One of the things that sets this blog apart from some other blogs that I read is that I welcome people to share different points of view. I think healthy dialogue, including a variety of thoughts and perspectives, can sharpen us all.
Two elements that make up destructive relationships are isolation and control. Therefore, I do not think it’s healthy to isolate ourselves by only permitting one perspective, or one “right” way to look at something. Nor do I think it's possible, to “control” what other people think or feel.
My heart’s desire is for women (and men) to be emotionally and spiritually healthy and be in loving relationships. To do so we must invite, investigate, and think through varying points of view, including different ways people read Biblical passages. When we refuse or lob verbal jabs at those who don’t quite see things our way, aren’t we looking an awful lot like those we accuse of being destructive towards us?
You might wonder why I’m not harder or quicker to jump into the disagreement when I see people having a lively debate. I love that you are learning to articulate your own point of view, have a voice, and do so in CORE strength. Most of the time you all do amazingly well and I’m so proud of you. When I see constructive conversation slipping or someone being attacked or disrespected, please remember, if we want to be honorable people we must treat others as Christ would even if we don’t like or agree with what they think or believe.
The Pharisees thought they were always right. They refused to allow any fresh air into their religious ideas and it turned out they missed seeing Jesus as their Messiah. We all know religious leaders who think they are always right, who refuse to listen to another perspective. They are people who act as if they have nothing to learn.
I don't want this blog to be like that. Yes, we are passionate and confident about what we do know. Yet let’s all remember that there are a lot of things we don’t know and God just might use the most unlikely messenger (remember God spoke to Balaam through a donkey in Numbers 22) to teach us a thing or two.
Also,secure your spot to and register for my free webinar on Tuesday, October 4th @ 7:30 PM EST on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I invite you to join me, Click here to register.
Question: Is it possible that spouses who manipulate are unaware they are being manipulative? If so, is this because of defense mechanisms or some other emotional void?
Answer: I think every human being has defense mechanisms and emotional voids. If we were capable of being completely healthy and whole individuals we would not need God. And probably 99% of all human beings have tried manipulation. Why? Because it is a very effective way of getting what you want.
A toddler throws a fit in the grocery store because she wants candy. If her mom capitulates because she’s embarrassed or doesn’t want to say no, she’s been manipulated by a two-year-old. And as the two-year-old learns that manipulation works she will do it again the next time she is thwarted from getting what she wants.
If her parents always give into her manipulative tactics her manipulation will increase and she will gain a wide repertoire of manipulative strategies. From throwing a fit, to whining, to saying “I hate you,” to the guilt trip or silent treatment, to badgering, to sighing with disappointment or disapproval, the manipulator communicates, “I am unhappy with you”, “I will hurt you”, or “you are a bad person if you won’t do or give me what I want.”
But your question is, “Is the manipulator aware that he or she is being manipulative?”
She may not know at two years old that what she is doing is manipulative, but over time she knows that certain tactics produce the results she wants. As she meets new people who resist her manipulative ways, she may face some tough realities. She may have teachers, coaches, or friends who refuse to always give into her. They may even give her some feedback that she is being manipulative. But if she continues to choose this way, she is conscious that she is being manipulative.
The problem with manipulators isn’t necessarily their tactics, but rather their thinking and underlying beliefs. As my friend and colleague, Chris Moles says, “People do what they do because they think what they think and believe what they believe.”
Manipulators think that they are always entitled to get what they want. They believe that everyone should cater to their needs first and if one manipulative strategy doesn’t work (such as pleading and begging), they will switch to another tactic (the guilt trip, or bullying). They are so good and persistent at getting what they want, knowing that the victim becomes exhausted and eventually gives in. That is exactly what the manipulator wants.
If you want to break free from the grasp of a manipulator, you will have to change yourself, not expect the manipulator to change (click to tweet)
You will need to learn to understand why you’ve allowed yourself to be manipulated over and over again and what you can do to change. Usually, fear and guilt are the underlying reasons why we say yes when we want to, or should say no. We fear the loss of the relationship and the loss of their approval and love. We may also fear that they will do something drastic or harmful if we don’t give in.
We feel guilty because the manipulator accuses us of being selfish and unloving when we say no or refuse to do what he or she wants. Even our best efforts will never get a manipulator to agree that our “no” was justified or appropriate. Our guilt also comes from religious teaching that has taught us to never have boundaries and that other people’s needs and wants always come before our own. This keeps us feeling confused and guilty, easy prey for manipulators.
By your question, I wonder if you want to believe that he or she doesn’t know better. That the manipulator manipulates as a defense mechanism or a result of some deep emotional void. And because of these voids or defenses, then you feel less angry or frustrated with him or her?
This perspective may help you. If you knew that someone was stealing money from you because they were fearful that they would not have enough to buy food for their family, you would probably have more compassion than if they were stealing it for drugs. However, the solution isn’t to allow them to steal. It is to provide them an opportunity to earn money to get what they need in an honorable way.
In the same way, you can have compassion for someone who manipulates, but you have to do so from a posture of strength, not weakness. You must have the strength NOT to give into the manipulator because giving in only enables the manipulator’s beliefs to go unchallenged and his strategies to continue. That’s not good for you or your relationship with him, and it’s not good for him. Imagine how many relationships he or she has lost because he doesn’t know how to tolerate someone’s no or accept someone’s boundaries in a healthy way.
So the next time he or she tries their manipulative tactics on you, say something like this, (which is practicing the R and E steps of CORE). “I know you just want me to (Fill in the blank) come to your house for Thanksgiving this year mom. I know it’s tough for you when we don’t come each year (Empathy and compassion), but I have to also think about what’s best for my family and me, and for this year it won’t work (Taking responsibility for myself and being respectful towards others.).
Then sit respectfully with his or her disappointment, anger, or grief without giving in.
Friends, do you think a manipulator is conscious of what he or she is doing? Either way, how have you been able to stand up to a manipulator in a healthy way?
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I Love this response!
During a coaching session conference call you reminded me of something that completely changed the way I rationalized, minimized, justified, spiritualized and excused my husband’s behavior: You reminded me how drastically different he acted in other situations.
Whoa! As soon as I understood he had a choice? (That his behavior was purposefully intentional?) I saw my excuses for what they were: My enabling him to continue to behave the way he did.
My h had been part of a Christian leadership team for almost 40 years and as a wolf in sheep’s clothing he ‘pulled the wool’ over everybody’s eyes (including my own) for decades. It wasn’t until his pattern of destruction became apparent over time that his nature was revealed for what it was:
“One awful, abusive, event does not make a person evil, but when it represents a repetitive pattern of excessive disregard for others (mockery) and a wanton, vicious refusal to look at the damage done (arrogance), then one can ascertain a significant inclination to evil.” ~ Dan Allender, Bold Love, p 238 quoted by Leslie Vernick, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice & Reclaim Your Hope p 108.
Good quote from Dan Allender.
A lot of manipulators are often aware of exactly what they’re doing. That’s not always the case, but either way, a manipulative person becomes angry, defensive, and abusive when confronted by truth spoken in love to them and clear boundaries are set and enforced. It’s only by stepping back from that person (spouse, parent, child, friend, aunt, uncle, spiritual leader, etc.) and allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and change the person without us interfering that any reconciliation can happen even if person is not looking for a continued relationship with the other party. For example, I broke up with a former boyfriend who’d been (and still is) a manipulator. We are on good terms now, but I moved on and so did he, and we chose not to continue dating each other.
I think if the person does not know that they are being manipulative, then there’s a feeling of hope that once they are made aware of their behavior, they will change. If they know they are manipulative, and still doing it there is little hope for change.
If a person behaves one way in private and a different way in public, they are aware of what their doing. If they don’t want you telling others, they know.
After reading your article, Leslie, I think I need to be more compassion. I’m pretty good at standing up for myself, but I can be petty judgmental and condescending.
A friend and I are praying through ‘the power of a praying wife’ together ( once a week on the phone). This is really softening my heart towards my husband. I think I was scared that if I prayed for him, I’d go back to letting him get away with manipulation. But that’s not happened because the prayer is only one of 4 elements of practicing to strengthen my core.
I pray for him. It’s tough when he purposely hurts the kids by withholding affection etc.
Maybe judgemental and condescending are not the right words. I can’t believe a parent would purposely hurt their kids and am disgusted by it.
Yes, I believe my mother and stbx husband both know they are manipulative, though they both deny it.
I know my mother knows what she is doing, because she never gives up. She comes at you from one angle and, if that doesn’t work, another and finishes up with long term silent treatment if her first few attempts don’t persuade you. My sister and I have learned to say “no” quickly and matter- of-factly and let her fume or talk about the each of us, to the other, behind our backs. We try never to agree with her and to cut her gossip off by changing the subject as soon as possible. This has decreased the frequency of her attempts, though not stopped them altogether. It has made the relationship bearable.
My stbx, on the other hand, was so covert I often didn’t know I was being manipulated. He went so far in his narcissistic discard that he spent seven years of deceit and manipulation getting me maneuvered into a position of weakness in which he felt he could leave me without me defending myself (I was bordering on suicidal). Two of those years he spent degrading me and wooing my replacement. When I pointed out his manipulations he insisted he was not manipulating me or punishing me. He was just dealing with me as I deserved. He was “innocent” and pushed to do what he did by my poor treatment of him. He tried to manipulate our pastor and elders in a more overt way. One elder went to eat with him and he spent 3 hours trying to manipulate the man to his side. When the elder pointed out his lies my husband changed demeanor and tone from tears and sorrow (his most common act) to indignation and soon left the diner. I am thankful for that discerning man.
So glad for you! My husband convinced our pastor I was a control freak, unloving, and the source of all his problems. Yet he’s the one with no friends, the kids don’t go out of their way to spend time with him, and even the dog doesn’t greet him at the door. I had to sit through a meeting where the pastor said it would be talking about a ministry I was in but then he turned it to telling me “a man needs a supportive wife” and how much can my husband had matured spiritually at the church. WHAT?!? Uh, no, he spent all his time doing church projects so everybody assumed he was the same nice, helpful, patient person at home – NOT!
Stephanie, I could have word for word wrote what you just wrote, right down to the elder conversation, however my elders were less discerning and believe him. I’m escalating to the regional church level of the denomination. I’ve been so shocked and shaken by the lying, it is insidious and insane. With such similarities I’d like to connect if you would. I’m grateful you had a discerning elder!
How are you handling things with the church? I’m in exactly the same situation. They have taken his side. He is the treasurer at the church and has always on the outside appeared to have a “servants heart” . They gave him a book written for the spouse who wants to save the marriage after I moved from our home due to his threats which I told them about. He has since tried to use Scripture, finances and my relationship with my kids to manipulate me. The church continues to back him up and says that they see repentance in him while I’m getting emails that are obviously meant to control . I’m so afraid of the church telling my kids that I’m not obeying God by not agreeing to go to counseling with him.
I’ve been going alone to counselors that the elders asked me to go to,but they also are trying to pinpoint what I did to cause him to abuse me. It’s so overwhelming and I don’t know what to.
Good Blog post this week Leslie.
I very much agree that people who are being manipulative can often be blind to that manipulation.
I have dome some study through CCEF and have come to rely upon their counseling model. In their view, much of what leads us to sin comes from in inordinate, idolatrous desire. In light of what you have written here, the manipulator may be employing the tools of manipulation in order to fulfill the idolatrous desire of their heart. The one being manipulated is not being treated as an image bearer of God but rather as a tool to be used in the process of fulfilling that desire.
The person who is being used is put in a very difficult position because acceding to their demands would be, in effect, participating in the worship of a false god. For example, the woman whose husband demands that his wife skimps and scrapes for money when he makes more than enough to provide adequately is not only hurting her he is demanding that she worship his idol of mammon with him.
In my opinion, the only thing that can be done with an idol is to tear it down. And the only choice for those who are being used in service to an idol is to respond as Joshua responded.
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Jos 24:15 ESV)”
I welcome your thoughts and insights here.
Again, a well-written blog this week.
James, thank you for sharing. Being manipulated or manipulating others compares to idolatry. I try to look at it similarly. Either I am bowing my knee to my Glorious Father in Heaven and His dear Son and my Savior and Lord, or to the enemy of my soul. It certainly makes it a lot quicker and easier to make decisions on my attitude and behavior based on that.
Also, a big thanks to Leslie for the insights and perseverance for women (and men) to wake up and take responsibility for what’s going on with themselves and those they have issues with. But the best part is teaching us what to do about it!
i HAVE NOT THOUGHT OF IT EXACTLY IN THIS WAY BUT i CAN SEE IN MY SITUATION IDOLATRY. tHE EXPECTATIONS WERE NOT REASONABLE. No one care fill the God size whole within us.
“Friends, do you think a manipulator is conscious of what he or she is doing? Either way, how have you been able to stand up to a manipulator in a healthy way?”
Thank you Leslie. I sincerely appreciate all your help, wisdom and patience. . . . .I also realize that all this teaching doesn’t just appear magically on the web, you and others are consistently making it happen, thank you.
I think it can be shown from neuroscience that even if the manipulator is no longer conscious of what they are doing, they certainly were at one time! That is why it is so critical to live righteously and keep our hearts clean. We need to let the Holy Spirit convict us of things and we need to pay attention and really listen. Otherwise, we can create such mechanisms in our brains that manipulations run, even automatically.
“. . . how have you been able to stand up to a manipulator in a healthy way?” My mother: I have never been successful. I have had to avoid contact or I fold like a lawn chair. Although this description of my mother’s manipulation of our “relationship’s” psychodynamics makes her appear extremely Machiavellian, my mother did/ does not appear overtly conscious of her psychological methods, and probably does not feel that there is anything underhanded about them. But again, I think from neuroscience it could be shown that even if the manipulator is no longer conscious of what they are doing, they certainly were at one time! To my mother, the act of setting appropriate boundaries was and is viewed as hostile aggression. She believes that I am denying her something that belongs to her when I have resisted. I am just a resource to be exploited for her personal use, property. . . .I viewed myself that way too. I believed she was justified in being angry with me for saying “no” but I wasn’t justified in being angry with her for abusing me. . . . My marriage: When your spouse is a manipulator (—And I so, so thank God mine is not because I have my hands full with issues related to my mother’s abuse), . . . Anyway, when your spouse is a manipulator you and he have a lot in common, you’re both manipulating you!
I have been thinking a lot lately about how one of the chief means of resisting manipulation is humility —knowing who we really are in Christ and living it. You can only serve by love. You can only love by choice. Notice Jesus in the gospels always keeps his strength by resting enough to make loving choices. More humility would permit me to possibly own my feelings more often and to admit them more frequently. ‘I’m______’. I’d be free to admit what I am reacting to. More free to ask if anger/ sadness/ whatever is what the person wanted to produce in me, and to ask for help in changing if my reaction was inappropriate.
I think that when someone is confronted about the manipulation and they are repentant and remorseful and open to gentle reminders of their manipulation that it can be unintentional (learned behavior); however, if one is met with opposition whenever the manipulator is confronted, then I believe it must be intentional and calculated.
For instance, if the manipulator knows that certain actions or behaviors will produce accolades, it will be worth the effort to manipulate (it will benefit them) even if it hurts someone (their children or their victim). It is all about them. Always.
To answer the question, Do manipulators know what they are doing? Yup!!! They just use coping mechanisms to soften the blow to their ego through denial or more destructively delusional thinking. As self-centered, entitlement thinking individuals, there is no place in their brain for the consideration that they could be doing anything wrong. After all they are always right and anyone who thinks differently than them is a threat to their very existence. Remember they do not have the normal growth and development skill of empathy.
I may be reading into the question, but I wondering if the OP is assigning less guilt and responsibility to the unaware manipulator vs. the aware manipulator, and that the answer therefore can be cut and dry differentiating between the two.
I believe the crux of the matter is a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance.
Sounds good so far, right?
However, I also believe you can have the Godly sorrow without having a full understanding of your manipulative behaviors and vice versa- you can have full knowledge of your manipulative tactics but believe they are justified and necessary to the relationship, thereby seeing no wrongdoing or need to repent.
Another factor that adds into all of this, is the how habituated the manipulative behavior is and how/when it started in the first place.
Therefore, I see dissection of this tactic, discerning its root & reasoning, and beginning the healing proceed is like peeling back the many interwoven layers of an onion. And it’s bound to make you cry at some point.
For years I have felt and grieved the emotional fall out of my manipulative ways, but until very recently, refused to believe I was being manipulative and selfish. What I wanted (a better marriage) wasn’t wrong. A lot of the time what I wanted was good & healthy. But how I went about it was- an adult temper tantrum.
