While thinking I was being the Godly wife, I was turning my son away from Christ as he watched the disrespect and my twisting of scriptures. He was more upset with me ‘taking the abuse for so long’ as the submissive wife’ than he was with his father, the abuser. I misrepresented God’s love and this has hardened his heart and steered away from dating Christians. Your husband has more influence than you realize on your ability to think clearly. Continue to pray for the mind of Christ and get your hands on Leslie’s books.

  5. Joni on February 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    My husband has repeatedly broken covenant by lying, breaking promises, putting his family in danger, not following through with providing for his family,playing psychological games, sexual sin,etc. I have been to a lawyer twice but I do not have any proof or evidence significant enough to get supervised visitation of the children…and I fear what he will do. He is a very unstable man but as soon as people find out he has a “provisional diagnosis of Aspergers”, people justify his behaviors. For my kids safety, I stay and work on my CORE.

    Leslie, your book and this website help me persevere as I wait for the the day to do the “paper work” as Karen said…because he has broken the covenant long ago. I have Christian sisters who hold me up in prayer. But it is hard to find a man who holds the full counsel of God and cares for the damage being done to people in the name of “saving a marriage”. Please keep telling us that God cares for our safety and sanity. We need to hear it..over and over again. Blessings to you all….

    • Barbara Roberts on February 14, 2014 at 1:24 am

      Hi Joni, you may like to read our post on Aspergers at A Cry For Justice. Blessings to you.

      • Joni on February 15, 2014 at 10:17 pm

        Dear Barbara,
        Thank you for sending me to this website. Aspergers may complicate the abuse scenario but it is not the cause of abuse. I believe both are present in my situation. Aspergers is not an excuse or justification. He is still responsible for his choices. It is refreshing to hear that others have the same logical and Biblical perspective.

    • mary on February 17, 2014 at 8:13 am

      I understand how you feel. Mine has personality disorders professionally diagnosed and he has to be held accountable for his unchristian behaviors. He, at 63, doesn’t think he’s done anything that’s out of the norm. He holds zero accountability though has been counseled before numerous times. He didn’t care about the damage done in the marriage to even try to repair himself. But he says he’s a christian. He is not as it’s evident to others as well to me. Lesley, Joni is right. We need to hear over and over that God cares for safety and sanity as we’ve been conditioned to hear otherwise. I know, with my daughter who has been there for me this whole journey, lets me ask her over and over again the same questions and I hear from her the same answers. She is a gift from God for me! Prayers to all as this is a very painful journey.

  6. janice' on February 12, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for this very wise, Biblical advice.

  7. Tammy on February 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    All I can say is THANK YOU! I have been in a battle for years. The caveat is that my husband is not a Christian, we are seeing a secular counselor (he refuses to see a Christian one). I went to see the counselor on my own last week and his exact words were, “most of the couples that come to me are already divorced. They only have a piece of paper saying they are married.” The comments above have been helpful. I have been under a lot of legalism concerning divorce. I loved what Karen and Ann said. My spiritual mentors (a husband/wife team) told me long ago that my spouse had already divorced me. Frankly, I only have a roommate. My husband is only present physically and that is all. I am the main provider for the family because he doesn’t want to have a boss. I have endured emotional, mental, and verbal abuse for years and so has one of my children. I’ve always felt that God would punish me if I divorced because of this.

    Leslie, finding your blog and material I believe is from the Lord. He has been leading me step by step on this journey. THANK YOU!

  8. Catherine on February 13, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Hi Leslie
    Thanks so much for this message today. I too have been in turmoil for so long with regards to divorce. I have been separated from my husband for the last five months. He is still living in the same house which is very difficult as he still is emotionally and verbally abuse towards me and blames me for everything. My only coping method is a feeling of total numbness. He hopefully is moving out at the end of the month. In which time I am hoping to start sifting through my emotions, I do know deep down that I can’t go back to how it was, but the guilt for wanting to leave is eating me up. I have read your book and can only thank God for it. After so many years of feeling trapped in my circumstances, you explained that God does not want us to stuck in chains.

    • Elizabeth on February 13, 2014 at 11:32 am


      I lived in an “in house separation” for nearly 5 months as well. It is very difficult to process emotions and heal in such an environment. Numbness was a survival necessity for me. My husband has been out of the house now for nearly 3 months and I feel like a very different person. I am seeing glimmers of me again. I still have a lot of healing and growing to do but at least now I feel the space and safety to do this work.

      I will pray for you that you are able to find some peace and safety to heal soon. Put the chains down sweet sister and embrace the gift of freedom through Christ.

      • Peg on February 17, 2014 at 9:02 am

        I like your expression—-“I am seeing glimmers of me again.” I smiled as I read that because that’s what began to happen to me when I finally broke free and separated from my spouse. As time has gone by, I have found healing and yet I still deal with great disappointment as I witness such a lostness in my spouse spiritually. For at least three years before our marriage, I saw a man who seemed righteous and devoted to being obedient to God. But after the wedding, he changed drastically. It’s sad and pitiful to witness Satan taking over his spirit and drawing him deeper back into the worldly ways. But I have grown deeper in Christ and I believe that has occurred because of the suffering I’ve endured and because I KNOW that the only true healing comes through Christ. I too will pray that all women who are “chained” and prisoners in abusive marriages will seek strength from God and they will be released from their struggles and granted peace and safety. As I have read many posts on Leslie’s blog, I am more keenly aware of how prevalent this problem really is.

      • Catherine on February 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

        Thank you Elizabeth for sharing with me. It helps so much to know that you have someone going through the same circumstances. I loved your phrase “put the chains down sweet sister” have to keep remembering that. God Bless you.

  9. Betty on February 13, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Thank you Leslie, for your books. They have been such a help to me. Perhaps there is a need for a book for church leaders on how to counsel individuals going through abuse of some sort. I, also have been so hurt by the response from my church elders in my situation of physical and emotional abuse; not working; dihonest, porn addict, etc. They are good men, but totally unprepared and at a loss as what on how to handle it. They take him out for coffees and listen to his lies and complaints and ignore me. One elder said to me, “Men have physical needs you know.” I couldn’t believe it. Were they justifying his sin? When I then said about the porn, they said that that is not an elder issue. I keep thinking to myself…what am I doing wrong? Why doe no-one ask me how I am? I am dying inside.

    • Jayne on February 13, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Dear Betty, Could you give your elders a copy of Leslie’s book on destructive marriages and also the one on destructive relationships? If they aren’t willing to read these books, I would kindly suggest you look for another church…which isn’t easy of course…..

    • Barbara Roberts on February 14, 2014 at 1:35 am

      Hi Betty, Ps Jeff Crippen’s book “A Cry For Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Hides in Your Church” is excellent for pastors. Not that Leslie’s books are not also good, because they are, but Jeff is a pastor and pastors are more likely to listen to other pastors. We hope. If a pastor refuses to read Jeff’s book when it’s placed before them, well you know what that probably means. Likewise if he says he’ll read it but never gets round to it

      Shake the dust off your feet. . .

    • Amy on February 14, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Leslie’s book is great! Another book, directed at the Church, is “A Cry for Justice, by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood. It gives specific ways churches can help abused people.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 14, 2014 at 10:03 am

        I would second Amy’s recommendation. It’s a great book that helps church leaders take a look at these kinds of marriages from a more Biblical perspective. Barbara Robert’s book is also a good addition to your resources, Not Under Bondage, especially if you are struggling with the divorce question. Each of us emphasized a different element in this whole abuse issue, no one of us could have put all three elements clearly into one book so it’s wonderful that we can support each other in helping get the word out.

    • Renee on February 21, 2014 at 12:25 am

      We love you Betty. I care about how you are. There is someone wrong with this church. When the elders say things like ‘well men have physical needs you know’ and ‘porn is not an elder issue’ these are not GOOD MEN. It sounds like you need to check your definition of ‘good’. Porn is listed in the sins that will cause someone not to inherit the kingdom. Refusing to acknowledge this shows they do not know or believe God’s word. i’ve been in a church like that. I suggest you run. Find another one where people actually practice the word of God, not siding with someone in sin. Any church that covers up sin like that shows that they too are in sin and probably guilty themselves. If nothing else, these are the kind of men that hate women. They also hate your husband, because telling him the truth would at least give him the chance to repent. Truth hurts, but it also provides the way to turn and repent and be healed. No one is winning in this situation. I am so glad I left churches like that. Like Jayne said, not easy, but so worth it. And you are worth it!

      • Peg on February 21, 2014 at 9:53 am

        Your comments are right on target! My thoughts match yours! A church that will not address sinfulness among their members is a church that is IN SIN for sure! And as you write, they are not “loving” this man if they allow him to remain unrepentant. Actually, they are aiding him in his sin and helping to hinder his condition before God. Basically, he is not “right” before God and thus has no direct line of communication to God as long as he denies his sinfulness and remains unwilling to repent (truly repent). I suggest that Betty definitely needs to find another church body. This same thing happened to me. My church was unwilling to confront my abusive husband in spite of my efforts to bring out the truth. Even two deacons knew about the abusiveness and they did not confront my spouse. So, I withdrew from the denomination and left the church. My spouse is still there getting his “feather stroked” on Sundays and Wednesdays. This is typical of abusers; they tend to find people who will excuse their behavior or people who just don’t know the truth about them and they find consolation and comfort in the pretense settings. No one has addressed the real issues and for that matter, I believe they won’t! I am so thankful that I have separated from my spouse and he knows my position on everything. Practicing the Word is so rare in churches. Many in this particular church I left do not even READ their Bibles.

