My Wife’s Overreacting Because Of Her Childhood


Morning friends,

I'm sitting outside on my deck at 8 am, and it's simply glorious. The sunlight is sparkling, the air is clean and warm, and this is definitely my happy place, especially early when it's quiet. I hope you take the time to be in God's creation regularly. I'm reminded of Psalm 23, where it says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters, and He restores my soul.” Nature is therapeutic. Take time today to go out. Savor God's beauty today around you. Pay attention to the beauty and the smells and sounds, and notice how you feel. This is a wonderful way to exercise good self-care, especially now.

Today's blog post is from a man who doubts his wife's perceptions of him.  

Question: What is your position on women who are not in abusive relationships. If they would honestly take the initial quiz in your book, they might come up with maybe 1 or 2 “often,” but after reading your book and listening to some of your YouTube videos, they have decided that every little thing their husband does is horrible abuse. 

Maybe, as in my case, it's because my wife has an abusive background from before she met me that she is projecting on to all of my actions. 

This has culminated with separation, and she has decided that not all marriages are “God's will” to succeed, and she doesn't need to separate well because you've made it clear that there is a position for divorce and that not all marriages are worth trying to save. 

And yet I know you've heard this from abusive husbands, I'm sure, but I can assure you (and I'd be more than willing to do anything it took to be clear) I have not been abusive to my wife. We have had problems, but many of them stem from her unresolved abusive past and even a rape that occurred to her 20 years ago.

Answer: Thank you for your question. I hope you can be open to my answer. First, most individuals who are accused of being abusive, deny it (including my own mother). Even men who have spent time in jail for battering, deny being abusive. They don't deny that they lost their temper, but there is always a legitimate reason for their wrath. Therefore it's not abuse. “She provoked it.” Or “She deserved it.” Or “What about what she did to me.”

One of the biggest problems that human beings have in getting or staying healthy is self-deception. The Bible is very clear that we are experts at lying to ourselves (Romans 1:25; Jeremiah 17:9). One of my colleagues, Diane Langberg, writes, “Self-deception is not the worst thing you can do, but it's the means by which we do the most terrible things.”  

If a woman took my quiz at the end of Chapter 1 in my Emotionally Destructive Marriage book and honestly answered “often” to any of the questions on that list, she ought to press pause and be concerned. Why? Because if you are in a healthy relationship with someone, especially in marriage, she will not check any question with “often.”

Perhaps you might argue this. You might think, “we're all sinners, and there is no perfect marriage.” And I would agree with you. But here's where sin crosses the line to abuse. When someone does something that regularly harms another person he or she claims to love, ignores them, frightens them, disrespects them, deceives them, or devalues them, then that sinful behavior is a pattern and is incompatible with a healthy long-term marriage. It's like regularly setting fire to your house and expecting it to return to normal.  

In a healthy marriage when a husband or wife harms the other (which happens), and the other says “ouch, stop, don't, you hurt me,” a healthy person doesn't keep doing it again and again and again. He or she stops, reflects, takes responsibility (instead of blaming the other). He repents and makes restitution so that the relationship is repaired. The list of questions I provided at the end of Chapter 1 describes serious things that should never be a pattern in any healthy marriage. Therefore, if someone answers a question in that quiz with often, there are patterns in that relationship that are destructive.   

Also, when a wife watches my YouTube videos or Facebook Live videos, she may discover more areas of abusive behavior than she previously had words to describe. That's good because you can't change something that you can't name, can't see or can't admit is there. For example, no one in their right mind would go through chemotherapy unless he or she was convinced that what the doctor told them was correct. You have cancer. You need help. If you don't get chemotherapy, you probably will die. But before she had a name for it (cancer), she might have just told herself she had gas or indigestion.

Therefore, maybe your marriage has terminal cancer that you never saw. I'd encourage you to take your eyes off your wife right now and ask the Holy Spirit to help you take a hard inner look at you (Psalm 139:23,24). What are the specific behaviors or attitudes your wife is accusing you of that she defines as abusive? Are you controlling? Do you want to make all of her choices as if she's a child? Do you punish her for resisting your control over her with harsh words or angry outbursts? Are you financially secretive? Do you control all the family money believing that since you earned it all, it's all yours? Have you been deceptive, but justified your deception because she doesn't need to know. Or indifferent to her concerns or feelings? She's there as a wife to serve you and your needs. But her needs and desires are unimportant to you. Do you discredit her perspective and ignore her voice because somehow you see her as damaged goods from her past? 

These behaviors contribute to a wife answering “often” on the quiz.  

Let me address one more of your concerns. I am 100% for healthy marriages. I've been married to the same man for over 40 years. I do not recommend divorce lightly or casually. However, I do not believe God asks us to lie and pretend things are fine in relationships when they are not. Jesus himself says that when we have been sinned against, we are to go and work on resolving the problem (Matthew 18). But what's a wife to do when she tries to speak to her husband about the cancer in their relationship, the harm he's caused, and he refuses to listen? Refuses to repent of his destructive patterns? Refuses to get help to change those attitudes and behaviors? What are her Biblical options? Does she stay in the relationship, be quiet, and continue to allow her husband to destroy her and her kids? Is that what honors God the most? Does that help her children see what a godly marriage looks like? Does that help her husband see clearly his destructive ways or change?  

Or is her role as his Biblical helpmate much more risky and redemptive than being a silent enabler of the destruction? Jesus loved Judas, but he was honest with what he saw Judas doing, and their relationship was broken because Judas didn't repent. In another situation, Jesus was honest with Peter about what he saw, Peter was blind to it at first, but after he did deny Christ and failed, he owned it. He repented, changed, and their relationship was restored. Many men I talk with feel entitled to all the perks of a healthy, happy marriage, but are unwilling to do any of the work to make it so. They are unwilling to look at their behaviors or attitudes that are harming their spouse. They are unwilling to own that behavior or change them. They are unwilling to discuss hard things in a constructive way.  

If you want your marriage to survive long term, there are two basics that both partners must attend to. Maintenance and repairs. Imagine that you built a brand-new home. It's beautiful. All the features you wanted. Granite countertops, hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows, a finished basement, a lovely garden, and yard. And what would this beautiful house feel like if you never did any maintenance or repairs? You never emptied the trash, or washed the floors, or cleaned cobwebs from the ceilings? You never mowed the lawn or pulled the weeds, washed the windows, or fixed the leaky roof. After six months of ignoring maintenance and repairs, what do you imagine this beautiful house would feel like to live there? Awful. It's not the house's fault it stinks and a mess, it's yours. You ignored a critical law. What we don't maintain or repair, doesn't get better. It always gets worse. Click To Tweet

New marriages are like that. Beautiful, exciting. All the features you wanted. But they don't stay that way unless you invest in the maintenance and repair of that relationship. When a wife says to her husband, “this bothers me” or “I don't like this.” She's not saying this to shame you or hurt your feelings. She's saying, “we need maintenance.” “We need repairs.” And in my experience working with men and women for over 45 years, it is usually the woman who is more sensitive to these things. She's like the oil light that comes on your car dashboard, saying, “We need maintenance.” And if you ignore that warning light, the problem doesn't go away. It gets worse—the engine freezes. Now you need expensive repairs.  

I am not an advocate for divorce. But I also do not think it's Biblical or wise to lie and pretend a marriage is viable and healthy when it is not. And, when the other person refuses to take their part in maintenance and repairs, the relationship will languish and eventually die. Paul encourages those who are in relationships where there are damages and repairs are ignored. “As much as it depends on you, be at peace” (Romans 12:18). But the Bible is realistic enough to acknowledge that it doesn't just depend on one person to keep any relationship, especially one as intimate as marriage, alive. Divorce doesn't kill a marriage. Divorce is the legal acknowledgment (the death certificate) that the marriage relationship has already died. There are people who still live together legally, but their relationship is dead. Does this honor God?