My husband, in turn, would excuse his manipulative behavior as the “only way” to deal with mine. Even though I would think he provoked my behavior in the first place by his bad behavior because… I didn’t have healthy boundaries set up because I didn’t know how to set them up much less that I even needed them.
And both of us come from dysfunctional families where manipulative behaviors were modeled to us.
Whew! Lots of layers!!
And so for me I am in process of learning how and why I am manipulative and what to do about it while I’m also studying my husband, learning by observing him and developing the necessary boundary to begin to break that dysfunctional cycle.
I think CORE is such a great acronym in that it also speaks to the idea of foundation and starting place- and everything else needs to be built upon that. You can’t make good decisions or set good boundaries or just be health and sound without it.
Sue, Does your husband accept that he is manipulative too? Is he working to change his behavior too?
Are you asking me why I’m asking you these questions? If so- I don’t have an ulterior motive. you mentioned your husband was manipulative, was wondering if he was working to change,that’s all. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, that’s fine.
This is such a good post for a variety of reasons.
First, I think you are right that we can be given godly sorrow for the consequences of our actions and even use manipulation as a way of saying we are sorry.
Here’s a real life example.
A man who forgot his anniversary can buy an expensive gift as a way to make up for his oversight and facilitate her forgiveness. That can be manipulation, it can also be a sign of a genuine desire to demonstrate repentance. It might be both at the same time.
She sees the gift as manipulative, he sees her as being unforgiving and unkind and now they have something else to fight about…
Second, I also think we can rationalize our manipulations in an (ends justify the means) sort of way. For example, a wife makes her husband his favorite meal the night before she tells him that she accidentally shrunk his favorite pair of jeans in the dryer.
He now feels manipulated and she feels as if he is being unappreciative of her efforts and ungracious.
Motives can be complex things. We can be kind, generous, giving, supportive and manipulative all in the same moment.
That’s why we need grace upon grace.
James, I think there needs to be a balance between grace and truth otherwise things get out of whack. Someone who is genuinely trying and stumbles needs grace, but someone who is intentionally trying to deceive needs truth for their own good. Jesus did not continue to pour out grace to the Pharisees, he told them the truth. I am a very emphathetic person and I have seen the pitfalls of extending grace when truth was needed.
Good thoughts here.
A scripture that may help us to strike the balance is 1 Th 5:14..
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1Th 5:14 ESV)
To your point, it does no good to admonish the fainthearted and the weak, they need encouragement and help. Nor does it any good to encourage the idle.
There is absolutely a place for admonition for those who know they are sinning and yet continue to persist in their sins.
Jesus did say some very challenging things to the Pharisees, you are spot on here. I think that this is actually Jesus being gracious to them. The gracious thing was to admonish them.
However, I am personally very careful who I cast in the role of Pharisee in my own imagination when I begin trying to make comparisons. For one thing, we have all play the role of Pharisee from time to time in our lives.
For another, at least one of those Pharisees was called by God to bring the gospel to the gentile world (Acts 23:6).
If God can take a white-washed tomb like Paul and change his heart, then there is hope for even the most manipulative of manipulators.
To me, that’s the beauty of the gospel.
I remember a time when a pastor I knew was preaching on Matthew 23. When he started I basically envisioned myself standing right next to Jesus looking down on those Pharisees. Then God spoke through the pastor and I was reminded that apart from Christ, that’s exactly who I was. A whitewashed tomb, a self-indulgent walking pine box filled with dead men’s bones.
The pastor then went on to claim that the heart of the Pharisee’s hypocrisy was that they compared their resume of righteousness to the sins of others.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luk 18:11-14 ESV)
When I remember who I was before Christ and that its only Christ that made any difference, then I can be patient with them all.
Perhaps it isn’t grace vs. truth but grace through truth and truth through grace…? Grace with truth, and truth with grace.
I understand your hesitancy to see anyone as a Pharisee, because as you say, we all play that role from time to time. But that is exactly the very first descision you have to make when you have a couple in front of you ( not a quick descision, but the first). Because your approach must be completely different, depending on wether you are dealing with difficulty or destruction.
Yes, it is true that we all can act the Pharisee – that is true of all people who have been given a heart of flesh- even still, we stumble.
But an abuser’s heart is hard ( they have not been given a heart of flesh).
As a counsellor, you must ascertain which type of individual you are dealing with. Is this person a Pharisee, or have they just had a ‘Pharisaical moment’ and can humbly take responsibility for it.
If you are dealing with an abuser, a much harder line must be taken. You mention Paul. Jesus didn’t “love him more”. Paul was knocked off his horse, confronted directly by Jesus and made blind. He stayed in complete darkness for three days. Only then was he able to accept help. These are the kinds of limits that abusers need in order for the Grace of a God to transform.
First a person has to recognize that they are undeserving. Then they can truly appreciate what undeserved favour is.
By the way, I think it’s fantastic that you are here.
James, by a balance of grace and truth I meant we need both, sometimes more grace, sometimes more truth, both hand in hand. Sounds like we have the same idea.
Just because I do wrong, and sometimes act like a Pharisee even, it doesn’t mean I should minimize the actions of someone behaving in a destructive way most of the time. There’s a difference between a person making a mistake, even purposely doing something and realizing their wrong and being sorry for their actions, and someone repeatedly doing the wrong thing, and blaming another for their actions and show absolutely no remorse. It’s not out of pride that I acknowledge that this person is acting in a destructive way, but because I want to live in reality- I want to deal with the negative consequences of the destructive behavior.
God has the power to change anyone. He chose not to change Pharoah. Statistically speaking, very few abusers change. To begin to change, one must start with acknowledging they are doing wrong. In Paul’s case, was he manipulative, or was he dogmatic about his wrong beliefs?
“…Because your approach must be completely different, depending on whether you are dealing with difficulty or destruction.”
Thank you for your kind words at the end of you last post. I am still learning the ropes on the interface. In order to answer you I had to reply to my own posting, I hope this doesn’t end up in some weird place.
I think that scripture bears up your thinking here. We are to help the weak, encourage the fainthearted and rebuke the idle. Someone who does not engender any humility or take responsibility for their own contribution to the problems in their marriage needs to be admonished or rebuked.
The Pharisees were self-righteous, they refused to hear Jesus because they refused to give up the notion that they were better than others. Someone who refuses to see their sins as sins absolutely won’t be swayed by either help or encouragement.
My approach is to start with assuming the best of both parties and then revise my opinion as counseling progresses.
Sometimes we get to a place where it is clear that one party is soft hearted and the other is resistant to any counsel.
Sometimes we get to a place where it is clear that they are both soft hearted.
Sometimes we get to a place where they are both hard-hearted.
Sometimes they switch places.
That happened a few years ago.
A man who had a porn addiction and was verbally abusive came in with his wife for counseling. He was a non-Christian (though he didn’t really know it) and she was a believer (or so we thought). She demanded that he see our church for counseling or she was going to divorce him. She regularly attended services and we saw him on Christmas and Easter. He came only because he was afraid of the financial ramification of a divorce. During the counseling process He genuinely came to know Christ, began to see victory over his porn addiction, and began to invest in his family. Then the dynamic shifted. She began verbally abusing him and later we found out that she had begun flirting with another man at work. She eventually left him and moved in with this other man.
After that we had no contact with her at all as she burned all her bridges with the church. He begged her to continue counseling and to restore their marriage. She refused to meet with him, or any of the pastors or counselors of the church.
According to conversations we had with him after the fact, she said that she considered herself the victim and he the porn addict and the abuser. She told him that he had destroyed any love she ever had for him, that she could never trust him again, and that she deserved a chance to be happy with another man.
He pleaded with her for the sake of their kids, she told him that kids were resilient and they would get over it. Their children both chose to live with him and they struggle with bitterness toward their mother to this day, as one starts his junior year in HS and the other his second year of university.
He started out as the Pharisee, then they switched places.
He was blind to his own sinfulness and then God humbled him. She then became blind to her own sinfulness and in her self-righteousness she destroyed her marriage and her relationship with her two kids.
It’s my opinion that it is important to continually re-evaluate where counselees may be during the process. If we had just labeled him as the Pharisee and concluded that henceforth and forevermore he will be the Pharisee in that relationship, we would have missed the changing dynamic.
I would have never seen that one coming but then I started noticing it more and more.
A husband steeped in sin against his wife repents and his wife hardens her heart toward him in the wake of his confession. This can happen when the wife feels so hurt by her husband that she really just doesn’t want to be married anymore, but also doesn’t see a way out of the marriage that protects her own reputation or is consonant with her beliefs on the sanctity of marriage. After all, she was the one who begged for counseling, sometimes for years. Now, she is no longer in the chaos, confusion, and fear she felt in the relationship. Now she has the freedom to be angry. Sometimes that anger comes out in some pretty destructive ways, sometimes in abusive ways.
It is very hard for a victim who has become abusive to see themselves as anything other than the victim in the relationship because being identified as the victim gave them a sense of power in a relationship where, before, they didn’t have any. It gave them a sense of justification, it gave them a sense of support and it gave them a sense of validation. Now they see themselves as the “righteous one” and the other as the “sinner” and are blind to their own destructive behaviors which is precisely what angered Jesus the most about the Pharisees.
This doesn’t happen every time, and I am not, in any way accusing anyone here of that kind of behavior.
But it does happen. Which is why we not only give counsel on what it means to be truly repentant, we also give counsel on what it means to be truly forgiving.
I can say from personal experience that I had to let go of the status of being an angry victim before I could ever re-establish a relationship with my abusive father. I had to get off the throne of judgment, and kneel before the cross.
“First a person has to recognize that they are undeserving. Then they can truly appreciate what undeserved favour is.”
Very wise words, very wise words indeed.
The Lord’s blessings be with you.
My reply was to Nancy, not HisEzer.
I’ll be responding to both HisEzer and Ruth tomorrow and both post deserve more time and thought than I have to give this evening.
“There’s a difference between a person making a mistake, even purposely doing something and realizing their wrong and being sorry for their actions, and someone repeatedly doing the wrong thing, and blaming another for their actions and show absolutely no remorse.”
Yes, there is a difference. I completely agree. The former needs encouragement, the latter needs admonition, rebuke and perhaps church discipline.
“Statistically speaking, very few abusers change.”
I can say that this is my experience as well, unfortunately.
“To begin to change, one must start with acknowledging they are doing wrong. In Paul’s case, was he manipulative, or was he dogmatic about his wrong beliefs?”
Yes, one MUST acknowledge that they are doing wrong.
1 John 1:8-9 come to mind.
In Paul’s case, I don’t think he was manipulative per se, I think he was dogmatically wrong.
But I also think that we need to be clear that not all manipulations are abusive.
The child who snuggles up to her dad and tells him how much she loves him and then asks for a dog is being manipulative, but I have a hard time calling that parent abuse.
Perhaps we can say that most abusers are manipulative in abusive ways. Some manipulation is abusive and all manipulation is wrong.
James, I agree with you, manipulation is wrong, and not all manipulation is abusive. I have noticed that some people use manipulation because they have come to the conclusion that they will not get what they desire (even good desires) by asking. They are so intent on get in their desires fulfilled that they don’t care about how they go about it. I know of one person in my extended family who does this.
I agree with you 100% on this. It was only when I put ” zero tolerance” into place as my boundary, – to protect/defend me from my (recently made) ex husband’s covert manipulations, subtle mind games and destructive ways, – did I get any reprieve.
Simply to look at him was a “hook from him”, to reel me in… ANY COMMUNICATION on my part, was “an agreement” to play his games. I could not win, even though I refused to play, or be manipulated.
And yes, he knew exactly what he was doing, because he CHOSE to stop and start, AS AND WHEN NEEDED, (over the 30 years we were together)
I spent the 6 latter years especially, “trying” to…
make amends/find the reason/ put things right/ get to the root, say sorry for ALL my wrong doing iver the years. “Trying” to be patientm kind, humble, gracious, forgiving, confronting in love, spiritually/self-checking my attitude etc)…. and over the full 30 years, depending on where we were in the abuse cycle.
I still struggle to fully comprehend all of this, but in truth and reality, i know.
I believe my (ex) husband revealed his hand in a “moment of seemingly repentant honesty” in response to the question, “Does a manipulator kmow he/she is manipulating? when he said “even the good times were orchestrated in order to (win you over) get you back on board!”
A cleverly executed blow again!!!! Manipulating my emotions & thoughts for his needs; leaving me reeling as another question ensued… was there ANY TRUTH in our relationship????
Oh yes id done my share of manipulation. (Without realising it was wrong) my motives were to make things better (as Sue explained in her account).
Withoit condoning or excusing, the difference between my manipulations and his,
1. My manipulations were with good intentions for us both….
2. Once I realised, either through self awareness, or his accusations, blaming, projecting and transferrences leading to my self examination or (in the last 6 yrs) Holy Spirit intervention, guidance & revelation, I stopped! I listenedm I heard, I CHOSE TO STOP!
I sought healthier ways to respond, communicate and to find mutual solutions.
I didnt want to “get what I wanted” at the expense of hurting him or anyone else.
He, on the otherhand, became worse as I got better.
The less confrontational and contentious I became, and the more patient, kind, loving, gracious, accepting, tolerant and forgiving I was, the more willing to listen, learn and hear him, while searching for reasoning and understanding, that I was learning to be, the more provocative, challenging, chaotic, disruptive, manipulative, covert and destructive he became. Almost gloating to my face that I could/would do nothing about it. Every boundary I set or tried was pushed, shived, trodden in, stamped on, scorned and excused. It was an impossible situation.
He was even relegated to the spare bedroom for months before I finally made the decision (I believe divinely led) to pack his case and lock him out, to make him leave. (Strangely enough, his first wife had left, without warning, while he was at work).
My decision to lock him out, was a drastic but necessary ending, because previous attempts to end the relationship had always become verbal assaults and physical violence…..The decision to turn him out like this was one that hurt me tremendously.
I had no alternative as he had been strategically “destroying” (our) my daughter, The Lord opened my eyes and showed me the “devastating “state she was in!!!!
This was my bottom line!
He was “working on her” subtley, and had bern for at least 2 years! “Just” to get to me. “If he could destroy her, he’d destroy me. If he could bring me down, it would bring God down too and show me to be the fool (idiot) he thought/said I was”
His tactics and strategy were always “planned and orchestrated” over years…mine were emotional reactions.
He was in it for the long haul! & in his mind, he would WIN! AT ANY COST!!!
He had plan A. (My suicide) and plan B (ANYTHING GOES IN ALL OUT WAR) ready at all times, often switching between the two!
He had no emotions to disrupt or force his hand, so was able to light the touch paper and sit back to wait for the explosion.(Gaslighting).
Id spent the last 2 Years praising God for the healing and strength He was giving me to cope….and HE WAS!!! BUT….
my ex husband had changed his strategy…. HE WAS DISTRACTING ME FROM MY DAUGHTERS NEEDS, WHILE I WAS HELPING HIM to “GET BETTER” & while i was doing this, he was feeding my daughter lies to brainwash her into believing God was to blame for our problems and “my mental health” was fragile at best and my sanity was questionable, because of God and “my distorted thinking”.
I was falling into every trap he set!!!!AGAIN!!!!
He’d succeeded in breaking down my relationship with my oldest daughter by securing her as his confidante and rescuer from my “irrational behaviour” & burdening hef with words leading her to believe she was the inly one able to be “my responsible adult”. She was to be careful and be my best friend/not bother me and look after me “for my mental healthsake” that was fragile and If I she worried me, I would become “sick again” & end up back in hospital. (Between 2001-2016).
With the Lord’s help, Ive just recently put an end to this collusion. Im still praying, believing and hoping for full restoration with my oldest daughter.
Even his “trying to stop me leaving” was a strategically manipulated and orchestrated trap.
By refusing to listen to my pleas, while he was physically, dragging, holding me down or back/swinging/tusselling/pulling me around, forcing me to let go of my bags or cases and change my mind etc…. ignoring my tears, pleadings, beggings to let me go, forcing my daughter to hear/see this.. until…. yep….. I couldnt take it anymore…. i couldn’t ever make him let go of me….. i couldnt cope…. i was desperate just to be let go of, to make him stop, to be left alone…. i cracked. I flipped. I began screaming and pounding at him!!!! He “coward” AND I became distraught. I had lost control ….. I was “THE ABUSER” HE WAS THE VICTIM! HOW COULD I SAY HE HAD PROVOKED ME???? HOW COULD I SAY THIS WAS UNDERSTANDABLE? JUSTIFIED? ACCEPTABLE???HIS FAULT? HE MADE ME DO IT?????
PHYSICAL VIOLENCE IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE OR JUSTIFIED! !!!!
I WAS GUILTY!!! I was the bad one, I was responsible for my behaviour!