  10. Brenda on February 13, 2014 at 8:20 am


    “Good men” don’t ignore a woman who is being physically abused or any other kind of abuse. They find a way to protect her. Is one of the man’s physical needs to physically assault his wife and after such treatment is she so say “alright honey let’s make love”? Perhaps the elder should answer that question. There is nothing wrong with you. There is however something wrong with your husband and the men who are handling this situation.

  11. Brenda on February 13, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Sorry Betty, I pushed the wrong button somehow. I guess this situation really upset me. Your church elders and your husband are hurting you. If you have read Leslie’s books, you know that boundaries are necessary. You should not allow your husband to physically abuse you and get away with it. He needs to know that this is not allowed by the law or by God. The other things that you listed are also abuse and need to be addressed. Betty, please don’t allow yourself to be assaulted. Go to a friends house, a shelter, wherever you need to go to be safe from this terrible thing. God be with you. You will be in my prayers.

  12. Cathy on February 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I would like to really, really encourage all of these women who have been in abusive relationships to look within themselves. Having now been divorced twice, I came to realize that the common denominator in my failed marriages was me! It truly takes two to make or break a marriage, even abusive ones! In both marriages I would have been considered the “victim” however I’ve come to learn how my own wounds contributed significantly to my marital problems and the abusive behaviors that were occurring. Not that I’m excusing their behavior by any means, I’m simply pointing out that I played a major role in what was happening. (And truthfully at times, I did my own fair share of verbal abuse). My fear of abandonment was a major hurdle for me to overcome, my own self-centeredness, my unrealistic expectations about what I thought a marriage should be and on and on the issues go. Through my heartache God has grown me enormously, brought me healing and restoration and proved over and over again that He loves me and is my provider who takes care of me! Whether you choose to stay in the relationship or leave — look within ladies. The only person you have control over and can change is YOU. I love this new take on the Serenity prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, courage to change the one I can and the wisdom to know it’s me. God bless you!

    • Leslie Vernick on February 13, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Cathy, your comment is well stated. In all of my books, How To Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage I talk about looking within and that God often uses these kinds of situations to show us something more about our own hearts that need to be addressed. I ask the question in my EDR book, “When you are a repeated victim, you must begin to ask yourself what is your part of the destructive dance.” And as you work on you, recognizing your own fears, your own sins, your own immaturity and unhealthiness, your own internal lies and unrealistic expectations and work on you, sometimes you can have great influence over your spouse. Other times your own growth makes the relationship even more difficult and destructive because a spouse feels more threatened or retaliates in even greater ways. But the message is the same, the person you work on is you. The outcome of your marriage is not only up to you.

    • Howard on February 25, 2014 at 10:57 am


      As an accused husband of emotional abuse, your post made me cry. I think you have offered a fair reflection of the heart condition.

      Sadly to say, when 2 sinners fight and seek justifications to be right and safe, the one who ultimate suffers more than anything is Jesus. His atoning blood has no power over their problems and his name is not glorified amount his believers. Both needs to think about Jesus and not just ourselves.

      May God have mercy on us all.


  13. Brenda on February 13, 2014 at 10:00 am


    I believe that most of the women here have looked within to the point of exhaustion. Thinking there had to be more they could do: be more submissive, have no desires of your own, expect nothing from him, speak in quiet tones, not rock the boat, keep the kids quiet and well behaved, have dinner on the table at the precise moment the husband wanted it, and never contradict their spouse and were still confronted with abuse.

    Perhaps, in your case you needed change. That is totally between you and God. We all have cracks in our hearts that need to be filled. For His Spirit to fills those in my heart is an ongoing prayer.

    I do not agree that it takes 2 to break an abusive marriage. In my case I had a husband who would say, “I am not changing for anybody!”, and he didn’t. I do not see how I had anything to do with breaking that covenant even though I went through all of the blaming myself for it and thinking that I only had to do my part and not worry about his part theology. He refused counseling. He now states that he never took any vows!! I’m still not sure who was there saying I do, it must have been his alternate ego.

    I am happy that you have grown closer to God through your experience, but I don’t think your situation is the norm here.

    • Mary on February 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      I also believe that it doesn’t take two to break up an abusive marriage. Therapists will tell you that in a abusive marriage that it shouldn’t be with the two coming in together as it is required in a unhealthy marriage. They’re reasons for that. Mine, when offered counseling by me for the 23 years, always said “no we can’t afford it”…. oh yeah I forgot he never held down a regular job so the income coming in was sporadic. I worked full time. Another time he would tell me that God will repair him and he doesn’t need therapy. He now still doesn’t see himself as an abuser….so why the therapy. My abuse was horrific! I’m starting psychotherapy tomorrow with a counselor who specializes in personality disorders as he only sees the family members who are affected by them…never the person who has them. He is also a spiritual/Christian counselor. I’m excited to start this part of my journey! God is good and He guides me. He also says “we didn’t have Jesus in our marriage while we were in the other religion”. I did but by his unchristian behaviors to me behind closed doors, it’s obvious he never had Jesus and still doesn’t. He’s professed Christianity for 50 years!!. ” Get away from me you workers of lawlessness for I never knew you” This is what Jesus will tell all these abusers if they do not do repentance that is outlined in the bible. A simple “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it. This is all mine said to me. No actions or change in “the new personality”. God Bless All

      • Leslie Vernick on February 19, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        I like best the phrase one of our sisters used when she said It takes two to Tango, but it only takes one to mess up the dance. In other words it always takes two to build a good marriage but one can destroy it entirely.

        • Mary on February 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

          This is so true as society will always have you believe that it takes two to argue, fight or ruin a marriage but in these situations it isn’t so. I also love this quote!

  14. Valerie on February 13, 2014 at 10:40 am

    After recognizing I was in an emotionally abusive marriage I have made it nearly a full time job to absorb as much information as I can from books and the internet regarding abusive people and how to respond. There was an article posted recently on the danger of Christian marriage books in abusive relationships (Cry for Justice site). Something I spent years reading in my hopes to be a better wife. What the general population (myself included for many years) has failed to recognize is the dynamics of an abusive marriage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated Leslie’s phrasing that expresses it succinctly “there is a difference between a difficult (or disappointing) marriage and a destructive one”.

    The Christian community needs to understand what scripture defines as a “biblical fool”. Until this is recognized as outlined in scripture, only the love principles will be applied to foolish people who do not look for understanding and are wise in their own eyes. Jesus did not cover the Pharisees foolishness by doing good and thereby heaping burning coals on their head, his response was to call foolishness, foolishness. Yes, God is love. God is so loving that he has allowed hell to exist.

    After all the time I have spent researching to find encouragement, support and resources, I see that there will always be those who interpret Malachi 2 as God hating divorce and others who interpret it as “the man who hates and divorces his wife”. Was God angry and going to strike down Moses’ son or Pharaoh’s son in Exodus 4? There are differing interpretations there as well.

    I am so grateful for the resources available to those who have been victims of abuse and people like Leslie and others who have chosen to be vocal about standing in the gap for those victims. I also realize that when people come at me accusing me or simply not understanding my situation I have found the most strength in studying scripture for myself to see what God tells me about my situation through His word. He promises if we seek Him we WILL find Him. Who is God? What is His character? What does He delight in and what does He say about evil? I would encourage you to search the scripture for yourself to find answers. God will always stand in front of truth and He is our refuge. He will guide us into all truth….including that about ourselves.

    I will pray for you, Leslie, and for wisdom for this troubled daughter of God.

  15. Brenda on February 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Amen, Valerie!!

    • Sandra on February 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Thank you, Leslie, for your insight and encouragement regarding Sarah’s story. I had all the grounds for divorce you mentioned early in my marriage. However, I thought that since I’m a Christian, I needed to forgive him and keep praying for his salvation and a change, so I stayed for 57 years. He’s the one who recently moved out, due to my setting the sexual boundaries, until he changed. The abuse only increased after that, however, and had he not moved out, I guess I’d have stayed in the marriage until he or I died. He’s now begging to return, but I won’t allow it, now that I’m enjoying this wonderful peace and freedom that I truly believe is God’s gift to me in my latter years.
      I will pray for Sarah and all these dear Sisters in Christ. HE is in control and knows all!

      • Leslie Vernick on February 13, 2014 at 3:38 pm

        Hey ladies I just read a great blog today on Biblical manhood. You can print it out and ask your pastor to preach on it. Here it is http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/men-titus-2-treatment

        You will love it.

