Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 1


Morning friends,

I want to invite you to join my 2015 Do The Word Challenge where we are going to pick one verse per month (the verse of your own choosing) and practice “Doing it” throughout the month. Details are in my New Years Newsletter but if you didn’t get a copy, you can read more about it here.

Please pray for me. Next week I will be in Cuba, teaching pastors and seminary students at Havana Seminary, effective counseling strategies for Emotionally Destructive Marriages.   Pray for my safety, stamina (3 full days of teaching with a translator is exhausting) and that these students will be equipped to be effective in helping individuals and couples in destructive marriages.

Along that line I’ve invited a guest blogger this month to share some of her experiences when she looked for marital help from her local church for her marriage. I’ve been encouraged to hear from some of you that you have had a positive experience with your pastor and church leadership when you asked for help. What a difference that made in your life and family.

Sadly, for a lot of women, that is not the case and that is one reason why we need to support one another. Someday I hope I, along with qualified others, are invited to speak at every Seminary and Church conference in the United States to teach pastors and equip church leadership to know how to more effectively deal with these difficult destructive marriages.

As promised, throughout this New Year, I want to begin to do some short teaching on various topics to help you grow and help you recognize more of what healthy and unhealthy looks like. For January I want us to understand our shadow side – we all have one.

The shadow is a psychological term used to refer to the parts of our selves that remain hidden from ourselves (even if they are quite obvious to others). What is in the light we see, but what’s in the dark remains outside our conscious awareness and is termed our shadow.

When we think of our shadow side, most people believe that it has to do with more negative traits things in ourselves that feel undesirable and unattractive. Things we reject in ourselves such as mental laziness, insecurity, sloppiness, carelessness, cowardice, love of power, inordinate love of money, pride, being judgmental, greed, rage, bossiness, etc. We don’t want to see our shadow. We don’t acknowledge it even when it’s quite obvious to others, and more often than not, we ignore the warning signs that our shadow is getting the best of us.

But our shadow could also embrace some of our strengths or talents that we have not been able to “see” or were shamed about in our past. For example, if as a female child you were outspoken and exhibited strong leadership abilities, but were shamed, scolded and thwarted from exercising those abilities to have a more “acceptable” feminine persona that went a long with your parents values and/or Christian teaching, you hid your strength from yourself. Perhaps that strength sneaks out at moments and may even look bossy or domineering. Then you quickly reject that part of yourself and go back to your more “acceptable” self.

Abraham Lincoln said, “All human beings have their weaknesses, but not all of us realize them, come to grips with them, or offset their negative impact. As a group whose primary endeavor is interacting with other people, leaders must accomplish the paradoxical task of managing their darker sides”

It’s the shadow’s very nature to remain hidden and it takes special work to “see” it and address it because by nature, we don’t want to see our shadow. (The Bible calls this trait blindness.)

But this is important work friends, because we will either own our shadow or find ourselves being owned by it. (Tweet this!)

Next week I will give you some tools to help you to gain greater awareness of your shadow side.

As our guest blogger shares, you will notice that even church leaders aren’t aware of their shadow, nor can they reflect and consider the possibility that they might be wrong.



Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:
Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 1

After seven years of trying to understand why my marriage wasn’t working according to the biblical ideals set forth in Scripture and attempting in vain to unilaterally bring it to a healthy state, the Holy Spirit impressed the following passage from Matthew 7 on my heart during a sermon series at my mother’s church on the marks of merely following rules instead of having a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, “‘Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.’” For the first time I saw this verse in light of its context.

This verse is not, as I had been taught, referring to unbelievers who don’t understand Christ’s redemptive message and use it against you or persecute you; rather, it has to do with a brother in Christ who judges you according to a biblical standard that he or she is unwilling to put into practice him or herself.

Several months before reading Leslie’s book, I started to implement this sober warning from Jesus. I no longer entrusted my inner struggles and thoughts to my husband, who had time and time again used my transparency not to pray for me and build me up in my faith but to accuse and manipulate me with my proclivities and “sins.” If I’ve learned anything from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, it’s that talk is cheap, and words are worthless, apart from corresponding actions.

My husband says I can trust him to lead me spiritually, but he denigrates my faith walk at every turn. He says that he wants the best for me, but he rarely asks for my input and doesn’t implement it, unless it corresponds with what he wants to do anyway. He says he loves me, but I don’t feel loved at all when he continually shifts the responsibility to me to conform to his self-serving choices, to overlook ongoing sins against me, and blames me for anything that’s wrong with our marriage.

Around the time that I was learning how to discern legalistic patterns in my own thinking, I took a list of unresolved marital concerns to the counseling elder of our church, who had given my husband and me biblical counsel on and off for the previous five years. He listened attentively and compassionately at that meeting yet proceeded over the next year to build a case in his mind against me that eventually led to disciplinary action. I had not been immoral or committed any other grievous sin that should cause the elders of our church to declare to the membership of the congregation that I was “straying into moral failure” and was no longer saved, in their current opinion. These are indeed strong words, a monumental accusation.

What if I’m wrong . . . about my husband, my church leadership, and my faith? For as long as we have been married, my husband has deprecated my ability to understand him, unless, of course, I agree with him. The elder had insisted for years that if only I were more charitable in my viewpoint, gracious in my speech, and forbearing in waiting for change, everything in our marriage would be better.

Both my husband and the elder discounted my ability to apply the Bible to our lives without an advanced theological degree and asserted the right to veto any spiritual leading and convictions I have. Regardless of what those in earthly authority think or believe, my first allegiance is to the God who created me, the One who died for me, and the Being who dwells with me every day, in every situation. Instead of continuing to mindlessly accept pronouncements about me that are simply not true, I have used three criteria to come to an unshakable sense of conviction: scrutiny, support, and the subtle misuse of Scripture. I’ll cover them in successive blog posts.

The first thing I noticed about the meetings following my appeal to this counseling elder was that the focus of our time together was exclusively on my “idols of the heart.” Nothing was said, asked, or probed about my husband’s motivations. Somehow my husband knew himself accurately enough to declare that he wasn’t harboring any sin in his thinking or desiring in our relationship, and somehow the counseling elder believed him.

Even when I brought up examples of things my husband was saying and doing that controverted this self-satisfied assessment, I was essentially told to “stand down.” In this elder’s words, “I can’t believe that [your husband] just comes up to you while you’re working at your computer and starts an argument with you.” and “You can’t possibly be perceiving things correctly at home.” Over and over I was reproved for being critically judgmental and unloving when, in fact, Paul commands the Corinthians in chapter five of his first letter to judge the words and actions of those within the church.

When the counseling elder stopped asking me questions and started making assertions about why I had said or done certain things, I knew that I was in a no-win situation. To try to convince him otherwise would “prove” his point about my not being humble and teachable. To agree with his inaccurate assessment of my character was something I had resolved in my mind not to do anymore.

Although this counseling elder teaches others to search for the root cause of patterns of sin, he refused to probe my husband for the “why’s” behind his sinful words and behavior. He was content with my husband’s words of apology and minor behavioral changes, rather than exhorting my husband to make humble confession and pursue genuine reconciliation with me. It’s as though as long as I was willing to shoulder the burden of self-examination and confession, that was sufficient for both of us, and I had no spiritual right to ask for more by pointing out my husband’s self-consumed perspective and behavior. The elder classified that as “ungracious.”

As thorough reconciliation continued to elude us, I sought to understand biblical repentance by reading Humility by Andrew Murray. As I compared the biblical effects of repentance with my husband’s trivial overtures, I found them to be necessary, but insufficient, for lasting change. The counseling elder kept reiterating Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” insisting that over time my patience would result in the sweet marital fruit that scripture promises to the godly. In response I explained that the destructive patterns in our marriage could be forgiven and reconciled only to the extent that sin was identified, confessed, and set aside in a permanent way.

As Nancy Leigh DeMoss makes clear in her book Choosing Forgiveness, we must maintain a posture of forgiveness for the one who sins recalcitrantly against us, but we cannot restore the relationship apart from mutual confession.

When I began imposing successively serious consequences on my husband for a lack of change in our relationship and shifting the onus of relational change to my husband, the counseling elder accused me of being “unmerciful” toward my husband and possessing an “unwillingness to seek unity with [your husband] unless it is on your terms.” Isn’t that exactly what they had been demanding of me for the past several years—“unity” on my husband’s terms, despite his unmerciful judgments? From my study of healthy relationships, this is not biblical unity but rather spiritual coercion.

In all of these aspects of scrutiny—probing my motives but not my husband’s, giving my husband’s account of our lives authoritative weight while discounting mine, and attributing ungodly attitudes to my reasonable actions instead of asking “why”—this counseling elder was blind to his bias toward my husband and against me. He was unwittingly but adamantly falling into the sin of judgementalism against which Jesus warned his disciples earlier in Matthew 7.

Does a church elder really have the authority to require outward obedience to his critical judgments and unfair pronouncements?

Friends how have you been able to stand strong in the midst of strong counseling/pastoral or church pressure to see things only their way?


  1. Liz on January 7, 2015 at 8:41 am

    After telling my leaders in the church about my husband’s violence, drug abuse, violence, affair etc, I was bewildered by their lack of anything to say and then avoidance of me. I aprroaced them again and said that I would value a token of concern or some acknowlegement of my situation from time to time. They nodded their heads, but nothing changed. So I have for over a year now, just carried on in my life and church attendance, smile at them and move on. Its obvious that they don’t want to know or be involved so I do not tell them anything now about my or my family’s life. If i am assaulted, this time i will go to the police and not even inform them. I have no doubt in my mind that they have failed me as a member of their flock, but they have to answer the Lord for that. I keep close to the Lord and memorize Scripture for strength and comfort. In a way, it is good because I am becoming stronger and stronger and not leaning on anyone besides the Lord.

    • Grace on January 7, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Liz: sympathy! As you say, they are accountable to God for that. That can’t be the way God wants them to shepherd the flock.

    • Patricia on January 7, 2015 at 10:30 am

      It’s all so overwhelming, isn’t it? I’m about to ‘step back into the ring’ so to speak. After several years of separation. He’s already told me it’s my fault that we be had our problems, and he’s also accused me me of talking mean to him, if I didn’t agree with him. All I did was tell him I will no longer stay quiet and take his verbal abuse .

      • Leslie Vernick on January 7, 2015 at 11:23 am

        And you are stepping back into the ring – the marriage because what has changed?