The tables were NOW turned!!!!! Again!!!! and It was my fault!!!!
HE HAD WON!
I BECAME REMORSEFUL, APOLOGETIC, SELF CONDEMNING!!!
In the 27 years before we finally split, (2013) this “outcome” had probably occurred half a dozen times…..I still have occasions when I feel overwhelmed with remorse or consumed by anger at the injustice and the unanswered WHY? OR HOW? QUESTIONS.
I have struggled with coming to terms with the fact that I was physically “angry” and violently aggressive towards someone I did (do?) love dearly….
I still do not condone my actions, and if it wasnt for the redeeming blood of Christ, and the Grace of God, I would/could still persecute myself.
I can, however, see ALL THINGS MUCH CLEARER NOW THOUGH. I understand that HE DELIBERATELY AND INTENTIONALLY manipulated, orchestrated and provoked this situation! OVER MONTHS, EVEN YEARS! AND I ULTIMATELY AND SIMPLY gave him the PRECISE “outcome” he wanted, in order to serve his purposes and turn my daughter against me, destroying her security and satisfying his need to be the innocent VICTIM and me the bully and bad guy, who was not to be trusted.
My greatest sorrow comes from this one horrific time when my daughter saw this abominable behaviour of ours and reaction of mine! SHE WAS 8 YRS OLD AT THE TIME AND IS (9 YRS ON) STILL AFFECTED BY THIS TRAUMATIC EVENT. Although she is much better now and we are able to discuss it and her feelings nowadays.
As with my oldest daughter, they did not see, hear or know the “full/real picture” or the preceding events, or even the months of me begging and pleading with him “to stop working/hurting on her” i didn’t see him damaging my relationship with my oldest daughter because id had a breakdown and was focused (distractedfrom her needs) on me getting well, for my family).
YES!!!! BUT GOD!!! HE KNEW. HE SAW, HE LISTENED. HE HEARD! HE SAVED US BOTH!!! MY LORD SAVED ME! My daughter!!!us!!!!!!
And this site, with LESLIE’S ACUTE INSIGHT AND WISDOM!!!! Helped to get me to see and face reality.
Accepting and understanding the danger we were both in. (2012).
Now this man (hubby/dad), has never raised his voice, his hand or his fist at either of my daughters or me. He is loved and revered by ALL WHO KNOW HIM, and iv been abandoned, rejected and scorned by all our “friends”.
How then, is it possible for such a “placid/laid back” rock solid man to do so much damage to my (his wife and children) family….. and walk away unscathed, unworried and self confident??
INTENTIONAL, DELIBERATE, STRATEGIC AND PURPOSEFUL “COVERT” NO HOLDS BARRED, MANIPULATION! (See Ross Rosenburg (on Utube). For a Startlingly accurate and full explanation of (confronting) covert emotional MANIPULATION).
And how did my wonderful Father, Saviour, Healer and Provider heal me and my daughter…(s)…. build our relationships and, restore our peace????
With MY PURPOSEFUL, INTENTIONAL, DELIBERATE, SEEKING AND HIS UNENDING, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, grace faithfulness and mercy.
I am also believing and yielding my will for His divine purpose, as well as for HIS Justice and Vindication.
It is my hope, that sharing my testimony of God’s strength and goodness in this situation, will bring hope and liberty for anyone struggling now or for someone else that can identify and relate to my (past) situation.
God is in this!!!! Hold on to hope in HIM!!!!
seek WISDOM AND DONT STAY BECAUSE …..
MANIPULATORS KNOW THEY ARE MANIPULATING WHEN THEY CHOOSE TO CONTINUE….WHETHER BY BLAMING you OR denying accountability and responsibility.
IT IS TOUGH, BUT WE ALL NEED TO BELIEVE AND REMEMBER….
Free will has been given to ALL!!!!
God will KEEP you!
THINK…, WHAT IS MY PAY OFF?
WHAT IS MY BOTTOM LINE?
WHEN IS IT TOO LATE?
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE ALREADY PAST BY SINCE YOU (I) FIRST KNEW?
HOW MANY MORE YEARS WILL PASS BEFORE YOU (I) DECIDE TO SAY NO MORE?
James, can you help me understand why it is so hard for a man to verbally say, “I’m sorry” (when giving a gift to his wife to make amends). Can you not see how just giving a gift without any accompanying explanation makes it come across as a DEMAND for forgiveness rather than a DESIRE for forgiveness? The gift is being used as a substitution for what is REALLY needed and most appropriate — the offering of his heart through humble, transparent, confessiveness which acknowledges the sin/harm and asks for forgiveness. It is the heart attitude that is the real gift which confirms to a wife her husband is genuinely repentant. No inanimate objects purchased at a store or sacrificial household chores can accomplish it. Can you not see how it is only natural that there would be a feeling of manipulation to have a gift presented only to, shortly after, experience a blaming accusatory spirit simply because of her hesitancy to accept it? (She is most likely waiting to see if any ownership is going to be taken)… Why would the hesitancy to accept the gift make the husband ANGRY instead of more SORROWED about the damage done to her trust in him? An angry accusatory reaction is inconsistent with genuine repentance… Do you see?
So, please help me understand why men struggle to take verbal ownership of their wrongs.
(And btw, when I speak of wrongs here and the asking of forgiveness, I’m speaking of offenses that are really sins… not mistakes. Forgetting an anniversary is not a sin. It’s just a mistake/oversight/blunder… I’m referring to incidents when clear destructiveness and damage to trust has occurred but the husband uses substitutionary gifts to try to make his wife get over it and “move on”).
Yes, like Ruth, I wish to emphasize to James I appreciate him being here, and I hope my post doesn’t come across negatively in any way. My question at the end, “Do you see?” might be taken as “What’s wrong with you — can’t you see this is true!!!??but that is not AT ALL the way I was intending it. It really should have written as, “Would you agree? — and I would love to hear your thoughts about this concern”…
Thanks, again for your input, James.
Hallelujiah that this man was transformed!
Please don’t forget though, that this marriage was destroyed not by her inability to come out of victim mentality (or to forgive him).
It was destroyed by his porn addiction and abuse of her.
I hear your point. I know that he accepts his responsibility.
I’m inclined to think that the marriage was broken both by his sin and her unforgiveness.
I think anyone could empathize with her, after all, she suffered for years.
But the scriptures just don’t give us the option of being unforgiving and now her children are paying the price.
Last I heard, her oldest child made an attempt to reach out to her about a year ago around Christmas time. She refused to talk to her son.
I think this is an illustration of man’s anger not producing the righteousness of God.
I’m wondering if some people don’t misunderstand the term ‘forgiveness’. This does not mean ‘go back into the situation’. Sometimes, one can forgive and yet need to go ‘no contact’ because the situation is still toxic, but nobody else sees it. Funny how most people can see that a soldier with severe PTSD could not be sent back into service, not even to the country where he/she served in peacetime, because there was just too much trauma, yet wives get sent back constantly, especially if the abuser says all the right words and cries crocodile tears and sends his children (after grooming them to disrespect mom) to do his dirty work for him. I know. I have forgiven totally, yet many people don’t believe it because I’ve had to go no contact. I find it interesting that with men who have attended some well-known abuse recovery seminars, the wives say they have not really changed, but they have learned the language well enough to know what to say, and that they enjoy teaching other abusive men. It’s far more complicated than most think it is.
Thank you, James, because you are reminding us that there is a road we have to be careful to avoid. I saw this happen with my mother and father. Even though I grew up in a christian home and the issues didn’t come out until I was in high school, my father was an alcoholic and was going through A A in the veteran’s hospital when my mother decided to divorce him. The people there said they had never seen someone serve their spouse divorce papers while in treatment. He fought hard for the marriage but she was done. She had dealt with verbal and emotional abuse and wanted out. All of these years my brothers and I have ultimately faulted her for the divorce (though we do have a good relationship with her), though I’m beginning to understand that she probably went through a lot of trauma. I can think of many instances where he was verbally abusive to her, so who knows what went on behind the scenes.
Now I’m in my own somewhat emotionally abusive marriage (still trying to figure it out to what degree for sure since I realized I have NO idea of what Is normal) I am beginning to see her side of it more. And I can also see how one could get to that point, where you want out and become so justified in your mind that biblical arguments are diminshed. Not to take away the part the husband plays in it.
Very good questions. Let me try and answer to the best of my ability.
I think there are a number of reasons that a husband would resist a genuine apology.
One may be that he isn’t really repentant, and is just using the gift manipulatively. That’s a real possibility and one that perhaps many on this site feel is happening in their own marriages.
Another is that he may be simply prideful, he is genuinely sorry but also struggles with pride.
Another is that the husband isn’t very verbal. Many men just don’t process emotions verbally and they may need to learn how to express emotions verbally in healthy ways.
Finally, I think for many men and women alike, they don’t understand what genuine repentance looks like.
Our church uses material from Peacemaker Ministries in counseling and we take them through the 7 A’s of confession:
• Address everyone involved
• Avoid if, but and maybe
• Admit specifically what was sinful
• Acknowledge the hurt
• Accept the consequences
• Alter your behavior
• Ask for forgiveness
I can certainly see how a gift without an apology might feel like manipulation. Indeed, IT MAY BE manipulation and if a wife expresses her concerns and the husband reacts in anger then that’s a sign that the husband still has a great deal of growing up to do from a spiritual standpoint. I’m with you that a man who never owns up to his sins and resists any attempt to help him to do so in accordance with the 7 A’s of confession is hard-hearted and the heat needs to be turned up going from counsel to rebuke and from informal involvement into church discipline.
Ultimately the reason I think men struggle verbally to take ownership of their wrongs is the same reason that women struggle to take ownership over their wrongs (and they do sometimes as well), they are sinners who are in desperate, daily need of God’s grace to transform their hearts.
I hope I’ve answer your questions to your satisfaction.
I appreciate your welcome; I have to admit that I am just now becoming aware of many of the unwritten rules here at Leslie’s blog.
Most blogs have some kind of comment section open to any and all who desire to participate in discussing the blog content. I had no idea that so many women rely on this blog primarily for therapeutic purposes; for women who are suffering from abuse to engage in an online support group of sorts.
If that is the purpose of the blog, then I can certainly understand how you want to restrict viewpoints that are contrary to the purpose of the blog. If that is indeed the purpose of the blog then may I suggest that there be an official communication to this affect that is conspicuous on the page so that those who don’t know the unwritten rules don’t stumble in thinking this is like any other blog with comments open?
If at any point my reflections become contrary to those purposes, I am more than happy to bow out. I certainly don’t desire to be disruptive.
May the Lord be with you.
Here is what we learned at a marriage intensive. The L.O.V.E.R. apology.
L. = listen, really listen, no interruptions, and each time she stops talking, just say, “Thank you, and is there more?” until there isn’t more.
O. = offer an apology (as mentioned above, be as specific as possible.
V. = Validate. Oh, so important, to validate her feelings and pain.
E. = embrace
R. = Repent. (change)
I believe that in a relationship that is as intimate as marriage, this is a much more personal and meaningful picture.
Thanks much for your reply!
If you don’t mind, though, I have a couple of follow-up questions, just so I can understand more fully your perspective.
First of all, you write, “Another is that he may be simply prideful, he is genuinely sorry but…struggles with pride.”
Q: With this response, are you saying you believe it is possible to experience genuine repentance but still exhibit pride? My understanding of genuine repentance is that it involves heart change — the desire to go the opposite direction and to repair damage done. If pride was present in the original offense, it cannot still be present if heart change has occurred. Now, worldly sorrow on the other hand, could manifest pride. But I’m having trouble seeing how pride and genuine repentance could abide together. In my understanding, humility is one of the key confirmations of true repentance.
In regard to, “Another is that the husband isn’t very verbal…” Consider this… If wives have witnessed their husbands having no problem whatsoever verbalizing apologies to friends, relatives, associates, co-workers, etc. … offering to do whatever is needed to repair/resolve the particular mistake or misunderstanding at hand, … and, furthermore, if they have also witnessed their husbands express all manner of other emotions quite ably such as anger and willfullness — demonstrating that there really is no problem in the ability to express themselves, would you agree that this type of explanation does not really add up or have any merit? I’m sure there ARE some husbands who are, indeed, quiet types… who do not like to engage in much conversation or in the expressing of their feelings, but I would venture a guess that those types are less likely to be the abusers. All the abuser/manipulators I’ve ever known (and sadly, to this present date I’ve come to experience quite a few) have had no problem whatsoever being verbal. The problem is a lack of respect, empathy, and honesty being present in their choice of words.
“I’m with you that a man who never owns up to his sins and resists any attempt to help him to do so in accordance with the 7 A’s of confession is hard-hearted”
Agreed… Those 7 As you listed reflect well the attributes of a repentant heart. The sad thing is, most of the time, there is no one to help such a man face reality so that he can experience the needed brokenness, transformation, and healing. Instead, in most cases, he is being enabled to stay in that hard-hearted condition because of the level of skill in his mask-wearing and because when the wife seeks assistance in the task of confronting, she is not believed.
These are just my follow up thoughts… Don’t feel obligated to respond, but if you wish too, it would be great to have these couple of areas of confusion cleared up.
James, I agree- those are examples of manipulative behavior.
But just to make sure we are on the same page: you don’t really consider those to be abusive behaviors, do you?
I think I speak for most of the ladies here when I say a forgotten birthday or anniversary might be classified as careless but not abusive. the wife in that situation might feel disappointed or even unloved, but not abused by that oversight.
As I understand it, The primary mission of Leslie’s ministry is towards abusive relationships, not ones which are simply disappointing. I am thankful for all the ministries which reach out to encourage and strengthen Christian marriages which are simply weak or disappointing. It is very important to shore up families. However, the reason that I and so many other ladies resonate with Leslie’s teaching is that our marriages are more than a disappointment. We’ve been practically destroyed by abuse. For many of us, this is the only place where we can be real and share our wounds and they are not trivial issues such as laundry blunders or forgotten birthdays.
To Leslie- I don’t mean for my question to James to come across as harsh or angry. I’m not trying to run him off. It’s my prayer that he and other pastors will learn more about abuse so that they might help ladies in their churches. Hopefully, his time here will bear Good fruit in his ministry.
The first step toward that understanding is what abuse REALLY FEELS like. I’m just a bit concerned that james might be missing the crux of what abuse is. I don’t feel compelled to press other ladies here for their definition of abuse because we KNOW what abuse it. We’ve lived with it. It’s a Secret club no one wants to be a part of.
I think we are on the same page. I don’t consider forgetting an anniversary or a birthday abusive. Nor do I consider all manipulative behavior to be abusive.
There are definitely some manipulative behaviors that are abusive and I am sure that one of the defining marks of an abusive relationship is manipulative behavior.
I didn’t read Leslie’s post as being specifically about manipulation within an abusive relationship so my comments were more addressing manipulative behavior in general.
My grandmother used to be a master at manipulation when I was in college. She would send baked goods and then write a long, sad letter about how she never hears from her grandchildren.
I would see past the manipulation to the cry of her heart and give her a ring. I don’t think that can be reasonably considered abuse.
However, a man who restricts financial access until his wife gives in and gives him what he demands of her IS being abusive.
In the same way, a woman who makes a demand of her husband and withholds intimacy until she gets it is also being abusive.
I hope that this has cleared up any confusion, I believe we may be on the same page here.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
She may be withholding intimacy to guard her heart, not to abuse. Leslie’s most active blogs are around this subject.
It’s a sensitive topic.
I’m sure that is sometimes the case.
Sometimes a man becomes financial controlling to prevent his family from bankruptcy.
It’s important to look at the specifics of a relationship I think.
I brought up your example (of the wife withholding intimacy as abusive) because I understood from your various posts, that you do not want to do any harm.
In pointing out that it is a sensitive topic, I was conveying to you that it is a particularly painful topic for many here.
Your response is ‘right’, just not very sensitive.
Like Leslie mentioned in one of her replies in the previous blog post, we live in the real world where we may be confronted by our spouses, church leadership etc. if we decide to stop being intimate with our husbands. The reality is both men and women withhold sex and affection to get what they want. For many of us here, it’s for survival- when a spouse is toxic, one has to emotionally separate for sanity. This is a good place to practice what we would say. It is also a place to hear different points of views.
Thank you, James.
I’ve enjoyed reading your posts/replies as they are well-thought out, encouraging, honest and full of Truth.
I hope you continue to share your thoughts and insights.
Thank you for such kind words, I’ve also enjoyed reading your posts and I admire your courage.
The Lord be with you.