In closing, your wife may have some issues from her childhood that make her more sensitive to mistreatment and abuse. I know I do. So let me ask you a question. If a child was badly burned in a fire and later on you married that woman, knowing she had scars that made her skin sensitive to rough touch. What would a loving husband do? Would he make fun of her for her sensitivity? Would he mock her or shame her because she didn't like it when he touched her with rough hands or too much of his strength? Maybe he wasn't doing anything technically “sinful,” but knowing her early wounds, her sensitivity, wouldn't a loving husband make every effort not to retraumatize her or hurt her damaged skin? I hope so. But if not, what does that say about him? I think you've tried to see your marital problems in light of your wife's childhood wounds instead of listening to her concerns and looking within. I encourage you to take another look. Ask your wife (if she's speaking to you) to share with you specific ways you have been destructive or abusive towards her. I hope you listen carefully, reflect honestly, and take that information to the Lord in prayer. 

Friends, what helped you first to recognize your spouse's behavior as destructive or abusive rather than typical marital problems?


  1. Heartbroken on May 27, 2020 at 11:33 am

    Bravo!!! 100% accurate!! Please start discussing the trauma these abusive men also have on their daughters, not just as children, but as adult women. My father is a tyrant and he has lost my trust, respect, and sadly even my love. Yet, he could care less. He just continues with his verbal and emotional abuse and then has the audacity to blame me for his actions with the same old excuse… “You deserved it. Perhaps it will teach you a lesson!” And I’m over the age of 50! Unbelievable! This has also had a profound impact on my relationship with the Lord, whose love I can barely feel and who I have to struggle to trust every single day as a result of the evil words my father has spoken over me, and the evil ways he has treated me. I’m heartbroken.

    • Connie on May 27, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Heartbroken, I’m so sorry. I’m praying that God shows you how He feels about you. The day He did that for me, everything changed. I looked in the mirror and asked Him, and over the next few days I felt the answer in my heart. Nobody else’s opinion matters anymore, in fact they amuse me. Blessings.

      • Heartbroken on May 27, 2020 at 1:31 pm

        Thank you. I hope I’ll get to that place some day. This entire situation has left me feeling so exhausted and defeated. No matter what I say or do, I’m somehow always wrong. Everything is always my fault. He never takes responsibility for anything and he has never apologized for anything. I can’t even remember the last time he complimented me, said I love you, or even hugged me. There’s just nothing but negativity. I know I’m not perfect, but I hope and pray Jesus doesn’t feel this way about me.

    • JoAnn on May 27, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      Heartbroken, first, I am so very sorry for what you have had to endure from your dad. You have every right to banish him from your life. Go no contact. No interaction with him at all. But for you to really heal from the abuse, I agree with Connie’s advice, and would also encourage you to work with a Christian counselor so that you can get to the place of being able to forgive him. Not for him, but for yourself. Think of it as releasing him and all the horrible things he has dumped on you so that you don’t have to carry that around anymore. You will need time and help to heal from his abuse. Those wounds are deep, and the Lord wants to heal them.
      Bless you, dear Sister.

      • Heartbroken on May 27, 2020 at 2:10 pm

        Thank you. I agree with everything you’ve said. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep a healthy distance from him, because he is so toxic and unsafe. And when I have to be at a family function, I avoid him as much as possible. But even these things don’t seem to stop him. I think he believes he’s entitled to act this way, because he holds the title “father”. Yet, he’s clueless about the fact that this is not what being a father is about! As for forgiving him, I have done so more times than I can count. The problem is I forgive and try to put it behind me and then he does something new. And the cycle starts all over. I’ve been in counseling in the past but maybe it’s time to go back. I will give that some serious thought & prayer. Clearly more healing needs to take place. Thank you. God bless.

        • Sunny on May 27, 2020 at 10:15 pm

          My challenge is also with both my abusive father and my abusive father. I can forgive, but that doesn’t help me be safe. I’ve just learned that unconditional forgiveness does NOT MEAN unconditional relationship. This concept has been changing my view of forgiveness, and actually makes it possible to consider forgiving. Forgive, and remember! Set boundaries so you don’t get abused/ used again.

          • Sunny on May 27, 2020 at 10:17 pm

            *Abusive Father and abusive husband

          • Heartbroken on May 28, 2020 at 4:35 pm

            Exactly. Forgiveness does not mean an unconditional relationship. Nor does having a title give someone the right to treat another person with abuse & contempt. This is simply a facade of rationalization abusers use to hide behind to excuse their inappropriate behavior. Pride.

        • JoAnn on May 28, 2020 at 6:15 pm

          Regarding forgiveness, June Hunt at has some very helpful information about forgiveness with verses. I encourage you to check it out. Sometimes we think about forgiveness as saying it’s ok that the abuser did what he did, but that’s not so. Forgiveness frees us from the burden of another person’s sin against us. It’s re3leasing the abuser into God’s hands for Him to deal with and takes the burden off us. So freeing.

          • Brokenhearted on May 31, 2020 at 7:05 am

            Will check it out. Thank you.

          • Marian on May 31, 2020 at 12:15 pm

            Forgiving is so freeing and praying for the abuser because they are in bondage. Doesn’t mean we forget but if we set our boundaries, which for me he is totally blocked. I feel released as I’m not taking ownership of the abuse or trying to fix what is not in my power to fix. I think one of the best things for me was when I read that Leslie said abuse causes a marriage problem.

  2. Connie on May 27, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    I love the answer. The question brought back a memory from my first husband, that happened about 30 years ago. I had talked him into going to a Gary Smalley marriage video series at church. One week the pastor handed all the husbands a sheet of paper with 100 things wives don’t like their husbands to do. My h read it, said, “Well I don’t drink, smoke, or swear”, folded the paper and threw it away, acting very smug. Then they were given a paper with 100 things wives do like. He found 3 that he did, and threw it away. He actually acted very proud of himself. At the end I asked him what he thought of the series. He said, “Um, I don’t remember anything except that husbands don’t like to be criticized.” I said I really try not to do that. He said yes but I know you’re thinking it.

    I knew then that I was hooped. I call that a hardened heart.

    • Renee on May 27, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      Connie, I had a similar experience except my husband was the pastor LEADING the marriage conference at the same time he was addicted to pornography and pursuing an adulterous relationship with the woman to whom he is now married. He’d found a Christian marriage book that fit his own personal narrative and used it to beat me over the head with ‘my marital shortcomings.’ He, of course, believed he was the best husband ever–at the same time he’d driven me to the point of suicide.

      The word ‘smug’ is such a good description of my ex. There are whole passages of scripture I find it hard to listen to now because he used them to belittle and to gaslight and to abuse me. His heart was hardened, too.

      • ruth8318 on May 27, 2020 at 4:08 pm

        Renee, I am so sorry. That is a terrible abuse of authority.

        • JoAnn on May 28, 2020 at 6:16 pm

          Hi Ruth, nice to see that you are still with us. How are you doing?

  3. Marian on May 27, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    My husband had an emotional breakdown so first I thought it was his medication. Our marriage had always been about his needs and wants but having been raised in a church the emphasized that the man is the head of the house I would eventually go with the flow. It wasn’t until he began the emotional and verbal abuse that I knew we were in serious trouble. It was always twisted so that I was the issue and no acknowledgement of his hurtful words. One day I called Focus on the family and spoke to a counsellor who recommended Leslie’s book to me. I read her book but because I had hidden the issue for so long I continued to struggle along thinking I could make it better if I was just a better wife. It drove me to pray as at times I felt like I hated him. Thankfully God released me from those feelings and in my daily life put people in my life who affirmed me. It wasn’t until my daughter and husband who lived in our suite called fearing for my safety while hearing him that I realized I needed to take action. We were in counselling during this time and we separated. I left hoping to have him acknowledge his verbal and emotional abuse. We went to a psychologist each separately. At that time the psychologist diagnosed him with a number of issues. I’m just skimming the issues as we were married for 45 years. Realizing I was married to a narcissist and he is also bipolar made me realize what Leslie has said one person can’t make a marriage work. We have four married children and 12 grandchildren. I have found it so helpful to listen to Leslie’s videos and Dr. Les Carter re narcissism. Helps me to understand that when I thought I was doing good I was actually enabling him. I have blocked him from all social media, phone and email as control is a big issue for him and it has given me such freedom. I grieve for what could have been but I have just retired and am feeling better than I have for years. Thankful Leslie for being that voice and putting into words what we can’t. I would never be where I am now if not for you.