        • Barbara Roberts on February 14, 2014 at 1:40 am

          Yep I loved it too, Leslie, and we shared it on our ACFJ facebook page. Glad to hear you liked it as much as we did!

      • Val on February 13, 2014 at 5:57 pm

        Be encouraged….I, too, know what that “sanctuary” feeling is like – it is WONDERFUL!! God will protect you and lead you into new, fruitful pastures, just like He has for me. Do not give in to manipulation, but allow the consequences to do their work, and look a for a true “heart” change. If he really wants to do the work to be a respectful, loving husband, he will allow you to be free and support your being so. Meanwhile, use what God has taken you through to encourage others, and He will bless you! 🙂

  16. Betty on February 13, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Thank you, ladies for your advice. i have lent one of Leslie’s books to one of the elders and asked him to read it for the sake of other victims if not for me as I feel as elder’s role is like that of a shepherd, caring for the weak, injured sheep as well as the healthy. My situation is complex and I feel trapped unable to extradite myself due to finance. I have no family in this country and what I could earn would not be sufficient to see my kids through school and college. I am just trying to survive until they are independent. I come from a sheltered, missionary background and was was so naive about the dangers of behavioural disorders, control issues etc. The Lord and His Word has definitely been my strength and help. I wish there was somewhere else to fellowship, but there isn’t so, I remind myself that I am not there for man, but to worship and be part of His Body of believers.

  17. Debbie on February 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Leslie, I’m concerned about Sarah lying for Abraham. Even though he told her what to say, should she have gone along with him? Shouldn’t she have told the truth for God’s sake? I’m curious because I had to learn to stand for God no matter what my husband demanded because everytime I went along with him and his sins, it cost me dearly and hurt me deeply. What does God require of wives when their husbands make bad choices and put their wives in the mix? Wasn’t Sarah just as wrong as Abraham?

    • Leslie Vernick on February 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Good question and I don’t think there is a simple answer. Rahab lied to keep the Israelite spies safe when they were in danger of being captured and God honored her. I think people who lied about the Jews hiding in their basement when Hitler’s soldiers were seeking to kill them were not wrong. So I think Sarah had to made a judgment call in the context of her situation. If she said No to Abraham and refused to lie, she would been right, but I don’t think she was “just as wrong” as Abraham. I don’t think we can judge their sins equally or having the same destructive effect. I think women today have greater options to “disobey” their husband’s orders. However, Abigail went against Nabal’s edict to not feed David’s men and God protected her too. So I believe if Sarah would have had the courage to stand up to Abraham God would have intervened because God knew his intended heir would be born from their bond. And Sarah could have been a better helpmate to Abraham had she stood up and said “That would be wrong to lie – let’s trust God instead.” But she didn’t and God still advocated for Sarah because he knew Abraham was wrong and she was scared.

      • Barbara Roberts on February 14, 2014 at 1:49 am

        Leslie, I think your answer was excellent. Very balanced.

        • Leslie Vernick on February 14, 2014 at 9:19 am

          Thanks Barbara. Glad you can join us from time to time.

      • Renee on February 21, 2014 at 12:43 am

        This is an ‘odd’ one. Sarah was actually Abraham’s half sister, so in a sense she was not lying. In Genesis 20 Abraham tells Abimalech that she was the daughter of his dad but not his mom. And then she became his wife. I’m not sure what to do with all that. It was still a lousy thing to do to her…
        BTW, thanks for speaking on a woman not necessarily just submitting and then God will take care of her (not necessarily), reminds me of someone telling me, don’t you have a brain to think with yourself? I stayed in a job that was really bad for me because my husband insisted on it and I thought that ‘well God will protect me’. After much trouble there, asking God why? why? why? I knew this was bad. I now understand that I had not only a right, but a responsibility to keep myself safe and change jobs. Thanks.

  18. Caroline on February 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you Leslie, and everyone who commented here. I was also in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage for 20 years. I stayed because I believed I would be out of God’s will if I sought a divorce. I had been told “God hates divorce.” I neglected to read the rest of the verse in Malachi 2:16. The New Revised Standard Version reads, “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.” There are many versions of the bible in English, and many translate this verse slightly differently. All of them, however, point to the HUSBAND who is being FAITHLESS as the one the Lord blames for the divorce, not the person who “does the paperwork.”

    I finally got a restraining order when I became afraid for my life. My church did not support me, though I presented 1500 pages of journals to my elders documenting the abuse. I eventually chose to leave the church. It was a very painful time for me.

    Fast forward nine years. I have married a wonderful man. He is supportive, loving, and kind. I cannot imagine what my life would be like today if I was still married to my first, abusive husband. I might not be alive. Surely my spirit would have experienced a slow death day after day over these nine years. I praise the Lord He walked beside me as I took the painful steps to FINALLY stand up and say, “NO MORE” to the evil that presided in my home.

    Thanks again Leslie for this great blog.


    • Barbara Roberts on February 14, 2014 at 1:55 am

      Caroline, thank you for sharing your story. While I respect Cathy’s comment above about how she found that her own immaturity had been a contributing factor in her two marriage breakdowns, I think your story, Caroline, shows that at least for some of us the problem did not lie much if at all with us, but was totally the abuser’s. I have heard other stories like yours, Caroline, where the survivor of abuse happens to find a good man in her second marriage and she blossoms and thrives in ways she would never have imagined were possible.

      So I guess what I would like to say about Cathy’ comment is, don’t take her experience and advice as applicable to all. And that goes for all our stories. There are similarities in many of our stories, but there are differences too. And we should be cautious not to over-generalize our experiences onto others.

      blessings to all Leslie’s readers 🙂

      • Leslie Vernick on February 14, 2014 at 9:19 am

        I think what Caroline is talking more about is a difficult or disappointing marriage. When a woman (or man) doesn’t handle those feelings in a godly way, the marriage can definitely take a turn for the worse and become destructive. However, I think what the other women are referring to is an abusive marriage where it is usually obvious from the beginning that there is something very wrong with the relationship. It’s not about difficult external circumstances or unrealistic expectations. It’s about a fundamental mindset about entitlement and the way you treat another person, regardless of what the other person does or does not do. Often the nicer and kinder a woman is to this kind of person, the more entitled and abusive he becomes.

        • Barbara Roberts on February 15, 2014 at 6:50 am

          I totally agree, Leslie. Your comment is spot on, as we say in Oz. 🙂

  19. Val on February 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Oh, do I know what this woman is going through! I have been down the very same path, and stuck it out for 20 years of supporting him while he refused to work, all because a pastor told me I had to.
    4 years ago, I pulled the plug on our “marriage” (which I believe he abandoned years ago), after giving him multitudinous chances to come to grips with his part in the mess. He refused to take responsibility, claiming it was all my fault, and was very abusive in his treatment of me. So one by one, I took away his support system that I had created, until finally the house was sold and we parted ways and I filed for divorce.
    Today, I have a wonderful little home of my own, and he is a good friend who now respects my opinion instead of berating me. I have no idea what the future holds, and am enjoying my freedom to worship, lead bible studies and go on mission trips, where I would never have been able to in a marriage. I have actively encouraged him to be a good friend, and we still have family functions with our grown children and grandchildren. But the trust isssue will always remain as long as he does not show true repentance and a willingness to fully take responsibility for his behaviour. And yes, the kids certainly have inherited their own problems because of the toxic environment they have to grow up in. My daughter is a strong christian, and a pastor’s wife, but neither of the boys are following the Lord, because they had no example in their Dad for so many years…although he is now attending church. I am praying that the Lord will bring them to Himself in time.

    • Howard on February 25, 2014 at 10:42 am


      I am the husband accused to be emotion abused my ex loving wife. Although our circumstances is somehow different, I worked to support my family all 20 years while she home schooled our children. We have our difference but to her many of our discussions when we don’t agree, is emotional abuse to her.

      My current situation is just like yours, that we are friends and seeing each other. We attend functions with our kids. I have the full intention to reconcile and I have made changes but to her defense I have not changed.

      Now my question to you is how can your ex show you the “True repentance” and “willingness to take responsibility for his behavior” for you to accept him? Will you ever consider to accept him as the husband again? Thanks in advance for answering my questions.

  20. Dianna on February 13, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Dear Betty

    Thank you for honestly sharing your concerns and bewilderment in seeking godly help for the sinful problems in your marriage. This takes so much courage…and there are many others in the same place as you too afraid to be so vulnerable.

    I, too, have been in your shoes. I was rebuffed, ignored except to suggest a women’s grp for those w/ marriage difficulties. This was a good group and suggestion.

    The problem came w/ none of the male church leadership confronting my husband in a godly fashion. I gave up going to church (not the best idea) because I felt it was ‘his’ church and my fellowship wasn’t wanted. True, I have much responsibility to take for not attending.

    My husband and granddaughter attended services regularly and were very active in AWANA. He became a minor but, effective leader. During much of this time, there were serious problems w/ our relationship at home. I found out much later that he had been buying porn on satelite tv, behind my back. He did not see this as an addiction and still does not. Evidence (I did not have to look for this) dictates otherwise. It is one of the reasons why I have separated and have asked for a divorce.