Sue, thank you for sharing your experience. I have long wondered about my husband’s behaviors. I couldn’t imagine that they were consciously manipulative although it was easy for me to accept that they were intentionally manipulative. I could only understand it as a reflexive need on his part to not be confronted with the truth (as I saw it, would see it). He lied proactively (to keep me from looking deeper) and then, when I would discover the truth, he would weave a web of confusion, mis-direction, denial, and blame. I now see that he was able to get away with this because I was willing to be confused, to not search for the truth, to back down. I put him in the category of “…without having a full understanding of your manipulative behaviors and vice versa- you can have full knowledge of your manipulative tactics but believe they are justified and necessary to the relationship, thereby seeing no wrongdoing or need to repent.”
None of that makes it ok, but you’ve articulated it in words that help me understand why he did what he did, and why I’m still going through with a divorce.
Great blog. In most instances, I believe manipulators know exactly what they are doing …
But what I really would like to address in regard to this particular post is not the topic of manipulation but rather Leslie’s introductory points made about on how she would like this forum to be conducted. She writes: …”I see people having a lively debate. I love that you are learning to articulate your own point of view, have a voice, and do so in CORE strength… if we want to be honorable people we must treat others as Christ would even if we don’t like or agree with what they think or believe.
The Pharisees thought they were always right. They refused to allow any fresh air into their religious ideas and it turned out they missed seeing Jesus as their Messiah. We all know religious leaders who think they are always right, who refuse to listen to another perspective. They are people who act as if they have nothing to learn.
I don’t want this blog to be like that…”
Amen! This is yet another one of the main reasons I so highly value and keep returning to Leslie’s website and resources. There are other online bloggers who also attempt to minister to abuse victims, but, sadly, they often do not approach the operation of their forum with this line of thinking, and regarding one site in particular (I will not name), I find that for every one step of progress possibly made in the direction of raising the church’s awareness on the scourge of abuse, there are two or more steps being taken backwards because of the overall arrogant tone coming through in the blog operators. Questions are restricted. Disagreement is not allowed … All responses must line up completely with the moderators’ own viewpoint, etc…. The worst part of all is, the moderators cannot see the blaring hypocrisy in their oppressive control nor recognize how it damages the very cause for which they fight.
So, just want to say thank you so much, Leslie, for your openness to lively discussion and to allowing differing viewpoints to be expressed in this forum! We all have much to gain by listening to one another’s perspectives. You are letting the public see what constructive problem-solving and healthy relational interaction looks like… And in the end, it is this path which will be most effective in persuading leaders to wake up and re-evaluate some of the misguided teachings and ideas which have been contributing to broken relationships.
Thank you HisEzer!
“Questions are restricted. Disagreement is not allowed … All responses must line up completely with the moderators’ own viewpoint, etc….” -HisEzer
“Ladies this is the real world. You cannot live in a cocoon. . . . . a cocoon where the only “truth” they accept is from those who think exactly the way they do in every area. Organizations that support that kind of isolation are called cults and are unhealthy and destructive.” -Leslie
. . . .If you hang-out, interact, etc. only with those who agree with what you say, it is like walking around in a total desert. That place is so barren, with so little of the water-of-Life, nothing of value can grow. It allows you to remain a neophyte. . . .You already know what they are going to say. The reason we associate with them is because they never say anything that threathens us or challenges our thinking. It is way more important to notice when you are wrong than to prove you are right (—This applies especially to me!). . . . .Most people are not looking for the truth (—rain, the water-of-Life), they are looking for confirmation of what they already think (—Me too, many times). I try to remember that what I do not yet know may easily be more important than what I already know but I fail, lots. Reality is far more vicious than most will really admit. It is so hard to be really, truly open. But if there’s a single lesson that life teaches us it really is that wishing doesn’t make it so. I assume, as with everyone here, you know something I need to know and I am listening hard enough so that maybe you will share it with me.
Where there is denial there is dysfunction, and the more one’s faith resembles a fairy tale the sooner the clock strikes midnight. The church can no longer afford pastors who fail to take a stand when they know that the church is facilitating evil (evil = unnecessary suffering), whether it’s “truth” based on distorted facts and outright lies, cruelty toward women based on fear of loss of control, or a distortion of the teaching/wisdom of Jesus as absolutely unbelievable as the prosperity gospel, etc. No one likes to be seriously challenged. No one enjoys it. Every person feels a proprietary affection for her ideas and perspectives. Even so, in peer review, I can never reply to my critics, “Wait a minute. . . .this is a really good idea, it fosters ethics. . . .I’m very fond of it. . . .it’s done you no harm. . . .please leave it alone.” Of course we do this with kindness and gentleness realizing it will soon enough be time for our own ideas to be challenged. . . . .Faith is always supposed to make it harder, not easier, to ignore the plight of our sisters and brothers too. . . . .Anti-intellectualism remains strongly entrenched in many parts of the church, but it is grounded in fear, not in faith. In fact, the ongoing suspicion that scientific discoveries or rigorous biblical scholarship will undermine faith is a tacit admission that faith is threatened by knowledge, because it is ultimately constructed on weak and faulty assumptions and, like the proverbial house of cards, needs to be “protected” from collapsing. A deep and even paranoid suspicion continues to disparage scholarship of the Bible, as if someone could publish a paper that would unravel God —“demythologizing” Christianity as positive illusions. . . .Not possible, nor should we fear it. The peddling of fear in any form as incentive to faith remains one of the most egregious sins that can be committed in the name of Jesus. What’s positive about positive illusions? It feels very good to name the “enemy” and thank God that we are not like “those people.” But we are those people and they are the site of our salvation. We can only deeply heal when we directly confront ourselves (—I hate confronting myself too!). . . . Historical knowledge helps us “put away childish things.” But having put them aside, what abides? —Love abides. . . .Real love/real intimacy with Christ operating inside the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which—hopefully— overflows with love on to others.
Yes, there is a place for ‘lively discussion’, but there is also a place for protecting the wounded. A few years ago my h got on a marriage site and very cleverly confused the issue, because he enjoyed the attention of all the women. He manipulated the conversation, praised those who agreed with him, but the claws came out quickly when someone disagreed. I was glad when the husband of the moderator couple called him on it. Wolves are hard to spot, because they look more like sheep than the sheep do at times, flattering and sounding so wise. Therefore, people who have the more experience, I believe, need to call it out and shut it down. That sort of attention is not good for either side.
Connie, I agree completely, that the wounded need to be protected!! but that’s just it… they might be best protected when they are able to witness moderators and/or other posters on the site calling out the manipulation -when they see it happening (instead of the poster suddenly disappearing from the dialog… and he never experiences his manipulation being publicly called out). Yes, there are certainly times when it IS appropriate to ban someone from a forum because they are being continually disruptive, but I believe the need for those instances are rare. I think it is better for the public to see efforts in holding manipulative posters accountable …. That’s just my opinion though.
—I thought, maybe I totally confused, but I thought that Leslie had a special Facebook Group/ Password Protected/ pre-qualified page available because I agree that some need nothing but protected discussion. Anyway, that would be a good division because we are not talking directly to each other in real time. . .where we can see each other, share resources instantly, etc. . . . Yes, it would still have glitches and things to work out but the amount of misunderstandings from just static written words. . . .Well, so much of communication is lost without being able to put the reference documents / resources right on the screen. The next generation of these type blogs will certainly include—real time, resource sharing, et.al.
I agree Connie. I like the role of Leslie as moderator on this site. I also think it is very important to keep us safe from doctrine or beliefs which could harm us. Buyer beware.
I do too. . . .The Catholic Church operated as a massive dominance hierarchy through most of its history, protecting people from “wrong doctrine”, “English Bibles”, “divorce”, you know the rest. . . . .Re:History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. . . . . Aleea, Free, Leslie, et.al. would have been imprisoned, tortured and burned at the stake. Dominance is only for GOD. All evil seems to arise from the desire to dominate others. Dominance hierarchies are everywhere: at church (—Big Time), God have mercy on us even on this blog at times. It is the structure and fabric of society. That is why actions trump words any day (—Aleea take note!) because actions, speak for what really motivates from a subconscious level (—What you really, really believe. We can’t see that for anyone here, we only get words.) . . . But I think that’s the level to get more awareness of. . . . . Free, as you know, there were lots of early Christian groups. They all claimed to be right. They all had books, scholars, martyrs, heroes of their faiths to back up their claims, books allegedly written by the apostles and therefore representing the views of Jesus and his first disciples. The group that won out (The Catholic Church) claims they are totally, completely right, —and maybe they are. The victorious group called itself orthodox. —Only the Holy Spirit can really help us through prayer, self-reflection, et.al. Think of how most people operate —they say— (internally at the least): Orthodoxy (right belief) is my doxy and heterodoxy (any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position) is your doxy. —Orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is your doxy. . . . . Dominance hierarchies (no matter the size) —Is that the way to find the truth of anything? Reality is a hard, hard, hard road to walk. I don’t do that good of a job with reality but I do try. Reality living says: “Aleea. . . what you do not yet know may be far more important than what you already know.” Otherwise, you mind is just closed because you already have the “truth” in your back pocket. It is so hard to be really, truly open. People love their dominance hierarchies and confirmation biases (me too) and that may mean (possibly?) misguided “good” women are far more dangerous than honest “bad” women. It is because they are seen as good that, in and by good conscience, the mob will always, stubbornly back them without question. —The hard stuff: serious prayer, self-reflection, action —what else is there?
I agree there is a place for protecting the wounded and sometimes the wounded really aren’t at a place where they can participate in lively discussion.
If Leslie determines that this blog is about providing therapeutic support and not about open discussion then I’m happy to be on my merry way.
I am a pastor, my heart is to help not to harm. If my input ends up being unintentionally harmful then I’ll issue an apology and wish you all the best.
Grace and Peace in the Lord.
I am interested in seeing Leslie’s response to this issue as well.
I think that ignoring is a good strategy when dealing with pastors whose passion is directing others to right thinking.
. . . If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding. —And we all fear change (—especially me, my counselor says I crave safety and seek “VERY low change” levels) those are my highest felt needs. —Or as Dr. Meier says: “Safety is highest for you.” . . . .So, as I say, it is not an easy thing to permit oneself to understand. . . . We can only deeply heal when we directly confront ourselves (—I hate, hate confronting myself too!). . . . Again, where there is denial there is dysfunction, and, as I say the more one’s faith resembles those fairy tales, the sooner the clock strikes midnight. . . . Church history clearly shows that the most terrible crimes against love have been committed in the name of fanatically defended doctrines (—slavery, et.al.). The reason we have to understand church history and Bible interpretation is that with enough mental gymnastics just about any set of “facts” can become misshapen in favor of one’s confirmation bias. . . . And while surveying all the historical hermeneutical approachs to the Bible, I observed that no valid method of interpretation was ever discovered by spiritual revelation. All were found by the hard, difficult work of uncovering facts and thinking intelligently about them—in short, they were discovered by scholarship. People put a lot less effort (—basically NO effort) into picking apart evidence that confirms what they already believe (—They don’t use the outsiders test). But when “doctrinal integrity” (—Whatever that even means given the textual transmission process) trumps kindness and grace and love, “faith” has wandered way out of bounds. Anything claiming to be truth that does not lead to compassion for those suffering unnecessary (unnecessary = evil) mental, emotional, physical torments cannot rightfully be called the truth.
It’s not at all hard, generally, to understand a person. It not hard to listen. It is only hard to listen without bias and filters. —And it goes both ways. I have an almost unlimited ability to ignore my own ignorance. I catch myself often only really wanting to look at what confirms what I had already presumed to be true. But I am getting much better at it, avoiding “familiarity breeds liking”. —And when you pray, unless it scares the hell out of you, blows the cobwebs from your mind, scorches your heart with passion, you know, —lights a fire… I think it is very little of God, it is just filters and confirmation bias. . . .I just love when we work on our hearts here, everything flows from the condiction of our hearts. They are the factory of ourselves. . . . And my heart, at times, can be as black as a coal-pit and twice as foul (—and my counselor would be all over me for “shaming” but you know what I mean: God wants me to stop living for what others think. Sometimes I think that is the only thing I am living for —yes it is that sad). —I just find that even my repentance needs to be repented of at times. . . . But, I also know I am hopelessly in love with Jesus Christ. I’m never going to get over Him. He makes it impossible to get away from Him.
. . .Men. . . .men, need to understand that women HAVE a history that has been systematically suppressed. The church’s collective spirituality has largely been tainted to fit the needs of men and those in power. This has a profound affect on the self-esteem of girls and the women they become. Everyone deserves better (—women & men too)!!! —Men need way, w-a-y more power in areas women think should be off-limits. I hate thinking about that too!!! But this works both ways. . . . . People who unbiblically divorce (—And what a massive quagmire that is! . . .Lord, forgive me, but what we have here looks, to my little mind, like a failure to communicate). People who unbiblically divorce, aren’t “getting away with anything”. Consequences are built right into the fabric of the universe. Everything we do matters. The problem in a relationship starts when spouses get to thinking they own each other and you owe them. —Everything we do matters. . . . .I think this is why so often post-modern agnotics are trying to deconstruct everything, because then they are not responsible or accountable. Think of the seconday gains of “nothing I do really matters” vs. Everything, —every last little thing I do from using curse words when my flights are cancelled to not saying anything when a store clerk makes an error in favor of me matters. —It all matters. No one gets away with anything. Consequences are built right into the fabric of the universe and that is how we know there is a God. —Now, knowing there is a Jesus (Christ-of-Faith, not just the Jesus-of-History) is a far more complicated matter. —There is, but knowing that objectively is just far more complicated. . . .Anyways, the cleaning of our hearts (—making conscious and repenting of) even little patterns of missing the mark —ἁμαρτία (hamartia) —sin, forfeiture of God’s love because we are missing the mark! —This changes the world and especially our worlds!!! Why would we ever want less of God’s healing love? I don’t know but sometimes I don’t want it for whatever unconscious reason. . . .If God is the “light of the world” but we are covered in dark, black smudges that are in need of light, healing, transformation —then, we —in Christ’s power, taking responsibility to undertake such a cleaning and transformation allow God to shine His Love more brightly! It is so, so good for us and it affects everyone!
Aleea, Humility is a chief means of resisting manipulation- that is so true. Manipulators seek out people’s weaknesses and exploit them. If we are humble enough to see our weaknesses, we can resist manipulation. I have also noticed when I don’t want to acknowledge/work on my weaknesses, I become defensive.
That is a good insight Maria. I too become defensive when I don’t want to acknowledge/work on my weaknesses. Growing up, my mother was a paragon of our neighborhood. People always came up to me with hugs, saying “You have the most wonderful mother.” I’d think. “Don’t you see what’s going on in our house?” To this day, if somehow, even in jest, raises their hand to me, I will raise my hands to protect my face and cower. I cringe. . . . I don’t fully understand it. I have the Creator of the universe on my side; not to mention, I’ve been given eternal life. Whom or what should I fear? To be afraid of anything other than God himself is like an insult to God.
I recently read the Emotionally Destructive Marriage and decided that I can’t allow myself to condone his emotionally abusive behaviour anymore. That led to major escalations and major hurt. We finally agreed to see a counsellor. I’ve told him that I’ve felt emotionally abused but he refuses to believe it. He says we have both abused each other.
Today is his birthday. I said happy birthday but haven’t planned anything. When he realised, he was upset and said that he wouldn’t go to the counselling session because I’m “clearly not in the same positive place”. I believe he is being manipulative and trying to control me and override my reality. I started to feel guilty that I hadn’t planned anything for his birthday but I can’t do it in all genuineness when I feel so destroyed inside.
I’m working on my CORE strength and have a way to go. I think if he will refuse the counselling, I won’t beg and plead. I will just go alone.
Chloe, Please proceed with caution. After realizing I was in an emotionally destructive marriage (I read Leslie’s books and Boundaries in Marriage) I put a boundary out to my husband and within a few months he served me with divorce papers (we’ve been married 22 years, six children). Divorce is not what I wanted. I am now reeling, wondering, wishing, I’d done things different. My husband is a very insecure man, and also very proud. I believe that if I’d not been so drastic in my boundary (no time to explain the background and boundary here) and had been more gentle with my boundary (I ripped off the ‘band-aid’, instead of slowly peeling it back) I wouldn’t be in the midst of an unwanted divorce. Now my husband will NOT listen to me. My boundary hurt him so bad, he’d rather divorce. Which is manipulative in itself, but I believe if I’d taken ‘baby steps’ in standing up to him I’d have had a better chance at healing the relationship. I think I should have put up several smaller boundaries, while continuing to verbally express my love and commitment to him. I would suggest you keep communicating you want and need change, but also keep demonstrating agape love…love in action and deed. That doesn’t necessarily mean sex. Do what you’re comfortable with, but do express love. xox
I do not have things as bad as some here, but I’m also afraid of the ramifications when I confront and put up more boundaries. Right now, I point out his irrational remarks (usually when we are arguing) and don’t allow the rabbit trails or emotions to distract from the topic. But we are at a point, after a recent incidence, where I need to take further steps, and am afraid to do so. Can I ask what your boundary was that you feel was possibly too extreme? If you aren’t comfortable sharing that, I understand.