        • Patricia on January 20, 2015 at 11:07 am

          my husband says he changed thru our yrs of separation, I had initially moved out because he said he wanted a divorce. But due to his behavior of being emotionally unavailable and verbally abusive I slowly healed in our separation. We’ve kept contact thru the yrs . We can’t get passed 2 days together without him lashing out at me. I today him I love him but I don’t trust him. He has me on his dental plan which helps me financially, and now has sent me a large amt of $$ to help pay on medical costs. I don’t want to lead him on, thinking everything is ok when it is not. I’ve also learned to keep quiet to avoid anger on his part. I’m trying so hard to look forward to a stable life with him, but also feel red flags . I just want to do the right thing and honor my marriage even tho he’s been involved in emotional affairs with former old friend . He denies being unfaithful to me . I don’t even care about our lack of intimacy any more. I’m growing to accept our situation . He just wants me to be there , even if we don’t talk. We can’t talk cause he don’t want to hear anything . We’ve been to counseling yrs ago, but I will start attending support groups for women in a Christian based group. I don’t want to go yo hell just because of our marriage. I pray that God gives me strength to say and do the right things. I’ve heard many other women are going thru the same as me , and we don’t have to go back ‘into the ring’ . This is the worst in ‘better or for worse’ I our case. Thank you for your most needed site, to share with others that we can get thru this with help and experience such as you offer, thank you …….I’m fighting for my self protection and safety.

          • Leslie Vernick on January 20, 2015 at 11:24 am

            If you move back in together but you can’t go 2 days together without him being emotionally abusive to you, what does that mean? I’m not sure going back to the same thing would be good for you or your marriage. You also seem afraid that God will send you to hell if you don’t move back in with him. Is that true? Is the God we serve more concerned about the permanence of your marriage over your personhood? Or, is it possible to say to your husband we need to stay living apart until no longer feel it’s okay to emotionally abuse me and we can build more trust? Then if that happens we can talk about the possibility of reconciling our marriage more fully?

          • Patricia on January 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

            you are all so right, I feel so mad at myself for not being able to feel free to express myself due to intimidation. I need to finally find my voice and clearly state why I don’t feel safe around him. I’m not the aggressive, cursing type ofwoman . I’ve tried to put him ahead of my needs. He doesn’t want help cause he’s getting it all his way. I distance myself to feel safe,but I see now that I’m only prolonging this,by putting my head in the sand. I know he don’t respect me , and uses the word love to make himself feel better. I need to file restraint orders on him and get a divorce started. Ijust didn’t want to hurt him. All he wants me for is the $$ and a live in cook for him. I’m sorry , but itself so ashamed that I haven’t done something like this earlier. I had hope for us,regardless of our history. Thank you for all your prayers and advice,as jknow this is my own road to take and way out. I also know I’m not the only wife that has stood in the face of reality with rose-colored glasses,hoping for the best. No one gets respect until they can show the world they have respect for themselves,and take the proper steps to take action for a better life. Thank you again Leslie, and those of you who have taken the time to help. I feel you are my sisters and I’m not alone in this. We are not man-haters, just because of our experiences. People can’t get away with anything unless we let them. I appreciate this site to hear others who share the same verbal abuses. Thank you

      • Ann on January 10, 2015 at 10:09 am

        Patricia, With your husband exhibiting a hostile mindset demonstrated by accusing you of causing everything wrong in the marriage you can probably expect the abuse to be worse. You going back after him saying that in his mind is like you are agreeing with him.

        • Patricia on January 16, 2015 at 12:08 pm

          Thank you Ann, it just confirms what I’ve known for nearly 20 yrs now, that nothing will ever satisfy him, no matter what we do….. God knows how hard we try to please them. In the privacy of our home, this is the only place they can treat us the way they do… It’s just so sad because we want a safe place to live and want a man who will love us without all the abuse that gies along with it. I have so much peace in my heart living on my own. He’ll never understand, I see that now….. Thank you Leslie for your website, this is happening to so many marriages, but I still pray for him , and I refuse to let satan get the control he wants to destroy us all. I’m so blest to be a child of God and have the support of other Sisers in Christ, thanks Leslie

        • Armstrong on November 25, 2023 at 9:35 pm

          Get out of that marriage and stay out. Save yourself from the evil your husband is and will always be. Don’t waste your life on someone that is sucking it dry and killing every beautiful thing about you. He’s never going to change. That’s the truth!!! The quicker you get out the more of you is left in tact. Don’t le the church messed up leaders ruin your best years. I have listened and it has cost me 19 years, my family, my friends, my church connections, my work, my dreams have shattered beyond repair. You are fine in the Lord’s sight. You have been faithful and you are His daughter. A daughter of the king of kings. Don’t let a jerk who calls himself your husband take your joy, life and dignity away. Get out and if you don’t have kids that’s even better. Cut him out of your life and never go back. Keep good supports around you. Stay strong and don’t answer the phone calls. He will try to “hook” you with his bait of empty words. Forget the money and insurance. He’ll manipulate you due to your needs. See what’s available in your state. Sometimes we have to loose everything to get built back up.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

      I’m so sorry for this Liz. I hope we can help churches do better with women in destructive/abusive marriages.

    • Shan on January 7, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      I am not sure what you are asking the church elders for here – if your husband does not want help there is not much they can do. It is not their job to “enforce” Christian values on people. If you fear for your safety and your children’s then get out now, don’t wait for it to happen again!!!
      Yes marriage in this country is kind of a mess right now and I think the church could do better. Like the guest blogger said, they shouldn’t give advice that’s completely one-sided.
      When I told my ex-husband I was leaving, he called several people to try to have them stop me from leaving. So one of our church friends came over to my house and I told her the reasons I was leaving and she said she would help me pack! Ha, kind of backfired on him. But what if she didn’t believe me or he had told her lies about me, should she (or a church elder) have the power to “force” me to stay in an abusive marriage because of their belief that divorce is a sin? No. They can give advice and I can choose to take it or not. If your husband doesn’t think he is doing anything wrong their confrontation or support of you won’t change anything and could make things much worse.
      I think church leaders have to be pretty careful because anyone can just tell them a pack of lies. They don’t want to take sides which would cause more anger, even if justified.
      Referring people to good marital counselors and offering programs for addictions and hangups like Celebrate Recovery is probably the best option.

  2. Pamela on January 7, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Thank God you’re tackling these particular topics, Leslie. The timing makes the hair on my arms stand up on end…

    In your long and short term online support groups, many of the topics have been eye opening to me, including this one. It gives me hope.

    Slavery wasn’t over thrown without a fight. Drunk driving laws weren’t changed without MADD Moms getting organized, sitting in courtroom after courtroom and staring down one judge and one jury after another. Nothing good comes without a struggle. I’ve prayed to be willing to do whatever God has prepared for me to do in my particular part of the battlefield, but know that I can’t even begin to fight effectively until I’m waging war in the light…

    Part of me’s like Peter Pan. I have ‘shadow issues’. I’m reluctant to grow up and deal with them. These posts remind me I’m not making choices in isolation. That every skirmish counts…

    Thank you for shining the light into my shadow filled bomb crater and making it hard to ignore what God’s been saying all along.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 7, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Thanks Pam, you are always an encouragement to me.

      • Teena on January 20, 2015 at 10:11 am

        Yes Leslie, I second Pam’s appreciation of you. You’re not just on our side, but you fully understand the dynamics and know how to bring peace in hostile relationships. You’re Blessed because of this.

  3. Becca on January 7, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I have to admit that I am one of the very few where I have received tremendous support from my church. My husband was the one who went to the church for help with our “marital” problems (he has a problem with treating me like an adult, etc.). He felt that my views were now feminist (I believe the patriarchy movement that is sweeping our homeschooling communities sets up the framework for domestic abuse). He wanted the Pastor, the elders, anyone, to sit me down and tell me that I need to be more submissive. I spoke to no one about it. Simply because I knew no one would believe me what when on at home. Well, we have some very discerning leaders. Without me saying anything, these people figured him out. When my husband started hiding business information from me (we are business partners), I went to the church for help in deciding what to do. They asked me a few questions, asked my adult children a few questions. They determined that my situation was indeed domestic abuse. They recommended separation (just physical or legal, it was up to me). After seeing an attorney, because of the complications of being in business together, it was actually going to be cheaper to just get a divorce. I reported my findings back to this group and they INSISTED that they be with me when I informed my husband of a divorce. They actually followed through on their promise. They were with me.

    Please, never go to a lay person for counseling. You are getting free advice which is worth nothing. I wouldn’t have gone to my church if I knew they were following his logic. Unless someone has gone through it themselves, or is a professional in this area, the advice you will receive is going to further erode you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Blessings!

    • Leslie Vernick on January 7, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Becca I’m so glad that your church saw through your husband. And I agree that the patriarchy movement is causing some men to believe that being the head means they are the king over their kingdom.

  4. Susan on January 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Oh my gosh- reading this made me so angry! That counselor is abusing his position of authority and is clearly sexist (if not worse) in his approach to you. Were it me (and it’s not, so take my comment with a grain of salt), I would RUN from that church. You are right to question all he has said to you and reject his ridiculous assessment of you. There’s nothing worse than feeling coluded against. No doubt your husband will want to stay at that church, because he is getting exactly what he wants out of it, but I would flat out refuse to go anymore. Sending you love and support.

    • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      God has been gracious in moving our family more than 1,000 miles away from this church. The church discipline process actually began after we moved when I felt comfortable enough to speak up to these elders about how their attitudes, words, and actions helped to further deteriorate our marriage. Thanks so much for your prayers and support.

      • Teena on January 20, 2015 at 10:26 am

        I, too, had the misfortune of bad council from my church leaders but I saw right through it and discounted their understanding about love. Fast forward many years of going to the same church but having grown in Christ and walking in love AND with the knowledge obtained through Leslie, I was able to articulate to leaders how they have not correctly divided the Word of Truth in making accurate assessments of our marital relationship. Good for you! You’re an intelligent woman and could possibly be a threat to the opposite sex but the Word of God tells them to deal with their wife according to knowledge or what they know about them which to me says, don’t reduce who I am.

        • FloridaLizzie on January 21, 2015 at 7:58 pm

          I am thankful to God that my church leadership was very supportive of me when my ex-husband left me. My pastor even told me my life was far more important than any material thing to God, and I needed to get to a safe place when my husband was acting so irrational and enraged. I am glad I did. I will say that the leadership did not rush to give me any big leadership roles for a bit, and I don’t blame them for wanting to watch how I conducted my life. But 2 years later, I’ll be co-leading the ladies’ evening Bible study at church. My husband had a wacky friend we knew who homeschooling who saw me as unsubmissive and accused me of all sorts of crazy things. But my church really has been very loving. I am so sorry that so many women have been twice wounded by their husbands and then their churches. However, we must fix our eyes on Jesus and not the fear of others and their opinions. This was a very interesting topic, and I’m afraid it’s all too common. But I had to share that it isn’t that way for everyone. So glad our guest blogger has healed and moved on so far since then.

  5. Dora on January 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I am amazed at the courage and strength of the blogger. To be able to trust herself and not fall prey to these “important people” in her life coming against her is awesome! Such fortitude!

    • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Let me be clear that it has taken a number of years to reach these conclusions after much prayer, scripture reflection, and soul searching. My goal here is to provide some concrete applications from Leslie’s principles so that other women don’t have to flounder as long as I did.

  6. HisEzer on January 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Great job on the guest blog. “…this counseling elder was blind to his bias toward my husband and against me. He was unwittingly but adamantly falling into the sin of judgmentalism against which Jesus warned his disciples earlier in Matthew 7.

    Does a church elder really have the authority to require outward obedience to his critical judgments and unfair pronouncements?”

