I wish I could meet all of you. You bless my heart the way you encourage, strengthen and support one another. Maybe someday we can have a retreat, or conference where we can all come together and meet one another, give each other a hug, have fun, share our growth and our struggles, pray together and continue to encourage each other in our journeys.
I’m often reminded that Satan wants us to believe either we don’t matter, or we’re the only one who matters. Friends, these two lies are different sides of the same coin. Self-hatred and self-absorption still center us on SELF and not on God. Similarly many of us put people (spouses) at our center and become overly distraught, anxious, fearful and/or controlling because we believe the lie that our well-being depends on another person valuing us, needing us, or loving us like we crave.
The truth is we do matter and we’re not the only one who matters. The truth is that we do need people to care for us and love us but they will never do it as perfectly as we desire. Nor will we be able to do it for them. That’s why it’s so dangerous to put them at your center.
This leads me to our question for today – how do we move beyond the blame game.
Question: How do I deal with the blame-game that my husband and I are trapped in? He is definitely emotionally abusive and my marriage has been destructive since day one. It was shocking and subtle at first so I hid it from others, including myself.
Now that I finally see the truth and have been working on my CORE and calling out my husband’s inappropriate behavior, we are caught in a vortex of pointing fingers at each other.
Him blaming me for everything is a hallmark of our entire marriage. Now that I am actually doing it back to him (I believe with righteous perspective and motives) he ramps up his scape-goating and turns it back on me.
At times, I get confused and actually start to question my version of events and my ability to interpret reality and make good judgments. Sometimes I feel like I am just as bad as he is, accusing and demonizing him as he does to me. How do we get out of this maddening cycle?
Answer: First let me applaud you for your question. It takes courage to admit that you are not handling things well and that you now see yourself accusing and demonizing your husband as he has done to you. You are convinced that your motive is good and your perspective right–but I bet your husband is equally convinced that his perspective and motive is just as righteous. Therein lies the problem. The blame game never promotes healing, growth, insight, awareness, or change. It is hurtful. It fuels negativity and keeps the destructive dance going. It’s a power struggle about who is more right, who is more wrong and it keeps us from taking personal responsibility for whatever our part is and changing it.
Don’t be overly hard on yourself for getting caught in this cycle. The blame game started in The Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve and then Eve blamed the serpent. It is instinctive and pervasive. People do it. Couples do it. Children do it. Companies do it. Nations do it. The blame game happens when no one wants to accept responsibility or look within to see where the problem is. But as you participate in this destructive game, it will hurt you, hurt your husband and damage your marriage more. Participating in it will keep you from walking in CORE strength and keep you from being the example of Christ to your destructive spouse that you desire to be.
Let me remind you (and our readers) of the four components of CORE strength:
C – I will be COMMITTED to honesty, internal and external – no more pretending. (I believe this is what you are trying to practice by refuting his attempts to blame you for everything, which is good. However, turning around and blaming him negates the last two elements of CORE strength).
O – I will be OPEN to wise others and the Holy Spirit to teach me new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, so that I can grow whole and healthy. (This is why you’ve asked your question. Good for you.)
R – I will be RESPONSIBLE for myself and RESPECTFUL towards others (including my destructive spouse), without dishonoring myself. This is where you are struggling. By demonizing and accusing him, you are not being respectful and you dishonor yourself by paying back evil for evil and behaving in a way that is inconsistent with the person you say you want to be. This is one reason you are in turmoil and feel unsettled by things.
E – I will be EMPATHIC and COMPASSIONATE towards my destructive spouse without ENABLING the abuse to continue. Lobbing verbal bombs of your own – even if they are the truth, is not speaking the truth with love. Hard words need not be harsh words. To read more on CORE strength read Chapter 7 of my book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage or watch this YouTube video . Chapter 9 of the same book talks about how to speak up in love. Click here for more information.
Once an abused woman starts to regain her voice, she’s tempted to flip his accusations or abuse right back on him. Then you’re both going at it, blaming and accusing, demonizing and attacking. No one is really listening. No one is reflecting. No one is changing. Paul reminds us, “But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another” (Galatians 5:15).
Remember having compassion and empathy for a person does not mean you enable their sin or the attitude behind it. However having empathy for your husband’s blindness helps you stay mindful that you too are blind to some things and without God opening your eyes, you wouldn’t have seen the truth either. Therefore we don’t judge, which helps keep us out of the blame/attack game.
When the Bible tells us not to judge, it doesn’t mean we don’t label something correctly or call a spade a spade. It just means that when we call something by its right name such as deceit, or abuse, we also are very aware that we also have the same proclivity within us as well. That’s why Jesus reminds us to take the log out of our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck in our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
When we do choose to speak truth to someone, we do it gently because we also recognize we too are weak. We too sin (Galatians 6:1). We too are blind to things. We too have trouble resisting the blame game. We too believe we’re all right and someone else is all wrong.
Not judging means we refuse to have a superior or contemptuous attitude towards our abusive spouse, even when we now see clearly what he is doing is wrong. Instead we feel brokenhearted. We feel compassion that he is so lost in his sin and blindness that he would sink so low as to ruin his own life and his family without even recognizing what he is doing.
The blame game comes from an underlying belief that everyone or everything outside of me is responsible for how I feel or act. That’s a lie. He may continue to believe that lie but if you want to build your CORE, you must stop.
Here’s a different approach. You won’t necessarily do all of these, pick one and see if it changes the dynamics between the two of you. If not and he continues to blame and accuse you, then you will have a clear conscience that you have done all you can do. Remember, the person you always have to live with is yourself, so with Christ’s strength, you want to conduct yourself honorably even in a dishonorable marriage. You want to be free to respond out of who you are, not react out of the painful situation of your marriage. (For an example of God doing this see Ezekiel 20:44).