Two years ago my husband moved the children and I two hours away from where he works (I opposed moving the family apart, but he would not consider any other option). He was home only 1.5 days each week, with no end in sight to the situation after a year. I’d been continuing to homeschool and was once gain overwhelmed. Whenever I’ve tried to communicate when things were ‘too much’ for me, he’d tell me I lacked faith, or wasn’t submissive to his leadership, and other emotionally abusive ways. It came to a point where he wouldn’t even sleep with me when he came home- he slept on the couch, had told me not to touch him (because “its’ not good for a man to touch a woman”), had stopped wearing his wedding ring, and had said it was a mistake to marry me and to have our six children. I was a wreck. It was at this point I went to a professional Christian counselor and she told me about Leslie’s materials and told me that I was experiencing emotional abuse. I decided to give my husband a boundary: Please do not come home on the weekends until you agree to attend counseling with me. Well, he refused to attend counseling and did not come home. Three months later he emailed to say he was filing for divorce. I still can’t believe he’d rather “cut his losses and run” (as my counselor put it) than work things out. I even suggested a marriage intensive by Focus on the Family, but he said no.
The church my husband attends is about to take steps of Matthew 18 discipline with the hopes he’ll repent. I’m trying to believe and trust the Lord with the outcome, but I see this divorce coming at me fast (we have a trial in January) and I keep blaming myself for it – that I should have done things differently.
Don’t do anything in haste. Bathe everything in prayer.
Chloe, Have you been able to resolve anything with your husband? You told him he was emotionally abusive, and he said you are too. If that is true, remember two wrongs don’t cancel each other out. If he thinks you have been abusive, why hasn’t he brought this to your attention before?
By the way Chloe, no one can tell us how we feel.
Yes, and if Chole’s husband was teachable he would say, I am sorry I have been abusive. Thanks for pointing that out. I will make every effort to change that behavior immediately.
A person who doesn’t want to do the work and has the sin of pride permeating his heart points his childish finger and says “NO, I am not! You, are.”
My heart goes out to the survivors of manipulation and covert abuse in general. I feel especially sad for the ladies who’ve suffered this at the hands of their own mother. My mom hung the moon; second to Jesus she was and still is the standard I aspire to. I can’t imagine starting life without the strong core she gave me and the frame of reference to live from.
As I read this week’s article, I realized that I had little experience with manipulation. My H’s acts of cruelty were never veiled. ????
As hurtful as he’s been to me, I wouldn’t trade him for a covert abuser any day. How some of you survive the crazy-making is amazing to me!
The only times I can recall being tempted to manipulate are when I’ve wanted to sway my H into approving a purchase.
Example: We are at Thanksgiving with extended family. ‘Nancy’ comes in wearing a gorgeous coat. Then a mental battle starts in my head. I look at my ratty, old coat which is too bad for the Goodwill donation box. I resist the urge to gush over her coat so that H will hear me and it will dawn on him that his wife looks like a homeless vagrant and that he can certainly afford to let her buy some decent clothes. I tell myself that ‘Nancy’ works outside the home so she needs have some nice, professional clothing. furthermore, I love her. I want her to have nice things! I chose to leave my teaching job so I could have more time with kids; I knew there’d be financial sacrifices due to my choice. I don’t regret it. I tell myself, “Don’t wish for ‘Nancy’s’ coat. How petty.” During this self-talk, I also have to brush off a heavy cloud of sadness that tries to envelop me. if I don’t resist, my whole holiday will be tainted. The sadness isn’t that I don’t have a pretty coat; the sadness is that I can’t ask for one bc H thinks I don’t deserve anything nice.
This isn’t an abstraction. This happened to me almost a year ago and I’m in TEARS writing about it. Knowing your happiness has NO value to your spouse is painful.
I don’t consider that abusive per-say or manipulative on his part. But I was tempted to be manipulative. maybe I would have caved in except for the fact that I wanted him to WANT me to have something pretty. I knew that if I manipulated my way into getting that coat, if he relented just so he couldn’t have to hear me whine or act pitiful, then that coat would always be a symbol of the fact that I didn’t deserve nice things and I had to resort to control and manipulation to get anything nice.
Ruth, but it is abusive. What has your husband been spending on that you don’t have a decent coat. I think it is a fantasy to think that if you complimented another woman for her attire he could read your mind and know you were comparing yourself to her and now expect him to know you want a new coat. The tears are because, once again you feel unworthy and devalued.
How could you handle this differently? How could you process it differently. Maybe something like, this experience made me realize that I have not prioritized myself as a temple of the holy spirit. What can I do within my realm of control to rectify my situation and chose a different coat. Certainly no one forced you to wear you beat up coat. You put it on, you neglected yourself and you can do something about the problem and find a way to get something more suitable.
Tough Love, Dear.
One thing I have done, is pray to God for the money to buy what I or my children needed. When he saw that I had bought something without first begging him for money, he asked where I got it. I said, “You didn’t want to provide for me, so I went over your head and talked to God about it.” He would get quite angry because it took his power away, but I had peace.
Connie, you’re one smart cookie. I love that – “I went over your head and talked to God about it.” I think that reasoning goes with the idea of submitting ‘as in the Lord.’ Hardline submission groups teach we shouldn’t go along with obvious sins like robbing a bank. Your statement makes me realize that submitting ‘as in the Lord’ should apply to little, everyday stuff too.
Fortunately, my H has always taken goodcare of the children’s’ physical needs and mine most of the time.
Sorry that sounds kinda disjointed. I wasn’t finished typing & I accidentally hit POST.????
It’s a good question- why have I allowed myself to be manipulated? Perhaps the root of it was that I believed that I wasn’t worth standing up for and as a result was in the constant ‘mode’ of giving up ground ( never setting boundaries). I really believed that love meant that you don’t set boundaries. I thought that that’s what ‘dying to self’ meant. I have come to understand that you cannot die to self if you’ve never defined your self.
Above all else, guard your heart. This proverb consistently reminds me that boundaries are not optional. And so I find myself only one-and-a-half steps ahead of my almost 13 year old daughter, in finding my identity.
Because the tactics used against me are EXTREMELY covert in nature, I have had to rely heavily on the Holy Spirit. I have come to view anger as a friend ( an emotion I did everything to avoid). Anger tells me when something is wrong. I very seldom know what’s happening in the moment, but often the Lord will make things crystal clear afterwards. I have come to understand that my feelings are often right but instead of trying to articulate them ( in order to have them validated by my h- always lead to destruction). I take them to God. This process has completely changed the interactions between my h and I. When he tries to manipulate, I disengage from him. Most of the time, that’s where it stays. I no longer need my feelings validated by my h, ThecLord does that for me 🙂
If my h asks about my withdrawal, I have to be extremely careful to find out his motivation for asking before, and if, I answer. In the past his motivation was always to find out so that he could defend himself ( and prove my feelings wrong). I am learning that this heart posture comes from an extreme fear of failing me. How ironic, eh?
I am trusting ThecLord to work in my husbands heart. It is not for me to explain my new healthy behaviour ( guarding my heart) to my husband. When he feels threatened it’s often because I have set a boundary on something that is mine, that he feels entitled to, and that in the past I would given ground on because I loved him.
That wasn’t love. That was destruction.
I am also in this position, almost exactly! My eyes are being opened to my husband’s actions, and I’m still doubting my interpretation of things but becoming more confident in what I feel is right, relying heavily on the Holy Spirit for guidance. He is the only one that knows both of our hearts, and therefore is the know one I can truly rely on and go to with these problems. I no longer voice my concerns to my husband, I rarely did anyways, but the most recent time when I did, and there could have been the beginnings of resolution, it ended poorly. Like always. Typical blame – shifting, to martyr attitide, to ignoring my concerns, to outright saying he hated me (which was quickly followed by him acting like the conversation never happened). He is a christian, but that makes it harder because he doesn’t act like there’s any spiritual interest (no guidance, never goes to church- he was always inconsistent but it’s been 2 1/2 years since he’s gone). He blames a lot on migraines, which I believe he does suffer from but I think has become an excuse for behavior, but this is the tricky area. Maybe I’m just not understanding enough!)
Anyways, still sorting this out, praying heavily for wisdom and for my own faults to be revealed. It would almost be easier if it WAS just me; easier to fix!
I totally agree with you. Your husband should absolutely be willing to cloth you at his standard of appearance or above.
The Scriptures just don’t give any wiggle room on this.
I am so sorry to hear that this happened to you. And I hope and pray that you have a church or a counseling resource that will be able to bring your concerns to light and help you make some progress in addressing your concerns with your husband.
You may have a old coat but you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
Would there be a way for us to set up a “Go fund me” account or something so that we can help our dear sister buy a new coat?
Thank you for that compassionate response. Later on last winter, I did get not just one but 2 new coats, one dressy coat and one cozy, casual coat. I keep meaning to post again to share that – I realized I left a pitiful boo-woo story but neglected to share the happy ending.
I like what you said about being wearing an old garment in the physical realm but wearing the robe of righteousness purchased by Christ in the spiritual realm. One day ???? I’ll use that bit of affirming wisdom to encourage another sister who’s suffering my ratty coat blues.
I’m so glad you have 2 new coats. Enjoy them, I hope the winter won’t be so bad that you’ll need them as much.
Feel free to use whatever I say whenever it seems relevant.
It’s all public domain 🙂
That is true!! We can exalt in the Lord our God Isaiah 61:10 says, because we are clothed in garments of salvation and wrapped in robes of righteousness !!!
Re: resisting manipulation thru humility.
Aleea, that is SO GOOD!
Your insights made me think of John 14:30 “… The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” Satan had no hook to jerk Jesus around with. Jesus had no weak spots (self-pity, pride, selfishness, etc) for Satan to poke at.
If I could more like Jesus, humbly knowing my position, then I more successfully resist Satan’s lies.
With more Christlike humility, I wouldn’t feel the need to defend myself when the verbal character assassination starts.
By knowing my position in Christ, I wouldn’t crumble in despair under the attack of abusive screaming.
❤️Great insight, Aleea.
[Of course where the abuse turns on my kids is a whole different ball game. I cannot expect them to resist. Instead, I am to be strong for them. And willing to remove them from the home if necessary.]
I’m praying for you and your children Ruth. It must be horrible to endure attacks of abusive screaming. Thank God I don’t have that in my home life because I know what breaks me down is not the amount of pressure I feel at one time but it’s the way I perceive and handle it. I try to forget my weakness but God wants me to remember them, to feel them deeply. That is so hard for my mind to understand but when I do, it allows me to conquer my weaknesses and to be somewhat freed from them. God wants us to rest and even rejoice in our weaknesses not mourn over our weakness. But, actually to take pleasure in our weaknesses, fully accept and continually realize that they give us our claim and access to the very strength of Christ Himself who has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I always think my weaknesses are my greatest hindrance in my life and service to God. God tells me that it is the secret of strength and success in Christ. —Wow, the way to go RIGHT is to go LEFT and the way UP is actually DOWN; the way to save your life is to lose it completely. —Who can fathom these mysteries God has concealed?
Aleea, I rembember you telling me sometime back that these are not things you can use logic to overcome/explain. How true.
I did say that Maria. I did. Logic fails on things like that. With abuse, it seems as understanding deepens, the further removed it becomes from logic.
“In our weakness, He is strong”.
I know Maria. . .but so, so often the weakness feels like self-hatred, shame and fear all at the same time. —And God exhorts us the other way too: “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua one), said three times for emphasis! Paul to the Ephesians: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”. Paul to Timothy: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. . . . .Power made perfect in weakness, how is that possible? The fear of losing something makes you weak, lose it and gain your strength?
Could it be when we realize that we’re weak in ouselves yet strong in the Lord?
Maria, it could easily be that. . . . but what does that really mean? I maintain a stable prayer-life where I acknowledge my utter weakness and complete dependence. I try to put on the whole Armour of God. I try to be very sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit (—But I still question so many times: Holy Spirit is it just me or is it really You?). . . . .Do you “fast” regularly? Is that helpful?
Aleea, There have been times when I have known that I would not get through something. At those times I’ve relied on God’s word, and trusted Him to make it through. Other times, I have felt covered by the prayers of other Christians (yours included).
That’s so beautiful Maria. I am such a huge believer in prayer. It is totally, completely other. . . . For me, even now, it is the best thing we do in counseling. Dr. Meier can help me sharpen my sword a little but she can’t slay my dragons. Only God can fight them for me/ with me. Those dragons are fire made flesh and without God’s help they would just consume me. My prayers for others flow w-a-y more easily than those for myself. To me this shows we are made to live by love. . . .When I’m at the end of my rope, prayers for others almost always help me untie the knot in my heart. For me, prayer is more valuable than even Bible study.
In my experience for years I did not realize the manipulator knew what he was doing. When he showed me over time that he knew, and that it was intentional, I no longer thought I could save the marriage by getting him to understand. I think that is the essence of abuse, not that they cannot change and stop destroying their life’s partner but that they will not.
Recognizing the truth and understanding what we have and do not have to work with helps to bring closure. I just read an amazing booklet that someone posted on the conquer site called God’s Protection of women – when abuse is worse than divorce by Herb Vander Lugt
I think that was the best explanation of how God protects women that I have seen!! It is a discovery series booklet by Our daily bread and it explained how God does not want us to be used and abused and how God made provision for women throughout the bible! It is powerful and so beautiful to read someone’s work who truly pulls out God’s heart of compassion and care for abused women!
I totally relate to your statement “I could save the marriage by making him understand”
In my case I’ve realized that the posture of me ‘explaining’ to him is just so destructive. My biggest temptation is to explain it to him, and he knows this. “But just tell me what I did?” he’ll say. On the surface, it looks like a caring question, right? This is why listening to the Holy Spirit is so critical for me. His motive for asking that question has been, not for intimacy, but for defence.
But why is it so tempting for me to be in that position of explaining to him? I hope it’s ok to explore this here…not suggesting this is you, at all. It comes back to needing my feelings validated. I grew up in an environment that looked amazing from the outside but reeked from the inside. My parents were so good at denial that three kids never talked about what was going on ( I think even as adults my sibs don’t want to recognize how thoroughly unhealthy our childhood was). So I grew up knowing something was terribly wrong, but not having one person in my life recognize what I was experiencing. So I learned that my feelings were wrong. Incorrect. Inaccurate, etc…. I so desperately needed them validated that I would turn to my h for that. Because of his own dysfunction, he was incapable of validating me.
Crazy making. I just thank God that He persisted in His pursuit of me 🙂
Connie, You sound so level headed. You are responding to your husband in a very healthy, God honoring way. Do you mind explaining your journey?
The post addressed to Connie was meant for Nancy, sorry.
Hi Maria, thank you for the compliment. I seem level headed because you don’t live with me 😉
All kidding aside, I’m happy to share. I’ll write back a bit later.
Lately what the Lord is telling me, is to work/ focus on me (He may have been telling me this for a while ( soooooo patient is our God!).
My knee jerk reaction is to focus on my h’s behaviour, or motives. I’m beginning to see that these are none of my business. They most certainly affect me, but they are not in my power to change. 20 years of operating this way hasn’t improved an outwardly good looking, but inwardly dying, marriage.
Our marriage drastically changed when I read Leslie’s book, recognized his codependency as abusive and my taking too much responsibility and idolizing him, as equally destructive. I was devastated by this reality check and spent a month preparing to confront him. I did this following her book. We are separated emotionally and sexually.
The Lord has really used this separation to clarify my thinking and show me where I fall down. The main area: focusing on him. The new saying in our home ( with our kids) is “row your own canoe”. Means mind your business. We are even sometimes now able to say this to one another in a lighthearted way! HUGE!
More specifically, I am doing some long overdo grief work. It is extremely painful and I have found that the harder this grief journey becomes, the greater my temptation to focus on his faults. Blame is addictive.
The Lord just keeps guiding me down the path of my own healing.
I think my h and I entered our relationship with so much unresolved baggage that it has taken this seperation in order to begin to untangle the mess.
Thanks for asking. It helps clarify things.