    The answer to that question is no – not if any one of the following is taking place with total disregard:
    Arbitrary opinion is being applied,
    Misuse of scripture is occurring,
    Lack of exploration of facts is taking place preventing the full truth from being known,
    Favoritism is being practiced
    An attempt at finding fault in order to sin-level
    No credible explanation or foundation is provided for the accusations/declarations/and judgments

    • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Well said, HisEzer! Actually all of these play a part in my situation.

      • HisEzer on January 7, 2015 at 7:02 pm

        Sorry to hear that. I have experienced the same. Just the simple act of asking questions was deemed inappropriate (questions like, “Why is __husband’s__ word being automatically believed over mine?” and, “Would you please provide for me some concrete examples of what I have done/am doing which support your accusations that I am “disrespectful” and “unsubmissive” ). They had no answers to those questions, and rather than admit that, see the light, and apologize, instead, I was awarded with only more negative labels for having asked… It still seems like a nightmare,…. and I cringe at the thought of how so many marriages are crumbling because the help needed is not being provided … how men like this in church leadership positions either have no awareness of the harms and double-standards they are practicing (being blind — just as the topic of the blog addresses) or they are calculatingly prideful, cold, and completely without conscience… (Thankfully, though, by the Lord’s grace and power, I have exited that spiritually abusive environment…).

        • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 7:42 pm

          Good for you–I’m so glad to hear that. Yes, for me to disagree is tantamount to rebellion. My probing questions go unanswered.

  7. Sarah on January 7, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I felt there was something amiss in my marriage, but after meeting with our pastor, he felt my husband was perfect, supportive and loving. He sent his wife to spend the afternoon with me (because he felt I was needy?) Later I realized that at that time my husband was addicted to pornography and likely seeing prostitutes. The complete invalidation of what I was experiencing threw mw off for many years, so I am all the more impressed at this writer who persevered and respected her own experiences even when others in leadership did not. It is harder than it sounds.

    Our family moved far away, and I discovered my husband had been having an affair with an employee. We went to our new pastor, who I respected more than anyone else, and who holds an MA in marital counseling, and he said, can’t I just move on? I felt that my husband had a sexual addiction and needed help. He disagreed. For 8 months I felt so uneasy, and then discovered the multiple prostitutes (oddly enough, I saw them in a dream, like God was revealing the truth to me). My husband admitted this was so, that he didn’t know how many women he had been with, but it was a lot. We went to an older couple in our church for accountability and help. The husband (elder) made me wash my husband’s feet. I was angry and broken hearted. Our pastor continued to suggest that I stay for the children’s sake, and to not believe there was a current sexual addiction. His wife, who had her own counseling practice was my main counsellor. She said she wouldn’t continue to see me unless I took anti depressants. She said, “he isn’t currently involved in that life, so can’t I start to trust him?” I started to really doubt myself on the one hand, and on the other to retreat into a mass of quiet stubbornness.

    Our pastor and his wife retired, and we never heard from them again. I think even counsellors and pastors just don’t have the training specific to the kind of tricky issues Leslie is a genius at untangling.

    Most recently, my mother-in law writes that I am to blame; I am not sexy enough, not loving enough, I went to bed too early, I didn’t pick my husband up from work late at night, I am not submissive enough. She thinks that by insisting on help for sexual addiction for my husband I am being unforgiving and complaining. She is a missionary who specializes in sex education in Uganda….

    In my case, it is super obvious (to me) that my husband has a problem, and even then I have had a hard time sticking to my gut, but when I think how much harder it must have been for the blog writer when it is tricker to describe what was wrong (like her husband coming up to her and starting an argument), I am really amazed and impressed. I want to be as clear and strong as you! Thank you for writing, and thank you Leslie, you make up for all the misguided advice I’ve been given. I am scared but also looking forward to practicing the things you teach in my life and marriage.

    • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      I was scared too, but Leslie has taught me that to evaluate the options available and to choose to move forward is preferable to staying stuck where I was. Not only does your husband have a problem sexually/spiritually, but those who tell you to move forward as though it’s not an issue and that you’re sexually inadequate have a problem too. My husband has always been dissatisfied with my libido and response. He even asserted once, “If I ever commit adultery, it would be partially your fault for not pursuing me enough.” Recently I studied a book on being a sexual survivor and I realized that my husband has sexually abused me at various times throughout our marriage. As I found in one of his high school love letters he’s kept all these years, the girl called it “legal lust.”

    • Sue on February 5, 2015 at 12:56 am

      I have experienced as well, that leaders in the church & even our closest friends often have no clue what it does to a person & to children in a home where there is emotional abuse! If they haven’t lived it, they won’t understand! For over 20 years, the Lord had prompted me to really stand up to what was happening in our home. I have learned that because of my childhood abandonment issues, I could never stick to my boundaries. One day I heard Leslie on the radio & later ordered her book, along with Gary Chapman’s “Hope for the Separated”. After months of prayer & study, & the Lord’s continued prompting, myself & my 2 youngest kids separated from my husband. We had miracle after miracle of the Lord’s provision during that time! And the Lord was working on my husband, who initially refused to go to counseling. After 4 months of separation & him beginning counseling, we moved back home. This was only after more prayer & a release from the Lord to do that. All that to say my church was not so helpful in the beginning, when I asked for it. They seemed more concerned about what defined emotional abuse & how broadly that term could be used, than the pain & dysfunction it was causing in our home! Even my best friend became judgmental & seemed more concerned with the possibility of us getting a divorce than with the scars we were carrying around. It was devastating to me! I have shared Leslie’s book with 2 pastors at our church, and have spoken to them about my concerns. We are beginning a “peacemaking” process between myself & my former best friend, so would appreciate prayers! I believe I have forgiven her, but have never had an apology from her & am very cautious about having people in my life that think they know better! I will say that things are WONDERFUL in our home 2 years later! My husband is a NEW man! He has continued to seek counsel & has made many changes to how he relates to his family. It has been a miracle for us~and all the glory goes to the Lord! I’m learning to be the right kind of strong~ but we have to stay plugged in to the Vine, and take our direction from the Lord, and not let fear keep us stuck!

  8. Natalie on January 7, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I’m looking forward to your series on our shadow side. And I was encouraged to read this guest blogger’s story, because it was like reading mine. It helps to know I’m not alone. I finally stopped talking to my elders, and I separated from my husband without their support or encouragement. I’m trying to find a different church, but I feel burnt out right now. Burnt out on life, on trying, on communicating (or trying to), and on being ignored or vilified just because I’m finally implementing consequences that make my husband unhappy. It’s been refining for me though, and one thing that is becoming clearer and clearer is this: Jesus Christ really, REALLY is enough. If He loves me, I’m not alone. We’re not alone.

    • Vikki on January 7, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Natalie, I feel for you. Not sorry, or pity at all, just reaching out to say I understand and I wish you had more support around you, and how brave you were to get out (and are). I pray rest and strength for you and the truth you bear.

    • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Yes, Jesus Christ is REALLY enough. I look to him as my perfect husband, regardless of how my earthly marriage turns out. Keep reaching out to like-minded women, Natalie. I have found such strength in finding friends, younger and older, Christians and not, who empathize with and support me. This is NOT the end of the road, just the beginning.

    • Sue on February 5, 2015 at 1:09 am

      Natalie, He really is enough! Stay plugged in to the Lord, daily seeking His will for you & He will show you! He is faithful! If all you can trust Him for is today, then do that! He will heal you & He will lead you! I have so been where you are. Hugs to you!

  9. Vicki on January 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    My shadow side leans toward codependency and saying things are better than they really are. That’s not helpful when you need truth to heal a situation.
    I’m currently now divorced.
    I went through 20 years of counseling because it was my fault. When we separated he told me the 15 things I did in the past 20 years that brought us to this place. He told me he’d date me when we divorced and I actually wanted that because I still loved him (shadow side). And before we were divorced and he had a girlfriend he told me he didn’t mean he would “date” me, and that I never treated him like he’d changed.
    He was my life (shadow again) and I’m needing to heal and it takes time, even though I wish I healed faster.
    I am now taking responsibility for my life, my actions, and trying to rebuild, which honestly, when you fight so hard for so long to make a marriage work, is a miracle to regroup into being a human woman again, validating and feeling MY OWN truth, needs, feelings, etc. and not trying to hold together something by myself.
    My teen son gave me a gift in saying to me that he saw how his dad treats the girlfriend and that he doesn’t want to work out problems with her. He wants her to agree with him. Bar none.
    Let me just say this because whether we leave or we stay, we still have to be our own selves, listen to our God who created us, values, us and loves us deeply. And if we have to break away from churches, and family and friends who devalue us and hold a destructive marriage as more valuable than us, then we may be alone for a period of time, and we may need to heal, but we will find our very life instead of holding together smoke and mirrors to make everyone else feel safe.
    We are worthwhile.
    We are worth more.
    And even if we have a shadow side, we are worth love, and kindness – and not just because we worked hard to get it. We get it because we need it too.

    • Jeff on January 7, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      That is beautiful. . . . Our value comes in the fact we live, period!
      Life is a gift only God can give. Jeremiah 1:5, Acts 17:25

    • Guest blogger on January 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

      I agree, Vicki. For the first time I’m finally finding my life, not just accepting what someone else hands to me. We are worthwhile b/c Jesus says so. We are worth more b/c Christ sets our value in his resurrected body.

  10. Feeling heard on January 7, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Leslie, thank you so much for this post. I’m so blessed by your teaching and compassion. I know that I, along with others, feel affirmed and heard (which is probably more important) with where we are in our lives and struggles. Bless you for sharing your God-given wisdom.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Thank you for your encouragement. I so want the church to wake up and see it’s own shadow side. See how they so often favor a man’s perspective or point of view over a woman’s and fail educate themselves more on these kinds of problems. Good thing we trust God is sovereign or we could all tend to get discouraged. But as Pam said slavery wasn’t eradicated in a year and it took many brave men and women who spoke out against it and spoke out long and hard before people began to listen and rethink their “biblical” position on owning people as objects instead of persons.

  11. Jeff on January 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    . . . Does a church elder really have the authority to require outward obedience to his critical judgments and unfair pronouncements? –No, of course not. . . . But more importantly, most churches have functionally independent ecclesiology as it now stands. So, they simply don’t have the resources to deal with valid challenges between members and even “leadership.” Even if scripture indicates that the church should provide some kind of appeal process to persons who are not involved and whose objectivity and understanding of the Biblical passages is beyond question –Who is that going to be?. . . . Because you would need –not only– persons seriously qualified in the scriptures but also the diagnosis/treatment of various behavioral and even psychiatric disorders (These would need to be trained (Th.D./M.D./Ph.D.s). When organizations don’t have the resources, they almost always fall back on a power structure that requires obedience. –And time and again I have seen that if the accused or even leadership demonstrates even a modicum of “repentant and teachable spirit” –well, then he/they are reassured of God’s grace and forgiveness, and given an opportunity to possibly abuse again. –And, honestly, I have seen very few accusers bring a complaint without valid grounds (frivolous). . . . .On top of all this, the scriptures often have multiple valid interpretations that are equally supportable based on syntax, logical flows, and the way the words work, how their meanings are determined, historical context, et. al. That alone allows for too much “law unto themselves” functionally independent ecclesiology. Only an independent group developing a system of seriously qualified experts (Th.D./M.D./Ph.D.s) working together that became best practice for all churches to utilize –but churches appear way too contentious to make that happen.