First, instead of reacting and blaming him, listen. Respectfully hear him out. Don’t retaliate, or repay evil for evil. Validate whatever pain or truth he is saying and take responsibility for your own choices or mistakes or feelings.
For example, if he’s angry that you won’t be intimate with him and it’s your fault that he watches porn because you won’t be intimate and it’s your fault your marriage is where it is because of your hard heart, etc. etc.
You can validate and show compassion – “I’m sure it is very tough to live in a sexless marriage. I’m finding it hard myself. But it’s equally tough to live in a loveless marriage and I don’t know how to be physically intimate with someone who doesn’t love me or want anything to do with me except have sex.”
This is taking responsibility for your choice not to have sex, it’s owning that you have no idea how to fix this in the current state of your marriage all by yourself. You are compassionate with his feelings but not enabling his self-deception to continue that he is entitled to use your body when he feels like it but disregard your soul or spirit.
If your spouse doesn’t allow you to respond and uses monologue instead of dialogue, continuing to listen might not be the best approach as it will wear you down with his endless ranting and accusing and pretty soon you can’t stand it anymore and blow up or give in.
Therefore instead of blaming him for your blow up by saying something like – “You’re so controlling – or domineering” Take responsibility for yourself by saying, “I can’t continue to listen well anymore. This is wearing me down. I’m taking a break.”
Acknowledge your limitations when he blames you for general things like the poor behavior of your children or his own personal unhappiness. Say something like, “I wish our kids were behaving better too, but I don’t believe I’m responsible for the choices they make at this age. They know right from wrong.” Or “I see you are very unhappy, but I spent the first 10 years of our marriage doing all I knew to do to make you happy. It didn’t work. I’m not capable of fixing your unhappiness inside.” Or “I don’t’ think I’m capable of removing every problem or every irritation in our lives so that you don’t feel stressed.”
Ask questions. When someone is on a blame attack, sometimes you can get them to stop and reflect on what they are saying by asking questions or repeating what they have accused you of.
He says “It’s your fault I got fired from my job today. Things are so bad at home I just can’t function at work?”
You can respond by saying, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but we’re all hurting here. Are you saying I’m responsible for how you function or don’t function at work? If you were feeling so distraught, why didn’t you get some help so you could function better? I can’t take the blame for the choices you have made.”
These examples are ways of speaking the truth, without blaming, accusing, or demonizing. Listen, validate where you can, show compassion for their distress, express your own limitations, ask questions, take responsibility for yourself, your own feelings and choices while behaving responsibly and respectfully towards your spouse. These changes will help you get out of the blame game. Let us know how it goes.
Friends, when you have found yourself playing that game, what steps did you take to break free?
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My emotions are running wild after reading the contents of the new subject posting. Your comments hit the bulls-eye or “CORE” with spot on accuracy. I see so clearly with years of recollections how reflections now return me to realizing how my lack of core strength debilitated me. Consequentially amping up my exes behaviors to the point of stifling and imprisoning me.
I must say I was, and am still a non-confrontational individual under many difficult circumstances. I can recall as a youngster hearing my dad saying, “The tongues in a slippery place”, as a lesson to be kind with spoken words. My father was a benevolent man who died when I was a young adult, so sadly without full maturity and eventually wisdom of the lesson I guarded my tongue to the point of self-harm. I missed the depth of my father’s statement and the Biblical basis for his paraphrased words.
I was divorced in 2010, was first keenly aware of a need for change in the very early years of the marriage that started in 1981. Now looking back I see the most destructive mistake I made was thinking I could handle the situation without seeking help. From all outside appearances so much looked lovely. I actually had friends whom my ex spoke accolades to about what a wonderful wife, mother and overall person he’d married. These testimonies rose to the point that friends would tell me in a rather envious manner the “feeling” of what they heard, and so say how lucky I was to have a husband who loved and admired me so much. I can almost sense now what stirred up then as I stood listening, placing a fake smile upon my face, with confusion swirling within my head, I felt crazy and out of touch. I did many of the suggestions you mentioned. I had once written a very detailed letter, stated clearly and emphasizing my concerns with I statements how “I” felt, how I had lost my spirit to bring understanding to our’ situation. The result was receiving back my written words with red inked markings full of “you” accusations. I was stunned,speechlessness and despairing sadly acquiesced to his authority forgetting where spirit rests.
All I can say to this community is drawing deep into God’s word, using the tools of the “Fruit of the Spirit”, realizing, “Fear” (false evidence appearing real) and confusion are not of God. These are the best resources for defense to build core strength. God wants us to fellowship with like minded people so I suggest finding a Christian based Recovery Program so that keen attention can be giving to discernment of what is and isn’t of God. Differentiating God’s loving voice, and HIS will from the lies of the crafty devil’s desires will bring victory. Trust in th Holy Spirit those internal goosebumps of intuition that stir within are God’s whisper toward safety.
With Faith, Hope and Love, I pray all those who struggle around this issue find PEACE!
Again, I live this way day in and day out. I am blamed for how the kids misbehave, am blamed for his stress. Am blamed for the dishes not getting done or the laundry or whatever else is bugging him. I can respond calmly and empathically only to judged, accused and have to listen to his ranting and raving. I can leave the room only to him following me. If I do finally blow up because of being human, I am accused even more of being unGodly. It is truly crazy making. I resort to retreating and then am accused of being cold, loveless, a bad wife etc. There is no winning and believe me I know I am guily of having a hard heart, I do pray about it. I am being emotionally and spiritually abused.
Yes you are, now what are you going to do differently, that is the question? You can’t change him, but in order to get strong, you must change.
I know but how?