Dang, that burst my bubble!!! (just kidding) 🙂 🙂
Nancy, Thanks for taking the time to reply to my question. When I realized I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, I too started focusing on my reactions (with the help of a counselor). When he would say something mean, I would burst into tears, say things in self pity, become defensive and then not talk to him. It was tough because he would continue until he got a reaction out of me. That way I could be blamed (and I was quick to blame myself). I came to the point where I was not concerned at all about how he behaved. I understood that the only person I could change was me. I stopped defending myself putting boundaries in place (telling him that if he chose not to be respectful, I would leave the room etc.). My motivation to change my reactions was not so that he would change, but it was because I did not like the person I was becoming. But I was shocked that he didn’t change. When I realized the reality of my situation- that my husband really wasn’t interested in a relationship, I had to deal with that pain. It was similar to the process of grieving when a loved one dies.
Sounds like your husband is reacting better than how mine did. Is he open to counseling?
Wow Maria, I am so sorry that your husband has not responded to the limits you have set. That grief must be terrible 🙁
Yes my husband is reacting positively. He went to counselling right away, and continues with it. He has also set his own limits with his parents ( very toxic people). That has shed light on a lot of our dysfunction.
I am very encouraged by the changes he is making, but do have to remember to continue to fix my eyes on Christ (we had both made my husband ‘saviour’, for close to twenty years – a house built on sand).
From a previous conversation, I had mentioned that I pray for him each week with a friend. I can see now why that would be extremely difficult for you to do.
Maria. I have prayed that The Lord will remind me to pray for you each time I pull out “the power of a praying wife” to pray for my husband. Is there something specific that you would like me to pray?
Nancy, I really appreciate your prayers. There was a time I could not pray for him. Aleea encouraged me to do that a few times. Now I do pray for him. I don’t take what he says and does personally. I know it’s a reflection of him. But I get angry when he is mean to the kids.
Please pray for my kids so that they will be able to see when he is trying to manipulate them.
Ok. I will pray for them.
“Just tell me what I did?” Was manipulation. He was checking how much you knew and had figured out his latest strategy to control you. When you give him an explanation he gains more insight. Either he thinks “she is on to me I better try something else”, or “she is so far off, I’ll use that one again.”
My husband is a christian, I’m about as sure as one can be, which makes the manipulation, criticism, denial, very hard to reconcile. His upbringing and background make him susceptible to insecurity and deep issues, so I am sure that all of his criticisms are heaped onto me and the kids because of what he feels. I really can’t see him hurting or manipulating us intentionally, yet he doesn’t seem to care or avoids any issues I bring up. Maybe he is working through issues? He’s not very open. This opening question hits hard because what if I am blinded to his actions, what if he is master manipulater? I don’t think so but I’m working through what reality is.
Does he treat others differently than he does you? Then he knows what he is doing. If he is being nasty and the phone rings or the doorbell, does he suddenly change his attitude and expressions? Then he knows what he is doing. We have been raised in an age of excuses, which we make for ourselves and others, because we think that is showing empathy. It is, perhaps, initially, but as soon as we know what is right and don’t act on it, it is sin. No excuses. No enabling.
Spot on Connie!!
I suppose it would be normal to have times of “peace,” where It seems things are going well? I have put up a wall, and do not allow him to put blame on me when it shouldn’t, and things seem to be good right now, yet I know from past experience to not put too much stock in it because there is always something that happens that makes me think nothing has changed. The biggest clue is the lack of spiritual interest (at least not that I see, but it should be evident and come up in conversations). I don’t know. I’m on here trying to figure things out.
I don’t think any of us have a right to say for sure if someone else is a Christian. According to Jesus and the parable of the sheep and goats, we might be surprised if we knew, and he said we can make a good guess according to their fruit: love, joy, peace………, also in the book of James it says that if someone doesn’t love, he/she doesn’t know God.
I think most if not all of the women on here would tell you that periods of peace are the norm, in fact, they are part of the game to keep us confused. Especially if they sense we are starting to be onto them, they will back off and even be really nice for a time. You can hurt someone more if they are not on their guard, if they can be baited and reeled in to trust and hope again. And you can keep her around for much longer if you keep sowing seeds of hope. It really is a sinister game, and we fully understand that you want to give the benefit of the doubt and that you hope it isn’t as bad as it seems. In the peace times, you walk on eggshells because you never know what will trigger him. Keep reading, and find a good book, like, “Why does he do that?” by Lundy Bangcroft (libraries have it). We’re praying for you. Have you looked up online, the ‘abuse wheel’? I’m guessing that almost everyone here is praying for you.
Education is power. AE in addition to prayer, read, listen, search the internet and you will get the wisdom you need for discernment. Have you watched Patrick Doyle’s you tube presentations yet? Do you have a local domestic violence shelter or woman’s advocacy center to consult? Focus Ministries in Illinois has faith based information for women in your situation. Google them.
The only thing I can say from my experience is that if it seems like things are getting better it is really just a new tactic to get you to trust your abuser. You must be pretty obedient at the moment so he doesn’t need to step up his game.The game here is power and control, nothing else. It is ugly to hear, but it is true. Power and control over your every thought, word and deed.
“yet wives get sent back constantly, especially if the abuser says all the right words and cries crocodile tears and sends his children (after grooming them to disrespect mom) to do his dirty work for him. I know. I have forgiven totally, yet many people don’t believe it because I’ve had to go no contact.”
I totally agree with you Connie, that is my experience, I have forgiven but because the destructive scary behaviour has not stopped I do not have to put my self in the middle of the road to get run over again.
I can pray for him that he will get over his need to be destructive but I cannot take responsibility for his destructive behaviour. I will continue to walk in core and behave out if obligation and responsibility and protect my child but free myself from the crazy cycle at the same time!
Criminal behaviour warrants going to police or other protection agencies, not out of vengeance but out of a responsibility to protect the vulnerable.
“Consequences are built right into the fabric of the universe.” So true. We are covered by his grace, we are forgiven and set free but that doesn’t mean any of our actions ( before being saved, or after) are consequence free. It is sometimes very hard for me to make that distinction. It is too easy to see those consequences as ‘punishment from God’.
Also, repentance. I’ve been thinking a lot about confession and repentance. Repentance comes from God, it is not something I can force. That feeling of knowing I’m wrong amid having my heart broken by His love ( conviction) then I can make the decision to ‘turn’ ( repentance). But I cannot ‘conjure up’ conviction. I so often know in my head that I’ve done wrong and confess it, but am not broken by it. If I then decide to ‘turn’ from it, I’m doing it in my own strength.
In this case the best I can do is ask The Lord for conviction of my wrong. Do you have any thoughts on this? It’s hard to know I’m covered by His grace but also feel trapped by a pattern that I haven’t yet been convicted by. I suppose that’s what healing is…and I won’t be fully healed until heaven.
I can’t conjure it up either. Faith is the gift of God. Repentace/ being broken over my sins is the gift of God. Loving others is the gift of God. I too ask the Lord for strong convictions of wrongs in my life, especially all the things I’m so blind about. I don’t know about you but I just can’t (—just can’t) turn from things in my own strength. I just beg God for help. I just resort to begging. I pray like it all depends on God but then I do work like it all depends on me. The whole thing is a mystery but I believe they work together and I can tell when God is working because I don’t want to do certain wrong things anymore. When my heart is clean and broken before the Lord, when it is thankful, meek, humble, God can flow His love into it. Holiness is happiness (—I know you know what I mean!)
“I so often know in my head that I’ve done wrong and confess it, but am not broken by it. If I then decide to ‘turn’ from it, I’m doing it in my own strength.” . . . .When I am not broken by those things in my life I go back and study the charater of God, then I am broken by them. How can the independence of our volition be harmonized with the fact that we are integral parts of God’s universe which is subject to order and His laws? Acts seventeen. . . .”For in Him we live, and move, and have our being. . . .” Nancy, I simply don’t know. . . Free will, God’s determinism, which comes first, etc. I just don’t know Nancy but I have thought a lot (A LOT) about it. . . . You’ve got to trust God and yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Learn how to leave yourself behind. . . .take God’s guiding hand that is all I know to do. —I’d never known that I could feel this utterly broken and totally whole all at the same time. It certainly is a puzzle.
. . . Nancy, I thought some more about it as I have been praying for you. . . . .Without Christ we have the freedom to do stuff, but never the power to complete anything. No one preached to me. . . No one had to. . . I wouldn’t have listened anyway. I became a believer from a direct encounter with an answered prayer, in the negative. I came face to face with God and all his power. (—that is, God doesn’t answer prayers; He answers our desperate prayers.) . . . It is like when you sit in front of a fire in the dead of winter —you are just there in front of the fire of God’s Love. You don’t have to be smart (—thank God!) or have anything figured out. The fire just warms you. As you know, as we walk with Jesus, resting our heads on His heart, we learn to know His Word, His will, and His ways. You will want to obey Him, not out of forced compliance, but out of heartfelt connection. . . . That said, if you want to deeply think about it, the issues are 1) if God exists then the future is determined and I am not free; I am free; therefore, God does not exist. . . . . . In contrast, 2) if every event has a cause, then so do free human choices; God is the First Cause of everything; therefore, God must be the cause of our free choices. The first uses freedom to eliminate God, the second uses God to eliminate freedom (See: The Wonder of the Cross: The God Who Uses Evil and Suffering to Destroy Evil). . . . . As biblical Christians, we grant both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility for free choice, BUT, there remains the total problem as to how to reconcile them. . . . . Both sides of the divine sovereignty and human freedom picture are manifest in Jesus’ statement, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (cast out)”. . . . .Nancy, I don’t how it works, it just works. Christianity could just be an earlier type of psychoanalysis and depth psychology, again, I just don’t know how it works, it just works and I just want Christ’s love that’s all I know. . . That’s pathetic but it is the truth. Christ brings out the best in me (—when I listen) and eliminates the worst (—again, when I listen).
Thank you so much for your prayers, Aleea 🙂
I’m pretty sure that my disconnect and lack of peace comes from carrying a tremendous emotional / spiritual weight for way too long. I was saved 4 years ago and while I know Jesus died for me (and have had many confirmations of his presence with me). I do not know how to stop punishing myself. Allowing my h to manipulate me was just one of the ways I have kept up with the self flagellation. He is gradually opening my eyes and healing me.
I love “All that the father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away”.
Thank you 🙂
Oh Nancy you are so, so welcome. I just love praying for people.
“. . . . I do not know how to stop punishing myself. Allowing my h to manipulate me was just one of the ways I have kept up with the self flagellation. He is gradually opening my eyes and healing me.”
I don’t know how to fully stop punishing myself either Nancy. If I had a person in my life treating me the way I sometimes treat myself, I would have gotten rid of them a long time ago. . . It has taken many years of vomiting up all the junk I’d been taught about myself from my mother, and half-believed, before I was able to even walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here. Self-love is a very good thing but self-awareness seems way more important and it seems you have self-awareness. If you’re capable of despising your own behavior (self flagellation), you might even just love/ care for yourself.
Until I started seriously memorizing upbeat scriptures (upbeat scriptures), everywhere I looked I found shame or failure staring back. One of the most liberating moments in my life was when I realized that all my self-loathing was not a product of my inadequacy but, rather, a product of my thoughts. I know it is a little bit mind-control-ish but we have to get control of our thoughts. The mind, of course, is just like a muscle the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. I look at it like we have two channels the Stress Channel and the other is the Peace Channel. We really do have a choice about what we listen to. Now, you can’t just block out everything but my Peace Channel is where those uplifting scriptures are. My Stress Channel is all the junk from my childhood. I work hard to tune out the negative, tune in the positive. What we feel is a choice. Like food is always a choice, we have to DIET with our MIND too. And I still try to stay VERY open-minded but I can only tolerate certain input for so long and I will notice it depresses me. We can’t be willfully blind, that is immoral but we have to get control of our thoughts too. . . . . Definite purpose, backed by a definite plan, minimizes destructive thoughts. We just can’t let it switch to willful-blindness, we also have to stay open to other thoughts and ideas. They are okay just challenge them! Faulty reasoning is frustrating but has become ubiquitous—and pseudoscience is everywhere coupled with just breathtaking absurdities. No matter how busy we may think we are, I think we must find time for reading, or surrender ourselves to self-chosen ignorance. We need to think and evaluate evidence but we can’t just let negative thoughts run wild in our minds. . . . I like the Peace Channel and try to think on the things that will bring me peace.
“I was saved 4 years ago. . . ” . . . . That is so beautiful Nancy. There is nothing, nothing more important than your eternal salvation. And it is about being a whole human being, right here/ right now not merely a soul; it is about the present, not simply the future.
Your response brought tears to my eyes. I LOVE your analogy of the peace channel. I need to make myself a “mixed tape” of scripture verses that I can draw on. And yes…upbeat scriptures!
You have a heart for people, Aleea. Thank you so much.
. . . You are too kind Nancy. Any good you see in what I have said is completely from Him. I assure you that. I’m as bereft in Spirit as they come without Jesus Christ. One thing I have learned is that the love of God is of a different nature altogether. I can hardly understand it. . . . I go home and say to yourself, I am a wayward, foolish child. But, somehow, He loves me! I have disobeyed and grieved Him ten thousand times. But He loves me! I have lost faith many a time as I study Christian origins (—Everyone wants something smaller, something neater than the Truth. The past is a very foreign country. They do things VERY differently there: “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith” –paperback) . . .But He still loves me! Sometimes I do not love Him, in fact, I am even totally furious with Him! But He loves me! God just loves on me rententlessly until I fold, time after time. . . . .I think, “should I fully drop my guard?” (Experiencing Jesus = stronger; Research Jesus/ Christian origins = weaker). Can I trust my feelings and save myself the research pain? . . . .So, I kept my digital “mix-tape” focused on Psalm eighteen-style passages: “I love you, LORD, my strength” . . . Clean, nothing complex my mind can deconstruct. . . . Logic cannot comprehend love, so much the worse for logic. It seems to me that as understanding deepens, the further removed it becomes from knowledge. I don’t know why that is. When we lose the world, we find ourselves. When we lose ourselves, we find God.
I also spent most of my time trying to be validated for my viewpoints from my husband, or trying to get him to see his fault or his wrong. It always just leads to crazy making conversation….dialoguing beyond my original exhortation just opens an opportunity for him to seek to prove me wrong or diminish my point of view. It’s so hard to stand my ground and then exit the conversation when the backlash for my truth telling inevitably begins. I’ve spent so many hours over so many years in insane dialogue and elevating fights trying to fight with careful explanations and reasoning. It has never once led to repentance or resolution. Only more and more confusion and pain. It is a giant trap of darkness which takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs you more than you want to pay. I’ve so often wished God would step down from heaven and referee the madness and speak truth into the darkness with a power that i’ve never had with my husband. I’ve regretted so many times getting into the trap with him yet seem powerless to avoid it even after years of counselling and help. I’ve felt so unheard, invalidated and powerless for now 16 years of marriage. I’ve prayed and hoped and tried and cried and begged and talked and reasoned. I’ve even separated for a very difficult and painful year and reconciled just to end up back where i started. It seems he’s never really pursuing me, never really repentant, never actually trying to grow or change. But as he says, he’s still here, so he must be the faithful committed one. But he’s stayed in this it seems not out of real love which seems so little a part of all this, but more out of dysfunction. When I try to tell him the marriage is failing, he said the marriage wasn’t failing, I was failing. He’s physically stayed but never fought for the marriage, never fought for me. Never taken responsibility or pursued his own growth or change. Just empty words, that never lead to anything. Always me chasing after him and hoping in hope that never pays out. Hope differed makes the heart sick and that is so where I am. I’m really needing to figure out how to claim back my heart and my power and needing tools to implement boundaries and consequences outside of just separating/leaving. I have 2 beautiful small children and I’m 8 months pregnant with a 3rd. I know in my heart that normal relationships are not filled with so much confusion, pain and heartache all the time. The words of my husband that i need to forgive more and love more ring in my head but they don’t ring true. I know that all he’s asking for is more permission to take more, give less and further diminish and dishonour me and this marriage. No amount of christian “love” has won him over to date….
I know I need a different kind of love to fight this darkness. Something that wields a lot more power.
Elm, I think you are right when you say that your know that normal relationships are not filled with so much confusion. Creating confusion is a manipulation tactic. You ARE being manipulated.
As hard as it is to hear, the love you need more of is self love. You may say, “but I do love myself.” Yet do your actions support your claims?
You ARE God’s precious daughter and he doesn’t make junk. In my opinion, he doesn’t appreciate men who make a mockery of marriage and instead engage in it for their own twisted objectives. So many of us on this site have known nothing but twists, twists and more twists.
