My Husband Says His Verbal Abuse is All My Fault

Leslie and Lynette Smith
Love Does Not Hurt Conference
in the British Virgin Islands












Grand Baby #3














Morning friends,

I’m sending this from the airport in Tortola, British Virgin Islands where I’ve had an awesome weekend keynoting at the Love Does Not Hurt Conference. Agape Total Life Center partnered with the Office of Gender Affairs to educate their community and church leaders on Domestic Violence Awareness. We had a wonderful time and the people were open, gracious and extremely welcoming, and the beaches and view were fabulous!

Thank you all who participated in answering last week’s question. I appreciate hearing from you and would love for this to become a forum of support and encouragement for one another.

My third granddaughter was born this week while I was away. Natalia came on Friday, October 12, and weighed 7# 9 oz. She is as beautiful as my other two granddaughters are.

My book is due in a few weeks and I’m racing to finish it. Pray please that God gives me the clarity and wisdom to finish strong.

I will be on Focus on the Family radio Wednesday and Thursday this week, talking about Emotionally Destructive Relationships. Hope you get to listen.

This week’s question is: I read your blogs and books. My question is I’ve been married for 21 years. I’ve read and re-read your book on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. My husband fits the example of the “should” husband you talk about. He is a believer and has recently admitted to me that he has been verbally abusive after I told him the definition. For a long time he denied it. But he feels that I haven’t been submissive, respectful and obedient to him and that in order for our relationship to ever move forward I have to admit this to him and to our children, ages 17,15, and 11. We have been to counseling jointly and separately.

I have seen how my desire to please him has led to lots of problems. It has excused his behavior and allowed it far too long. He is saying he has admitted his problems and I need to admit and change myself and the children’s attitude and behaviors toward him in order for him to stay. He has already seen an attorney as have I. Please help…I’m so tired.

Answer: You seem exhausted trying to be heard and understood. It sounds like your husband is still saying that all your marital problems are your fault. Of course he now admits to being verbally abusive toward you but it’s because you haven’t been respectful, submissive or obedient. So if you change, in his mind, all will be well.

From your question it sounds like you have tried to please him and that your desire to gain his approval has actually led to more abuse. He’s saying he’s admitted his problem but what exactly has he admitted to? Losing his temper when you won’t do what he says you “should” and then blaming you for his ugly words? That doesn’t sound like the kind of change you’ll need to turn this around. Does he not have any responsibility to learn to handle his disappointment and anger toward you in a godly way?

You might want to ask him, “Do you believe you’re entitled to verbally abuse me when I fail you, upset you, or disappoint you? How do you think other men respond when their wives upset them? Do all of them become verbally abusive or do some of them handle their anger or disappointment in a more constructive way?”

I also want you to consider whether or not it’s true that you have been disrespectful toward your husband and/or contributed to the children’s poor attitudes toward their father. Confession of wrong doing is important in relationships and is a very important first step toward healing and reconciliation. You’ll have to pray about that and examine your heart and past behaviors to see if there are specific ways or times you have been disrespectful, even if in the context of being provoked.

There are some husbands who believe that if their wife doesn’t give them carte blanche authority or if she questions his judgment in a situation, she is being disrespectful, disobedient and/or unsubmissive. I don’t believe God’s Word teaches that submission means that we don’t have a right to question or challenge our spouse or that we are called to live with our eyes closed and mouth shut especially when we observe our spouse driving the entire family straight off the cliff. (For more on this topic, read my recent blog on Misunderstandings on Headship and Submission)

On the other hand, there are many things that we as wives comment on that our husband’s may find disrespectful even if we don’t see them that way. For example, my husband hates when I question why he chooses to drive to the shopping mall a different way than I would have gone. He sees that as “You don’t know how to drive as good as I do.”  I don’t mean it that way I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t chose our normal route. But he’s different than I am and he has every right to think and choose differently than I would.

People are not blank walls that do not have any of their own thoughts, feelings, and personality. Yet some men seem to want their wife’s entire life to revolve around loving him, serving him, and doing whatever will make him happy. If she balks, or wants to do something of her own, he finds that unloving or disrespectful. Trying harder to be that kind of woman will only results in more abuse and selfishness on the part of your husband (see my blog, When Trying Harder Becomes Destructive).