  4. Janice D on May 27, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    This is a wonderful reply and am so grateful for Leslie’s wisdom and discernment in answering this husband.As for the sisters struggling to experience Gods love personally,I would like to recommend the TV series “The Chosen,written and directed by Dallas Jenkins.You can see it for free on YouTube.The love and compassion Jesus has for people,especially women and children is beautifully shown.The biblical narratives are creatively filled in with backstories which help” flesh out” the characters.I fell in love with Jesus anew while laughing and crying through each episode.Abuse and mistreatment especially by fathers and husbands( I’ve experienced both) can leave us with skewed ideas about our Heavenly Father.I found this to be another means of healing in my life and I pray the same for all my brave sisters here.

  5. Brenda A Fogle on May 27, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Leslie, that was so incredibly written. It really speaks healing for the woman whose past does leave scars, whether she has healed or not. And what an opportunity for this husband (and in other cases, other husbands) to be a part of ministering healing for his wife and to shepherd and nurture his wife, reflecting a little bit of the head this husband is to reflect. You have put into words an understanding for many of us who have deep wounds from the past, and are allowing His healing so we can move forward and walk more wholly in our marriages, as mothers, as part of the Body of Christ, as co workers. And to this husband, I would run for help and seek to learn, apply what I am learning, asking the Spirit to speak to you in this process. You will be left dependent upon Him but He can work His work in you, but it will take you seeking out good help. Allow Him to work through you and conform you to His image. Isn’t your wife worthy of a man who will get help? For you, for her, for your kids, for the marriage. If the woman you married is not worthy enough in your eyes for you to get help, then I guess I would expect her response to be no less than what she has done. She knows her own worth – you are the one lacking that sense.

    • Free on May 31, 2020 at 6:02 am

      Beautiful reply.

    • Russ on June 2, 2020 at 2:29 am

      I have and was seeking help for our marriage, And I always considered her worthy of me being the best men I could be. I wish everyone including Leslie would take my question as it is given instead of “reading between the lines” and turning it into a man trying blame his wive for something, I dont blame her for having an abusive past. As I have pieced together more of what happened to her it hurts me deeply, but she never shared and actually downplayed her past even when I would ask .

      • Free on June 2, 2020 at 11:21 am

        Walk the walk and talk the talk. Be patient, sincere, gentle and loving. She may regret she married you and want to end the relationship. That is her choice. Then you will need to accept the loss and learn from your mistakes. I would suggest that you ask your wife to revisit the discussion of your relationship in the near future.

        How long are you willing to wait during your separation? Will you wait a year, a month or a lifetime for her to change and return to you? Professional help is needed. I hope you both find new ways to interact and grow in this situation.

        • Moonbeam on June 2, 2020 at 11:31 am

          I hold a view point which may be unpopular, but in my understanding of scripture, you are still married to your first wife and she to her first husband. Second and third marriages are adulterous unless one has lost a spouse to death. That is why God has put this boundary upon us to not remarry when the true spouse is alive. He warns us that these intimate arrangements are sinful. God does not bless such a unions, so there is no validity to your present relationship from a biblical stand point. It was doomed to fail from the start.

  6. Suzanne on May 27, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Excellent!!!! So clearly written. So validating. So true!!!!!

  7. Teresa Strey on May 27, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    What a wonderful answer! Pointing him back to himself!

    • Russ on May 30, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      jusy a thought, what if he is telling the truth.
      Leslie just blew over that thought.

      • Moonbeam on May 31, 2020 at 4:13 am

        Russ, i believe he is telling the truth. He wouldn’t have written unless he thought he had something important to say. He believes he is right.

        The best thing for him to do is to learn about abuse and be open minded and teachable on the subject. If his wife had lung cancer, I would hope he would begin to learn about cancer and stop smoking. The same applies here.

        His wife has issues of abuse in her history. This should be very concerning to him and he should be patient, kind, bear all things and seek wise counsel in love. What a great opportunity for him to grow in the Lord.

        • Hope on June 3, 2020 at 12:32 pm

          Moonbeam – yes, this exactly! When there is a history of abuse, there needs to be extra measures of compassion, kindness and caution.

  8. Christine on May 27, 2020 at 11:03 pm

    In answer to the final question – consistency of the following: reasons/excuses for not contributing to the marriage (no time, not enough money, tiredness), always zero funds for my dreams/education (wasn’t ok with education loans), and ideas I contributed to setting joint goals have never been applied. But there was always money for his interests and he pursued his own career goals, including relocations. Anger fits instead of dialogue when questioned or concerns brought up. Sulking/anger reactions when I appeared to enjoy personal activities. All consistent, highly unhealthy behaviors.

    • Aly on May 28, 2020 at 7:14 am

      Well described! I’m sorry for what you have experienced. All in all it’s the description of ‘double standards through and through’ ugh how exhausting! Did your h get help for these behaviors?

      • Christine on May 28, 2020 at 12:49 pm

        No, he hasn’t. I wrote my response to acknowledge my own observations because I ignored my own feelings and thoughts about it for too long. I’ve been working on myself and I’m the one who has changed/is changing. I’ve learned to: make time for myself and do my own activities I like; I examine our finances on my own and am prepared with 1-3 plans for educational pursuits and then discuss with husband (made it very difficult to say “no” although that still happens); learning to find the words to very clearly express my ideas on joint goals – I had to re-learn how to do this and regain confidence in my own opinion first. This is helping me to not crumble inside every time he’s nasty. It takes a LOT of work.
        I’m learning to ignore the comments, moods and one of the biggest things is not try to fix his moods to help him feel better. I understand now that I need to let him sit with his anger so he becomes aware of it. By nature, I’m a helper.
        It’s been a slow process to acknowledge the truth of what was happening. And I had to learn that what church was encouraging me to do was actually enabling, making it worse because they didn’t know all the hidden things he did but didn’t admit, so their advice was great, just not for our situation.
        I’m so grateful for educators like Leslie. I still need to learn and correct my own thinking.

        • Aly on May 28, 2020 at 2:37 pm

          Way to go! Yes, it’s a lot of work and a lot of re-wiring of sorts.
          You wrote:
          “ It’s been a slow process to acknowledge the truth of what was happening. And I had to learn that what church was encouraging me to do was actually enabling, making it worse because they didn’t know all the hidden things he did but didn’t admit, so their advice was great, just not for our situation.”

          It’s good that you can see this area the feeds enabling, I had a similar experience.

          If it’s of any help… just know it’s ok and healthy for you to desire to be loved well and cherished as a wife and partner.
          Ignoring behaviors will only take you so far, boundaries/requirements and an invitation for growth can give hope to a transforming healing marriage.

          • Christine on May 28, 2020 at 10:19 pm

            Before I wrote my response, I realized that my words may be mis-interpreted that I am ignoring my own needs for a healthy, intimate marriage. And that I have not communicated my needs or desires in my marriage. That is not the case. I did as much as possible in communication, getting counseling, marriage conferences, married couple groups, accountability, etc.
            H made very minimal changes. And my emotions were constantly in turmoil. I came to a place where I had to face reality and grieve; my expectations were not going to be met. And I chose to work on myself. I am in the middle of my process, I definitely have boundaries and I have more of a voice today than before. But my expectations are much much lower. Something caused his pain and narcissism and I can’t fix it.
            So I’ve hit the Pause button which may be like a separation anyways. This is what I’ve done in my own individual situation and I am not saying another wife should make the same choices. I have more to learn and grow. I am not a counselor and sharing my own thoughts and experience thus far in this emotionally safe forum.