After many years of doing the same things as you mentioned, I realized that I was trying to be his saviour. God kept bringing me back to the book of Proverbs, where it talks about fools, and I saw a description of h in those passages. For a long time, I didn’t want to hear it because I’d always been told not to think ill of my h, but there was truth right out in front of me. “A word to the wise is enough, but stripes are for the backs of fools.” If you turn that around a bit, it means that if someone hears verbal admonishment, he is wise. If not, he is a fool and only consequences (boundaries is the ‘in’ word here) speaks to him (her). I had to stop talking and set boundaries. That takes a lot of God-confidence, knowing who I am in Christ and that He is the only one who can fix this. And even God doesn’t fix someone who doesn’t want fixed, so who do I think I am trying to do this? I’ve often said, “A husband can lead you closer to God, or he will drive you closer to God. Either way, you are where you want to be, totally dependent on Him, not yourself and your smarts.” Sometimes, when h would make what I knew to be a bad decision, I would say,”Well, if that’s what God is telling you to do, you’d better do it”, and I’d shrug and walk away. He’d be mad because he knew it was a decision to irk me, not please God, but I had to let go. Proverbs also says that if we try to fix someone, God backs off and even blesses them. Ouch. In one language, the word for faith means to ‘lean heavily against’. I like that.
I really like what Connie said on Sep 24 (there was no reply Link):
Sep24, 2016 at 10:28 pm
“I’m wondering if some people don’t misunderstand the term ‘forgiveness’. This does not mean ‘go back into the situation’. Sometimes, one can forgive and yet need to go ‘no contact’ because the situation is still toxic, but nobody else sees it. Funny how most people can see that a soldier with severe PTSD could not be sent back into service, not even to the country where he/she served in peacetime, because there was just too much trauma, yet wives get sent back constantly, especially if the abuser says all the right words and cries crocodile tears and sends his children (after grooming them to disrespect mom) to do his dirty work for him. I know.”
Me: It’s sad that the analogies which best describe my destructive marriage are military analogies. So many times, I’ve felt like I’m living in an enemy state.
Connie, I’m sorry he manipulated and brainwashed your children. I would imagine hurts worse than the loss of the marriage.
. . . . They may be military illustrations because you live constantly with the war inside, you “exist” in a world of chaos. I imagine war is total chaos. People generally don’t suffer high rates of PTSD after natural disasters. People suffer from PTSD after moral atrocities like war, adult abuse, childhood abuse, like with my mother’s abuse of me. That repeated trauma in childhood forms and deforms your personality. And you can’t just leave, like war, you are trapped in an abusive environment. You have to find a way to preserve a sense of trust in people who are totally untrustworthy, some modicum of safety in a situation that is totally unsafe, some “control” in a situation that is terrifyingly unpredictable (—Mental, just like war/ military), some “control” in a situation of total helplessness. . . . .Growing up, my mother was a paragon of our neighborhood. People always came up to me saying “You have the most wonderful mother.” That hurt the worst. —That was the worst. I’d think, “Don’t you see what’s going on in our house?” From this you develop a whole immature system of psychological defenses. So now I am on permanent alert, just like I assume would happen from the military. Like the danger, my mother, might return at any moment. . . . . It is like being a bag of disorganized fragments of a shattered “fight or flight” responses to overwhelming danger. I remember the second session with my counselor. Dr. Meier stopped me and said “You want me to start yelling at you, don’t you? That is what is familiar, it was your family, your mother.” “—Maybe I did but I was ready with my response because I had thought long and hard about it. . . . —No I don’t Dr. Meier, I want to acknowledge the psychological harm even if it grants a moral victory to my mother because I want to heal. I want to turn: the world is dangerous, I can’t win (whatever “win” even means), I can’t fully trust other people, there’s no hope, Turn It Into: Life is good, I’m safe, People are kind, I can trust others, The future is likely to be good. I want to reconstruct a coherent system of meaning and belief in God and Christ that also encompasses my story of childhood trauma. . . . . I can’t bear the feelings associated with traumatic memories of my mother. It is nothing but shame and I have no authority over my memories. I went on like that for like ten minutes.” My PTSD is similar to panic attacks and once that cycle is turned on, I have to go, even out of the street at 3am. . . . . Some of the experiences endured by human beings on this earth are virtually unbelievable, I’m sure military PTSD is like that and maybe far worse too. To me, the inability to get something out of my head is a signal to me that shouts, “Don’t forget to deal with this!!!!!” . . . As I talk to more and more people, I am driven to suspend any pre-conceived notions that I have about what is possible and impossible in human abuse experience. . . . .Maybe that is why you use military illustrations, they seem the worse. In the past, I imagined I was being strong in the face of pain, in reality, I was merely hiding.
Alea, The abuse you speak of seems more like torture than manipulation, although no doubt, that was at play too.
It is a simple thing, and I imagine you already do it, but I would like to mention an exercise I was taught. When have a PTSS of PTSD flashback or trigger, ground yourself in the present. Alert you sensations to the hear and now. For example, today is X, I am in X location and these memories are NOT happening now. Breath deeply and smell the present. Arrest the thought and toss it away from your mind. Pray to Jesus to disarm the evil spirits and ask for angels to protect you ASAP. It works for me every time.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
“. . . .Alert your sensations to the here and now. For example, today is X, I am in X location and these memories are NOT happening now. Breath deeply and smell the present. Arrest the thought and toss it away from your mind. Pray to Jesus. . . .” . . . .Free, I will try that. That is like presence metaphysics.
. . .When it grips me, it is not logical. I know I am safe. I know that. It is like the hand of the devil holding a scalding hot branding iron and touching my brain with it. . . . my gut yelling at me to run but at that moment I have leaden feet. —I have to say something —anything— to try to get the thoughts to stop. The radical things I usually say stop the horrible thoughts but it is very, very embarrassing and very confusing to anyone around me. Some days I feel I am the worst of sinners but I am also convinced that is when I am closest to God.
. . . To me, reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. Shame is just such a soul eating emotion. I am still often ashamed of myself for being ashamed of myself. I am continuously struck by how frequently the various thought processes of my own inner critic (or whatever it is) triggers overwhelming emotional flashbacks. It is like wedding shame and self-hate with fear of abandonment/ childhood abandonment. . . . .But I do realize now that my mother could never have lobbed such a stinging wad of shame out into my world without having a massive personal reserve of it to draw on.
In October I will be married for 22 years to a man who did his best to keep me down. He was controlling and manipulative. Several years ago I said to him “do not try to manipulate me.” And he said ” I am not, I would tell you if I was trying to manipulate you”
It took many years for me to really see that I was the one who would have to change. We are still married but I am always on my guard with him. There is no love in our marriage.
I have become very strong and self aware. And strive hard for independence. I have made many changes and going outside my comfort zone has been a big part of that. I used to rely on him for everything including money and transportation. I used to measure my self-worth by how he treated me.
I have come a long long way. 🙂
Something I am very proud of is that I am going to college to earn my degree in social work.
I was married young, pregnant right away, married 19 years now, half my life. I’ve been thinking more about what my life would be like had I not gotten married (it was quick). Mind you, I can’t say I regret it because I have I kids that I wouldn’t trade for anything. College comes to mind (for youth social work or counseling), along either the things I’ve always enjoyed doing and never do, partly because I’m busy homeschooling and partly because cause of this need to be busy doing things around the house. How much of this is my fault and how much is mu husband’s for this pressure I feel? I read these other posts and think I do not have it so bad, at all. Much of the time my husband is a good guy, but there is something so off, like this unspoken stuff that I know would be ME if I pointed it out (it it’s me when things do come up).
I know chronic illness can cause depressionn etc. But I also know that depression and certain personality disorders can cause chronic pain symptoms (headaches being common-my husband deals with migraines all the time.)
Either I’m an unsympathetic, harsh, terrible person for not being more understanding, or something deeper is going on.
Feeling crazy kind of confirms things to me, but that’s not good reasoning, either. Lol maybe I am crazy.
What comes to my mind is, is your husband into porn? This is such a common problem causing them to be really irritated when anyone needs him, because you (or child) are interrupting his fantasies. This is an addiction like any other, but this one causes bad attitudes about women, and can never be satisfied. My 1st h didn’t have access to computer, but was addicted anyway, in his thoughts. We were at counseling at Elijah House when I picked up one of their books and turned to a chapter about the profile of a sex addict, and that’s when my eyes were opened. If they want sex often and/or kinky and/or you feel like you are a prostitute (like it’s not about you, just about ‘it’), OR if he denies you intimacy (too much fantasy and SG causes impotence). I may be wrong, just trying to show a common denominator in many of these cases. Or some other hidden sin.
And no, you are not crazy. If it feels off, it most likely is off. After 25 years I checked myself into the psych ward because I thought I was crazy (ok, by then I was bordering, ha!) and as soon as I was in there, I felt like I’d been let out of jail and the nurses told the doc that I didn’t belong there because I was just fine. He wouldn’t let me out until I’d made arrangements to leave h. I was devastated. I wanted someone to fix it, but you can’t make someone else want to change. I also married at 19, homeschooled lots of kids whom I love dearly……..yes, there were times of peace, but the tension and confusion………several years before that, as I cried out to God, He said to stop engaging in conversation. I was confused, because all the marriage books say to communicate, right? But as so many others have said, the conversations went nowhere, or rather downhill, so I would leave whenever he tried to bait me into talking. To this day, his complaint is, “She won’t talk to me.” Talking always led to me in tears, and that is what gave him his buzz.
That sounds so familiar, the discussions that end in tears and frustration. Lately, when we’ve gotten to discussions/arguments my eyes have been completely opened to the manipulation tacticsn though I did see it before just not so consistently. It really helped me keep the conversation on track (a track that ended nowhere) and keep some sanity.
I don’t think he’s Into porn. If so, it’s very well hidden (which I know is possible).
He never knew his real father, Jason tried to contact him to no to where avail. His adoptive father is very narcissistic, on the nice end of the spectrum. His step father is no to where once it much older than us (his mom had him young and remarried a younger guy…..) and had his own baggage from an alcoholic abusive father and raiding his younger siblings, who always got the attention. So, yeah, lots of baggage. Not to mention being Involved in the occult when he was younger before being saved. So I’m sure there are many spiritual and personality issues, which makes It hard for me to be yet one more person in his life that he has let down (in his mind) and isn’t there for him.
Original question of does the manipulator know? I believe it depends how long they have been doing it and getting away with it with no correction to their behavior. I will start with a C.S. Lewis quote:
Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.
From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis
I believe the bible backs my thought in 2 Thess. 2: 10 &11.” they refuse to love the truth” ” For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so they will believe the lie.
Also in Romans 1 it is describing if you continue in sin God will give you over to a depraved mind.
When they are delusional by Gods command they are blind to their behavior and they cannot be changed.
One has to be able to recognize this point in dealing with a spouse. I have been married for 44 years to a master manipulator of a wife. I was infatuated with her from the start so I was a easy one to be used. It wasn’t until a counselor did a personality profile of us and showed me her score on selfishness and empathy ( on the bottom of the scale) and when he confronted her with her behavior her anger spewed out on him, so she attacked the messenger (the counselor) to my family and friends. Of whom most still believe that horrible counselor put bad thoughts in my mind and he destroyed the marriage. A covert female NPD is the worst marriage problem there is according to one counselor, and I believe that is true. Only 3 people have seen her ugly side. And of course she projects that behavior on me and and tell everyone “you think he is a nice man you should see how ugly he is when we are alone”. that works for her every time. That has been going on 11 years, before that I was the willing co-dependate. With boundaries in place she still manages to fool me at times with “earthly sorrow” and gas lighting at times. Our marriage is nothing but a hollow shell with everything still my fault and that evil counselor. I do not believe she will change at this point and is a evil person (hurts without any empathy). How long does one stay in something like this? If I am out of the picture I believe she will then turn her wrath on my son, once he sees her fault, which he eventually will. She will make his family pure hell and try to destroy him. I would have a hard time with that.
Wow, that sounds terrible.
Having children is the best thing in life unless you’re married to an abuser and then it’s also the worst. Your hands are tied. Darned if you stay and darned if you don’t. With that said, I believe God will show you the best way for you and your son.
Your C.S. Lewis quote was excellent and spot on. The scriptures about the person with a reprobate mind are good too. Well, good in a sad way.
Not too many male victims/survivors share here. But you’re welcome to chat with us.
I’m curious- when the counselor confronted your wife about the results on the empathy test, what exactly did your wife say? I just have a hard time imagining what kind of come-back a person could give when she’s told by a professional: “you’re selfish and mean.”
How old is your son? [I understand if you don’t want to divulge too many specific details.] Is he one of the 3 people who she directs her NPD issues towards?
My friend sent me this link and wanted me to read it, see in in gif I thought it applied to her. I was amazed that so many of re treats listed were ones that are said to be emotional abuse on other websight. I’d like feedback In this. Maybe this is, while damaging, less so? Is it the same and they’ve renamed it? It bothers me that these things are listed as being contentious, but maybe I’m wrong. Thanks.
It’s very disturbing to me to see the prevailing attitude in these posts that come across as “holier-than-thou”. Spouses are constantly abusing one another. It is the nature of our wretched sinful state. We are ALL selfish and therefore manipulators and abusers in one form or another. I am in no way condoning abusive behavior, it IS sin. However, I see many people making comments indicating “an abuser will never or cannot change”. These statements deny the power of the Gospel. How can you possibly say that you’re a Christian and that God has the power change you, and to forgive all the sins you have committed (including those you have committed against your spouse), but that the Gospel doesn’t have the power to change your spouse?
My wife has been emotionally abusing me for our entire relationship (I FINALLY see that now), but I have been shown that the last thing she needs from me now is for me to emotionally withdraw from her (this would only reinforce her family of origin issues that she has yet to deal with). God calls me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF for her. I committed to her that I would be with her “for better or for worse”, so what kind of man (let alone Christian) am I if I bail out on her during the “worse” parts?
What I read in many of Leslie’s articles and in many of the comments here is that I should be giving my wife “consequences” or “establishing boundaries” by withdrawing from her emotionally. To be honest, that sounds to me like you’re advocating that I return emotional abuse with emotional abuse! You’re telling me that I need to take care of my own needs before I seek to meet my wife’s needs; however, this is the exact opposite of what God asks me to do in the Bible, and the exact opposite of what I vowed to do the day we got married!
Ref: John 7:53 – 8:11: I’ve heard preaching on this passage numerous times over the past few months, and I can’t help but see a parallel here. What we have here are spouses who are caught in the sin of abuse (rather than adultery), and they are surrounded by “Pharisee’s” already throwing stones!!!
I am a Wretched Sinner saved by grace. I need to continually focus on my own life and the sin that still needs to be dealt with (including sins against my wife) and not focus on my wife’s sins. I have entered into a covenant (not contract) relationship with my wife, and that is a very serious thing before God. If I want God’s will for my life, I need to obey what he asks me to do in his Word regarding my relationship with my wife, whether I feel like it or not. This is a choice driven my my will to obey God, not by my emotions that can be up and down from one day to the next depending on a variety of factors. That means I don’t divorce her, I don’t emotionally withdraw from her, I continue to love her and put her needs before my own, and above all I continue to pray for her. If I choose to disobey these commands from God, I can be sure of one thing… I will NOT be in the Will of God!
My God is strong enough to sustain me through any emotional abuse my wife can dish out! I cannot and will not succumb to Satan’s lie that I am a victim, as that mentality puts my focus back on my wife’s sins rather than my own sins. It is God’s job to open her eyes to her sin and establish “consequences” (if any) for those sins; it is not my job. My wife is not my child, and I have no business imposing punishment or consequences on her. That is not Christ-like behavior, and it’s certainly not how Christ treated the woman caught in adultery!
Leslie, your tagline under your name at the top of this page says “Enriching Relationships that Matter Most”. I have to be honest, I find that tagline quite inconsistent with what you actually advocate. Most of what I see in your material (including your book: Emotionally Destructive Marriage) seems more geared toward ending marriages rather than redeeming or restoring them. Your material reinforces a victim mentality, labels people as abusers, and suggests that abusers are not likely to change. You effectively advocate that I return abuse with abuse under the guise of “being strong” or “whole” by giving consequences and establishing “boundaries”, and even suggest that I pursue separation and divorce if I don’t feel my wife measures up to the changes that I want to see in her. None of this fills me with hope that God can change both my heart and my wife’s heart; rather, I’m left to take matters into my own hands in a way that is actually disobedient to what God’s Word commands that I do as a husband. It’s no wonder the divorce rate in Christian families keeps climbing when we are advised to ignore what is plainly asked of us in God’s Word.
Wretched, in what why would you say you manipulate wife? Does she every say she is afraid of you?