Can you come to tonight’s free webinar on ED relationships? You’ll learn some new things on how. Go to my facebook fan page to sign up.
I went through 20 years of physical, emotional and mental abuse and two of my children were abused by my ex their father. He managed to manipulate to county court system into believing he was the victim and through all this he blamed me for him murdering our family cat, blamed me for him abusing me and the children, blamed me for when he broke the no contact order when the PPO expired and showed up at the house. He lied under oath about his abuse, denied it and now he within one month moved into a nice big house with a woman who has money and he has a new car and I am losing in court against his lies. So I am unclear in all that me and my children have been through and i am divorced from him why is he still allowed to torment and emotionally and verbally abuse me and the courts do nothing or God for that matter. I was attacked in court by his attorney and the judge in my faith in Jesus only to be left heartbroken and lonely by God to. I do not believe that a person who can make the decision to abuse his family, smashed their home up kill one family pet and abuse 6 other pets and lie under oath and get away with it have any rights to have parenting time and force his new girlfriend on them. how is that easy for us to deal,with why am i the bad person because i refuse to not let him manipulate me into him breaking the court orders. Yes, he breaks court orders and then gets rewarded by the judge for breaking a court order by lying. So again, how do you heal when it hasn’t stopped and you have witnessed him getting away with it? I have so much evidence, police reports, PPO’s, CPS reports, texts etc and it was all ignored!
I have been rescued from a 30 yr. destructive marriage. However, the disfunction continues with my daughter and son. I need help with parent/child relationships.
Why are we to honor a man when he abuses us? Why are we to do things or follow a wrong path because He is the husband but the things they want you to do are evil and ungodly then we get blamed for not obeying the husband.
I see us women are screwed with this. That the man is allowed to do what he wants to us and we have to submit anyways and forgive and not be angry! This is all one sided all about the man.
Us women lose there is no way to win situations like this because all the courts favor in the men too.
Christina, I believe scripture teaches us that how we honor our husbands is to seek their highest good…and the highest good of abusive husbands is repentance toward God when they show (with their behavior) they do not fear Him. Not that we can/should be their Holy Spirit, but that we act in a way that will facilitate their repentance and not enable their rejection of God.
Scripture does not say we can not be angry. It says “…in your anger do not sin.” God has righteous anger and when we are living in a way that honors God we more readily see things that also cause us to experience righteous anger. A litmus test of righteous anger, I believe, has a root of honoring God’s holiness and precepts.
Scripture never calls us to obey anyone who is ungodly. Our first dedication and loyalty is to God alone. I’m not sure who is blaming you for not doing what scripture calls ungodly but people can be sincere but be sincerely wrong. I can not find anywhere in scripture where we are encouraged to even acquiesce to ungodliness…rather we are to expose ungodliness (not for moral superiority but to stand for God’s standard of holiness).
I am grieved and frustrated at abundance of “Christian” literature which is really man-made rules that don’t adhere to the truth of scripture. Verses are quoted out of context and those under the FOG of abuse can be too confused, taxed or frightened to question material that is peppered with scripture. Not that there aren’t solid Christian marriage books, but there are far too many that are close enough to the path to appear biblically sound, but far enough from the path to keep people in bondage. Of the many….many….books labeled as Christian resources, Leslie’s books were some of the first I ever read that spoke to the truth that others either ignored or denied as scriptural. When I was under the bondage that those kinds of books brought I found that I had times of angry outbursts…not with words or even actions but feeling that anger well up inside me. I realize now that the anger was frustration because my husband, “Christian” friends and my current resources were not lining up with what I was reading in scripture. It made me feel crazy when no one validated what I heard the Spirit speak to my heart through scripture. When I was strong enough I stopped caring about that validation (more like stopped needing, of course I cared) and ONLY looked to scripture to validate whether I was on God’s path. I am now (mostly) free from man’s opinion, which had held me in bondage my whole life. I praise God for that freedom!! 🙂
In our pain it may be that God is convicting us that we need to make some serious changes within us. It may also be a time when God is asking you to stand up and trust Him and who He says He is in His word. I think the most critical thing anyone (in an abusive relationship esp) can do is study the Word for themselves. In doing so God gives us discernment, strength and comfort that we may glorify Him in our life and choices.
Valerie, thank you for your wise words.
Amen Sister Valerie. I am starting to learn that freedom and it is incredible! God is soooo Good!
This question and response is so helpful. A challenge I have is a quiet husband. His response is passive (because he does not deal with anger) This leaves me in fear of confronting anything, because I fear an outburst or irrational behavior. He clearly gets angry, but either concedes to me or ignores me making me feel rejected or confused. I did really appreciate the words needed from me though in your response. This is a skill I have little opportunity to practice, but I continually wait patiently on the Lord.
Jackie you may want to consider joining a new group I’m starting called CONQUER which is a monthly group designed to help women gain the skills they need and to practice them together. Specific details will be on my blog next week, but the group starts May 1. I’ll actually post a link to it tomorrow on the blog too. We’re rolling it out tonight after the webinar on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship tonight. Hope you are registered. IT’s free.
Thank you Leslie. Not available tonight, though I’ll consider the other.
Yes Jackie, that is my husband also, and the more quiet he gets, the louder I get! :/
I’m really trying to work on that part of myself, I even went to my husband, after reading Leslie’s book and recognizing my sinful behavior, and apologized for my behavior….his response, “Oh, Ok.” I stood there for a few seconds, waiting to see if he had anything else to say…nope, nothing. I just walked away.
Yes, my husband also concedes to me about 95% of the time, but then he will either mumble under his breath, or say something to one of our boys…if I hear him, I do go to him and ask if he’d like to talk about it…he also says “No, no, it’s fine!”
You just cannot win with these guys.