  9. Aly on May 28, 2020 at 7:08 am

    What a well written response! And to the writer of the question; such a great question to bring.
    ”Friends, what helped you first to recognize your spouse’s behavior as destructive or abusive rather than typical marital problems?”
    For me, it was a PATTERN that I consistently had to acknowledge even if the behavior patterns we not exact all the time, they carried a double standard and a superior flare to them.
    Thankfully, my husband did get help for these areas that were destructive and very abusive.
    Many people have their own definition for abuse and I wonder how the writer Of the question might define ’abuse’?
    Even his question seems like he is not giving his wife the benefit of the doubt to have freedom to express her experience of the marital dynamic!
    To the writer;
    If your wife is describing your behavior toward her as abusive, being that as a husband… you love and cherish your wife wouldn’t you first want to step back and take some inventory (probably get some professional perspectives) before claiming “ I have not been abusive” as your response. Maybe there are clear areas where you have been? If you only see abuse as physical, then you have a lot more work to do at learning about abuse and evaluating your marital behaviors.
    Abuse comes in many forms and is about the mis-use of power.
    It takes a courageous, yet humble loving man to look at his part and to give space and freedom for his wife to have ‘free agency’ to share her experience and concerns for how she feels in the marriage.
    If your first response is to dismiss her, shut her down, battle over ‘whatever’, find other reasons of her past injuries.. etc., then you don’t have the level of respect you will need to work through these areas. Nor do you have the maturity and insight to want to grow and transform into the kind of spouse that God calls you to.

    • Russ on June 1, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      My first response was never to dismiss or shut her down, I tried to talk to her, to hear her, to find out how or if I could help her, (Only Christ can really get someone to the other side of real abuse)……
      maybe a good time to define…..
      No, just because a person “feels” abused, does not make the other an “abuser”. A husband rolling his eyes at his wife IS NOT ABUSE as Leslie claimed in a you tube video.
      If Leslie or anyone wishes to label anything that makes another “feel” Bad as abuse then I am so glad we are saved by grace because we are ALL ABUSIVE MONSTERS, Men AND Women. Yes these are reasons to start conversations and when your spouse “feel” anything it is worthy of your attention, but that doesn’t make it abuse.
      As for what IS ABUSE, I Would agree with every storyline in the book.

      As for our marriage we have been meeting with the pastor (and his wife sometimes) since the beginning, we are a blended family and not either of our first marriages. We knew this would take work and we where working and gaining (sometimes losing) ground and then came Leslies Book, Then came the accusations and the demands on the counselor that they address my abuse and since they haven’t she has now disavowed them as well.

      The idea that every little thing is ABUSE is dangerous, Almost every husband and wife team marriage ministry has “ABUSE” in there early marriage stories, I wonder if they would have all made it if the wives had gotten a hold of this book.

      I have been clear, Leslies ministry is Important and valuable……for those who actually need it, but how many ok or even good marriages might it destroy as collateral damage because the woman “feels” Abused after reading this book

      • Free on June 1, 2020 at 7:50 pm

        I am just wondering, why did your first marriage end?

        Your wife is 10O percent responsible for her own actions. A book or author can’t make a person do anything. She has chosen to leave and states she is experiencing abuse. That is her choice. Now, what are you going to do about that?

        • Russ on June 2, 2020 at 2:03 am

          I have met or am working on each of the recomendations in Leslies Book. I pray daily, read daily, counsel weekly, mens group weekly. However, my wife has decided that Not all marriages are meant to be reconciled and refuses to see me. So I am praying and keeping Faith that in Christ ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

      • Aly on June 1, 2020 at 7:57 pm

        Wow, I do feel like I hear your concern regarding marriages maybe being misjudged or misidentified as being destructive/abusive etc.
        I really don’t think that many on this blog refer to many things as abuse – or the area of another feeling bad to qualify as abuse in those terms.
        Overall – the areas of abuse discussed in these places tend to be about power dynamics.

        Are you familiar with the term- Emotional Intelligence or EQ?
        Have your pastoral counseling included any focus or learning about shame?

        • Russ on June 2, 2020 at 11:11 am

          So much of this in comments is getting off into the weeds…..
          the core original question is simply this,
          what is Leslie doing about situations where there is past baggage that (in this case, the wife) is carrying into the marriage, she is not being completely forthright in sharing these things (in this case past rape and abuse) and this is causing serious breakdowns because she is now identifying everything as abuse and with Leslies videos and book she has all the backup she needs as well as encouragement to get “safe” by leaving, yet there is NOTHING UNSAFE for her to be leaving from, just a loving but very confused husband who is trying his best without the facts.
          But….. instead of answering that question, or acknowledging the possible damage “the emotionally destructive marriage” could cause, if given to a women in this situation. Leslie just jumps to deciding the Man is really the abuser here, And she is the victim because she “MAYBE or MIGHT” be able to answer a couple of questions with “often”.

          And the comments all jump on board

          Why not take the question for what it is and assume accuracy and answer it.
          I am hearing from a couple of marriage counselors that I know they have been finding this type of situation coming up and in each case this book is in the mix. Leslie refers to a cancer diagnosis and how we need to put a name to it, but if we start calling Every Little Pain or Bump we find in our body “cancer” and sign up for chemo, we damage an otherwise fairly healthy body.

          • Aly on June 2, 2020 at 1:23 pm

            I really tried to give the patience and understanding of what your situation is.
            You wrote: “ So much of this in comments is getting off into the weeds…..”

            Really? Sadly Russ, your situation is certainly complex as many of ours are. If you don’t have the patience to dialog even on this level, repairing and restoring come with lots of patience and especially empathy to work toward healing.

            Would you define yourself as a very patient individual in general?

          • Autumn on June 2, 2020 at 2:35 pm

            Why do you keep blaming the book and the author for your wife’s actions? Listen to your wife’s words.

            Reading a book can’t make a person do anything, neither can presenting a teaching about healthy and unhealthy relationships. It takes the person to think, absorb and decide for themselves what they think.

            Your issue is with your wife, not the author of a book she read. If I read a book on Russia and then set my mind to learning to speak Russian, should my husband write the author and scold them for how I changed?

          • Leslie Vernick on June 2, 2020 at 7:29 pm

            You asked “What is Leslie doing….” This is why. When I am quickly answering a readers question in 1,000 words or less, I am answering a question in the best and wisest way I know how. I dont’ know this person. I don’t have a relationship with this person. I can’t ask her a question. I cannot ask you a question. This is not a therapy or coaching session, this is a blog format. As I messaged you privately, people distort people’s words all the time. They do it with the Bible. If I ran around checking with everyone who ever read my work to make sure they were putting it into practice exactly as I intended, that would be crazyiness and impossible. If I were working with a woman or man who seemed to be distorting reality, or exaggerating things I said and I could clearly see that, or misquoting me or misusing my words, then I would definitely speak to her or him and clarify what I said (as I’ve done with you privately). But this is not that format and I have not spoken to your wife. I can’t be responsible for how she interprets Jesus’ words, nor can I be responsible for how she interprets mine. I’m responsible for how I say or write them. But I do have some feedback for you after all this interaction and your responses to others who have reached out to answer your questions and concerns. Your wife may have issues, I don’t know that….but you have work of your own to do and I think God wants you to focus on you. IT’s not all about her and even in this blog you have not received feedback well and seem more interested in being right than having a genuine conversation.