    When he went off the deep-end sexually last summer (not horrible but very adolescent and during the middle of the night) I cried to God, asked for some godly advice in human beings from Him. I believe He led me to hear Leslie’s talk on Midday Connection (Moody). Betty, this started to help me clarify my confused thoughts on our relationship. I didn’t necessarily look at it as an abused woman but at the emotionally abusive relationship that I knew we had. And I mean ‘we!’ Then, I signed up for her emails and listened, over some time, to all her videos. It cleared my mind and helped me see God’s perspective and clear out so many well-meaning but wrong advise from some christians, christian leaders & counselors and my own misconceptions.

    Betty, I found that going thru the videos, slowly and thoughtfully; looking up the verses sited and prayerfully asking for God’s wisdom and guidance has helped me clarify. Trust me, I have been convicted and had to

  21. Betty on February 14, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Thank you Diana.
    I have been learning from Leslie’s posts and reading other people’s experiences and where as initially, it was a horror in my mind to separate from my husband, I have come to expect it to happen one day.
    I didn’t go to the elders until after my husband left home once for a week and contacted them to put the blame on me. I then told them that he was making a smoke screen to cover-up his actions and shift the blame to me. They then told me to phone him and ask him back and promise that things will be better. I now know that I should not have done this as it gave him more power over me and I often heard….’If you don’t do such and such, I will leave.”
    Since then, I started discovering so many things that he had been doing and even my kids revealed things that they had found. I went back to the elders, but their response even to this day, absolutely baffles me. One seems to hate hearing about it….does he think that its malicious talk? The other, I mentioned in previous letter and the third won’t listen and thinks to point out what he thinks are my faults, is helpful! No kind words or support to me and no stating of the fact that what my husband is doing is sinful and wrong. Do they think that they mustn’t take sides?
    After one incident where my daughter and I were attacked by husband and eldest son, the elders held a meeting, but only mentioned that my son must be kept under control and they said nothing to my husband!
    Anyhow, I have one friend who I tell everything to and she supports me emotionally. Its so important to have someone and my two younger kids are such a comfort as they know exactly what is going on in the home.
    Thank you letting offload all this. Its like prying the lid off a tin that has been closed for a long, long time.

  22. Caroline on February 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Hi Betty,

    When I hear stories like yours, I get very upset. It of course is upsetting that your husband who promised to “love, honor and cherish” you treats you the way he does. To me, it is even more upsetting that your elders sit back and allow his behavior. In my situation, I finally decided to cut my losses and stop going to my elders and pastors for help when it became obvious they were not going to help me. It was soul-sucking to me to be ignored when the evidence of the abuse was so obvious and they refused to do anything about it. In the end, (after I had the restraining order and had kicked him out of the home,) they told me I must step down from MY leadership positions in the church unless I would work toward reconciling with my abusive husband. There was NO WAY that was going to happen. I pray you will find other friends who will support you. Bless you.

    • Sandra on February 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      Caroline, I also had church people tell me I must love, forgive and pray for my husband, no matter what he said or did. A so-called mentor gave me the Love Dare book to read and “apply” to my marriage (didn’t work!. Another lady, with whom I had shared my heartbreak regarding my husband’s abuse, finally said, “But he’s so nice!” However, she had only talked to him briefly on the phone when she called to ask for me. He could be very “nice” to others outside our home. I know many are now condemning me for filing the Protection Order and refusing to take him back. It hurts me, but I also have several very supportive family members and friends who know what I’ve endured. Most of all, I have Jesus as my true husband, who knows all and never leaves me alone. I’m thank, as well, for Leslie’s ministry to us ladies and for this encouraging blog! God bless you all!

  23. Betty on February 14, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hi Caroline.
    Yes, I have come to that point where I do not look to them for support and I have turned to people like Leslie who understand; have experience in dealing with these issues; make a stand for those who sometimes have no voice and all with a Christain perspective.
    In some ways, I have grown stronger and the next step is to try and become financially independent.
    Thank you for your words of encouragement and your prayers. i pray for all womenfolk going through similar circumstances. may God keep you safe and strong in Him.

  24. Jacqueline on February 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

    When your quality of life is so challenged as to be emotionally, physically and financially compromised it’s time to walk away;when children are being stressed out, you have an even stronger reason to leave,otherwise your seed will be unable to form healthy bonds in their relationships.

  25. Caroline on February 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Blessings to you all. And Happy Valentine’s Day. Many of you won’t hear that today. Jesus loves you with an unfailing love.

  26. Hoping on February 14, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    This is very timely for me, as well. I stayed hoping that we could work things out, prayed for his eyes to be opened, prayed for God’s protection of my children, etc. It finally became clear to me that it was necessary to separate for the sake of my sanity and for the children to have a chance to break out of the cycle, and for my husband to have a chance to see that what he was doing is wrong.
    The thing that distresses me is how ‘Christian’ people respond to a woman who has asked for a separation. . . . I begged and begged for church leaders to step in and administer church discipline–even told them that it was so bad that I would need to take the children to a safe place if nothing changed. They promised that ‘help was on the way’, then proceeded to sit on their hands for month after month after month, while the children and I proceeded to live in the hell we called home. When I finally left, I was called ‘unBiblical’ for leaving–AFTER they had SO MANY chances to handle it themselves . . . . How can our churches become educated so that we don’t keep inflicting more pain on the already wounded????

    • Leslie Vernick on February 14, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      You ask a VERY important question. Did not God raise up Esther for “such a time as this?” Perhaps God is raising up me and you to speak to our church leaders. To raise the alarm that a grave injustice is occurring. I sense God’s calling me to do this and I am happy to speak to any pastor who wants to hear or listen. I hope you will too, as God gives you opportunity through your individual situation. Things need to change and I hope and pray it doesn’t take a whole generation to see the changes.

      • Hoping on February 20, 2014 at 9:49 am

        I SO MUCH appreciate your ministry, Leslie!!! I pray for God’s blessing on your work and for pastors to be willing to hear! Unfortunately, the ones that I have run into have not been willing to listen . . . .

  27. Lynn on February 14, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    Thank you Carloline, today was painful not hearing Happy Valentine’s Day, but I will share with you all that last Valentines Day my husband took me back to the place we honeymooned. He grew accustomed to doing something nice every time he did something “bad”. He gambled about $3000 without my knowing and was also using drugs. After I found out (Jan 1, 2013)he detoxed and his way of making it up is usually to buy me something nice or take me someplace nice and expensive. I would forgive so that he could forget and we can go on living in fantasy land. Today he called me about “business” – he spoke what he had to and hung up. He is angry because I wont let him back home after three months of separation because he gambled $15k this time in addition to using drugs and alcohol behind my back. I am slowly learning that God DOES care about my sanity. I was already going crazy regardless if I took a nice trip or got another new car.

    On a different note, many of you mention your church. And the place we referred to as “our church” for nine years has emailed me a few times and my pastor sent me a text ONCE back in November (miss seeing you- hope you’re well – see you soon 🙂
    In their defense, this is not the first time they hear of my husbands drug use so I feel that they have wiped their hands of us even though we were active members. It hurts so much not to have received any guidance from our church leadership. But after hearing some of your sad stories of bad counsel, I suppose I may be blessed to have received no guidance instead of poor advice!

  28. Brenda on February 15, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Hoping, I wish there was an easy answer. Leslie and those of like mind are tirelessly spreading the message, but it is hard to get hard-headed people to listen and change their hearts and minds to what the Bible really says about all of this. The Bible speaks about the end days and how child will be against parents and Christians will be persecuted. I don’t believe it speaks about believers being against other believers.

    IMO this is what is happening. We see persecution of believers in abusive marriages, because how your marriage is doesn’t agree with another’s vision of what the Bible says and the fairy tale of what a marriage should look like in all cases. Well marriage is not created equal. We don’t all get the fairy tale. MANY of us get evil and need help fighting evil and don’t get the support we need. In many cases the hierarchy of the church just wants it to go away. Even friends and those in the church you would expect would help in this situation don’t want to get involved or don’t believe this could ever happen.

    We are all given freedom to choose. Free will doesn’t just stop at the ability to choose to ask God into your life, it continues into every single action that you make and many are choosing horrible ways of treating other human beings. God says to treat others as you would have them treat you. How many men treat their wives and children……I don’t understand. How could they way to be treated that way themselves? What evil is in their hearts that tells them what they do is right? What evil is in the church that tells them not to get involved or to tell a woman that she and her children have to stay with a man who is abusing them in all kinds of evil ungodly ways?

    I realize that I have given no answer to your question. Churches can only be educated if they choose to learn the truth and open their hearts to it. Give your pastor or an elder a book. Give them to believing church members that wouldn’t otherwise hear the message. Maybe getting others on board would start the process of questions being asked. Why is this person being seem as unbiblical when she and her children are being treated so badly?

    My church is started a monthly ladies meeting and prayer meeting. I think it is a good place to start the dialogue.