I’m working on my CORE, and doing a 12 week bible study with other ladies, and I’m happy…I’ve accepted that my husband and marriage are never going to be what I want…letting go of that dream was HARD, but since then I’ve felt more peace in my heart…
As Tim Tebow has said, “I don’t know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future.” 🙂
Leslie, looking forward to the webinar tonight!
I am just amazed at the similarities I’m reading on this blog! The real issue between my husband and I have really just surfaced in the last year and a half, but we’ve had problems for the better of 10 years. I certainly am guilty of my own speech toward my husband and I am happily at a place of needing courage to speak truth to him in confidence without attacking. I’m amazed at the patience the Lord gives me to endure, but the fact remains that he is a non-responder mostly and doesn’t see his part. I have experience movement, though I just feel like a checkmark! Greiving a loss of life with him I grieve still. When one grows and the other doesn’t and the communication stops the relationship distance grows. So many questions, so many frustrations. So much more to say.
I just have to say, God is amazing. I can’t tell you how I need this post right now as I am working on a letter to my husband that will confront some issues that I have kept quiet about for several years due to never getting anything but blame and attack when I have confronted things in the past. Pray he will hear me this time and I will honor God no matter the response.
There is no Ezekiel 21:44. I would love to know what verse you are referencing, though!
opps typo it’s Ezekiel 20:44.
Thank you, Leslie, for this post. Good to be reminded of CORE, especially in light of this particular problem of blame shifting.
I have learned to keep my mouth shut most of the time, so lobbing back is not my habit, but I need to learn how to speak up with clarity, tact, and love. It is very easy to go straight to defending oneself. I keep reminding myself to LISTEN. Forgot about validating the emotions, but I see how this is very important.
My difficulty is that validating the emotion of my blamer is often construed as agreeing with his point of view. If I truly try to see his point of view, my own judgment gets twisted and I begin to doubt myself to the point that I cannot stand my ground.
So I guess this goes back to seeing the truth and establishing clarity in my own mind. Empathizing without necessarily agreeing or caving. This is very difficult for me to sort out.
Again, thank you for post. I think it will be helpful for me to read through on a regular basis so that I can prepared next time.
I worked on communicating in more honoring ways when I needed to give him feedback, but my husband was still able to twist everything I said into knots of confusion. It wasn’t until I physically separated from him that I was finally able to see things more clearly. And even then, it has taken almost nine months of separation for me to get to the point where I can have a conversation (if you can call it that) with him and not allow him to “get to me.” Now there are others copied on all our communication so they can see first hand how he operates and hold him accountable. Having that support has helped tremendously.
Leslie, thank you for being so faithful in helping all of us. It is amazing how much of yourself you are willing to give. It is so inspiring.
I was just reading Psalm 51:10: Create in me a new, clean heart O God; filled with clean thoughts and right desires a new unwavering attitude of mind. . . .That’s our goal: “Addiction” of a different kind RE: Psalm 112:7 –A singleness of heart, an undistracted mind. A God fixation (—a straight head in a world of brain dead)!
So, I see lots of wonderfully, valuable insights in this post, but one that I have heard Leslie make before is (—if I understand correctly) it goes something like this: If we could just get couples fighting Satan (our real enemy) and not each other. That is so important because one of the biggest victories Satan ever pulled off was making people think he was/is not there. People will say he is there but then act like their spouse is “The Satan” or at least some lessor demon. —We have to trust God on this and believe what Scripture says: the entire world lies inside the evil one and the god of this world (Satan) blinds people into thinking he is not even there. Satan will rip your soul out —and— the soul of your marriage if you don’t understand this (Proverbs 3:6, 1 Peter 5:8, Matthew 16:24). It’s no game. Satan has false apostles teaching lies, principalities just waiting to obey, hate and greed, ungodly lusts, all on offer. Matthew 25:41 “. . .Then He will say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels …’ ” —Even if it is not Satan directly, it could be one of his myrmidons/ myrmidones (See: 2 Peter 2:4, 9 —these are Satanic warriors trained and commanded by Satan.) So, we need to stand in the gap for our spouses and we need to fight together with our spouses and other believers in prayer (Ezekiel 22:30, 1 Timothy 2:1, James 5:16). Why would we demonize people when there are real demons? Honestly, what are we doing fighting each other? We need to repent of that! Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10).
The bad news is that allowing God to flow through our lives makes us a target for the god of this world or any one of his archons (his “angels”). That is extremely upsetting to me but drives me back to dependence on God. I can’t file a lawsuit to get rid of them. I can’t use the courts or money to stop a spiritual attack. I can only get on my face before God and beg Him to help me. I believe Satan or his archons would just kill us if he/they could. A month ago, I was exiting off I-95, it was one of those left side lanes, —high-speed exits. As I exited, I suddenly smelled oil. I should have immediately realized what was going to happen but instead I pondered and wondered why the smell of oil was so thick in the air. Next thing I know, the car is totally out of control and spinning (—some oil truck had just been through there and spilled oil everywhere on that ramp, light sweet crude). All of my steering adjustments were worthless at that point and I could have so easily been dead (sheer slope on one side with train tracks below). It was so fast and violent I thought no way this high speed spin ends well but it ended well with the spin self-correcting. I called it in and as I sat there praising the Lord God, I was praying: Lord, however much life I may still have left, please make my life an absolute tragedy for the devil. The devil’s aim today is to keep us away from prayer; studying the Bible; worshipping God, helping others, et.al. The devil has almost an uncountable amount of people to give glory to his rotten name. He’s got more people that have given every beat of their heart, every bit of their money, every thought of their minds, every instinct they have, they are sold out to the devil.