      • Leslie Vernick on June 2, 2020 at 7:36 pm

        Rus, look who is distorting my words? I’ve never said every little thing is abusive or abuse. I’m very careful in my book and teaching to distinguish a disappointing marriage, a difficult marriage and a destructive marriage. If a woman reads the internet after finding a lump on her breast and concludes she’s dying of breast cancer it doesn’t make it true, but it does make it possibly true. Therefore, she would need to go to an expert, be examined, get tested and then see what the truth is. But it doesn’t mean that the internet should be taken down because she might jump to the wrong conclusions.

  10. OKRickety on May 28, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    To the man this article is about, the one “who doubts his wife’s perceptions of him”, I hope you see this:

    Leslie Vernick writes:
    “First, most individuals who are accused of being abusive, deny it … One of the biggest problems that human beings have in getting or staying healthy is self-deception.”

    What a convenient way to immediately consider you to be the problem, rather than addressing your actual question! That’s exactly what I would expect from counselors today, almost all of whom follow the Duluth Model as if it were absolute truth with no deviation allowed. Think about the paradigm presented: since most abusers deny they are abusing, your denial is considered to be confirmation that you are an abuser. A logical fallacy if I’ve ever seen one!

    So, if you haven’t recognized it already, you were immediately judged and convicted of abuse. Even the possibility that your wife might have serious problems is first met with the concept that you have failed to adequately meet her needs. There is never even a token suggestion that your wife might actually need help. Instead, the implication is that she will be just fine if you would stop your abuse.

    It appears to me that you have already considered your own behavior at length. Rather than follow Vernick’s advice, I highly recommend you run, don’t walk, away from this site and see if you can find a counselor who will look at the situation without the Duluth Model presumptions. But be very careful as counselors who believe (maybe even just suspect) that you are an abuser may well turn you over to the authorities, and your life (as well as your wife’s and that of any children) will be worse than it is now.

    I pray that God will give you the strength and wisdom to find help for your wife, you, and your marriage.

    • Russ on May 30, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      Yes, I got that, the problem is my wife and many others, as you can see from the comments, are buying this “the husband is an abuser for any and every little transgression” and if the wife does anything even real abuse back to her husband she is just acting out of duress and she needs to be in one of Leslies “workshops” so she can get strong enough to leave and possibly destroy an otherwise restoreable marriage.

      I do believe and in her book the stories make it clear there is real husband against wife abuse and her ministry could do great things for these women, however I feel she is crossing over to “lets just label the men and excuse the women to the point she is destroying many marriages. There are always 2 sides to a story.

      • Leslie Vernick on May 31, 2020 at 1:10 am

        Russ, I think there is real abuse and that is who I minister to and speak against. I do not label people, that is not my place. But if you read carefully the responses of the women (wives) who have responded to this blog, the women whose husband’s have labeled them as crazy or damaged, you will see a consistent pattern. The fact that you have no empathy for that reality concerns me. I never want to cross over and just label men and excuse women and women who have been genuine victims of abuse, know that I am working hard with them to do their own work so that they do not repay evil for evil, but abuse is evil period. And I will not minimize or excuse it period.

        • Russ on June 1, 2020 at 6:42 pm

          Leslie, but you see you are labeling, me and other “abusers”.
          by saying we are “lableing our wives as Crazy or damaged, (i said neither of my wife, btw) you are lumping and labeling us all together with the real Abusive Husbands.

          I didnt realize my asking a question, required we to show empathy to all the commenters, I do have GREAT Sympathy and Empathy for my wife and what she has been through, and for these and ANY other women who have been through abuse.
          AND THANK YOU for helping Abused women.
          When I discovered the facts about my wifes past, years before I ever met her, I broke down, had you put her rapist in front of me at the time he would have been in pieces, I cried out to GOD and I simply cried every time I thought or prayed for her. But we are still separated, because she is blaming me!!!!

          BUT THE QUESTION IS……. what about when the men are FALSELY ACCUSED and the women are being bolstered by your book, that was, I am sure, never your intent, but I am trying to get you to see that good marriages can and are being destroyed.

          • Aly on June 1, 2020 at 9:27 pm

            Are you saying that your position is simply- your wife is in complete -projection toward you??
            If this is the case, let’s dialog more about this. My husband went through something similar.
            Also, I didn’t see where anyone or Leslie notes you personally as abusive? Have I missed something?

      • OKRickety on May 31, 2020 at 10:44 pm


        If you want to communicate with me in a safe environment, click on “OKRickety” above this comment to go to my website, comment on a post there and I’ll contact you.

      • Linda on June 1, 2020 at 7:18 pm

        It often does seem like husbands are always on the hot seat and women get off scott free. But think about it. The vast majority of crime is done by men, serial killers are almost all men-there may be only one woman (Karla Homolka), at least that’s all I know about. But men are mostly the ones with Anti Social Personality Disorder (which I think is what it takes to be a Sociopath and/or Psychopath) They say Sociopaths are made and Psychopaths are born. But anyway…

        Abuse is ALWAYS in the eye of the victim. That is because every heart knows its own pain. Proverbs 14:10.

        I once asked the Lord how I could tell when certain actions were abusive or just stupidity. He said it has to do with intention. What is the intention of the person doing the abusive actions?

        Here we can get into the goal of communication. Is communication just to quickly acknowledge and get back to my game? Or do I genuinely care and want to make connection? Do I want to convey that I’m too busy? Or do I want someone to really feel heard? What would you do differently in each situation? If you’ve heard it over and over and it never seems to end, is there anything that could be done differently so that the connection can finally happen and the complaint goes away?

        The point being that true empathy takes time. It takes time to communicate effectively. It takes effort to understand. And empathy takes a kind of surrender to someone else’s emotional energy. You have to consciously allow it to get into your heart and mind. Some people have only cognitive empathy. That’s where someone knows it intellectually. But real care, real empathy, makes the situation become part of you. You are emotionally invested and the problem is truly shared by both parties. And this is seriously rare these days. Cognitive empathy is what most people who say they care, have. It’s learned, not natural. A baby who is a sympathetic crier has natural empathy.

        So here’s the problem with cognitive empathy: I can only feel for someone if I have experienced the same thing. The rest of the time I’m thinking more on the line of, “That must be really painful.” And that is what leads to the “just get over it,” attitude. “I’m tired of hearing this over and over.”

        Now, imagine how you would carry a duck. Now, how would you hold a hummingbird? If you tried to handle the hummingbird like its a duck, you’d kill it. And then who would be to blame? The hummingbird for being too fragile? THAT is the attitude of an abuser. “She should just get over it! I don’t intend to hurt her, but she’s just so sensitive. Jeez, do you think I have to wear kid gloves all the time?”

        Ah, well…yes you do. Until she’s fully healed and doesn’t trigger anymore. If she had a spiral fracture of her leg, would you make her jump up and cut your hair? Soul injury takes barely a second to heal (with EMDR), if someone is patient enough to listen without judgement. You have to take the time it takes so it takes less time. You’ve got all day to do it wrong, but barely any time to humble yourself and do it right. Pride goes in with a sharp knife, humility gently washes.

        All the time you’re spending justifying yourself is pride. A hummingbird can never be treated like a duck.

        Abuse is a lot like spirituality. There are many facets and all interconnected in various ways. But the main takeaway is mutual respect. Respecting the boundaries of each other and helping to guard each other’s hearts.

        Man’s wrath never brings about the righteousness of God. James 1:20

    • JoAnn on May 30, 2020 at 11:21 pm

      OKRickety, I’d like to put in a word here. First off, I understand why you took the position you did, thinking that Leslie is just taking the Duluth Model in response to this man’s letter. But what needs to be understood here is that first, the wife’s experience is what matters. He doesn’t see that what she is complaining about is abuse, but it FEELS like abuse to her. So we have to ask, what is HIS definition of abuse? Obviously, it’s different from hers. He may say or do things that hurt her, but he is either blind or insensitive to her feelings. Why not ask her what it is that he does that hurts her? Why not try to see his part in her pain? If he really cares about his wife, instead of blaming her for being too sensitive, or blaming Leslie for putting ideas into her head, why not get her therapy for her childhood abuse and participate in her healing? Instead, it appears that he might be doing things that trigger her past experiences of abuse, which causes her pain, but he is insensitive to it, and unwilling to behave differently. This couple clearly needs professional help. I think that Leslie was right in asking this man to take a good look at his own attitudes and behavior to see if the Lord would touch him about his part in his wife’s pain. I don’t think that Leslie was judging him, but he surely needs to see his part in his wife’s pain. If he were caring and sensitive to his wife’s pain, then he would want to participate in her getting the help she needs to heal from her traumatic past, rather that trying to vindicate himself.