Going back to your question, you’ve both been to counselors, and both been to attorneys. If you and your husband both want to make your marriage work, it begins by identifying what the root problem is. You can’t apply the right medicine to something if you don’t have the right diagnosis. I don’t think you’ve reached any consensus on this. Perhaps the best course at this time will be to see a counselor (who understands the dynamics of verbal abuse), not for treatment per se, but to create a working definition of the problem so you can both decide whether or not you want to do the necessary repairs and changing to reconcile your relationship.



  1. Amy on October 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    This sounds so much like how it was with my ex-husband and I. He was verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive our entire 20 years of marriage, although in the first few years I did not understand what was happening. He would basically blame me for his behavior. If only I would act better towards him he wouldn’t treat me the way he did.

    And honestly, after we both became Christians about 10 years into the marriage his abuse toward me and our two sons seemed to get worse, not better. And I credit that to all the wrong teachings both he and I received as new Christians. He was taught that he was to be head of the household. His position was to be like that of the boss of a company and I was his employee who he had control over. I was taught that I had to submit and respect him no matter what he did and submission was basically seen as shutting my mouth and never speaking up against him because he always had the final say.

    We tried counseling, once in twenty years, because he always refused to go when I brought it up. When he finally agreed to go he got to choose the counselor because he refused to see the woman counselor that I had been talking to at the time, so she recommended a male counselor. Unfortunately, I discovered that couple counseling does not work in abusive situations, at least not in the beginning. I was too afraid to speak the truth with my ex sitting there and my ex soon had the counselor wrapped around his finger…he had a way of doing that. Finally, after 6 weeks I agreed to be better in my role as a wife just so I would never have to go back there again. My ex turned to me that day and said, “as long as you never do this again, we’ll stop going.” I agreed and from that day, 2 1/2 long agonizing years until he left, I learned how to keep my mouth shut…never speaking up when I saw how wrong he was, never protecting my sons from his constant abusive behavior that only got worse, especially towards our younger son, only staying and enabling him to continue doing what he was doing. It was like living in a prison and with absolutely no support from my church I just felt helpless. I was told how the Lord would have this huge crown waiting for me one day for hanging in there and my heart would just drop. No one understood, no one cared and it was constantly being drilled into me that no Christian divorced, not the ones that truly believed. It all felt so hopeless and I basically gave up. I felt like a walking zombie with no feelings, no happiness, nothing. My son once said to me in those days, “you never smile anymore, mom.” 🙁

    When my ex walked out of our house almost four years ago, I felt free for the first time in twenty years. Of course, he blamed me for his leaving, even telling people, including our sons, that I kicked him out.
    But today, the Lord has brought so many blessings into my life and I felt He freed me from that marriage.

    I’m not saying that divorce is the only option, but allowing an abusive spouse to continue what they are doing is not showing true love to them, nor to yourself and your children. And just to be clear, it took me two years from the day he left to finally follow through with the divorce, I still held tight to divorce being so wrong.

    The main regret I have today, is not having the courage to leave when my children were younger. I see now how destructive it was for them to be raised in that atmosphere and I do not believe it’s true that it is better for the children if you stay together, there should never be that type of justification when abuse is involved. No child is better off in an abusive situation, period.

    • Trina on October 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      I can clearly see the spiritual battle in my marriage. It started 3 mos. after the wedding when my husband came home from work and declared he was an “Athiest”. I heard the Lord tell me that had I not married him I would have run fast, and hard, and far and this was his last chance.

      I realize that God does not want us to be in pain but I also realize we do have opportunities to grow and mature in our faith, as well.

      It’s been 8 years and the verbal, emotional abuse my husband suffered as a child, has increased toward me since his father passed away, Jan 2012.

      At present, my husband is “teaching me a lesson”. He has moved to another state and is doing all the things we talked about doing when we were together and making retirement plans. He has cut off all contact with me as well…taking anything I said or did as an attack toward him.

      Two years ago I retired,early, took all my money and restored a house (in PA) that “we” planned on using as a base camp for hiking the Appalachian Trail…as this was a lifetime dream that both of us had.

      My husband retired this year…he took ALL his money with him, most of the furniture, and left me in a house he decided to quit making payments on (in FL) and I have no job or income.