God knows why He takes us along these paths but we need to keep seeking God and let Him get better at getting to us than our spouse (they are not Satan or even a myrmidons/ myrmidones 2 Peter 2:4, 9). All our identity rests in the knowledge of who we’re created to be. We are His workmanship made in His image (Matthew 10:39, Luke 9:62). He loves us and to Him we have the greatest value. He gave His life for all we are worth (-see Matthew 10:31). . . .So, we should never attempt any of this without the Holy Spirit’s counsel. The Holy Spirit was the life-long companion and counselor of Jesus and needs to be our counselor too! (John 16:14: “and He will give you a counselor to help you and be with you forever.”) Think about how cool that is! The Holy Spirit is our forever counselor and THE BEST marriage counselor ever! God will give the Holy Spirit to you if you beg Him to (See Luke 11:5-13, it is an unqualified promise!). That is what you want to do, cry out to God until you know He has given you the Holy Spirit. Then, let the Holy Spirit lead you as to how you should proceed in your life and relationships, obviously, with the help of Christian counselors, wise others, et. al.
—So, let’s say you cry alone on the polar icecap of emotional withholding, and there’s no one there to hear you. Your husband quietly sucks out your integrity and self-respect and drains out your life force drop by drop, turning you into an emotional zombie unable to feel pain or joy, a mindless, quivering animal, a soulless puppet readily bent to the Reapers’ will. If you’re locked in that meat freezer with the upside-down carcasses of cows and pigs, shivering, as your husband casually walks away from the giant steel door and if you become pathetic—pleading, begging, literally on your knees, apologizing for everything, offering things that are distasteful to you, promising to be better, just to re-secure your partner’s “affection.” . . . .Just start remembering!!! —If you have the Holy Spirit (Chrsit lives in you, you are His) you already know what to do. Think about this: the Kingdom of Heaven is within you (Luke 17:21)***; and all learning is just remembering (Luke 17:19-37); you already have the answers you seek and know what to do. . . Look at Acts 19:15-16: “. . . .and he said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who the τίνεςἐστέ are you? And the archon (devil), leaped on them and tore them asunder (—really messed them up. . . . like lightning splitting a tree —asunder).” It’s no game when someone lives independent on Christ’s grace (but instead layers on psychological/ behavioral techniques.) It’s actually an invitation to have everything just blow up in our faces. Layering behavioral techniques and all manner of psychological/ reward schemes on top of a rotting, termite infested foundation is like trying to deal with that POWERFUL archon of Acts 19 in our own human “strength.” Read that entire chapter in Acts, that’s exactly what is going on there: fighting spiritual battles with the arm of flesh.
Christ offers Real Love vs. the “quick fix” of “rotating relationships” and addictions people run to. I apologize to those who have heard this just one too many times from me but: God’s love is actually what everyone is always trying to bring into their lives in all kinds of ineffective, dramatic dysfunctional ways. -It is not because people are not important and good but they are just NOT adequately equipped to bring the kind of healing love only God can bring. Even when your spouse is absolutely wonderful, they are just not equipped like Jesus (PURE Love) to heal. Again, they can’t pass your love tests: They can’t read your mind or even totally understand their own. They have all their own wounds and their hearts are leaking love too. This is why it is so important to get this kind of love directly from God. We need to be extremely careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God and keep inviting the Holy Spirit to do all that painful heart cleaning and healing (Psalm 51:10 style) that brings REAL love to all those dark, lonely and sad places. Otherwise, we will settle our whole lives for little lonely scraps of love/ approval/ affection from other people. If we don’t (with the Lord’s help) really heal, totally fix, radically renovate that factory of ourselves (our CORE), the same issues and results keep coming out of that factory and show up everywhere again, and again, and again –even with a “new” spouse. You can’t attract someone new if you are not really new. They will do old dance steps if ours are not new dance steps (I’m stating the obvious here and I am repeating myself, I know, but it is so important, as I always say.)
We CAN be totally healed, it’s just our parents, our spouses, our children cannot heal us, period. Only the Lord God can do that. He is LOVE and gives this LOVE freely. We just don’t usually experience it the way we should so we walk around thinking it’s our spouse’s job, or that we are meant to just live on scraps or be empty the rest of our lives, absolutely NOT.
***more accurately: the Kingdom of God is within —some— of you. . . .but I am assuming Christ lives in your heart and you have the Holy Spirit, otherwise you already know you have issues way more critical than these martial problems and I know you already know what to do about that too. That thirsting within your soul won’t cease until you have been made whole (Genesis 15:2, Matthew 5:6, Hebrews 12:29, Psalms 40:2). You can go to hell at the communion table or the gambling table if Jesus hasn’t saved you.
Chronic blaming is a symptom of a character problem, someone who doesn’t have good boundaries nor takes responsibility for themselves. When I first began to stand up to my husband’s criticism, we would enter the blame game crazy cycle and I got angrier and angrier. I finally went to a therapist and she gave me some treasured advice. She said my yelling and anger were escalating because no matter what I did. I wasn’t being heard. I needed to start acting and not reacting to his criticism, learn to “vote with my feet”. I started to think about the problem and accusations instead of responding automatically with emotion. This is hard to do and won’t be easy at first. I would listen to his rants, and then decide what I wanted, and then acted on those desires. I might have agreed the kids aren’t easy to deal with, but invited him to be a part of the solution (it didn’t happen, but when he complained, I reminded him he was invited in on the teamwork). When he blamed me for being controlling because he indiscriminately spent a lot of money (he is bipolar), I separated our finances by canceling our joint accounts, etc. Figuring out appropriate boundaries can be tough, but I began to feel more and more competent and satisfied with my own life and choices. when you start taking responsibility for your own life, you begin to realize that the inevitable push-back from the boundaries you set is not as bad as the dysfunction from not handling the conflict in a constructive manner.