      • Autumn on May 31, 2020 at 3:51 am

        (Lack of empathy is a hallmark sign of Narccissim. So the behavior of the man with the question, has raised a red flag.)

        I would recommend the man with the question, start by studying some of the authors and subject matters that surround issues of abuse, neglect and healthy marital love. As he learns more and more about the complexities of abuse and neglect, he and his wife will benefit.

        I am curious, what resources has the man found helpful so far? Has he spoken to a counselor or pastor for advice on how to love his wife and support her as she works through this time of her life? I would recommend he reads through the habits of manipulative people and see if any of them apply to him or his spouse.

        • Russ on June 2, 2020 at 2:12 am

          In addition to Bible Reading I have read over 30 books on Marriage, Relationships, Abuse Survival and Prayer, just since our separation in December. Spoken to 5 or 6 counselors, and meet regularly with 2. She refuses to have any contact.
          And Leslie is the one who accused me of a lack of Empathy, that is not a fact or red flag.
          So why do you think I lack empathy??

          • Autumn on June 2, 2020 at 11:08 am

            A person with empathy would have a very different tone and take a less hostile approach. There would be no reason to write to an author and blame her for someone else’s behavior. An empathetic request would be something like, my wife has told me she thinks my behaviors are abusive. In your experience, what are the behaviors of an abusive man? I am Interested in seeking counsel to explore the validity or inerrancy of her concerns. I am wondering if I am being abused in this relationship. Can you refer me to resources specific to male victims caught in a destructive relationship?

            Something like that comes from a place of humility and respect. Blaming the author seems misdirected. The angst and victimization you portray is suspicious. It is common among people who have just lost someone they like to control to react as you have. That may be why some of us are concerned about your sincerity and think you may be in denial.

            What did the counselors tell you? Why are you no longer with your first wife?

        • OKRickety on June 6, 2020 at 2:50 pm


          “Lack of empathy is a hallmark sign of Narccissim”.

          Oh, yes. The boogeyman of narcissism. That is, when at all possible, imply the man is likely a narcissist. Judging from how often it’s mentioned on blogs like this, you’d think a huge portion of the male population is a narcissist. But it isn’t! Less than 1% of the population are narcissists. (Note: women are 25-50% of narcissists.)

          As to lack of empathy, I don’t think most here realize that few men are not going to express their empathy in a way that most women here will recognize. That doesn’t mean they don’t empathize.

          More importantly, I see very little sign of empathy for this man. He’s berated for supposed lack of empathy while being shown virtually no empathy. Textbook hypocrisy. Instead, the general orientation is: Woman hurts so empathize with her. Man must be abusing so he needs to change.

      • OKRickety on May 31, 2020 at 11:52 pm


        “But what needs to be understood is that first, the wife’s experience is what matters.”

        I disagree. What needs to be understood first is that defining abuse on the basis of emotions and perceptions is making it inherently subjective. By that standard, virtually all human behavior is potentially abusive. I doubt you’ll agree with that, so I’ll use your definition for the rest of this comment.

        I’m going to venture that you probably haven’t considered the possibility that the husband is being abused. (That isn’t something you do often, is it?) Let’s suppose that this husband were to answer the questions in the quiz for himself and determine that his wife is abusing him. I think this is reasonably likely using your definition of abuse. I realize he doesn’t claim abuse, but that’s not a surprise. Most men don’t, do they? But isn’t it possible that if he watched some YouTube videos on the topic, he might, (in Vernick’s own words), “discover more areas of abusive behavior” than he previously realized?

        It’s even possible they are mutually abusive. Either way, if she is abusing him, then, by your logic, his experience also matters.

        Secondly, you presume a great deal. You ask “Why not ask her what it is that he does that hurts her? Why not try to see his part in her pain? If he really cares about his wife, instead of blaming her for being too sensitive, or blaming Leslie for putting ideas into her head, why not get her therapy for her childhood abuse and participate in her healing?”

        Why are you supposing he has not asked those questions? Why do you suppose he has no interest in her healing? Why do suppose he doesn’t “really care” for his wife?

        Why do you suppose he has not tried to get her into therapy? She may be the one opposing therapy. I know a woman who was raped on two occasions and also had an abortion who refused to work on this in therapy. Can the husband force her to do the work? For that matter, wouldn’t the very act of even suggesting she go to therapy be abusive?

        The fact that this man wrote implies that he cares about his wife and wants her and their marriage to be healthy. Please don’t presume to know the facts without actual evidence.

        • JoAnn on June 4, 2020 at 9:04 am

          OKRickety, I want to answer a couple of your comments. First of all, a person’s pain is their own. If the wife’s emotional pain is triggered by something that another person does (classic PTSD), then it does matter that she feels pain. The behavior of the person who triggered her may not seem abusive, but if there is a pattern of someone repeatedly triggering the other person, then that can be called abuse. Or at least, she might experience it as abusive. Of course, if she lashes out at the person who hurt her, then that can be abusive, too. It cuts both ways.
          Your second point is appropriate in that we were given a limited amount of information at the beginning. Maybe he did ask those questions, and maybe he did try to learn why she was hurting, but from the writer’s letter we don’t know that. So, as we often do here when we offer advice, we go with what information we have. Then Russ replied that he had tried those things but she was unresponsive. I don’t know for sure that he was the original writer, but his experience matches, and we have learned more from him since this thread began. Please don’t assume that we always take the stand that the husband is always wrong in these matters. A while back we spent a lot of time comforting and supporting a husband whose wife was very abusive. We know these things happen. But when someone takes a strong stand that indicates a lack of empathy, as you have done, then you can expect a reaction. I don’t know anything about your history, but your defensive posture here would indicate that you have a painful relationship in your own history. You have my sympathy, if that is the case.

          • OKRickety on June 6, 2020 at 4:16 pm


            Let’s talk about my “defensive posture” first. I’m going to characterize it differently and say that I am fighting for justice for my fellow brother. So, yes, I am defending him and every other man who has been treated as he has been treated here, beginning with Leslie Vernick and echoed by others.

            “The behavior of the person who triggered her may not seem abusive, but if there is a pattern of someone repeatedly triggering the other person, then that can be called abuse. Or at least, she might experience it as abusive.”

            As I expected, you continue to perceive abuse subjectively. For example, “experience it as abusive”. Until you are willing to stop using that perspective, it will be very difficult for you to have a balanced understanding and response to abuse.

            I doubt many will believe it, but I do empathize with all women (and men) who have suffered abuse. However, I think abuse has had its meaning broadened (like many concepts today) to include behaviors and situations that are not abuse. So, abuse now seems to include everything from a man beating his wife to “you hurt my feelings”. You may think the latter is ridiculous (and I think it is) but remember that you have effectively defined abuse as anything that causes another to feel pain. If abuse is defined subjectively, then just about anything could qualify as abuse. I hope you find that somewhat disturbing. I know I do.

            So how should abuse be defined? Let’s start with a dictionary definition: “treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.” I am going to suppose that most would understand how “violence” is abuse. However, let’s look further at “cruelty”. Cruel is defined as “willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others”. It is this aspect of intentionality that I think has generally gone missing from discussions of abuse today! (Note: commenter Linda here does mention intention but only briefly.) How does one determine intentions? It’s difficult, of course, but assuming such knowledge is not appropriate. One of my main concerns about this blog and similar is that it seems to be presumed that any pain is the result of malevolent intent. I greatly doubt that is true.