    • Mary on February 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Brenda you are so right on with this! I enjoy your comments as you feel like I do on many topics. What’s interesting to me as I read this blog is that the very abuse on an individual base we here in our marriages are enduring privately with no accountability from our “Christian husbands”, is the same mirror reflection from the clergy, lack of accountability and abusive in itself. We are then continuing to endure from the pastors and Christian churches the same abuse in a different package. It feeds our spouses abuse!! As you said we are all given the freedom to choose our Christian walk, but that doesn’t stop there into the every day adjustments that are to be made by each individual in our walk with Christ. Paul strongly outlines this in I believe Ephesians. Our inward appearance, the figurative heart, is as important as the outward appearance that others see. We here all know how are “Christian husbands” or ex’s have a pseudo front in the public and a Hannibal Lechter role to us behind the four walls of our “homes”. I will ask here and pray I get some answers…is anyone, who professes to be a Christian, who’s a consistent abuser, who in my case, had been counseled over 18 years to stop treating me the way they saw it as they came to our house to talk with us and couldn’t believe how he was speaking to me especially with them there witnessing it, and also my husband had them over because he said I wasn’t submissive to him,( and at those times they didn’t even KNOW about the abuse in my home!)He has NPD and other traits of disorders and is very emotionally, verbally, and scripturally abusive… can they be a Christian when they obviously are not acting at all like Jesus gave as an example of His walk? I believe not but want others to comment. The churches lack a lot and mine should have been put out as several scriptures outline, but never was. They are afraid to stand on what they really know is correct and take their true Christian stand for Jesus!! We are all suffering here at the hands of our ex’s or husbands and our church. May God fortify us through His Holy Spirit and all are in my prayers.

    • Hoping on February 20, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Well said, Brenda–especially the ‘hard-headed’ part. I actually gave some of Leslie’s material to some people in my church and the response that I got was: “It troubles me that she doesn’t reference Scripture.” I nearly blew my stack at that one!!!!! Scripture is so clear in what Leslie teaches, I just don’t see how anyone can say something like that! It just goes to show what lengths people will go to in order to explain away something that they don’t want to hear . . . . 🙁

  29. Brenda on February 15, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Very true, Lynn. Bad advice is No advice at all. I am sorry for your situation. X gambled smaller amounts yet often. There were no make-up gifts, he thought he was owed everything he spent. My pastors advice to his gambling and abuse was, “we’ve got to get him saved.” He was not a church member and leadership didn’t seem to think they should guide him. He stopped going soon after I left him. I am healing from it all. With each encounter that I have with him, I see who he really is and he is not who I thought I was marrying at all. Better for me to live alone and not hear Happy Valentine’s Day than to live a lie.

    I did however have a really good Christian counselor who helped me through the process of leaving and seeing things clearly. It was not my pastor or a member of my church. In fact I wish her church was not such a long drive for me. Her pastor sees clearly the wrong in abuse and doesn’t hold back from making sure people know it is unacceptable. Praise God.

    • Lynn on February 16, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Brenda, thanks for your input. Its nice knowing that someone can relate when you feel alone. Some days are tougher than others. The weekends are usually tough on me especially Sundays when I attend “our church”. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb -all alone-. I get asked if I am ok and that is as far as it goes. Its a terrible feeling. I feel worse by attending church than I had a not and I don’t want to feel this.

      Consider yourself very blessed to have found an excellent counselor. I have yet to find someone I can truly get help from. I have found more hope and help on this website. Sounds as if you are finding your way, congratulations on that!

      • Brenda on February 23, 2014 at 7:11 am

        I understand your feeling alone. I don’t feel alone at home at all, but when I walk into church alone, it feels very awkward. Lately, I am taking an older woman to church who cannot drive. It makes me feel good to help her and it makes me feel more at ease walking in. I have had to go to other functions alone and it is hard. I look around the room looking for other single women to sit with. I don’t fit in with married couples. It is like I have a third eye or something.

        My counselor was a tremendous blessing. I just referred a woman that I met last week in church to that counselor. She wanted to know if I knew of Leslie Vernick and wanted a counselor who felt as she did. I told her I thought this could be a good match. I hope you find some one who will support you and understand what you are going through.((Hugs))

  30. Caroline on February 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    To Hoping and Leslie,

    I believe it is good for abuse victims to try to educate their churches. Keep in mind though that like people in general, churches will only listen and learn if they WANT to. In my case, I went back to my church leadership a year after my divorce, to repair my relationship with them. In the process, they said they would be interested in learning more about domestic violence. I was so excited! I called them repeatedly, and tried to meet with them to discuss it. They never “had the time.” I eventually realized they were not serious about learning, or changing, so I gave up. When I moved to my new church, my new pastor allowed me to write procedures for how the church should handle domestic violence cases, and the elders ratified them immediately. I discerned it was better for me to put my time and energy into working with a church which was willing to listen and learn than to beat my head against a brick wall.

    That being said, I am happy I left my first church on good terms for MY sake, (Romans 12:14-19.) Also, I am thankful I had the opportunity to state my case to my pastors and elders, and gave them the chance to learn about domestic violence. Who knows how that might help some other victim who goes to them for help in the future?

  31. Caroline on February 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    To Lynn,

    Yes, being alone on Valentine’s Day is hard, but for me, it was infinitely better than being with my abuser. It sounds like maybe you agree. May the Lord bless you today.

    • Lynn on February 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      God bless you too Caroline, it is hard as you say but yes, it is certainly better than living a lie as someone mentioned earlier.

      Living a lie had become so painful. Sometimes I open my eyes in the morning and its crazy to realize the insane ride I was living with someone I seriously thought I knew.

  32. Brenda on February 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    My personal experience with the church is they preach a good game, but the follow through is lacking. The Bible says there will be many who won’t be in the Lamb’s Book of Life and they will be saying, but we did this or that, but it will all burn. Their testimony means nothing if they don’t walk the walk. I don’t want to judge, but I find it difficult to think that an abuser and the Spirit of Christ can be in the same body.

  33. Brenda on February 15, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I took an elderly lady friend from my church to the Dr. on Valentine’s Day. It was the best one I can remember in years.

  34. Betty on February 16, 2014 at 6:52 am

    I think our church leaders are in danger of behaving like the Pharisees in the Bible who saw only the letter of the law and not the people with their various needs. For example, they were judgemental about the Lord healing the man with the crippled arm on a Sabbath….caring more about the law than the man with the disability! Likewise when the Lord and His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, they were again judged for breaking the Sabbath, but forgetting that the men were hungry and needed food. I heard a good example in everyday life of this: We want people to obey the rules of the road, but when a house is on fire its ok for the fire engine to speed to the scene. Its important to uphold God’s Word; its truth and doctrine, but never to forget love and mercy. The Pharisees were guilty of obeying every letter of the law, but neglecting the needs of their parents. Love is the fulfillment of the law.

    • Sandra on February 16, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Well said, dear Sister in Christ! I also didn’t miss having my husband with me on Valentine’s Day, although I must admit I do miss not having a truly loving one. I did go out and buy myself a box of chocolates and ordered Leslie’s new book yesterday; and enjoyed the peace and freedom from all those years of abuse.

      • Mary on February 18, 2014 at 11:51 am

        My ex and I never celebrated any holidays, him for 43 years and me for 23 years as we were in a religion for those years that do not celebrate any holidays…only a marriage anniversary. We left it in December of 2010. I am happy that I don’t at least have that sad history others have. I have no remembrances of happy holiday times because we didn’t celebrate them. I left last July after 23 years of horrific abuse. So on the 14th I ate my chocolate and have Lesley’s two emotionally distructive books that I go over with weekly and I was good. I thank God for this small reprive!

        • Sandra on February 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm

          Thank you, Mary! It’s encouraging to know that other women, who suffered the kind of abuse I did (57 years for me!)believing it would be “unchristian” to leave, are now enjoying the same peace and freedom I am, although alone. God is blessing me, and loves us all unconditionally, and we truly are never “alone.”

  35. Brenda on February 18, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    I believe God knows the intent of my heart. I find it very difficult to pray for anyone’s abusive husband in general, just yet. I have turned X over to God. I do pray for unbelievers as a whole (X would fall into that category along with this woman’s husband) and for my unsaved children by name. You can pray as you are lead by the spirit, I will do the same. Respectfully, Brenda.

  36. Charity on February 19, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I guess my comments are just plain ditto… Reading Leslies’s books have helped me to understand my situation better and put labels on the abuse. I’m still in the “afraid” stage where I haven’t had the courage to confront my husband with these issues. Because I’m taking care of my 90 year old mother, I have a “safe” shelter presently. But when I’m at home, he’s always behind the computer and barely communicates with me at all. When he does, it is only about the end times or the coming economic collapse. He is living out a “divorce” without the papers. Finding Leslie’s books on Amazon was truly a Godsend! Not only for myself, but for all the women who cross my path in need of healing and guidance as I’m involved in a healing ministry.