      God has totally sustained me for this past year as I listen intently to what He has for me to do. I diligently seek Him and stand on His word. I “see things that are not as if they were” and I want to be the best servant of God that I can be…have always told God that and have tried my humanly best to live it every single day. It is definitely NOT easy but it is VERY rewarding. I trust my Heavenly Father 100% and believe He is 100% in control.

      I pray a LOT! I read books, listen to Christian radio and I am trying to learn as much as I possibly can to be the person God wants me to be in order to possibly relate to my husband properly should he develop an interest in contacting me again.

      Three attempts at divorce, 2 from him and 1 from me, in the past 3 years, has proven incomplete as each time it came to signing the agreements…my husband couldn’t do it. He says,”there is something attaching us like we are going to save each other’s lives or something.”

      We have known of each other since we were 7 years old. Went to school together, dated for a month when we were 16,(my mother called it off…he was a Jew and I was/am Christian) we knew nothing of each other’s whereabouts for 30 years but I was “always in my husband’s heart” as he has said numerous times. The circumstances that brought us back into each other’s lives was not by mistake but I believe by devine intervention. I too feel a purpose in his life and do not think that divorce is our way out. God has shown me too much to believe that. However, my husband just asked for a divorce for the third time and this time locality intervened to prevent it from going the way he was trying to make it go. I’m not saying that it will or won’t come to divorce, but I will let God determine that.

      We have no children together but each of us has our own grown children. I have two boys that know the Lord and he has one that knows drugs, and has a daughter. ( 4 generations that have been involved in drugs…scrips and illegal)

      God has made me strong. I still have my weak moments, but that is when God is the strongest. I am using my time apart to grow, learn, mature in the Lord and listen to what it is that He wants me to do and how he wants me to do it.

      I praise the Lord daily for my husband and the blessings (mostly unseen and unknown to me at this time) he has brought to my life.

      Prayers are always accepted and right now the Lord has laid it on my heart to have prayers to break the “drug” curse and free the family. Thanking God that it has already been done. Praise the Lord!

      Jesus always prayed the answer to problems…not the problem itself. I choose to trust in the Lord….100%!

  2. Onita Jarman on October 18, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Hello Leslie!! I listened to your interview on”Focus on the Family” Wow, I thank God for your ministry to your mom. This past June, I was rescued from a verbally,& sexually abusive relationship–I lived with this man for only 3 years, without the commitment of marriage. I had accepted the Lord Jesus back into my heart & life in the summer of ’09. I felt deeply convicted in having sexual relations with this man, & I told him how I felt. To try to make a long story abit shorter, I left him. I have not seen him since June 1st of this year.
    All of what you stated on the air yesterdasy & today, ssooo applied to me in that relationship, I had to find your blog & share. I currently am living in aa assisted living facility, & growing spiritually by “leaps & bounds”. I so thank the Lord, for the woman who “rescued” me!!

  3. Sheri Whalen on October 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Leslie,
    I heard your interview on “Focus on the Family” last night on my way to taking my daughter to class. The tears just came flowing out and I couldn’t stop. I went to their website and listened to both parts of your interview this morning. I feel God was directing me to you. I have been trying to find someone to talk to about this with. I have tried counseling at church but because my husband is not a believer they only concentrated on converting him and left me with no help. I feel so alone and that no one knows my pain since my husband is very good at putting up a good front. My faith is the most important thing in my life and I want to do what is pleasing in God’s eyes but I am hurting so much I don’t know what to do. My husband is verbally abusive, a chronic liar, won’t be held accountable for any of his actions or words, emotionally indifferent, and dependent financially to me. I am the main provider financially and I lost my job and have been out of work for 4 months. My husband does provide the healthcare for me and my two girls. My oldest daughter has a chronic disorder and even with the healthcare I have these huge bills for the specialist and medicine. I just can’t see a way out. I threatened to leave if we didn’t go to counseling about a year and half ago. He went until we started getting into issues where I felt he was only with me because of the money. He refused to go back because he said I made he look like a fool. There is no use talking with him because he will agree and then just do want he wants to do. I’m sorry to sound like a complainer but I just need help and I don’t know how to find someone who is going through this same thing since this is something that is a secret because it is so embarrassing to let someone know how badly my husband treats me. I don’t have any close friends because of this. I’m too afraid to let anyone in because it hurts too much. I’m not a weak person but in this situation I feel unable to move forward.