            You mentioned the idea of triggering. It seems that triggering someone is usually considered to be abuse. Really? If one has no idea another is being triggered, then how can that possibly be abuse? There is no intentionality. Any resulting pain is that person’s response, and not the result of malevolence.

            I’ll give an example but first I will provide some background. I was married for 21 years and am now divorced per her desire. That is indeed painful. I’ll accept your expression of sympathy but find it relatively meaningless. What I desire more is your willingness to actually demonstrate it in your response to what I have written about abuse and the responses to Russ.

            My example of triggering is my ex-wife’s response to me talking about abortion on many occasions. I think she was triggered when I did this, although I don’t know what her actual response was. You see, I spoke of abortion WITHOUT KNOWING that she had had an abortion. I only learned of this later (about ten years) into our marriage. Now, much like Russ’s wife claims, my ex-wife claimed that she had worked through it. And, much like Russ says his wife has not actually done this, I do not think my ex-wife did, either. As to me likely triggering my ex-wife, I repeatedly spoke of abortion, not knowing that it might be painful for her. If that behavior is considered abuse, then I know exactly why I will fight for my brother to the best of my ability.

            “So, as we often do here when we offer advice, we go with what information we have. … Please don’t assume that we always take the stand that the husband is always wrong in these matters.”

            Perhaps you don’t ALWAYS suppose the husband is wrong, but an unbiased reading of Leslie’s post and the comments makes it clear that it is the assumption here. My experience with this blog and others suggests that this assumption is the norm.

      • Russ on June 1, 2020 at 6:20 pm

        Joann, I have tried (once I came to know her past) as have others who have known her before I did to help her work thru her past with Christs help, She has said she has, but she has not. I have tried to talk with her and figure out how I can best Love her and Show her that Love, again to no real gain. Yes I have (UNKNOWINGLY triggered her pain), but always tried to help, but she wont give me anything to work with. Then along comes this book and instantly I am an “abuser”, a “blame shifter, a “narcisist” and any other accusation she can throw at me and from a wpman who said ” We will make this marriage work NO MATTER WHAT” at the beginning, now less than 3 years later cant stand to stay with such an abusive husband so she has left.
        I know Leslie has an important ministry for those WHO ARE ACTUALLY Abused, as I would agree ever story in her book is abuse. BUT I NEVER have abused my wife to 5% of what is in the book. (spare me and dont try to say that is an admission of being an abuser).

        • Moonbeam on June 1, 2020 at 7:01 pm

          Russ, are you saying you want your wife back or is she too abusive to you? Exactly what does she do that is abusive?

          • Russ on June 2, 2020 at 1:49 am

            I want to restore Our marriage,
            I took the quiz And I can easily answer “often” to at least 10 of the questions.

          • Aly on June 2, 2020 at 9:22 am

            I don’t have the quiz in front of me currently. I’m assuming that you are referring to a quiz from one of Leslie’s books.
            Sometimes it’s helpful to have the other spouse take the quiz and see the discrepancy (if there is one).
            Sometimes this is helpful because it can be hard to see ourselves and our impact on people and especially our partners.

            There is a really great exercise (questionnaire) out there that can help couples work through areas and the person being asked has to scale rate on present and past experiences.
            This doesn’t dismiss an incident or situation but can help contain it long enough to help both parties.

            Would you say your wife might describe you as more covert abusive toward her and or manipulative when being held accountable to behavior?

        • Aly on June 1, 2020 at 7:48 pm

          I’m curious what you think your wife would say would be her biggest complaint about the marriage?
          Do you think she has any trust in you…or has trust been shattered over time?

          • Russ on June 2, 2020 at 1:55 am

            She would say I withhold love,
            yes, like many men I withdraw from conflict, but this is an issue that was being dealt with in our counseling and in our own study.
            Again these are common marriage issues that husbands and wives have dealt with and worked thru forever, but know if we label it as abuse, and then when the husband says ” I withdraw because you are yelling at me” she is armed with the instant out that He is “Blame Shifting” to which He roles his eyes, and low and behold that is now considered more abuse……….. and it just keeps going

          • Leslie Vernick on June 2, 2020 at 7:38 pm

            Can you show me the page # in my book where I call that abuse? We talk about PATTERNS not one time incdents as well. So I’m not sure what you are referring to.

          • Aly on June 2, 2020 at 9:37 am

            I think it’s a better sign that you have at least one answer of what she might ‘say’ as opposed to nothing.
            Yes! You mentioned a common area of withholding love and often that can get to a place of emotional abuse-
            Let me explain..
            it can get there based on a continual pattern of behavior.
            Withholding is about power!!
            Withdrawing can be too given the context. But we don’t all know each individual context of a situation.
            Your wife doesn’t want to participate in junior high -emotional games when it comes to marriage dynamics (I’m assuming here)

            Often in general, men who withhold connection (love) , interaction etc tend to struggle highly with empathy areas and often can have an attitude toward a spouse who has a legitimate complaint that may not be heard! Conflicts all happen in marriage but the repair is what matters.

            My husband took years 12+ years to finally accept he avoided listening to my main complaint- then he would withhold more. He had (0) tools for working through his own Lack of Emotional intelligence.
            Marriage books, groups, counseling all are good and can be resourceful but they don’t get to the core issue if a person isn’t willing to face themselves- professional counseling a must.

        • JoAnn on June 3, 2020 at 8:34 pm

          Russ, I really do sympathize, and I see that you have included some facts that were not stated in your original letter, The fact that others besides yourself have tried to convince her to get therapy is telling. I know that some people resist working on their abuse issues, until they can’t stand their self anymore, and/or end up in the hospital. She is an angry woman; angry about her abuse and life in general. So she is looking at someone to dump her anger onto. You might just have to let her go. Angry people see abuse in every situation; it’s an expression of the pain they feel inside. If she will not get into therapy with you so that you can communicate effectively and you can learn how to help, then I don’t see that there is anything else to do but to pray that the Lord will hold onto her and eventually bring peace to her soul.
          Another point to everyone here: we aren’t here to judge. Without knowing Russ, you cannot say he lacks empathy. He is experiencing pain in this relationship too. That is clear from his messages. I am very sorry that things didn’t turn out the way he had hoped.

          • Russ on June 5, 2020 at 12:57 am

            Thank you for actually just taking me for my word instead of trying to read between the lines.
            I am praying daily for my wife and for our marriage.

            And Leslie, the rolling the eyes comment you made was in a you tube video not the book.

  11. Barb on May 28, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    After 16 years of marriage and being told I was asking for too much in our relationship. That I was not enough or too much, ect. I believed him. This was my 2nd marriage and I ignored the bad behavior. I was determined to be the perfect Christian wife. I felt like such a failure after my first abusive marriage ended and I didn’t want to fail again. It wasn’t until I witnessed my husband screaming like a madman at our sweet 13 year old daughter while she was trying to pitch at her softball game. She is so passive and quiet and never wanted to draw attention to herself, she screamed at himin frustration .The game stopped and she was devastated with embarrassment . I finally knew it wasn’t me. I had once again married an abuser. That was two years ago.

    • Autumn on May 31, 2020 at 4:01 am

      Barb, what have you done to protect your daughter now that it is two years later. Have removed yourself from the abuser? You must have felt terrible when you realized you made the same mistake twice. My heart breaks for the pain that realization must be. Lundy Bancroft has material about avoiding a repeat attachment to another abuser, so does Don Hennessy. I hope you have the courage to surrender your pride and leave your present abusive relationship. We both know, it really isn’t marriage when we are linked to an abuser. It is a creepy, sick trap, an illusion of lies and pretense.