I’m experiencing this lately, I was trying to expose some of my husbands character faults but I’m learning this is to be done sparingly with God’s lead. My questions about why I lasted so long in this life style and God’s slow revelation, has become apparent. I need small bits of truth at a time; because the process from knowledge, understanding, defining usually lands me in unresolved anger. Why wouldn’t it, my feelings will not be heard. I was shown recently my husband is not blind to his behaviors or consequences, he choices to lie to himself and others while choosing this anti-Christ lifestyle. That is what it is dishonoring to not only ourselves and loved ones, but to God himself first. So I’m having to learn about God’s timing and living on his strength alone. It’s hard to call out sin and be excepted even in our safest places. I know God can use this anger for good if I give it to him. I also know that vengeance is the Lord’s in his time; and he loves mercy. More of God’s promises, only brought in his timing. I’ll wait and when I feel the need to speak out, I’ll bring it to his throne, unless I can do it wisely.
Hope, It is like you were speaking from my heart and experience.
I have to see things for what they are in small doses. Large doses would kill me. I go through, new revelations result in grieving and anger is always the last to emotion to process. I tend to be so uncomfortable with that emotion, It is unfamiliar to me for some reason (thus the peacekeeper role all these years) I get confused by it and quickly I let it turn to hate, the hate brings conviction that leaves me feeling like I have hurt God, I understand, it is healthy to experience the godly sorrow, it but overwhelms me. I am left frozen, unable to bear it, I fall into a state of depression, exhausted and weak. I pick myself up, I run to His throne of grace and He revives my soul and spirit once again. This is a cycle that I have been going through over and over for the past 5 years. I don’t hate my husband, I hate what is happening, I hate the consequences of his sin, I hate the loss of a dream, I hate that I have no control over what is happening, I hate that others are hurt by it (my kids) I hate that our relationships with others are changed, I hate that I am so lonely, I hate the pain. Praise God, in His grace, He comes to my rescue, comforts me, brings me comforts through His word or a friend of wise counsel, and sometimes through all of the above. I can look back and see I have come a long way, but in the midst of the daily newest struggle and reoccurring pain, I feel like it will never end. Day by day, I am seeing there is hope. I am letting go of the hope in a restored marriage, willing to lose this marriage to let God save it , if that His will. I see a light at the end of what looks like a very long dark tunnel. In retrospective, I see much progress, a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, more empathy and compassion for others and less codependency with my kids, I am becoming less enmeshed in the lives of others, I am focused on my side of the street and daily self examination has brought freedom and peace that I have never felt. No matter what tomorrow looks like, I have a sense of “All is well within my soul” My separation court date is in early July. I am preparing for the worst, but believing for the best. Praying for God’s favor and integrity on the part of my part, lawyer, judge, etc. God’s will be done…My husband is tuning up the heat, he doesn’t seem a peace with my not reacting or being fearful and taking charge of my own life. As a differing wife and usually letting him make major decisions, this is odd for both of us. I long for a team mate to go through things with, I have discovered, I have always been alone, I gave him credit for being there, built him up on my fantasy of a good marriage and a really big wishbone. Wishing is not helpful, I must have faith in God’s sovereignty. Surrender, faith, courage and obedience are my tools to a better tomorrow. One day, one moment, hardships and all. I am finding comfort is praising God, being thankful for what is right, His truth, promises and not discounting what I have done right and forgiving myself for this failure. God sees my heart, He sees the years I have tried, fought for my marriage and Never gave up. He knows my every need and He will never forsake me. I am grateful that I am a child of the Living God. Zeph 3:17 brings me joy and peace.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I’ll be praying about your separation. You are very brave, but why wouldn’t you be; you are a child of the living God!
“I will be EMPATHETIC and COMPASSIONATE towards my destructive spouse without ENABLING the abuse to continue. Lobbing verbal bombs of your own – even if they are the truth, is not speaking the truth with love. Hard words need not be harsh words.”
I disagree with above in that when dealing with an abuser, empathy and compassion is what keeps you in their web. They abuse it. They are not about working through issues. They want power/control and all our understanding and loving responses isn’t going to change that. It enables it. And stating fact isn’t blaming; you’re saying the truth (in love). It would be more crazymaking to say otherwise.
I agree. I speak to my husband as gently and lovingly as possible (both because that is who I want to be, but also because anything other than that begets an irate and irrational response from my husband). I don’t know how to communicate empathy without enabling – without him feeling like he won and that his lies or twisted reasoning or tortured emotions are legitimate. I have an aunt who is abused by her husband and she has just chosen to lay herself down for his sake: she always agrees with everything he says, backs up his bullying, and constantly verbalizes things like “you are such a great man – how did I get so lucky, I don’t deserve you, you’re right – I’m such a weak and needy woman, etc.” I DON’T WANT TO BECOME LIKE HER!
Ann, you are absolutely right and spot on with what you are saying. Otherwise we get sucked right back into the abuse.
I agree, as my ex knows scriptures form the. Idle and his favorite ones the bible says you are to forgive me and he always said that and still at times says it right after he intentionally does something. So I struggle deeply with forgiving him for the 20+ years of hell he done to me I I can’t seem to get delivered from him! I want to be delivered form this enemy as God promised, but now is being forced to deal with him more and a controlled by him through the court order now!
Sorry typo errors…I meant to say he knows scriptures form the bible and his favorite one is about forgiveness..
I confess to playing the blame game with God. After years of taking my husband’s side against me (Yes, I did this!) and now realizing that his passive aggressive actions are intentionally cruel, I’ve come to view myself as right before God. My motives were pure. When “forgotten” or through constant neglect and betrayal, I forgave and loved.