    • Guest blogger on January 7, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Ironically, the counseling elder in my situation has a PhD in biblical counseling, but I don’t think that is what you meant b/c as you will see in my later posts, he has vested interests in saving face at his church and protecting his reputation at the local seminary. He is not licensed to practice and didn’t even consider that my husband might have a personality or mental disorder.

      • Jeff on January 7, 2015 at 11:04 pm

        . . . Exactly, it is NOT just Bible knowledge. That will not get it done, not totally. You also need real diagnosis/ treatment of various behavioral and even psychiatric disorders (Th.D. + M.D. + Ph.D.). You have to find out if you are dealing with an emotionally unavailable, narcissistic personality or just flat out mental disorders.

        . . . .On the previous post, Tim Keller was quoted as saying: . . . And if you never quite get what you are pursing, you’re angry, unhappy, and empty. But if you do get it, you ultimately feel even more empty, more unhappy. ––Okay, so that is clearly Lose/Lose and would imply that you should NOT go for your dreams/ wishes because getting them makes you even more empty and seriously miserable and unhappy.

        . . .Okay, so, Jesus is our Savior, no doubt, we are all there, I hope. . . . .And if we are there we are now in a SAFE, JUDGEMENT-FREE ZONE. . .We are not trying to get anything from anyone. Jesus is our source and we give other people in our lives the overflow. We not trying to fix them, blame them or change them. Others really aren’t capable of meeting our needs, only Jesus is, and that resets our expectations –or does it? Isn’t this whole BLOG about unmeet expectations? People needing to get away from people who are constantly disappointing them? . . . . I get plenty of Affirmations/ Hugs/ Gifts from Jesus but if I go too long without getting any from a human, well. . . . .Well, —really thinking about it, I guess I am really okay with not getting anything from a human. Jesus is that good but then why do we have all these issues with others if we have no expectations of others (I mean look at all the issues on these BLOGS.)? If we are looking to Jesus as our source for everything, where are the problems coming from? If we are making the intentional effort to live in that reality with the Lord, where are all this issues emanating from? Why are they issues? (—NOW, I surely know why they are issues. Emotional abuse = Physical abuse, period. . . .Destructive marriage = Disappointing marriage). . . .We are saying: If you don’t treat me at least at this level (—And that level seems to be very different for different women, which is more than fine). If you don’t treat me at least at this level, I’m out of here (—And that makes sense, good for all of you! —Emotionally unavailable, narcissistic man, et. al. –Don’t even look back.) That seems a good strategy for many who are married because God is for you and not against you and loves you and hates your situation. . . . But that means we have a truck load of expectations doesn’t it? (RE: finding our worth and identity in the Lord). . . . .Either I don’t understand (–and that could easily be true) or we have some serious logical fallacies working in parallel and we are filling in the gaps with magic and stuff. I don’t think folks understand all the balls they are juggling, especially if we are trying to justify this systematically from the Bible (biblical rather than psychological perspective). We must be honest, part of this is the church’s message for thousands of years: Christianity –because you are so awful, you made God kill himself! That right there is spiritual abuse. If women’s God-given instincts are telling women they are not being treated well and the church’s misguided opinion is telling you that you have to accept such treatment, well, you know what you have to do. I would encourage everyone to get themselves a New Testament Apparatus –UBS-style. I know it takes a fork-lift to carry it around or is a massive 1.5TB file but in the CONSENSUS apparatus (all the extant, valuable early manuscripts collated) of the Bible’s text, you will see the variant letter-ratings:

        • The letter A indicates that the text is certain.
        • The letter B indicates that the text is almost certain.
        • The letter C indicates that scholars have difficulty in deciding which equally valuable textual variant to place in the text.
        • The letter D indicates that scholars have great difficulty in arriving at any decision. —i.e., we just DON’T know.

        • A-Ratings: 8.7%
        • B-Ratings: 32.3%
        • C-Ratings: 48.6 %
        • D-Ratings: 10.4%

        . . . So don’t forget to base decisions off of As and Bs . . . .Cs and Ds less so. Decisions off As and Bs and guess where all those verses on woman’s subordination; woman’s unalterable ontology are —most are Ds –some are Cs.

        . . . . There are times when I am crushed, withered and flattened by life. Then I lay on the rock which gives me life. . . . . My rock, my comfort, my peace, my salvation, my refuge, my God. . . . . . . Please pray for a sense of hope in marriages. Ask God to help all couples see how they can grow, change, and develop happy, healthy marriages. Ask for serious miracles for marriages (Please Lord). Ask for creative ideas and solutions to problems. . . . . Give your marriage to God. Ask Him how to start living that. Pray for others’ marriages. Don’t operate off of stereotypes. The cool thing is that everyone only has to figure out one person —their spouse. . . . .Write down the top five reasons you fell in love with/ married your spouse –start there. Ask Him to give you a vision of how He would like your marriage to be OR if you are dealing with unrecoverable issues, NOT BE.

        • Vikki on January 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm

          I really appreciate this persoective because I truly wrestled with this- cant Jesus just be enough? Is my unmet needs grounds for anything more than coubseling?
          And heres the thjng… My unmet needs can go to Christ. But that falls apart when Im married and apparently he meeds sex. Thats a need Christ cant fill. If I were married that is totally my role to fill ( even sacrifically) but so is it HIS role to meet me emotionally (even sacrifically). I think the crux of the complaints at the core is not being a victim ( although I hear that alot as well) but equality.
          I appreciate your posts and insights. Tjank you.

          • Jeff on January 8, 2015 at 11:37 am

            What you wrote above (January 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm). . . That is beautiful. . . . Our VALUE comes in the fact we live, PERIOD —FULL STOP! Life is a gift only God can give. Jeremiah 1:5, Acts 17:25 . . . We don’t have to do ANYTHING to be valuable. We ARE valuable because we are here, period.

            . . . And you just summed up better than I did what the needs are. For women, men have got to be emotionally available (–Why, oh why is that so hard? I can’t believe why that is so hard for people! . . . Must be mental/ serious behavioral problems.) —Can’t you just pray and mean it: . . . . Lord God, please help me out-love, out-serve my wife. Help me make my wife’s life better and easier. I am so, so fortunate to have her. No one else could ever take her place and if I had the chance, Lord, I would marry her all over again. I would always choose her. . . . I have to tell you, solutions after both understand each other; both are validating by each other; both are honoring each other. Those solutions are just like miracles. . . . . When you feel safe and validated to share your feelings, then you feel safe and validated to share your needs. . . That’s really where issues get solved and many of them are so easy to solve, especially if we don’t turn everything into a LOVE TEST requiring mind reading.

            . . . . Obviously, I am NOT including mental/ serious behavioral problems which maybe can never be solved without God rewriting the DNA. Those need to be turned over to serious professional psychiatrist/ physicians who specialize in diagnosis/ treatment of disorders. . . . . I have two friends, PhD/MD researchers, who believe they can develop a test for the emotionally unavailable, narcissistic personality and other mental disorders that impact that.

            Anyway, I’ll get a bunch of folks who are better at it than I to pray for you –although I will pray too . . . . But I’m always asking the Lord lots of very hard scripture questions; so He is sometimes probably not too pleased with me, although I always feel His love.

          • Jeff on January 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm

            . . . Vikki (January 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm),
            Thank you for clarifying that. . . You sure said that concisely and clearly. I wish I had that level of clarity. . . .You know what is crazy about this BLOG? I’ll write some two line thank you with a scripture quote and it WON’T get posted (Your comment is awaiting moderation = ἐπιφάνεια –which being translated = awaiting Jesus’ appearing.). . . ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. —-BUT then I’ll write some interminable screed on Bible / New Testament Greek words and context and the second I hit POST, that very second, it will be immediately posted, bypassing any possible moderation —and as I look at it, —Oh no, —I’ll wish I had NOT hit POST —BUT that will get posted immediately. . . . ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
            —Anyway, I hear your heart and I understand that this whole thing does NOT work without good willed people. We are supposed to be falling over each other to out due one another in love. I don’t know why men have to be rank amatures at meeting women’s needs (emotional intimacy, initiating love & affection, talking with/ praying with their wife, reading/studying the Bible with her. –Honestly, honestly how hard is that, really???; —Compared to becoming fluent in say a dead language???) . . . . and Men (—at least complain to me) that women are amatures at meeting men’s needs (sexually exciting/ initiating sex –ditto). . . . Oh Lord, why? Why make it so ridiculously crazy Lord??? . . . And I know all the glib answers: “God doesn’t want us to get bored!” —really, really??? . . . . “God is concerned about the quality of our love and so He is really trying to see how well you love!” —really, really??? . . . I just feel so bad for men who 1) Don’t know the Lord and 2) Don’t understand how much FUN it is to work on their marriage. –Guys, your wife is THE coolest thing you can imagine AND you CAN really figure her out. You can get dialed-in and really connect to her (unless you have serious behavioral issues). –And she is absolutely integral to your future success. . . . Empty yourself of your need to change your wife. Only change yourself. Work on your issues NOT hers. . . . She knows her issues and you changing will change her (The speck in her eye -vs- the WHOLE LUMBERYARD in yours & mine too.) Remember all of romance is Safety & Security. —Beyond mental/ behavioral issues, marriages END for ONE reason ONLY: Selfishness; BE Selfless & SWEET . . . And for the love of God guys, if you are going to have an affair or worse, have it with your own wife! Sneak around with her and meet her in out of the way hotels/ resorts. If you are loving your wife really well, she’ll work with you –BIG TIME! The rest must be some kind of serious mental/ behavioral issues. We have to find a way to test for emotionally unavailable, narcissistic personalities and other mental disorders and get those out of the gene pool. It’s just disgraceful. . . . You know what??? Evolutionary biologists have a model for why all this is happening and it explains lots of the data (even out-of-sample data) but I don’t feel safe sharing that here. . . It’s not faith affirming and I don’t believe it. –But it’s pretty solid stuff (RE: explanatory scope; explanatory power; plausibility; less ad hoc; contains fewer suppositions, et. al.)

          • Guest blogger on January 9, 2015 at 11:48 am

            Yes, Jesus is enough in the sense of who we are at the core, but we were created to live in loving, harmonious relationships with others as well. We can’t live a full, healthy life without being in fellowship with people, and others’ responses to us does have a bearing on our overall well being.

          • Guest blogger on January 13, 2015 at 9:38 am

            Men (or women, for that matter) don’t “need” sex. Jesus didn’t. Husbands generally crave sex physiologically more than their wives, but sex is so much more than a physical act. As image bearers, both partners need love, acceptance, respect, and soul connection. Unless both spouses are looking to Christ to fill these inner needs, no amount of genital activity is going to make up for it. As godly wives, we are NOT responsible for that.