      • Barb on May 31, 2020 at 7:30 am

        I am still living with my husband and we are in counseling with a very remarkable therapist. My husband was diagnosed with depression and diabetes. He is being treated for both and is doing the hard work of rebuilding trust with me. I am dealing with a lot of PTSD symptoms and look forward to getting treatment with my personal counselor when the stay at home order is lifted. I am part of Leslie Vernicks Conquer group and have regained my confidence and have been modeling for my daughter how to speak up in a respectful manner. I have apologized to her for being too weak to stand up and protect her. We are all in a better place right now and I have been able to give the outcome to God.

        • Autumn on May 31, 2020 at 6:09 pm

          Blessings to you as you continue on this journey.

    • Sharon Smith on June 2, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      Me too. I married the same man (not literally) with 25 years in between. But that’s what God used to make me get serious about knowing Him. Now I’m almost 30 years down the road, and grateful for God’s hand on me.

      • Barb on June 3, 2020 at 11:41 am

        I’m happy that you are able to grow through your difficulties. I can say the same thing. I don’t like to waste a difficult situation by not using it to grow.

  12. Christine on May 28, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you Leslie for posting your response. It is giving me words to describe emotions and thoughts that I couldn’t clearly identify and put into words. Breaking chains off the mind. And giving me stronger legs to stand on.
    I recently heard a leader say “it takes a leader to bring you out of your pain.”

  13. Sabrina on May 29, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for doing the Lord’s work Leslie! You ARE making a difference!

  14. oldpathseco on May 29, 2020 at 11:39 am

    My husband has repeatedly used my childhood as the reason for my reactions. I believed it too until I realized the continual patterns were abuse. I was healed from my childhood trauma and it caused no problems in my previous marriage (My first husband passed away) It took me a miserable 21 years to put the pieces together. His covert abuse almost drove me to suicide several times because I thought I would always be broken. I shared my childhood with him because I thought I could trust him and all he did was use it against me time and time again- and even shared it with others.

    • amarie on June 2, 2020 at 6:45 pm

      I share in this same experience with you. My current partner uses my childhood as well. He used it where ever he seen fit, even used the most hurtful parts of my past that I trusted to share with him, in the most devistating way to hurt me again. Saying “I hope you and your rapist ex have a great life together”. That’s a longer story, but how terrible. He even convinced our marriage therapist that I had borderline personality disorder, giving him the power to use this as an ultimatium that I get help for the problems I caused or he couldn’t be with me any longer. For a while I started to believe the lies about myself he was telling me. The moment in this current situation that I thought about suicide, I re-evaluated my circumstances and seperated from him immediately. I tried to save my marriage to him and pleaded for him to see what I’ve been trying to show him regarding how this behavior has hurt me and our relationship. That did not work. It took me a lot of work over the course of a year and a half to rebuild what he broke down.

      • Aly on June 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

        I’m so sorry for what was done to you and what your husband additionally inflicted on you! That is just not ok and clearly is a sign of a harmful person.
        There is so much trauma within what you went through. I hope you have a new therapist to help walk you through your journey.
        Hugs and prayers to you! 💕

    • Sharon Smith on June 2, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      I understand; my heart is with you.

  15. Linda on May 30, 2020 at 9:19 pm

    I’m sure it’s the narcissistic abuse that abusers take issue with. People usually know that physical harm is abuse. Narcissistic abuse is actually abuse of the soul. For people who only see the physical world, it is so frustrating to explain what narcissistic abuse is and why it’s so harmful. I am an adult child of a narcissist/sociopath and my healing process has taken 40 years since leaving the family home at 20 years of age. It’s taken twice as long to undo the damage done by my well-respected parents. I feel safe in saying that for the abuse to stick as well as it did that I was trained to accept abuse, to invite abuse, to set myself up to be abused.

    Narcissistic abuse is about killing your identity, who you are as a person, your very essence, your soul. There are two rules that the narcissist lives by: I (the narcissist) am number one and there is no one else above me. And the second is like the first: No one is allowed to do or be better than me.

    So just think about all you would have to do and say to a child in order to keep him/her from ever succeeding beyond your own success, ever, and in every way. The child, not knowing any better, takes on personal beliefs about their self and about how the world operates socially. And these beliefs become the operating system by which they live and the bias through which they interpret their world, FOREVER.

    Now try to explain to anyone why you get triggered by stupid stuff people say, chances are you won’t even know you’ve been triggered. You’ll just be labeled borderline or schizophrenic or bipolar. “Oh look, she’s in another depressive episode. Must be she’s bipolar. Oh look, she can’t handle her emotions, must be borderline. Gads, she’s like Jekyll and Hyde, must be schizophrenic.”

    Yeah, it’s all about her and her crappy childhood. She’s watching too many of those videos and seeing stuff that isn’t true. No, she’s trying to figure why she’s always so unhappy, why she ends up in bed thinking suicidal thoughts, why her world is so heavy and she’s always the bad guy. And every time a puzzle piece fits, a smidgeon of weight comes off her shoulders and she takes back a little of the identity that was stolen from her by those who raised her. And her newly found piece of identity refuses to be put back into the closet. So she says, “Um yeah, this habitual thing you do and are unwilling to forsake, well that hurts me beyond measure.” And you say back, “Its just your crappy childhood again. Ain’t nothing wrong with the way I treat you.”



    And I’ve never found a narcissist who could see much of anything beyond bodies and clothing. Man looks at the outside, God looks at the heart.

    • Free on May 31, 2020 at 3:05 am

      Brilliant, Linda! Bravo and Amen, sister! Preach it!

    • Free on May 31, 2020 at 3:16 am

      Have you heard of the book, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mother’s” by Karyl McBride, pH.D? My sister in law found it very helpful.

    • Brokenhearted on May 31, 2020 at 7:00 am

      I so agree with everything you’ve said here! My father’s classic lines after his abusive comments and abuse sessions: “There you go again playing the victim! You love to play the martyr! No one’s victimizing you! Grow up!”

  16. Sharon Smith on June 2, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Oh, my word – I thought my husband came back from the grave and wrote that! Excellent response. Praying this man will consider what you said.

  17. maria on June 5, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Here’s the link to the quiz:

    The proper response to answering yes to even one of the questions would be to look inward and realize one has work to do. And then to seek forgiveness from the person he/she has hurt and make it up to him/her.

  18. Matt on June 11, 2020 at 5:08 am

    Wow! I don’t want to be Russ or OKrickety. I see my defensiveness in them both and recognize myself in them and it’s ugly. No excuses. Now what?

    • Free on June 12, 2020 at 6:44 pm

      Have you read my message to you in the most recent post? There is a great recommendation about how to start on a path of change that was given my abusive spouse.

  19. SteVee on April 16, 2021 at 10:10 pm

    There is such a thing as transference.

    Projection is when someone attributes motives to another’s actions based on what their own motives would be if they did the same thing. For example, if I set a boundary, stating that if you raise your voice and insult or threaten me, then I will sleep in the other bedroom. Afterward, my spouse attributes that to me trying to punish, because that is what they would be doing. That is projection.

    If one member of a marriage was verbally, physically, sexually, or emotionally abused by a parent of the opposite sex; once married they may interpret attitudes, events, words, or facial expressions of their spouse through the lense of that abuse from their family of origin. Typically, because the appropriate response to the original abuse is severe, the response to the misperception of abuse in the new relationship is also severe – an over reaction. It may also be associated with a personality disorder, but that needs to be professionally diagnosed.

    For example: We were going to church and I was driving; there was a lot of traffic, and I got stuck in an exit only lane, and had to get off the freeway and reroute back onto the freeway. As soon as it was apparent that we were getting off the freeway in the wrong spot, my spouse lost their temper, and I couldn’t even explain what had happened.

    Unless you experience it, it sounds like a lame excuse for one’s own negligence or abusive behavior. Those things (negligence, abusiveness) can be real, but falsely attributing those when it isn’t true won’t solve the real problem. It takes a lot of time with a competent third party cross-examining both spouses’ portrayals of events immediately after they happen to determine if transference is actually occurring.

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