Intellectually I know I have contributed to this farce we called marriage. In writing this, I see that allowing the emotional abuse was sin. But my heart stands against viewing myself as the awful person I was perceived to be in this marriage. (I remember having sympathy for my husband because he tolerated me as his wife.)
I know my refusal to own my sin is wrong! Is this part of the process of coming out of the fog? Do we reach a stage of being able to accept the whole truth of ourselves? I am still reeling from the realization of the intent of my husband’s actions and the depth of the depravity in which I live. Hurting me is not a deterrent but incentive! God showed me this during one of the many prayers I offered up for my husband’s forgiveness when he “forgot” me but remembered others. My life turned upside down.
I hope this is but a stage, that as I move on for my emotional, mental and spiritual health, I will be able to own my stuff. Right now I am trying to rebuild. Everything in me screams against claiming any responsibility because for 30 years I was the only one who contributed to marital love….to no avail. Is this my sin – my love?
Jerrie, your first paragraph is one I could have written myself…including the part about why you had sympathy for him. 🙁
The only way I could have any clarity in the marriage (and then getting free from the abuse) was to know the truth of God’s Word. It was through that truth that I realized the level of blindness went much deeper than I had realized. An abusive person knows full well what is important to you. Only like the devil, they twist this knowledge- withholding what they know you want and using what is important to you against you.
I was so blinded to the fact that I was holding my husband as an idol. I truly thought that my submitting, favoring, looking past offenses, regularly admitting my mistakes, etc. was glorifying God in my marriage. In a healthy marriage (or one that is difficult but not destructive) these things would indeed be godly because they are for the good of our spouse. Reacting/responding in this manner to someone who is not destructive_is_ for their good and the marriage’s good. But for someone who is destructive a higher good…make that a more difficult good to aim for…is I believe what scripture calls us to. What is the highest good for our destructive spouse? To come to repentance before God. This I believe is what scripture tells us. Knowing that, our response to them must be with that aim.
I found that extremely difficult to navigate because I was so preoccupied with survival. He had me convinced that him being happy and content was how I could please God. He never actually had to actually bring God into the conversation, my false guilt did that work for me. All he had to do was hint that I was the one in the wrong. Because it was important to me to please God, when my husband said or implied I was wrong, I assumed God was disappointed in me. Therefore when I stood up to him- in a way that had his repentance as the chief goal- he treated me as though I was sinning. This led to false guilt for a long time. I would continually ask God for forgiveness but as I look back on it, what I truly should have been asking for forgiveness for was doubting God’s truth and instead believing my husband’s truth, which was no truth at all.
I have found that I got my realization of how God viewed me all twisted up with who my husband said I was. I allowed my husband to convict me instead of God. It was not natural for me to stand up or be confrontational (done in love and truth, not retaliating or self-righteously). So the anxiety I had in standing up led me to think that the anxiety was actually guilt. I mistakenly thought that my anxiety was the Spirit’s conviction that I was not doing things in a godly way. In truth, the anxiety was just that…anxiety. I was so anxious that I couldn’t see that I was actually responding (for the most part) in a way that was actually pleasing to God.
It has taken me many, many months of intense bible study (away from my husband) to counteract the “brainwashing” inflicted by my husband, yet I also acknowledge the false ideas about God’s character were ingrained in me before I even met him. While I think it is our nature to want to “be right” in our spouse’s eyes (esp with someone who has been cruel) I also think it is very possible that we put false guilt on ourselves when we respond with any kind of boundaries and mislabel that as retaliating or responding in kind.
“Because it was important to me to please God, when my husband said or implied I was wrong, I assumed God was disappointed in me.” — I totally get this! I feel like I can’t even pray anymore because I have failed in my marriage, which means I have failed God.
Deanna, I will pray for you. It is the devil’s desire to keep you from God. I encourage you to push past what you “feel” you are unworthy of and pray anyway. What you describe is a miserable place. I had many seasons of this as well and I found that opening up His word and praying it back to Him exposed the deceit of the evil one. Thank God in advance for what you know He will do in your life. Recount things God has already done in your life and thank Him for it. The devil is the accuser and deceiver. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1). A good litmus test to know whether you are being condemned (only of the devil) or convicted is the specificness of the sin. General feelings of condemnation and disappointment from God are of the devil. The God of scripture does not just stand back and shake His head in disappointment of you. He sends His Spirit to convict, and this conviction is specific. For instance, the Spirit may tell you “You were not speaking right when you said ___.” The devil however will just flood your mind with a general feeling of nearly everything you say is wrong with no recourse since you don’t know exactly what was unscriptural.
Sometimes I have even found it helpful to ask God for forgiveness for doubting Him and instead believing the devil! Prayers like that lift the veil of deceit. Its like turning the light on and the cockroaches scatter. I pray that as you seek God with all your strength you will walk in the victory God has already obtained.
That is really true and I would just add two other points from The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It by Leslie
Page 220: “The most important part of our preparation and protection against a destructive person isn’t mental, it’s spiritual. As we’ve already seen in chapter 6, behind every destructive individual stands a much bigger enemy. Satan wants to destroy us, and he’ll use anyone who is available. Destructive individuals may not even be aware that they are his pawn, but we must be aware and on guard.”
Page 221: “Remember, one of the surest signs of your own emotional and spiritual growth and maturity is that you no longer retaliate when someone hurts you or does wrong to you. One of the most natural things we feel when someone hurts us is to want vengeance or respond to evil with more evil of our own. But Jesus speciﬁcally commands us to respond radically difterently than our natural selves would. He calls us to love our enemies and do them good, not harm.”