        • InHim on January 8, 2015 at 2:05 am

          When I initially went to my pastor, he was compassionate and understanding. He was shocked to hear of my husband’s behaviors over the years. However, in a short time, an associate pastor, head of men’s ministries was called in. He met with my husband and I. His agenda became immediately apparent. He asked me if I had completely “forgiven” my husband for his behaviors, and if I had, why I was still “judging” him. When I replied that he had lied to me over a period of several years, hiding damaging behavior, he asked me “well did you ever just ask him if he was doing _____?” Um, yes I had. Very soon, with my husband sitting there beside me, it became all about my lack of forgiveness, and “communication issues”. Ironically, this pastor had himself been divorced. It was clear that in his mind, divorce was never acceptable under any circumstance. My husband’s behaviors were totally excused (because, after all, Christ had forgiven him, so why couldn’t I?) and I became the hard-hearted unrepentant spouse. I was devastated, and felt completely betrayed.
          It is just so much easier to ask an already beaten down spouse to submit more, than it is to ask a man to grow. It is easier to ask a woman to take more abuse than it is to face the fact that marriages breakdown in the church and it does not mean that Christ has failed us. So churches ask us to go be messy somewhere else, and come back when we’re better.
          I didn’t know about Leslie’s books, or this blog, or that there was support for women like me three years ago. However, I had prayed for guidance and wisdom and for rescue from what had become an impossible marriage for a number of years. I knew that I had exhausted every possible avenue of healing. I had “died to self”, humbled myself, submitted to the best of my ability. I had learned to be silent, to respond to a harsh word with a gentle answer, and NOTHING was getting better. It was getting worse. For over a year, God gave me Isaiah “In quietness and trust is your strength, in repentance and rest is your salvation”. I clung to that. Then one day, He gave me another scripture, in Jeremiah, and confirming circumstances and I knew that I could leave. There was no PEACE possible, when one member of the union did not desire peace. Moses allowed divorce for hard-heartedness. We interpret that wrongly when we ascribe hard-heartedness to the woman who finally reveals to the world that the marriage is a prison.
          I am so frustrated when I hear anyone who has not been where we are, has not seen our tears, and our desperate attempts to turn ourselves inside out to make a marriage work, say that it is about happiness or peace, or self-fulfillment. It is literally survival.

          • HisEzer on January 11, 2015 at 7:10 pm

            Thanks for sharing, InHim. Sorry this has been your experience — both with your husband and those who were supposed to step in as protectors and helpers… There are many of us who can relate.

          • Guest blogger on January 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

            “It is just so much easier to ask an already beaten down spouse to submit more, than it is to ask a man to grow. It is easier to ask a woman to take more abuse than it is to face the fact that marriages breakdown in the church and it does not mean that Christ has failed us.”
            InHim, you’ve hit the nail on the head! I myself no longer see separation and divorce as a matter of “just being more committed” or “if only the gospel had been applied more thoroughly by just one spouse.” I’ve wasted much of the last eight years pleading, waiting, hoping in vain for something to change in my marriage. There are no healthy factors that indicate that it ever will, and my first allegiance is to trust my identity in Christ and be obedient to what he’s asking of me.

          • Sharon on January 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm

            My goodness! What wonderful, powerful words you shared with us! I am now in my 4th month of being separated from a very degrading, verbally abusive marriage for 4.5 years. Your words give me the “atta boy” I need to be strong on doing the right thing. Thanks!

          • Kim on January 29, 2015 at 1:02 am

            InHim, I identify with what you have written, It could have been my words. I feel as if I have searched the whole wide world for answers. Took every course, read every book, attended every bible study, read every scripture. It wasn’t until I received empathy from the Lord and others, seeing my true value is found in Jesus, that I began to build my core strength, not gaining it to fight back and hurt back, but so that I can finally be honest with myself, get out of denial, reject the lies and put my hope in Christ. Renewing my mind is key. I still believing in miracles, yet I know I don’t need them to live. I just served my husband of 27 yrs with separation papers He has swung from one extreme to the other and everyday is a new challenge to face. I have not caved in yet. Most of his response is due to money, funny to him, counseling was never worth the expense, now, we are spending it on lawyers. According to him, everything that has gone wrong is all my fault. People don’t see what I see. 4 years of being beat down and never given any emotional air. I believe that he has narcissistic traits. I want to understand him, but knowing that I can’;t fix him, I am spending my time and energy learning and growing. The goal is to be whole, not win my husband’s love. If it is real, it will come, I want to love freely, not as a way to feel secure and not lose. I believe I am married for life, but I do not have to stay in a relationship with an unrepentant man. Separation is not forbidden. The hardness of his heart is the separation, I just took a step to acknowledge what he has already done to the marriage. I forgive daily, but reconciliation and restoration takes two. I watched a video at ,Narcissistic Victim Syndrome&body=

          • Tanya on February 6, 2015 at 9:27 pm

            I see the truth now in the words “ask a man to grow” because I realize that while I am spinning trying so hard to be forgiving and more worthy of my husband’s love, he just wants me to be there to make his life as easy as I can make it. Ask a man to grow…by saying no to one more request and by raising my expectations for my husband, I am asking him to grow up and be the responsible man and father God intends him to be. I have been criticized and told I am mean and asked how this is damaging our children. The church leaders were more concerned about my children than the fact that my husband refuses to pay bills and help out even though he works and earns money.

  12. Lisa on January 7, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”

    • Guest blogger on January 8, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Revelation 3:17, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Oh, how we all need to buy Jesus Christ’s refined gold, white garments, and healing salve!

  13. Holly Welch on January 7, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    I too struggled with my church when seeking help. I was really lost and didn’t even realize that what I was going through was abuse. When I talked to the pastors they would act concerned and say they would talk to my husband but he would tell them everything was “fine” and they believed him. The marriage counseling was focused 90% on helping me respond in a christlike manner to my husband’s behavior. After 2 months I stopped going to this counseling because it made my husband’s behavior at home much worse as he retaliated against me at home to “make me pay” for putting him through it. I did go to an outside licensed christian counselor by myself and she is the one that opened my eyes to the abusiveness of the behavior and suggested that I separate and require my husband to go to an anger management class before he could come home. I was afraid to confront my husband with this by myself so I asked my church if either the pastors or the elders would stand with me when I confronted him about this. They refused. Instead they asked him the next day to come to a meeting at the church to talk to him without telling me they were going to do that which made my husband extremely angry. I was afraid to be at home when he got done and told them that because he would be nice to them, but then he would take his anger out on me when he got home. I was told that they called him in for nothing to do with me but about things my son had said about how he had been treated at home to another child at the church. Um….if both the wife and the son are making accusations about angry, abusive behavior shouldn’t that be a huge red flag… I ended up meeting him in the parking lot of the church as he came out from that meeting and confronted him there with the pastor’s peaking out the window watching. I didn’t attend a legalistic spiritually abusive church. It was just a church where the pastors had absolutely no training and were not capable of handling troubled marriages. They unintentionally put me in a dangerous situation because they believed my lying husband’s words and not mine. Churches and pastors just seem to value men and their opinions and statements and character more than women who are viewed as flighty, over-emotional and unreliable. I don’t know what will change that.

    • HisEzer on January 11, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Well, Holly, there’s one thing that will …(in response to your last statement)… Jesus’ return. He will make things right!

      Wouldn’t it be something if the women who have been oppressed during this time on Earth are given in the New Earth/Heaven primary leadership roles over the very men who had misused their positions of power (husbands, church leaders, etc.)? My flesh is wanting to dwell on that thought, ….but ….OK coming back to reality…. I realize we would not likely have any memory of our past pains, so any such outcome would have no impact whatsoever on our minds or on our oppressors’ anyway…

      Hmmm…. unless…. perhaps our oppressors are NOT there…. and instead somewhere else. I guess part of the torture of Hell will be that the occupants there indeed WILL remember everything ! …every unrepentant false accusation, every lie, every abuse of power, every moment of practiced entitlement, etc… Neither their memories nor their tears will be wiped away like those who are with Christ…. and then to see their target on the other side joyfully prospering. … THAT will probably contribute more to their ongoing misery than the fire itself…

      • Guest blogger on January 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

        Justice WILL BE done. The LORD unequivocally promises that.

    • Guest blogger on January 13, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Did the separation help, Holly? What happened after that?

  14. Liz on January 8, 2015 at 3:03 am

    My husband and I have recently separated. we’ve been to counseling together many times throughout our marriage. This past year God revealed to me the truth about our marriage, it is emotionally, verbally, and spiritually destructive. I reluctantly agreed to marriage counseling against my better judgement for another year and finally stopped because we were getting nowhere. The abuse got worse as I got stronger and started setting boundaries. After being told I should leave and if I can’t be his wife, he wants a divorce, I filed for legal separation and he had to leave. I wanted some financial protection. Anyway he has told the pastor and deacons that I am sinning by not submitting, having intimate relations with him, and taking him to court. I was told yesterday by the pastor that we need to go to counseling together even after I repeatedly told him about the past failures. I said I need time apart to heal and work through the abuse with God. My husband insists I am the abuser and has been telling everyone. The pastor was pressuring me to go to counseling and told me the deacons were going to discuss this at the next meeting and that if I don’t agree to counseling I will have to step down from my deaconess position. According to the church by-laws, I am fully qualified to continue even though we are separated. I am going to give them some information on couples counseling and also what I need to see in my husband in the way of changed heart, accountability, true remorse, etc. before any marriage counseling takes place. I told him I asked my husband to go to the Christian abuse recovery group but my husband refuses. I also plan to ask them if they are going to meet without actually talking to me to get my side of the story. It will be interesting to see how this plays out but I am sticking to my convictions and waiting to see changes in him, first, as mentioned in Leslie’s book.

    • Becca on January 8, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      Liz, don’t waste your time on these fools. Just find another church that is willing to submit to God’s Word instead of their man-made junk.

    • Guest blogger on January 13, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Thanks so much for sharing, Liz. This galvanizes my conviction not to go back to couple’s counseling until my husband evidences a changed attitude toward me.

  15. Vicki on January 8, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Jeff, I can’t reply directly to your comment to my reply, but thank you x 10 million. I’m going to copy and print that out to remind myself that there are men who get this, who see the problem, who CAN and DO exhort other men to lean in and love hard. I truly appreciate all your Biblical posts, but this was my favorite. You may not know but you are also redeeming other men who have been on here and been less than gracious. You made a bar maybe we can remember to aim for the next time around. May God bless you for us. Thanks again! — Vicki

    • Becca on January 8, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Click “Like” (wish there was a “Like” button.