    • Sandra on February 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      Charity: I’ll pray for you and the other dear ones here, as I have also been in the “afraid” stage in the past. I also know how the lack of communication feels, as my ex-husband was unable to communicate with me, unless in an abusive manner, and when I tried to voice my own feelings, he even said I had “diarrhea of the mouth!” He isn’t a believer, so didn’t mention the end times, but loved Fox News and focused on how corrupt our country is — anything negative. I’m also thanking God for Leslie’s books and her vital ministry to us all here.

    • Mary on February 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Boy do I feel for you! Though I’m newly divorced from him filing the divorce after 23 years of abuse, he also sat at the computer day and night on a question and answer site to refute the religion we left. He was a Top Contributor however he left me “alone” to deal with the fact I had lost my son FOREVER. When you leave this religion, and your family is in it, you are shunned from them. He never comforted me on this. He also as yours does watches everything on the internet that is doom and gloom. I looked up Paranoia Personality disorder and though this is the one he’s not diagnosed with, I saw several strong traits in this in him and one is the doom and gloom theory. He stayed on the computer he said so “I” wouldn’t fight with him. What a projection that was!!! Us wives will do anything to keep the peace as the alternative is so much worse. Only when God’s direction and Holy Spirit gives you the answer and power to make the decision to leave, will you start moving in that direction and believe me He is there right with you. This happened to me last year as I was suicidal and only through Gods grace and strength did I make it out and I look back and KNOW He was there as I could NEVER EVER do it alone. I pray for all of us on this site as we are in horrific pain with wondering what and why. We are imperfect, we just loved our husbands and wanted a Godly, Christian man to support us as Jesus does His church….the example set for all husbands.
      God Bless

  37. Brenda on February 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I remember it so well. “I am louder so I am right”, as the accusations of my imaginary adultery flowed from his mouth. I had one man, what in the world I would want 2 for I have no idea. I am now without a man at all and enjoying every minute of it. X faked going to counseling a couple of times. He wouldn’t give me a name or allow me any input and would not say what they spoke about, so after 4 of those times, I no longer believe any of it ever happened. He now says that he doesn’t need counseling, but we should go out to coffee of dinner to discuss our relationship. He doesn’t seem to understand that we are now divorced and have no relationship.

    You are fortunate that he showed his true colors to other people. X was as sweet as honey with anyone who did not live in the house. There were others he didn’t treat well, but noone he would ever see on a regular basis–a cashier, waiter etc.

    As much as X says he loves me, they are only words. He is still abusive. I have little communication with him any longer and refuse to see him, which is such a relief. As soon as the State Tax Refund is divided, I see no reason for further contact at all.

  38. Brenda on February 20, 2014 at 12:20 am

    I agree. It doesn’t take 2 to break up an abusive marriage. I can ditto most of what you said. There wasn’t enough money for counseling, but plenty for the casino or toys. X always worked except for 1 year when he was fired because of his attitude with his bosses. He never thought they would let him go. He still blames them and accepts no responsibility.

    After a year with a Christian counselor I am more independent and free than I ever have been. I owe everything to Christ and all he has given me. There are challenges along the way, but he will give me the strength that I need to go on.

  39. Claire on February 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Hello everyone,

    I work with women in extremely difficult marriages, and I feel so burdened for them. I myself had for 11+ years had a marriage where I was not cherished or taken care of or supported or protected. No one but God knows how I suffered, and I am so saddened by the toll it took on my children. Having said all this, I am saddened that we are counseling women to divorce their husbands for other reasons than adultery and abandonment. Separation is necessary sometimes. A women should not continue to take emotional, financial, or physical abuse, but I believe it is completely wrong to expand the definition of divorce to include a husband who won’t work. As we suffer in our marriages, it is easy to want out and give up: I certainly wanted that, but God have done a great work in my marriage. I thank God that I did not divorce my husband when my husband wasn’t loving, cherishing or protecting me. He is a sinner and so am I. If I had taken this advise, I would now be divorced!

    • Leslie Vernick on February 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      I agree with you. I have never expanded the definition of divorce to include a husband who won’t work, however the Apostle Paul is quite clear that if someone won’t work, he also should not eat and that we shouldn’t even associate ourselves with him (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Therefore, it isn’t wrong or unbiblical to implement consequence for a husband who refuses to work to provide for his family. However, the woman in the blog expressed so much more that was going in their marriage than him simply being unemployed. I assume you are saying that you feel that the Biblical grounds for abandonment refer only to physical leaving but not, emotional leaving, sexual leaving, or financial leaving, is that correct? So if he physically abandoned the family but was sending a support check monthly, would that constitute biblical abandonment or not?

      • Claire on February 20, 2014 at 7:36 pm

        I should have mentioned that I do think this woman is taking an emotional battering, not just a financial one. Please understand, I don’t mean to belittle the wife’s suffering. I know marriage can be hellish.

        Leslie, I agreed with 95% of what you said to this woman. The part I’m concerned about is the “consequence.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15 does not say divorce. I think you could argue separation, but divorce seems a very broad interpretation.

        As for what I think are the grounds for Biblical abandonment, I don’t think you can reduce it to simply physical absence because a husband who overworks is also gone from the home but is sending paychecks; however, does he want to abandon his wife? I don’t know. I don’t know if this woman’s husband wants to abandon her. I believe he is tormenting her, and the church leaders should intervene, chastise, withhold communion and maybe even excommunicate him if he doesn’t repent. There absolutely should be consequences. I just question whether God wants us to expand the word abandonment to the extent that it seems to be here.

        I suppose I’ll be seen as unsympathetic, but I’m not. I’m responding to women who are expanding the term abandonment to an extreme. I think of the marriages that came together after many painful years. As Brenda says there is probably more to the story than is being expressed. It concerns me that divorce is mentioned with just this little information.

        • Leslie Vernick on February 20, 2014 at 9:31 pm

          I don’t think most of the women (if any) on this blog are expanding the term abandonment to an extreme. And for the record, I have never said someone should be free to divorce if a spouse doesn’t work. Consequences yes. But often not working also indicates other attitudes of entitlement (I’m entitled to the perks that money can buy but I don’t have to work for them), that express themselves in the marriage. It is also indicative of irresponsibility that manifests itself in not being responsible for one’s own sin or temper or emotional/mental health or for contributing the effort that a good marriage takes, but I expect a good marriage and sex life. So no, I agree, not working is not abandonment, but often there is a much much bigger picture and not working is only one part of the entire picture.

          • Claire on February 21, 2014 at 8:55 am

            Yes, I was trying to state in my last response that I know the woman in the blog was not just suffering because of her husband’s refusal to work. And, yes, I believe that a man refusing to work is irresponsible and suggests that many other sins are going on. I’ve known several families where this is the case, and I think sometimes the husband had deep-seated fears that paralyzed him. In the blogger’s case, that may not be true. Again, I didn’t mean to just talk about his refusal to work. I ask anyone’s forgiveness if I hurt or offended anyone by writing my concerns. This probably wasn’t the correct format for me to express these thoughts. I respect and love you, Leslie, very much.

          • Leslie Vernick on February 21, 2014 at 9:32 am

            Claire what I think you are trying to express is that you are afraid that women who are in difficult or disappointing marriage – whose husband’s don’t measure up to what she thought marriage would be may use some of my teaching to justify divorce. And if that’s your contribution here I think you’re right and I think it’s important that we talk about that. That was one of my fears in writing the book and that’s why I distinguished the difference right at the beginning of the book. However, for too long the Christian teaching is that unless a man has actually had sexual intercourse with another person (adultery) or is an unbeliever and doesn’t want to be married, or has abandoned the family, there are no grounds for divorce. But that leave many women whose husbands are chronically unfaithful with porn, or chronically deceptive and emotionally and sexually, mentally, and financially abusive no answers other than try harder and when I look at God’s heart for the oppressed and the abused, and look at the whole counsel of God I don’t see that. Mark Labberton of Fuller Seminary says Biblical Wisdom is the truth and character of God lived in context. When you look at the context of these marriages and picture Jesus in the midst. I can’t imagine him telling a woman, just suck it up and try harder.

  40. Brenda on February 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Claire, II Thes 3:10 says that a man who won’t work should not eat. A man who won’t work has abandoned his family. He may be in the house, but he is not being a husband or a father. He is not being a Godly man. I believe there is more to this story than what we know. It would be different if he was unable to work, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  41. Brenda on February 21, 2014 at 5:29 am


    Does the Bible, the word of God, need to use the exact wording that you want in order for it to be so. We have an entire book to let us know the heart of our Savior. When I said there is probably more to the story, I meant that she is probably minimizing the situation as many often do when they first start telling their story. I did not mean for anyone to use my words to minimize her situation.

    You don’t think that physical absence should be considered abandonment. So how long must he be gone before it is? One month, a year? Should she wait a lifetime? A good man may work many hours out of necessity, he may be in the military and forced to be gone from his family for a long time. Those things are not what we are talking about here and I think you are aware of that.