‘I have said it all and he never heard a thing’- I can so relate to that. I have approached my husband so many times wanting to be understood, wanting us to work together for a better marriage. He refuses to hear; he refuses to see. He repeatedly justifies his behavior and blames me and the kids for everything. I dont really have an answer for myself ‘where do I go from here?’ I interact with him as little as possible. It makes for a very lonely marriage. I have stopped asking for God to open his eyes. He doesnt want to see the truth- I have accepted that relatively recently. I ask for God to keep MY eyes wide open to the truth. I ask Him to grow and lead ME and increase my faith and wisdom. I ask Him to grow me into a more loving person while teaching me to be discerning and keep strong boundaries. Praying for you- that God will give you what you need for today.
Encourage our hearts Lord Jesus and show us which way to go. We need strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Thank you Lord for promising never to leave us nor forsake us- what a friend you are.
The only answer and comfort I can offer is that God does see and hear all and He will be the one to judge in His time. I am so sorry you are going through all of this. I feel the same way at times about God and why does He allow bad things to happen. Keep your faith because God is just.
Why are we the bad person because we struggle with forgiveness from the destruction that the abuse has done to us? Why do we endure more pain by watching the abusers lie and get away with it? Why are the courts working on the abusers side? Where is God? I thought the bible said if God is for you, who,can be against you? I thought the bible said that our battles belong to him and victory belongs to him? I see my ex winning the victory as he got,away with all the abuse and games and lies and I have to simply just forgive him and move on but yet he continues with his lies and games. I have no one on my side fighting for me and my children. I am also dealing with my children whom have learned his destructive behavior patterns now acting like him. It feels like he is still here through the children..
Exactly. My husband likes to quote all the things I am supposed to do biblically speaking (spiritual abuse) but seems to forget this applies to him as well. Just this morning it came to our attention that while he choose to yell at me on Mother’s day about some bill he swears up and down he gave to me and I did not pay, turns out we never did receive the bill and I asked if he could apologize to me for yelling at me, his response was “don’t force me to do something I don’t want to do” wow, how is that for a so called “Christian” husband!
Thank you for lots of comfort and helpful insights. I was rescued from a 30 yr destructive marriage but the disfunction continues in my relationships with my daughter and son. I need help in parent/child relationships.
It’s unbelievable how accurate this Q&A reflects my relationship with my husband for the last 10 years. I am always being blamed for what seems like everything. He loses a piece of mail and I get blamed for moving it. He finds it later and remembers that is where he put it but he never apologizes to me for blaming me. He always has some excuse and if I try to call him on it, somehow he twists it around to me being at fault for misreading his tone or his words or not asking the proper questions. This is just a small sampling of what goes on. He has not been intimate with me for 10 years. I caught him watching homosexual pornography and sexting a gay co-worker but he denies that there was anything going on. I’m wrong, I’m never right. I have contorted myself and twisted myself so much over the years to try to be the wife he wants, to make him happy, that I have lost myself and who I am. I have started seeing a marriage counselor by myself because he refuses to go. He says he does not want a third-party involved because we “should be able to work it out ourselves.” He wants me to talk to him . . . I have talked to him, repeatedly over the years and have always been told I was wrong in my thinking. My therapist calls it “Gaslighting.” I just approached him again this weekend about seeing a marriage counselor. He flat out refused, even when I told him that if he loved me as much as he says he does, he would move mountains to make sure our marriage survived. I’m at the point now where it appears separation is the only option. It’s very painful and scary because after so many years of feeling like I can’t do anything right, I’m afraid I’m going to fail at being alone. :..-(
Leslie has a great video on youtube about why couple’s counseling is not effective (or advised) with an abusive husband (though I’m not sure she uses those words). I believe it was part of a series she had (which were all SO good) as her new book came out.
Couple’s counseling was only further trauma in my case as many other women have also attested to (in abusive marriages). As someone once said (George Simon maybe?) “Its not that they don’t see, its that they disagree.” I thought the problem was my H just didn’t “get it”. That he was emotionally stunted. I thought we had the same goal- a healthy marriage- I mean who doesn’t, right? But everything suddenly made sense when I realized we did not have the same goal at all. He NEVER had a goal of a healthy marriage, but rather control, so counseling was pointless and only further damaging. An abusive husband knows full well what he’s doing. Its how he makes maximum impact. You have said so many phrases that bring me back to where I was with my NPD husband. FWIW, you are NOT crazy!! 🙂 I’m glad that your counselor recognizes the gaslighting occurring.
Islandgirl & Debbie: I completely understand what you’re talking about. It’s so hard to realize that while we just want to be heard, understood, and have our spouse willing to work with us to better the relationship – they just aren’t able to, or don’t want to. In a way, it is fear that holds them back – they can’t look at the issues without the fear that they might have to actually admit they’d been wrong, and they don’t believe they could ever be wrong. Therefore, it must all be your fault. Twisted thinking for sure! A friend once told my spouse (this friend told me about the incident later) that he couldn’t blame me for his drinking – after all, I didn’t hold a gun to his head and make him drink it. That put a different spin on the blaming for me & when I’d be blamed for something, I stopped and asked myself if he had a choice – or if someone was holding a gun to his head and forcing him to do/say whatever it was. For me, that was an effective way to re-evaluate & then reframe what I was really responsible for in light of what God’s word says. Prayers to you!
Wow…I have been that woman locked in the freezer, begging may husband not to leave our marriage. Begging him to fix me. Begging/manipulating him with empty promises because my fear of abandonment is so paralyzing. He asked for a divorce in July 2014. We are still in the same household, same bed, living separate lives. The pain is suffocating.
We started counseling to be able to co parent our 2 boys and to get along. My hope is restoration of our marriage. His is not. I will not give up and pray for God to change me and for him to soften my husbands heart. I will stop begging because I am more valuable than that.
Like that, you’ll not be paying full price for that solution for a
Wow. Thank you Aleea. Thank you for the deep dive of Truth. ❤️