    • Jeff on January 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      RE: Vicki says January 8, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      . . . .And thank you for taking the time to bless me with your kind words. . . . . I will tell you, as I read the stories on this BLOG, my heart is just wounded and I can feel my own heart bleed —And I wonder, Lord God, HOW will some of these precious people pull through this??? —It makes me feel so helpless. –I want to be fighting back (filing lawsuits). . . . . . . In the middle of the summer, I was having dinner with a man who is one of our firm’s large clients. I have worked with this family for over ten years. I know they attend some type of community church but I don’t know the denomination. . . . . I listened as he told me that he had rented out a villa in France and was planning to ask a female marketing director in his firm to spend a week there with him. I dead bolted my mouth as he told me all this but I am certain it was inscribed ALL over my face: Why are men hell bent —JUST HELL BENT— on destruction? I always think διαβόλῳ (Satan) gets way too much credit but maybe not. I am becoming more convinced all the time that some men are just itching to ruin themselves. How can this be??? —His wife, just stunning. She has a master’s degree, incredible personality. He has wonderful teenage girls. —It would NOT matter even if all that were NOT the case— but it made it all the more surreal. It’s like it doesn’t even matter what the objective facts are. It’s like insanity. —Was it inability to handle stress??? I don’t think so. —No coping mechanisms, like asserting personal boundaries??? No way, not with him. Feeling of unworthiness, some form of self-punishment / Self-hatred??? –I don’t think so. Clinical depression??? —No Way. —-Just Lunatic CRAZY. It has nothing to do with logic and reason. It’s like insanity. —And men say women are irrational —are you kidding me!!! I simply could not believe it. . . . . I told him: I assume you would have never told me this if you didn’t want me to comment. . . . . So, I have to tell you what you already know somewhere in your heart, this is one of the WORST possible decisions you could make: spiritually, financially, legally, morally. . . . . .I gave him so much Biblical marriage advice (Bible passages direct from the originals –the ones I have memorized– with a bit of practical expounding) that he said “Enough!” at one point. —But, I asked if he and his wife would consider going to counseling with one of my professor friends who also has a practice. He agreed and my client called me in December and told me that he and his wife were doing great. —As my professor friend always says: It’s NO game when someone lives without Christ’s grace and who’s to blame when it blows up in their face??? . . . . They are to blame but I am to blame too. We are all to blame and so we have to help each other any way we can —even if it is risky to speak up or reach out. –And it always is. . . . Lord Jesus, I’m no special person. I have nothing to offer You. . . . But You treat me like I’m the only one with whom You have to do. . . . I don’t deserve Jesus, either, and yet, when we accept the gift, proclaim Him as Lord, and then start living our lives for Him alone, those around us are influenced and do likewise. Undeserved grace is what I received.

  16. Survivor on January 9, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    “What if I’m wrong . . . about my husband, my church leadership, and my faith? For as long as we have been married, my husband has deprecated my ability to understand him, unless, of course, I agree with him. The elder had insisted for years that if only I were more charitable in my viewpoint, gracious in my speech, and forbearing in waiting for change, everything in our marriage would be better.” And “Even when I brought up examples of things my husband was saying and doing that controverted this self-satisfied assessment, I was essentially told to “stand down.” In this elder’s words, “I can’t believe that [your husband] just comes up to you while you’re working at your computer and starts an argument with you.” and “You can’t possibly be perceiving things correctly at home.” Over and over I was reproved for being critically judgmental and unloving when, in fact, Paul commands the Corinthians in chapter five of his first letter to judge the words and actions of those within the church.”
    These are both so familiar–as, I am sure, they are to many others!!

    The shadow side is a totally new concept to me and I am eager to hear more! Thank you, Leslie, for addressing this for us! And thank you, Guest Blogger, for being willing to share your story with us!! The fact that churches cause so much damage to women in these positions is about as shameful as the abusers themselves!!!!!

  17. Loretta P on January 9, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Years ago and for many years the pastors all said I must submit and my lack of submission and not being good enough sexually was my husband’s problems and I was greatly wounded! It is only with our last Pastor who is a gifted counselor that I’ve found an advocate. He and his wife stand up for me, support me, and are helping my husband by first holding him accountable! My husband has just been diagnosed as borderline bipolar and has not yet been put on mood stabilizing medicines which he needs. We have an appointment for that next month. I have lived in crazy and abuse for 39 years and now there is a light as he’s in counseling, going to be on medicines, and our Pastor and wife are working with us. BUT they have encouraged me that if my husband doesn’t walk out the changes needed I should leave.
    I wish everyone in an abusive marriages had an advocate in their Pastor, but most the pastor’s I’ve known have not been an advocate for those abused.

    • Guest blogger on January 13, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I see that it is vital to my spiritual and mental health to choose my next church congregation very carefully and not allow my husband to dictate to me where I may worship and participate in body life. After all, isn’t the freedom to worship in the Bill of Rights?

  18. Becca on January 10, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Jeff, I would be interested in hearing your perspective of what you believe hupatasso (submission) means within the context of Scripture. Many like to interpret it as a military term of submission, subordination, man having authority over woman. What do you believe hupatasso means and what do you think it looks like when practiced?

    • Jeff on January 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      . . . .Thank you for your question. I will have to make a lot of assumptions and lots of simplifications and I’m writing this on a tablet from a plane.

      —-So, for the compound verb (hupatasso) here is what I want it to mean: I want it to mean mutual submission, that is submission that cannot be required or forced, period. So this mutual submission rules out hierarchical differences. —But sadly, to get there, I have to twist the word and contexts like a balloon animal. —That is a totally diluted meaning of hupotasso. The word occurs in the middle voice and definitely indicates involuntary submission and obedience. That is to bring something under the firm control of someone, put in subjection, to obey, to submit to one’s control. Like Demons subjected to the disciples (Lk. 10:17, 20); Labor submit to the authority of management (Tit. 2:9; 1 P. 2:18); Submitting to civil authorities (R. 13:1, 5; Tit. 3:1; 1 P. 2:13): Women submissive in local assembly (1 C. 14:34). –I’m so sorry, I wish it were different. . . . .During the same time period the New Testament was written, I see that word and it is totally command-obey, involuntary submission and obedience. Aristotle, Seneca (1st century A.D. — bring under firm control, subordinate) and Plutarch (2nd century A.D.) –females must be obedient all their lives.

      . . . . BUT, but, lets do the first “C”, Commitment to Honesty, –No Pretending, FULL disclosure, No Hedges, (—no lying, even for Jesus!) on Ephesians (below) because important moderators exist on all this. . . . Remember our CONSENSUS apparatus discussion (all the extant, valuable early manuscripts collated) of the Bible’s text, remember we saw the variant letter-ratings:
      • The letter A indicates that the text is certain.
      • The letter B indicates that the text is almost certain.
      • The letter C indicates that scholars have difficulty in deciding which equally valuable textual variant to place in the text.
      • The letter D indicates that scholars have great difficulty in arriving at any decision. —i.e., we just DON’T know.

      • A-Ratings: 8.7%
      • B-Ratings: 32.3%
      • C-Ratings: 48.6 %
      • D-Ratings: 10.4%
      . . . i.e. base decisions off of As and Bs . . . .Cs and Ds less so. . . . . –So just like you can’t release me from holiness (no matter how you twist any text). I can’t release you from submission (except we will see powerful moderators in a minute here, —below).

      . . . .Practically, if you love your precious wife like Christ loved the church, you will listen to her anytime, anywhere and met her emotional needs for conversational intimacy. And you will share your feelings and thoughts. More importantly, you will ALWAYS seek her input on decisions/ questions. —–Guys, your wife’s need for emotional satisfaction: meaningful, satisfying tenderness and appreciation in the relationship and being part of decisions is___________ is__________. . . . Giving her your full attention, maintaining eye contact, listening for feelings, et. al., opening a window to her heart so that she knows you care. How in God’s name would this not be the choice??? —always!!! —Don’t ever ignore your wife’s feelings about the will of God, and seriously seek her input. You want that motivation for the expression of hupotasso to be a response to a true agape love, agape-based, spirit-filled relationship. You cherish and protect your wife as being yourself. Otherwise, as some guy two rows up keeps saying (–and I don’t know what he is discussing): —ya got nothin’ –and you know it!!!

      . . . . . . . Okay, so, Christiaan (two a’s) Beker, was a formidable scholar of Paul!!! He wrote a massive and influential study of Paul’s theology, one of the truly great studies ever (EVER) to be published on the matter. Beker was thoroughly convinced that Paul had not written Ephesians, that in fact Ephesians represents a serious alteration of Paul’s thought. When I first studied his arguments, I was too narrow-minded to seriously consider them –because I was afraid of them. But the more I studied the matter, carefully comparing what Ephesians says with what Paul himself says in his undisputed letters, I became increasingly convinced. Now, I am 85% sure Paul did not write that letter. Today the majority of biblical scholars (–and I could list them and the list would run beyond this text box) agree, period.

      Let me, let him say it below because he can say it better than I would: But to bottom line it: When you start digging deeper, large differences and discrepancies appear. . . . . The reasons for thinking Paul did not write this letter are numerous and compelling. For one thing, the writing style is not Paul’s –at all:

      “. . . Paul writes in short, pointed sentences; the sentences in Ephesians are very long and very complex. In Greek, the opening statement of thanksgiving (1:3–14)—all twelve verses—is one sentence!!! There’s nothing wrong with extremely long sentences in Greek; it just isn’t the way Paul wrote, period. It’s like Mark Twain and William Faulkner; they both wrote correctly, but you would never mistake the one for the other. In the hundred or so sentences in Ephesians, 9 of them are over 50 words in length. . . . .unreal. . . . Compare this with Paul’s own letters. Philippians, for example, has 102 sentences, none are near 50 words; Galatians has 181 sentences, again with only 1 over 50 words. The book also has an inordinate number of words that don’t otherwise occur in Paul’s writings, 116 altogether, well higher than average (50 percent more than Philippians, for example, which is about the same length).

      But the main reason for thinking that Paul didn’t write Ephesians is that what the author says in places does not square with what Paul himself says in his own letters. Ephesians 2:1–10, here, oddly, Paul includes himself as someone who, before coming to Christ, was carried away by the “passions of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and senses.” This doesn’t sound like the Paul of the undisputed letters, who says that he had been “blameless” with respect to the “righteousness of the law” (Phil. 3:4). In addition, even though he is talking about the relationship of Jew and Gentile in this letter, the author does not speak about salvation apart from the “works of the law,” as Paul does. He speaks, instead, of salvation apart from doing “good deeds.” —That simply was not the issue Paul addressed.

      Moreover, this author indicates that believers have already been “saved” by the grace of God. As it turns out, the verb
      “saved” in Paul’s authentic letters is always used to refer to the future. Salvation is not something people already have; it’s what they will have when Jesus returns on the clouds of heaven and delivers his followers from the wrath of God.