    I agree that not working, in itself, is not grounds for divorce. But, a man who won’t should not think he has the right to all of the comforts that he thinks he is entitled to from his wife such as a healthy home life, a good marriage, sex, freedom to the checkbook, the respect of his children. There are consequences for laziness. The Bible says he should not eat. If the man is the major caregiver to the children and home, that would also be different. In that case the wife is probably accepting of the situation and would not be writing on this blog.

    I don’t believe the women here are taking the word abandonment to the extreme. I believe they are coming out of the fog and realizing just what it does mean.

    • Claire on February 21, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Yes, Leslie, my concern is women who may misuse the advice. Brenda, I know you meant that the blogger’s story was probably much worse than she described. I’m not sure you both can believe that I am familiar with how terrible abuse is. I grew up with a father who always seemed to be drunk, angry and was violent with me and my three siblings. He owned several guns and, as an adult I finally acknowledged I think he probably could have killed us. He worked a lot, and I was glad because I dreaded when he would come home. He was very verbally abusive, especially to my mother. I witnessed him beating our cat till it fell unconscious. Looking back, I wish my mother had protected us and separated from him. Again, I’m not sure this is the format for me to express a different opinion, but I wanted readers to know that it is not because I haven’t experienced abuse. And again, I am sorry if I added hurt to women who are already in desperate circumstances.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

        We understand and your concern is legitimate. People misuse all kinds of things, including the scriptures so we do need to be cautious and wise. But you are welcome on this forum Claire to express your concerns and give your feedback and your experiences.

        • Claire on February 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

          Thank you for your gracious response.

  42. Brenda on February 21, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Amen, Leslie. That is what I picture in my mind. If Jesus were standing here right now, what would he say? I don’t think he’d say it’s ok, he didn’t hit you that hard or it’s ok, he can say anything he wants to you, you are his wife.

  43. Brenda on February 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I believe you, Claire. You could have been upfront with that. I am sorry that you had to go through that. No child should have to grow up that way. I am not sure how you can read about the love of Jesus and think divorce was not one of your mothers options. This is a man that we are told to stay away from. Protecting her children should be every mothers first concern in that situation. You may not agree, but no man should be put before the safety and sanity of her children.

    Your father was much like my step father, he was abusive in every way including sexually. My father abandoned us when I was a year old and my mother expecting my sister. I begged my mother to leave the stepfather. but she said she would end up with someone worse. I don’t know how that would be possible. I have tried to find my father. I would very much like to know what he was thinking. The Lord has not saw fit to allow me to find him. I have no idea what happened to him.

    I do not believe that any of the work Leslie has done suggests that divorce is ever to be an option in a disappointing marriage. Marriage is hard no matter what, but differences and disappointments can be worked through. Abuse is quite another issue. I believe that my God understands why I separated from my husband and since he demanded the divorce, I am truly free. I believe I am free to remarry, if a Christian man that is pink with purple polka dots comes along.

    • Claire on February 22, 2014 at 10:23 am

      I know this type of format lends itself to assumptions about what each writer is saying. I would not tell a woman being abused to suck it up, and I don’t picture Jesus belittling a woman’s pain, saying he didn’t think her attacker hit her that hard. One reason I didn’t want to bring up my past is because it is full of painful memories, and I didn’t want it volleyed back and forth in a public argument. So, Brenda I am trying once again to be understood that I wish my mother had taken us out of the home and out of danger. Divorce was an option for her, and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had chosen that route. I think she should have at least separated from him as a consequence of his actions and for our safety. The rest of my story is that I became a Christian when I was 18 years old. I prayed and fasted for my father’s salvation, and, truthfully, I prayed that my father and mother would divorce. They didn’t, however. Years later, when I was married, my father started attending church and once in a while would say something that sounded as if he believed that Jesus was our Savior and he was a believer. I could see over the years, he was trying in his own way to have a relationship with his wife and children. He was far from perfect, like me, but I think he came to believe and repent. I was with him the last six weeks before he died at home. I took care of my father in his last weeks, and I read him Psalm 23 an hour before he died. Though he could barely talk, he said, “How ’bout that!” seeming to be comforted and amazed by God’s mercy walking him through the Valley of Death. An hour later he died in the arms of my mother and me as we told him we loved him. I believe if my mother had divorced my father, we might not have ever had anything to do with him again. God could still work in His life, I know. As I said before in the previous messages, I know I’ll probably be seen as
      unsympathetic, and I think that is how you’ve seen me. Nothing I’ve written has convinced you otherwise, and this might not either. I’m upset that it has been implied I might be someone who would not champion a woman’s cause or tell her it’s her fault, or that she should try harder. All I can say is I have been under the hand of abuse and I’ve seen a pagan abuser repent. Now that this has become about me defending myself and not about the issue of what constitutes abandonment, I think I’m really done. If Brenda, you want to comment on this post, that’s fine. I will not post anything else because, as I said, I doubt that anyone will understand what I’m saying or who I am, though Leslie came close. Brenda, I pray God continues to heal your heart and blesses you.

  44. Brenda on February 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Claire, I did think of you as unsympathetic at first. I don’t any longer. I have written on a blog on another site and been eaten alive because of a comment I made. I don’t go to that site any longer, because everything I said from there on was picked apart to the point that I was called various names which I don’t feel describe me at all. I hope that I didn’t make you feel that way.

    Each of us have our own choices to make and have to discern what God has for each of our lives. Some have to stay, while others have to go. Some die of cancer, others are healed. My step father died about 2 years after the last time I saw him. He went to the grave still trying to touch me inappropriately. Still ranting when my mother went to church. Nothing she did changed that. I have no reason to believe that her choosing to stay made any difference in his life. In your father’s case, perhaps it did.

    Claire, I as well felt that I was defending myself about my definition of abandonment.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Listen to the dialogue these women are having – Claire and Brenda. These are good examples how to speak up, listen to feedback, repent, restore and repair relationships. I’m so proud of both of you. These are the things we often DON’T do and then we feel hurt, angry, misunderstood and withdraw, blame, isolate, or attack. I’m so honored to moderate this blog and help you all in your journey toward clarity, confidence, courage and healthy connection with others. XOXOXO love you

      • Sandra on February 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

        Thank you, dear Leslie. I’m finding your book so helpful in defining that I truly was in a destructive marriage. I can relate to both of you, Claire & Brenda. I stayed with my unbelieving, abusive husband for 57 years, hoping & praying he’d repent & receive Jesus as Savior. However, it didn’t happen. I do keep praying for him, though, as nothing is impossible with God.

      • Brenda on February 23, 2014 at 7:29 am


        I thought it better that I stay away for a while and felt pulled right back to coming here. Your response brought me to tears,Leslie. I hope that you come back Claire. Through this blog and ACFJ my painful memories aren’t as painful anymore. They are things that happened to me, but they aren’t happening now. I can share my once painful memories with others and support them, while at the same time they are supporting me. I also pray that the Lord will mend your heart from the hurt you have suffered. You help others heal through their destructive marriages. I hope you are taking time to heal your heart as well.

  45. Howard on February 25, 2014 at 11:27 am


    Since we are talking about the story of Abraham and Sarah, I would like to point out that we should like seek our justification in divorce. Sarah, although mistreated and emotional abused by Abraham, was also an abuser to Hager. If Hager was to seek justification, how should she go about it?

    Bible teaches husband to love their wives as Christ love the church and gave his life for her. And, Wives submit to your husband. I can’t speak on what God says on the woman because I am a man. I must admit a man as myself and others can’t reach that standard and fall short often, the wives can cast their judgement and it will be justified by God’s standard.

    So Divorce is really the easy way out to get rid of the ungodly husband. But a greater wife would be also the one that follows God’s direction and do the difficult task, so God’s name will be glorified.

    When one gets married, there is a reason why we repeat our vows. For good and bad, for health and sick. When the bad and sick time come, we need to remember them. This vow is for both to abide. If the husband don’t do it, does not mean the wife don’t do it. But when both don’t do it, divorce is easy.

    I trust all the divorce people, myself included, will find comfort in the truth. If you encourage people to divorce, do it with extreme caution. think about God’s name and your vow first.


    • Leslie Vernick on February 26, 2014 at 8:48 am

      Howard, I don’t encourage people to divorce at all. Many women choose to stay and if they stay I want to help them stay well – centered in God and not in their marriage or spouse. But I also don’t want to tell them that they may not ever leave. Sometimes it’s not possible to stay well. For physical, mental, emotional and financial safety and sanity, it may be time for her to leave and leave well. Separation is always the first step – hoping and praying that a spouse will come to his or her senses and repent. But when that does not happen, then an abused spouse sometimes (not always) makes a decision to divorce. Often the laws of her state make a safe separation impossible.

      But you’re right Sarah abused Hagar and what we see in the scriptures is God caring for Hagar in that instance, not validating Sarah. Therefore, God is always on the side of the abused, the victim, not on the side of the perpetrator, even if he or she feels she has just cause as Sarah felt she did.

      • Sandra on February 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm

        Thank you for this, Leslie. Even though my husband is the one who left, after I filed a Protection Order, it is good only for one year. Unless he repents, I will need to file for divorce because I fear he again will try to return.