    • Laurie on September 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

      Hi Sheri,
      Your feelings are natural considering what you are going through. I too have a verbally abusive husband and he often twists things so that I feel I am going crazy. The truth is so manipulated by verbal abusers that they can truly throw us into a position of feeling completely confused and worn out. I am still in my marriage but trying to find a way to get out again. I did leave one time w/the children after he left for work one Sunday. I moved in with some friends from church. We were apart for 6 months before he agreed to go to counseling and try to make things work. Unfortunately, he did not go long enough to counseling and I still allowed him back in. He was good for a while but has returned to what he knows…anger and abuse.
      There are 2 things I recommend. There is a book called “The Verbally Abusive Relationship; How to recognize it and what to do” by Patricia Evans. It is great!! It validates all the things you are going through and that is helpful for regaining your “sanity” after having a verbal abuser make you think you are crazy. Also, one of my counselors suggested I have a “Why book” that I keep…a notebook where I write down all the reasons I feel the relationship is wrong. It is helpful to look back and see the things that have happened for making a clear decision about staying or leaving. I did not want to do this at first because I did not want to “keep a record of wrongs” but I realized it was keeping a record of “truths” so that I could make a proper decision based on truth. I think there needs to be support groups for those of us going through this but it’s hard to think of how that would work. God bless you in your decisions!

  4. Shannon on October 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I left a verbally and emotionally abusive husband. I would be curious to know what your husband means when he says you have been disrespectful or disobedient. It sounds like he is feeling bad about himself now that he is finally seeing that he has a problem, and wants you to share that misery. You are allowed to have your own opinions and it is normal to have a heated argument about how money is spent for example, or something else that you both feel strongly about. Does he mean that you should have always agreed with him and supported his opinion no matter what? Or did you call him names in an argument or put him down in a group situation, then you might have something to apologize for. I think you should talk to your counselor and pray about it before apologizing.

  5. Andrea on June 17, 2014 at 9:08 am

    So common!!! They never take responsibility for themselves–somehow it is ALWAYS something or someone else’s fault when things go wrong! As a teenager, I always said: “I will never be an abused woman–I am too bullheaded and will always stand up for myself and not get run over!” WOW!!! Was I ever wrong!! Until you live it, it is nearly impossible to comprehend how subtle this stuff is! My husband would constantly tell me: ‘Yes, I did X wrong, but if hadn’t done A, I wouldn’t have done X!’ I could look back over the interaction and see that it was true that I had done ‘A’. . . . I just wasn’t wise enough to realize that that in no way justified him doing ‘X’! Leslie, your teaching has brought SO much clarity and freedom to my life! Thank you over and over from the bottom of my heart and may God bless and reward you richly!!

  6. patti on June 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Wow! Sounds so familiar. In my situation, it was nonverbal abuse as in passive aggressive. So glad to have the fog clear.

  7. Allison Simms on May 3, 2024 at 11:44 am

    Leslie, I have your book “ The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” several times. Which is, in my opinion, one of the best books I have ever read on this topic. Thank you for that.

    The response to this question just hit the mail right on the head for my situation.

    My husband constantly tells me that I put him down and diaper spect him, but won’t ever give me exact or specific examples. I have asked him over and over to tell me what it is that I’m doing wrong. But he won’t. He tells me you need to figure it out. Which I have responded with, “ that’s not how a marriage works. A marriage is a team of two people working together, and you’re not working with me by not telling me what I’m doing wrong.” Then he just shuts me out.

    I just realized that the disrespect he’s talking about is me disagreeing with him, and the put downs are me telling him that something he’s doing is wrong.

    He calls me every name I could possibly think of, tells me I’m ugly, that my job is a joke, laughs at me and will do this in front of son. He blames me for every problem in our family and will NEVER take responsibility for anything.

    We have been married for 23 years, next week. Im at my wits end. I’ve never been so unhappy in my life.

    I have 100% faith in God and I know God is the only reason that I’m living today. I also know that God doesn’t want this for me. But I’m just so confused.

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