      Relatedly, and most significantly, Paul was emphatic in his
      own writings that Christians who had been baptized had “died” to the powers of the world that were aligned with the enemies of God. They had “died with Christ.” But they had not yet been “raised” with Christ. That would happen at the end of time, when Jesus returned and all people, living and dead, would be raised up to face judgment. That’s why in Romans 6:1–4 Paul is emphatic: those who are baptized “have died” with Christ, and they “will be raised” with him, at Jesus’s second coming. Paul was extremely insistent on this point, that the Paul was extremely insistent on this point, that the resurrection of believers was a future, physical event, not something that had already happened. One of the reasons he wrote 1 Corinthians was precisely because some of the Christians in that community took an opposing point of view and maintained that they were already enjoying a resurrected existence with Christ now, that they already were enjoying the benefits of salvation. Paul devotes 1 Corinthians 15 to owing that, no, the resurrection is not something that has happened yet. It is a future physical event yet to occur. Christians have not yet been raised with Christ. But contrast this statement with what Ephesians says: “Even when we were dead through our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (2:5–6). Here believers have experienced a spiritual resurrection and are enjoying a heavenly existence in the here and now. This is precisely the view that Paul argued against in his letters to the Corinthians!

      In point after point, when you look carefully at Ephesians, it
      stands at odds with Paul’s own work. This book was apparently written by a later Christian in one of Paul’s churches who wanted to deal with a big issue of his own day: the relation of Jews and Gentiles in the church. He did so by claiming to be Paul, knowing full well that he wasn’t Paul. He accomplished his goal, that is, by producing a _______.”

      . . . . Honestly, I don’t see someone who is truly an emotionally unavailable, narcissistic personality with mental disorders changing on some timeline. If you have all the checklist, tests for a emotionally-absent chronic liar, sociopath, or sex-addict borderline and narcissistic personality. . . . . any non-action/ waiting is asking God to set aside the laws which normally govern the universe. That person is not going to tolerate a fragile Christian women building her CORE. You will NEVER be able to please them. Unless they get help, but how??? —these types take zero responsibility.

      I see nowhere in the Word-of-God (unless someone shows me) where you need a guilt reduction strategy to leave well. If God cares more about human beings than He does about marriage —then you _______.

      . . . . . . Narcissistic emotionally unavailable addicted people are bags of bricks of high-yield chemical explosive. Of course you will drop the bag with εὔσπλαγχνοι (compassionate, charitable, tender, understanding) so it doesn’t explode/ kill you but you still GO. . . . A mentality of power and control via physical, verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual, spiritual (churches are masters at that: Christianity –because you are so awful, you made God kill himself! That right there is spiritual abuse.) —– Spiritual abuse is still abuse that destroys your person. The abuse = murder. —-Either it is or it is not.

      . . . . There is a light burning in the darkness; It gives us wings to touch the sky; It is the wisdom of the wise: Psalm 19:7-11, 33:11, 119:105. . . . . . . Lord Jesus, to You I am an open book. You know every page by heart from the ending to the start.

      • Becca on January 11, 2015 at 10:46 pm


        I hope you are not heading to Wisconsin…’s freezing here!

        Here is something I want to toss out to you, for your further thoughts (I would like to hear other’s thoughts as well on this)…..In the beginning of Eph 5, it states that believers are to submit to each other -hence indicating mutual submission. You give the definition of hupotasso as having a military term, which doesn’t fit the context. (Okay, so most everyone here FEELS like their marriage is a war 😉 ) The verb, in non-military terms, means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

        …which fits with the context. Also, since it is in the middle voice, wouldn’t it be, for example, something that is self-chosen? If it is not mutual submission, but hierarchy, that concept doesn’t fit here.

        Also, when Jesus was on earth, he didn’t set up a hierarchy, he tore it down. When his disciples asked who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, he responded by washing their feet. The greatest leaders are the greatest servants.

        Don’t you think it is possible that God is calling marriage partners to submit to one another, but the husband has a higher calling -to lay down his life for his wife as Christ did for his Church? If someone is called to lay down their life for their spouse (wife), that looks like submission.

        It’s hard for me to picture God equalizing everyone (Greeks, Jews, etc.), but then instituting the man being the dominating person in the marriage just because he was born with the right body parts. (Not to sound crude here…..) That doesn’t fit God’s character.

        Is it possible that since it was a common practice in the Roman households that wives gave their allegiance to their fathers, that Paul and Peter wanted them to be loyal to their husbands (fitting the leave and cleave)?

        Also, the word “authority” (exousia) in the marriage context (1 Cor 7:4-5), states that the reasons why a married couple should abstain from sex, and it has to be a mutual decision. If God wanted a hierarchy in marriage, why does this slip through the loop of having to be a mutual decision?

        Just as a side note, I was reading a blog by an atheist. He found (sorry, don’t remember the website address) that Christian marriages have a higher rate of divorce than atheists. That got my attention. The reason is atheists treat their partners as equals (or so they claim). His point was that Christians, in their hierarchy marriage, create a slave/master type of relationship that ends up in divorce. The guy had a point, sad to say.

        So does God want us to live our marriages in a hierarchy establishment or does God want us to live our marriages in mutual submission with God as the only authority? Which example will bring people to God and which will turn them away from God?

        Please, don’t read this thinking I am mad or upset. These are just some thoughts I have been thinking about. I’m just needing to hash out this concept in my mind and am asking for feedback from you, and from anyone else that cares to share their thoughts on this (which I would like to hear).

        Blessings in your travels!

        PS For those of you that need your Comment box bigger, click on the bottom right square where the scroll bar is and drag it out.

      • Becca on January 11, 2015 at 11:49 pm

        Sorry, I forgot to post the reference for the meaning of hupotasso in non-military terms. and

        “Hupotasso’s middle voice hupotassomai does not convey the meaning of “a ranking of persons, to rule over or to be ruled.”

        “The Greek uses two entirely different words for a submission which demands or requires obedience. The Greek word for “dutiful obedience” is hupakouo. The Greek word for “obedient submission to one in authority” is peitharcheo.

        “The apostle Paul used the Greek word hupakouo in Ephesians 6 when instructing children and slaves in dutiful obedience. Surely, if he had meant to place wives in a position of obedience to their husband he would have used this word in Ephesians 5, just as he did in Ephesians 6.”

  19. HisEzer on January 11, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Well, Holly, there’s one thing that will …(in response to your last statement)…  Jesus’ return.  He will make things right!

    Wouldn’t it be something if the women who have been oppressed during  this time on Earth are given in the New Earth/Heaven primary leadership roles over the very men who had misused their positions of power (husbands, church leaders, etc.)?  My flesh is wanting to dwell on that thought,  ….but ….OK coming  back to reality….  I realize we would not likely have any memory of our past pains, so any such outcome would have no impact whatsoever on our minds or on our oppressors’ anyway…   

    Hmmm…. unless…. perhaps our oppressors are NOT there…. and instead somewhere else.   I guess part of the torture of Hell will be that the occupants there indeed WILL  remember everything ! …every unrepentant false accusation, every lie, every abuse of power, every moment of practiced entitlement,  etc… Neither their memories nor their tears will be wiped away like those who are with Christ….  and then to see their target on the other side joyfully prospering. …  THAT will probably contribute more to their ongoing misery than the fire itself

    • HisEzer on January 11, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      The above response is misplaced and is supposed to be directed to Holly… (so I’m going to repost it under hers)…

    • Teri on January 12, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Dear friend: As much as your very creative and colorful depiction of hell looks for those who are our tormentors, I think it is important for you to ask the Lord to soften your heart and to give you the gift of Mercy, mercy mercy for your executioners – you do not want to have to review your attitude at those pearly gates. Don’t want to skate right by those pearly gates because our disposition is as menacing as is theirs. In Him with Love! Believe me I ask God all the time to change my heart toward the aliens who make life so very challenging! Your sister in Him

      • HisEzer on January 12, 2015 at 8:40 pm

        Teri, it certainly was not my intention to come across as delighting in the outcome of Hell for anyone! (But I can see how it might have, and admit my words could have been better chosen. I was trying to encourage Holly with the reminder that even though it appears God is silent right now, His justice wll come in due time… much like the prayers of David do in some of the Psalms…) No, believe me it grieves me greatly to think of this outcome – even for my own abuser. I pray for him daily that his eyes will be opened before it is too late. Along with wanting to encourage Holly, I was also simply thinking about the reality of God’s stated concepts about “the first being last and the last being first…” and that those who have exalted themselves will be humbled…. My intentions were not to show a lack of mercy but rather to do the opposite – sound an alarm to perhaps a few abusers reading these posts. If even one could recognize the gravity of his/her self-delusion, turn to God and repent, it would be worth it. And that is love. (But thanks again for sharing your perspective. I’ll try to do better in framing my thoughts).

  20. April on January 15, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    These church responses are unjust, cruel and Pharasaical. They are actually abusive at best, foolish at worse. Send them over to Jeff Crippen’s series on abuse on youtube and RUN from that unsafe assembly.

  21. April on January 15, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Whoops- correction- Jeff Crippen’s abuse series is at Sermon Audio dot com. I also recommend the blog “Crying out for Justice.” Infuriating and even triggering for me to read this…because I also received horrible spiritual counsel for years. “Created to be His Helpmeet” was the nujmber one offender…but there are others that are also horrible and even dangerous for mistreated women.

    • Survivor on January 15, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      April, I, too was given that book to read! The friend who gave it to me, later realized how wrong that was and sincerely apologized! Recently, I was telling another woman about this experience, and her response was: “THROW OUT THAT BOOK!!!!”

    • Leslie Vernick on January 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      I did not like that book either. Told women to not read it. IT was very confusing and actually made women and men more immature and unhealthy.

  22. April on January 15, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    It’s ok and biblical to have ANGER at the abuse….I don’t think it’s appropriate to tisk tisk women who feel freedom to express hurt and anger and such monumental betrayals and persecution. We can both forgive and be angry!

    • Leslie Vernick on January 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      If you didn’t feel angry I would wonder if something else was wrong? Anger isn’t sinful, but how we express it might be.

  23. Forgiven & Free on January 20, 2015 at 8:50 am

    After 25 years of ministry As A pastor’s wife I know first hand the hope & hurt within the church. When it comes to brokenness sadly almost always the church shoots the weak. Elders are little prepared to help women in circumstances which involve male dominance and abuse domestic violence. most often they turn to blame shifting & shame toward the victim & excuse the man’s destructive behavior. And actually continue the harm. I went through this myself exposing my husband long term abuse. resulting in the church attacking blaming me, abandoning me ,and my girls while standing with the abuser and glorifying him. very sad but this is why God is our only Hope, defender and redeemer. our strength and our hope. The church is run by fearful men

  24. birdie on January 21, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Leslie, Would you please consider writing a book for the woman that has chosen to “stay” in her marriage. She may have made this choice due to finances, health, kids, etc. But her husband has not changed. So please show her how on a daily basis step by step to be that “Abigail”. You share some in Emotionally Destructive Marriage , but I ask please consider the topic for the women like me who chose to stay & need a more detailed plan/advice on how to do it healthy. Thanks!

    • Leslie Vernick on January 21, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Birdie, I don’t know about writing a whole book on that – or at least a book for publication but I will consider writing an e-book for women in that situation. How many of you would be interested in an e-book? Let me know. Also there are some books – like Fool Proofing Your Life and others that talk about how to stay in a marriage with someone who isn’t going to change. You might want to check some of those out, but I will perhaps start blogging more about it this year and then perhaps turn it into an e-book.