  46. Sam on February 27, 2014 at 4:01 am

    I have read this whole thread and what I feel compelled to share is that God works with all of us individually. Though we may have many things in common every situation is unique and only God knows the whole truth of each situation and each person. It is worthwhile to pray for our marriages whether they are healed or they end in divorce. I hope that through honest sharing and forums like this we can grow and find encouragement and healing regardless of our marital status and whether or not we had a biblical divorce or not. We fail…people fail us but as a person not raised as a Christian I find there to be almost a worship of marriage in the church almost missing the God who created it. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but even those who know the joy of a loving and healthy will no longer be married in heaven. Marriage is not for eternity but a temporary arrangement on earth even when it’s good. I don’t think acknowledging this makes marriage of less significance it is significant on earth indeed. Especially for those of us in abusive marriages I believe it can destroy you if you don’t have other love and support in your life. It nearly destroyed me. I am still married but planning to separate when I can simply because my emotional and physical health is suffering and I cannot thrive like this. I may not have what some would consider biblical grounds for divorce but this line of thinking along with many other things has kept me bound for a decade and all the other blessings I have been given by God are not enough for me to to overcome the pain and the emptiness. I truly hope that Christians can be known one day for how we love each other…in marriage and in all relationships. Most of us who have found this page likely are dealing with abusive marriages but for those who are in disappointing marriages should they decide to leave should we not offer them love, grace, forgiveness? If our Christian lives are measured by what we get right or wrong then I give up now.

    Some of us are stronger than others. It is not an even playing field. I agree with Leslie’s advice and I believe in striving for reconciliation when it is possible. For the time being I am too burned out to even want this anymore. Perhaps a long break will change that but if not I pray for Christians who will love me and anyone else in a similar situation. I waited too long to insist on getting help. I wish I had Leslie’s book years ago. I wish I did not allow my fear of my husband being upset with me rule over me. I wish I would have made so many different choices. I wish for healing for myself for my husband and for all of us. Most of all I wish for Gods peace and joy again in my life whether married or single. I know this is lengthy but I felt compelled to share this tonight. God Bless everyone.

    • Caroline on March 13, 2014 at 9:44 am

      I love your comments here, especially when you say, “I find there to be an almost worship of marriage, almost missing the God who created it,” and “marriage is not for eternity.” It is so good for us to remember this. My ex-husband has hurt our kids so much by telling them our divorce was “unbiblical.” What was really unbiblical was the way he treated me all those years. Emotional abuse is not loving your wife as God loves the church. Also, it was unbiblical for me not to stand up to the evil in our home, and for our pastors not to hold him accountable based on Matthew 18. Yes, there was a lot that was unbiblical. I don’t believe our divorce was one of those things.

      • Peg on March 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        I agree with your comments. My pastor and I talked about how folks rarely consider that the abuser has violated and broken the marriage covenant and thus is living in sin for doing that as well for the mistreatment of his wife. Why should a wife have to DEMAND that her husband treat her like he promised to treat her at the wedding? So, the sin of breaking the covenant and basically spiritually abandoning the marriage is not worse than the wife choosing the way of divorce. Matthew 18 tells us that if our spouse/brother in Christ remains unrepentant and continues sinning against us even after confrontation after confrontation, then we are told to treat him as an unbeliever (pagan). Yes, all the years you and your children suffered abuse caused great damage and hurt. That definitely dishonors God and in fact, that continued sinful behavior leaves me to wonder if a person is even converted. It seems that conviction never took place and therefore repentance and confession never took place either. I’m sorry for your years of suffering. May God bless you abundantly in your years of being free from abuse.

  47. Belle on March 1, 2014 at 6:24 am

    I appreciate this perspective on Sarah and Abraham. In my years as a married woman, I have always heard Sarah extolled for her submission as well as set forth as an example of how we should submit even if our husband was in the wrong. I love how you brought all of Scripture to bear in this topic.

    My question is, what submission is Sarah being praised for in I Peter 3? A counselor has told me that I Peter 3 is referring to the times Sarah went along with Abraham in saying she was his sister. The counselor asked me what other instances this could have been referring to? I don’t know how to answer that. Why is Sarah given to us as an example of submission when she submitted to Abraham’s request that could have led her to commit adultery?

    Personally, I have quit following the submit to everything advice I have been given, and life has gone much better. I follow God as my God and it is much more pleasant than following a man whose commands and wishes change depending on what he wants to eat that day or how he feels, and dictate a great many details in life. I also believe in mutual submission as taught in other places of Scripture. If only one party in a marriage unconditionally submits to the desires and wishes
    of another, it becomes slavery. I Peter 3 makes more sense to me now, but I still wonder what submission of Sarah Peter is speaking about.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Belle, I have written an article that has to do this whole subject of 1 Peter 3 and I will use it as next week’s blog post to clarify things for you and others. Again I think we need to look at the whole context of what Peter wrote and not just take one sentence out of scripture and try to make a case about unconditional submission here.

  48. Brenda on March 1, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Belle, I love this:

    If only one party in a marriage unconditionally submits to the desires and wishes of another, it becomes slavery.

    So true. That is exactly what it is. Love your perspective.

  49. Brenda on March 1, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Leslie, So true. The Bible was not originally broken down into verses. That came later on and there are pros and cons to it. It makes it easier for us to find particular parts that we want to look at, but also makes it easy for those who want to interpret incorrectly to do so.

  50. Sandra on March 1, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Leslie, 1 Peter 3:6: Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord. Wouldn’t that be almost idol worship? And backing up to verse 1, that the husband may be won without a word by the reverent and chaste behavior of their wives — unfortunately, that didn’t work with my husband, but seemed to make him even more abusive.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      I think that was a respectful term in those days. It is not LORD which is the word used for God in the scriptures. But stay tuned to next week’s blog as I hope to answer some of these questions.

  51. Peg on March 13, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Your post is very loving and humble. Separating will bring some clarity and peace and it sure sounds like you are ready for that to happen. I hope that you can take the separating step with courage. May God guide you and comfort you as you create your boundaries. It’s so important to gain some sanity after years of craziness. I only had a year and a half with my spouse and 9 months of that we were separated. Now, we’re moving toward divorce and even though there’s sorrow, there’s hope for me. I pray that you can gain some strength and resolve and move toward reconciliation after you separate.

  52. Brenda on March 13, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Most of us who have found this page likely are dealing with abusive marriages but for those who are in disappointing marriages should they decide to leave should we not offer them love, grace, forgiveness?

    Sam, Most definately. We cannot judge anyone but ourselves? How does that scripture go? Take the beam out of your own eye before taking the splinter from your brother’s eye. Something to that effect anyways.

  53. Sandra on March 15, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Caroline: I agree with Peg that an abusive husband definitely dishonors God, and I also wonder if they are truly converted. My X professed to be, but I don’t believe he ever truly repented, just as he never repented for the abuse, but still blames me. Only God knows their heart and ours. I join Peg in praying for God’s blessing, as you now enjoy freedom from years of abuse as I do.

  54. Caroline Abbott on March 17, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Peg and Sandra:

    Thank you for your kind words. God has indeed blessed me these last 9 years since I escaped my abusive marriage. First, I was just so thrilled to be out of the abuse, and to feel the peace in my home that had been missing all those years. Then, the Lord led me to a church that supported me, where I met my wonderful second husband who loves me and cares for me in ways I never thought I would experience. Next, I became a domestic violence advocate, and the Lord allowed me to help other abused women through my new church and an on-line ministry. God is very good! Thank you both for being encouragers. We need more encouragers in this world!

    • Peg on March 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Your story gives me great hope! How blessed you are that you now have a good husband! And you’re being used to help others by God! That is what I hope for too! My experience has plunged me into great research and learning. I know things now that I would have never known had I not had the experiences I’ve had. So, God can make good come from bad! Thank you for sharing the good things that God has brought to you! Praise God!

  55. Sandra on March 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Dear Caroline: Your reply is such a blessing to me today! You certainly relate to what we have endured, and God has now blessed you with a godly husband. I don’t know if the Lord will ever lead me to another relationship, nor am I looking for one. However, my X keeps asking my daughters if I’ve found one yet. I’m now enjoying my independence and peace that I missed for so many years. Praise the Lord!

  56. Sandra on March 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Dear Leslie: I need your advise regarding my X harassing me again. He hadn’t contacted me since he returned to CT after his last court date, 2/3/14. However, I had admitted to my two daughters that I’m having difficulty paying my monthly bills, since they amount to $300 more than my meager Social Security check. Consequently, I have to transfer that amount from the small savings account my X left me to the checking account. My daughters related this to him, and while I was at church yesterday, he left a voice mail begging me to take him back, as he loves me and can help with the expenses once again. I know he’s gloating because he constantly told me over the years that I’d never to be able to make it without him. Leslie, I’d rather starve than take him back and suffer that abuse and insane jealousy, etc. I believe the Lord knows all and will take care of me, but I again need to cope with the continued harassment of my X. Sorry, I just needed to vent I guess! God bless you!

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