      • Pamela Brooks on January 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm

        YES! On the Abigail ‘how do you stay well’! I was going over chapter 11 of EDM just yesterday and realizing that what I wished I had were some tough questions that were embedded in that material. Questions I could ask myself to honestly ascertain just how ‘well’ I was staying– that would address not only my actions but my attitudes… If my GPS is saying ‘recalculating’ just a little too often to be healthy? Have I really and truly let go of those dreams of having a loving husband or marriage? How do I know whether my soul is revolving around God more than my husband? Just how much room is depression, self-hatred and self-pity taking up in my soul…? (I don’t know… I just especially liked that part yesterday. It really had me evaluating my choices in a good way…

        • Leslie Vernick on January 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm

          great questions on self-reflection – am I really staying well.

          • Pamela Brooks on January 21, 2015 at 2:57 pm

            Ha! Those were the questions I was trying to dig out from what you were saying in your chp. 11 Abigail pages in the EDM! Anger, bitterness and resentment are easier for me to spot in myself than the ‘life suck’ of depression, self-pity and self-hatred… I’m usually in bed with the covers pulled over my head before I begin to ask myself any questions at all… (Huh! I guess I’m putting in a questionnaire request for your e-book! You already have the one for depression, right?) Questionnaires have really helped me face what’s really happening– not just what I think is happening…

      • Debbie on January 29, 2015 at 11:58 pm

        I would love to have a tool for those who choose to stay.

    • Becca on January 21, 2015 at 10:32 am


      I truly understand the position you are in. I understand the challenges of finances, raising kids, etc. without that husband there.

      As one who had chosen that route for years, I truly regret it. The emotional baggage that it has created for my now adult children has been incredible. Thankfully, they have been willing to go to a licensed counselor to work through it all. It takes time, and they will heal. However, my husband was the one who create the problems, and it was MY decision to keep them there in a broken home because of my fear to trust God.

      I have two young boys left to raise, and I have filed for divorce. Am I scared? You bet. My boys need a peaceful home, and that won’t happen if I remain married. My husband is not a husband, he is an abuser. God is my husband and father to my boys now.

      Please, do what is best for your children. You will never regret putting their emotional well-being and safety first. I don’t want anyone to have the regrets that I have.


      • Vikki on January 21, 2015 at 11:17 am

        Becca, I applaud you for considerong your children… So many times we stay bc we think we’re helping them but I can tell you this from my experience, that they see it. I buffered my son for years and when he was 15, my ex and I separated. My son was amgry at me for 4 months until he saw how he was neing treated, how confused he was. Within a year he begged me to not go back to my ex ( which I wanted to do but it would have been a disaster). My only advice is to understand that at least now you can buffer and take the kuds out of the situation and later you will not be able to. Just dont do joint custody ( one week on one week off). Do joint as on weekends and then some extra weeks in the summer ( if he’s abusive, he’ll not care about his time in the summer bc he’ll be working.) We stay to protect the kids as long as we can and them we leave to protect them – and either way, God protects us.

        • Becca on January 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm

          This is how amazing God is….my husband gave up custody.

          I understand about the kids not wanting to go back to this yucky relationship. My adult children already told me that if I stay in this marriage, future grandbabies will not be allowed at my house. None of our 5 children will speak to him. When I told the kids that I served him divorce papers, two of my adult children said, “Thank you, now I can start to heal.”

          Yes, I was staying for the sake of finances and thinking it was better for children to be a in two-parent home vs. a single parent home. What I had to learn was that is better for children to be in a single-parent home where there is continual peace and love. Children need a healthy and loving environment in order to development emotionally and mentally. As parents, it is so easy to base our decisions on fear and not what our children really need from us -to protect them at all costs.

          Depending on your state, children are not forced to see the other parent, unless the other parent hires an attorney for himself and another one for the kids. It can run into thousands of dollars. For those of you choosing to stay for the sake of the kids and worrying about custody, please seek legal counsel in your area to see what are the child custody laws are before you make that final decision to stay.

  25. janet on January 21, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Does a church elder really have the authority to require outward obedience to his critical judgments and unfair pronouncements?
    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! another great resource to understand marriage is from Craig Keener, Paul, women and wives: marriage and women’s ministry in the letter of Paul. And also his book… and marries another. Along with all of Leslie’s book, I found these book freeing in the correct understanding of scriptural marriage. I believe you are up against church dogma and theology and manmade religious ordinances and traditions, many of which came from pressures and governments of the world around us and did not come from the heart of god. Essentially it is the same as the Pharisees and Sadducees and you are on the path to following the spirit to what the real truth is. Keep studying and moving forward and learn god’s truth for yourself. In the meantime, grace to you my sister and eyes to see, ears to hear and heart to open to god. You are on the right path, don’t give up. Measure everything you believe against the relationship found in the bible between god and jesus, god and the spirit, jesus and the spirit and if what you experience is not similar to those relationships than you have some studying and understanding and praying to do on how to handle it. Measure everything against the perfect relationship between god and jesus and the spirit. The bible is full of what a real realtionship is. God never treated jesus the way women are treated by the church or their husbands and jesus never acted the way women are told to behave by the church or their husbands. Think about that.

  26. Vikki on January 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    I’m blown away by your story, Becca! Maybe what we need is a book of stories on how God provided once we chose to leave… (in no way dishonoring those choosing to stay – we all chose to stay for much longer than we wanted.) I just humbly intend that maybe the stories we so need are the ones where God provided when we were really afraid and could see no way. I bless the women who went before me – the women in marriages 20-30 years who said leave, who said it wasn’t worth it, who said go, and credit them for helping me be brave enough to finally go. God has provided for me in ways I could never have imagined. Bless everyone’s journey, as God provides for us exactly where we are.

  27. Susanne on January 21, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    I was a widow at 31 years of age and was on my own for years. After being a young widow for about 18 years I believed God sent me a man of God to marry. I did not see or notice anything unusual during our courtship, nor even during our first year of marriage. I fell into his arms whenever he desired. Year two…what happened? He started becoming angry and verbally abusive. Where did this come from? I was puzzled! Oh I tried communicating with him but he was not listening. He would not receive from me and would not answer me when I spoke to him. He said he had to “filter things” before he could reply. all I was asking for was either a yes, no, or I will think about it….anything…just acknowledge that he was at least listening. I am trying to make a 13 year long journey into a short story. Then the physical abuse began. i discovered that the closer I tried to get to my husband, the more he pushed me away. He definitely had intimacy issues (in to me see). Churches really do need to be educated on abusive marriages. We were told we could separate for a time but HAD to come back together! They sent us for counselling. My husband would appear to listen to the counsellor but would try in his own strength and go right back to abusive ways. I went for counselling for the abuse… To a Christian counsellor and to a women’s place where I learned all about the abuse cycle. I tried so desperately to stay in my marriage because I took my vows seriously. I made a covenant before God and man and I believed through much prayer, counselling, trying to change things….everything and anything I could to have the godly man I thought I had married. Nothing changed. As a matter of fact, he got angrier and more violent. In a huge rage he yelled at me so loud and pushed me down. This was 2 1/2 years ago and I am still on medication for a back injury as a result of this incident. My church said they were going to ask him to go for deliverance and inner healing. Two of our pastors came to talk to us and they never held him accountable. After speaking to him privately they decided to ask us to go for more counselling! I refused because I knew that this was not a marriage problem. He has a problem that needs to be identified and gone. He didn’t repent but he did yell at me saying “okay, I’m sorry, i shouldn’t have pushed you down.” No sincerity there! Our head pastor was not involve whatsoever in this. He was dealing with his 10 year old daughter who had cancer, although he was still preaching on Sunday mornings. The other pastors did not give any scripture or held him accountable, even though they said they believed me. I found out during our marriage that he was abusive to his first and second wives. Of course he has told me a different story of what transpired in his marriages. I found out he was extremely violent with his own children when they were young. The mother locked them in their rooms so he could not get at them. I was trying to deal with someone in denial, who blamed everyone or anything else for his behaviour. He would not take ownership, therefore no true repentance. It took me all those years to finally leave. Of course guilt tried to come on me. I searched my heart extensively. I repented for things I did not even do just to make sure I was ok. Oh how difficult it is for the woman who is coming out of an abusive marriage! I am finally at peace even though he is fighting to try not to have me get what is rightfully mine on our separation agreement. He shredded our old papers and I didn’t have proof of what I owned before we married. With trust in God, He came through and what seemed impossible became possible. I was told my info was purged but through perseverance and the Lord’s strategy, the figures were found. Glory to God!!! I believe this will come to a completion soon. It has been over two years since we began the process. I have total peace now and am closer to the Lord than I have been in years! I heard my husband is going for a divorce. At first I was upset. What biblical grounds does he have? None. Now I am at the place where if God allows him to do so, then He is setting me totally free for His purpose and plan for my life. God is so good.

  28. Loretta P on January 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    I would like an e-book resource for staying in the marriage. I’m trying to take a stand, have good boundaries, and work with him as he’s seeing a counselor now, and we are seeing your Pastor (a very good counselor in his own right). Pastor has said if my husband doesn’t walk out the plan and finding healing, he will stand with me if I leave. The church board have all said they will stand with me if I leave. For now I could use help on staying safely. There are challenges with staying or leaving.

  29. […] part 1, part 2 and part […]

  30. birdie on January 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Leslie, Pamela, Becca…Thanks for taking the time to answer. My situation is no kids, been married 21 years. I am severe health problems thus I have not worked outside the home for over 10 years. “Staying Well” would look at that critical fact for me. I have no family. If he does not continue in a healing path we would (with understood boundaries w/counselor) do things like separate bedrooms, all finances in open, NO Porn in home. As far as hubby having accountability plan/partner & continue his therapy I can’t force him. Our counselor calls it a “Covenant Agreement” versus a “Covenant Marriage.” I would remain faithful to my vows. Have you heard of this Leslie? Ironically many of our grandmothers, greatgrans did this yet it was never given a name. They were in a marriage w/no physical/emotional/spiritual intimacy. Sad but true.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 30, 2015 at 11:12 pm

      Sad but true. Before there were laws protecting women from abuse as well as divorce laws that gave women an equitable share of marital assets, many women had little choice but to figure out how to stay well. But my question to you is can you trust your spouse to keep a covenant agreement when he could not keep a covenant marriage?

  31. birdie on January 30, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Leslie…Yes I would like to see you do an E-book on this since many women need to stay (not talking physical abusive marriage) but have chosen to stay mainly for finances/age/children & need practical steps for daily living this out while honoring God. And keeping hope that their marriage can change, but the MAIN hope is in Jesus! not hubby. Thank you.

  32. birdie on February 3, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Leslie…How much do you charge to rent a nice room? Oh and no cats please! 🙂

  33. birdie on February 3, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Leslie you asked if I can trust my husband. No. He broke that trust. Only God is completely trustworthy. Many women don’t wish to live in a cardboard box. Due to age/education/illness they don’t always have the opportunities other women have. That is why a woman can stay in a marriage (again not physically abusive) but they need tools to stay well as you put it in the book I purchased.

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