You didn’t expound on what kind of things your wife is doing that represents emotional abuse…
Does she yell at you, interrupt you frequently when talking, fall quickly to negative assumptions whenever there is a disagreement/misunderstanding, and/or throw false labels at you in angry defensiveness? Is it simply a matter of callousness, occasions of disrespect, and poor communication skills you are talking about or something much much deeper? because if you are only speaking of communication issues, your post certainly has viable application — it TRULY might BE the best path for you to just be patient and look past her “reactionary” tendencies given your knowledge of her particular family origin issues/influences… because being impulsive or having “communication problems” are not so much examples of destructive/abusive behavior as they are just plain ole childish immaturity and lack of self-control. They represent elements of what Leslie defines as a “difficult” marriage but not necessarily a destructive one. Behaviors of this nature are more wounding of affection than they are acts of full-fledged betrayal and destruction of trust. If she is apologetic when her outbursts occur, she recognizes her problem, and she is wanting to change… this is especially a WHOLE different ball-game…
The women you are critiquing here are not encountering simple matters of “communication challenges”… Nor are they encountering husbands who are apologetic, repentant, and taking full ownership of their destructiveness and wanting to change. It is the exact opposite that is happening. And to continue to overlook and move on in THAT kind of scenario — pretending all is well when it is not — when a spouse truly IS being destructive — that, dear brother, is not only unBiblical …it is *unloving* as well … because it is essentially enabling your spouse to continue in a direction of sinful self-delusion rather than helping her face strongholds needing to be faced which are being denied.
I’m really curious to know the kind of abusive actions your wife is guilty of practicing toward you.
Does it involve patterns like this:
*Regularly undermining you and/or going against your desires on matters involving the children,
*Bad-mouthing you to the children behind your back,
*Directly disrespecting you in front of the children,
*Sexting guys on the phone or laptop,
*Watching or participating in pornography,
*Lying directly to your face about things,
*Breaking trust in various ways and yet continuing to display a spirit of entitlement to your trust
*Staying out late or going places with no explanation and just expecting you to get over it,
*Being secretive / Keeping purchases and/or financial information from your knowledge
*Slandering you to friends and family members
*Misrepresenting facts about situations in counseling sessions
*Aiming a gun/weapon at you and then denying it
*Being unwilling to hear you or resolve confusions, and instead, being quick to resist and make false accusations —
(for instance, calling you “unforgiving” simply because you are struggling to trust her word),
*Taking up an offensive habit she knows full well would damage the unity of the marriage, erode your affection for her, and be deeply concerning to you as to how it might negatively influence the children (I’m talking about key compatibility level “lifestyle” type choices totally contrary to what was solidly clarified BEFORE marriage during discussions while dating and getting to know one another) — choices such as drinking hard liquor (not for medicinal reasons), taking up the habit of smoking, starting to regularly use profanity, become involved in gambling, get the tongue pierced or some other non-traditional area without getting your perspective, tattooing the whole side of an arm, getting a hair cut and style something akin to a wild rock-star on drugs … things of this nature which the abusive spouse would know full well would come across to her partner as callous and as an in-your-face expression of complete desire for independence rather than a desire to honor the other spouse’s perspective and cultivate marital unity/closeness —
I could go on listing, but I think you are getting the point…. What makes stepping back for many wives here on this forum a necessity is when THESE kinds of patterns occur regularly with absolutely no remorse at all and, instead, with an attitude of, “You better accept me for who I am and what my interests are, or we can’t have relationship!! ….
And what makes this compounded to the nth degree is when it does not involve a spouse who is an unbeliever — one of whom these kinds of destructive self-centered behaviors might would be expected — but rather from one who claims to be a Christian and projects an outward appearance totally different at church than what is presented to you in the private realm (this is called living a double-life).
If THIS is the honest description of your wife, then you would NOT be loving her well to do as you are suggesting and just continuing on looking passed it… She needs your loving confrontation (Matt. 18:15), and when it occurs, if she throws the facts you lovingly present to her back in your face with a spirit of denial and blame shifting rather than one exhibiting humble recognition of the truth and her need for repentance, your wife will be gravely harmed spiritually by an enabling response of smiles and winks… (Observing children would be harmed, too, as they would then be inclined to take the same modeled destructiveness into their own future relationships… continuing the cycle). True love does not accept destructiveness. True love loves the other enough to walk in the truth — not false realities… It loves enough to identify what is healthy and Christ-honoring and what is not.
Jesus did not have fellowship/relationship with those claiming to be lovers of God all the while unrepentantly practicing destructive patterns of dishonesty, immorality, idolatry, hypocrisy, etc. He loved them enough to confront them, and when they (example, the pharisees) refused to see their contradictions/dishonesties/abuses, He stepped aside and gave them the space they desired — for it was clear they didn’t want relationship with Him.
Please share a little more with us why you believe it is unBiblical to step back and give an unrepentant person space when that is what Matt. 18:15 -17 and 1 Cor. 5:11 expressly tells us to do.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
First off, I again want to be clear that I in no way condone abusive behavior, it is sin. My heart goes out to each person who is abused by their spouse, parents or anyone else.
I intentionally did not wish to expound on the details of my wife’s abusive behaviors. I’m not posting here to throw stones at her or condemn her for her destructive behaviors. You gave a bullet list of 16 items; her behaviors cover a significant majority of them (but, thankfully, no tattoos…. yet 😉
I appreciate you sharing the scripture passages of Matt 18:15-17 and 1 Cor 5:11. 1 Cor 5:11 is particularly daunting; our churches are full of Christians who are guilty of these sins. As I continue reading the remainder of Matt 18, I also find that God is asking me to forgive my wife, over and over again. The passages you shared indicate that we should consider an unrepentant person an unbeliever. So, if I consider my wife an unbeliever, I think I need to be guided by 1 Cor 7:13-14 (reworded so that I can apply it to myself: “If a man has a wife who is an unbeliever….”), and I find that even if my wife is an unbeliever, and she is willing to live with me, I’m not to divorce her.
So, for me, I’m not ready to give up on my wife yet. I know that pride can get in the way of seeing one’s own sin clearly (I’m guilty of that myself), and once the issue of pride has been dealt with, then the remaining sins are more easily acknowledged and dealt with since there is now a spirit of humility. I believe that my wife is truly saved, but that she is struggling with certain sins (including pride). It’s not my desire to “enable” her sin, but at the same time, I’m concerned that any action I take to confront her or establish consequences or boundaries will be perceived as being abusive; obviously, that’s the last thing I would want.
For so long I’ve been very confused as to what to do, and I just don’t have any peace about taking matters into my own hands. That’s why I’m just praying and trusting God to work in my wife’s heart. Of course I also pray daily that God would show me anything else in my life that needs to be dealt with, and He is answering my prayers in that regard in amazing ways. I’m trusting God to show me the right time to confront (a time when my wife will be receptive to such confrontation), and trusting that He will give me the wisdom and humility to do it in a truly loving and redemptive way.
You see, this is where so many of us were confused and misguided for so long, and why we need Leslie’s blog and the books mentioned. You speak of ‘confronting’. This is still focusing on her behaviour, whereas ‘boundaries’ is focusing more on our own. Proverbs is full of ‘boundaries’ such as,”don’t hang out with an angry man’, “words don’t do a thing for a fool, only consequences”, “leave the presence of someone who doesn’t listen”, etc. Jesus did the same. He just ‘walked away sad’, etc. Paul as well. If you read the whole Bible, you will see many instances of boundaries.
With my 1st h, I tried to ‘forgive’ and be nice and ‘confront’ and ‘appeal’, but God kept bringing me back to Proverbs. He even told me almost audibly one day to stop it! It got worse and worse and I was literally taken out of the marriage. I’ve been married again for 11 years. At first, he was very abusive in all by physical. We went to counseling and it helped some (not much). One day God said, “No more excuses.” I was not to make excuses for him, nor accept excuses. Just a calm quiet, “No. What you said/did was not acceptable. And if it continues, I cannot stay here.” He knew I meant it. This is not being a parent, this is simply stating what is acceptable, and knowing for sure that I am worthy of being treated with honour, respect, and simple courtesy. Leaving the room quietly is not being disrespectful, it is kindness to both me and him. He now is thankful that I have done that. Some may not be, but they have to answer to God. I’m thinking you have not read the book, “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, as you clearly don’t understand what it means and how Biblical the concept really is. Give it a try. In the book, they understand how many people think it’s not ‘Christian’ to set boundaries, that is why they explain it so carefully.
We are not victims. We are targets, and we are learning to be overcomers.
Thank you for your reply.
I’m sorry to hear of the pain and struggle you’ve had in your marriages. I appreciate your suggestion for the book Boundaries; I do have it already, but I haven’t read it yet (I’ll make it next on the list).
I see your point regarding the difference of “confronting” vs “boundaries” and where the focus lies. Again, my main concern around both of these is that I don’t want engage in either in such a way that would harden her heart toward God or me. I need to pray a lot about this.
Your points on honor, respect and courtesy – I couldn’t agree more.
I think I understand your point on victim vs. target. I do see how I’ve been an unwilling (and sometime unknowing) target of my wife’s abusive / destructive behaviors due to her family of origin issues. I guess your point is that I can change myself so that I’m a less attractive target; so, I don’t necessarily have to leave her, since a target turned
sideways is much harder to hit 😉
This is to Wretched’s post (Oct. 4, 2:00 pm) … but Connie, since he was responding to you, by all means share your thoughts, too.
Wretched, I can’t help but notice this quote:
“Again, my main concern around both of these is that I don’t want engage in either in such a way that would harden her heart toward God or me.”
I understand your underlying concern and it is very commendable. No one wants to see a spouse or a close loved-one harden their heart. However, I believe you may be considering yourself to have a particular power and ability which is really not true — you are not capable of hardening another person’s heart. Sure you could be influential in a person’s life… sure you could act in hurtful ways that do not demonstrate love of which Satan could use to tempt her into hardening her heart, but that’s the thing… SHE is responsible for the condition of her heart, not you. Her state of heart is a matter between her and God and how she either accepts or rejects the lies whispered to her by the Enemy… If you lovingly attempt to lead her to the truth and it falls on deaf ears or she resists it in great anger, you should not consider yourself responsible for that negative heart response.
Look, for example, at how Stephen was received in Acts 7… When he spoke the truth to the Jewish leaders, it sounded to them like pure hate. But just because they saw it that way does not mean it was. Sometimes the truth cuts like a knife. It is painful. But just like physical surgery leads to restored vibrant bodily health when the cancer/disease is removed… so, too, spiritual surgery leads to restored relational health when we are willing to experience it.
Now, I’m not at all suggesting you should take the same approach and level of confrontation Stephen did — for it was quite FORCEFUL and DIRECT (He leads that way on some occasions… but it is only after it has become clear a heart is fully hardened and that there is no longer a place for imploring or making appeals. At that point, a rebuke is the only thing left to do… but based on the things you have shared, I don’t get a sense He is leading you to rebuke her). What I’m saying is, just as they gnashed their teeth at him and proceeded to kill him, it is possible you might experience something similar (minus the stoning), but it does not mean you would be responsible for her negative response. If you were to approach her in humility and love, (acknowledging any of your own areas the Lord has shown you has been pridefully left unconfessed… which honors His instruction about getting the log out of our own eye first before addressing another’s problem) this would be doing precisely what He has called you to do. He has called you to help nurture your wife’s relationship with Christ and with yourself… If she, however, were to resist the facts presented, angrily gnash her teeth at you, and take a hardened position against the truth, you would not be responsible for her choice. She would be.
I agree, HisEzer, and what I’ve learned is that as long as the abuser sees us as feeling responsible for their hard heart, they subconsciously feel they are not responsible and keep trying to dump that responsibility on the abused. It took me a long time to figure that out. Like picking up after anyone, they let you do it until you stop, and let them wallow in it. Throw the ball back in their court or they won’t play it.
In fact, now that I think on it more, maybe that is what a lot of abuse is: a guilty conscience’s desperate push to dump their sin on someone else. There IS a Redeemer, but he’s not us. And, he needs a fully repentant heart before the redemption occurs. We forgive, but we cannot redeem or reconcile anyone to God our ourselves without their full repentance. More often than we think, tough love is true love.
“He has called you to help nurture your wife’s relationship with Christ and with yourself…” — yeah, that’s the point I was trying to make. I realize that it’s my wife’s choice whether she harden’s her heart or not.
Spell check errors. I try again.
Wretched, in what way would you say you manipulate your wife as you say all spouses do this. What example can you give of your behavior? Also, does your abusive wife ever claim that she is afraid of you? Does she act the same way in public as she does in private or is she a vastly different person in each location.
Most here on this site love the Lord and believe in his power and is miracles. We are obedient, unfortunately sometimes unto peril which leads to physical and sexual violence. Is that the obedience you want?
Thank you for your reply.
I’m not sure the reason for your detailed questions of me and my sins, but your line of questioning comes across to me as blame shifting; perhaps that was not your intent, and if I’ve taken it the wrong way, I apologize.
I have already admitted I’m a Wretched Sinner, and I need God to show me areas in my life that need working on every single day. However, I found my attitude toward my wife and her destructive behavior changed significantly once I grasped the following truths about God and his pursuit of me:
– The magnitude of God forgiving all my sin is truly mind-blowing and immeasurable. I don’t deserve forgiveness of any of my sins: not from God, not from my wife, nor anyone else I’ve sinned against. I stand in complete awe that God made a way for me to be reconciled to Himself and have a relationship with Him.
– God was pursuing me even while I was still dead in my sin (Rom 5:8, Eph 2:4-5, Col 2:13, 2 Cor 5:18-19).
– God is still pursuing me as a believer to root out all the sin in my life so that I may be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29, James 1:2-4)… this will continue until the day I’m taken home.
So, when I see the grace, the love, and the pursuit of God for me, despite the fact that I was sinning against him, I can do nothing but turn around and offer the same thing to my wife, despite the fact that she may be sinning against me (Matt 18:21-35, 2 Cor 5:19b).
This is easier said than done when you’ve been hurt for years and years and continue to be hurt, but I can honestly say that God is giving me the strength and the peace to do this. I meditate on this scripture often: Philippians 4:4-7.
Wretched, I truly believe, that God has the power to change people. We play an important role in that process- we have to corporate with Him. And what happens when our spouse does not even acknowledge they are wrong? Ignoring their behavior is running away from reality. When their behavior affects others (kids), pouring out grace is not the answer. Now if our spouse acknowledges their wrong and is trying to do the right thing, grace is what’s needed.
Thanks for your reply, Maria.
“And what happens when our spouse does not even acknowledge they are wrong?”
For me, what I’m doing right now is spending a lot of time in prayer about it. Again, my primary focus is still on me, and what God needs to show me about myself that needs changing. I’m not ignoring things, but I don’t feel that now is the right time to be confronting my wife about things between us (other than things that happen in front of the kids… for these things I do calmly confront, and so far I’ve been mostly getting gnashing teeth as a response).
Wretched, Leslie has talked about not repaying evil for evil (look back at her old posts) and instead do good to the person who’s illtreating us. That doesn’t mean being nice to them. It means looking out for their good, for the good of your family. It may mean speaking up, confronting etc. What has helped me is keepin my focus on Christ and focusing on pleasing Him. Many of us have done wear you’re planning to do- we’ve focused on ourselves and changed our responses. My spouse did not react positively and I had to grieve and realize that I did not have the power to fix my marriage. I hope are able to deal with your issues and also that your wife will respond well.
“What has helped me is keeping my focus on Christ and focusing on pleasing Him” — I couldn’t agree more. Along with that I’ve found that I need to keep my own wretchedness in sharp focus.
You’re absolutely right, we cannot individually fix our marriages. A few months ago my counselor put it very succinctly: “you will not reconcile unless you have TWO completely humble hearts.”
I’m convinced my wife is a believer, so I will continue to stand by her side, praying for her, and when the time is right, confronting her (for me, part of the right timing is God showing me that I’m able to be truly humble in my confrontation).
Regarding Leslie’s comment “That doesn’t mean being nice to them. It means looking out for their good, for the good of your family.”: I understand the idea of looking out for the person’s good can be part of that, but I respectfully disagree that I don’t need to be nice to them as well. Eph 4:31-32 is pretty clear that I need to be “…kind and tenderhearted…”
I’m not sure I exactly said “you don’t need to be nice to them” but I do think being kind is different than being nice. I see nice as more accommodating and people pleasing behaviors. On the other hand, a person can be kind, and still say “no” when you need to. Or still kindly but boundaries in place or consequences in place when necessary compassionately and kindly but do it. When you have to be “nice” it’s much harder to do those tougher things – at least in my mind.
Wretched, I agree we have to be kind and tender hearted. Sometimes, when we stand up for the truth, we may not appear to be nice.
Exactly! Well said Maria.
Maria, thanks again for your reply.
Re: “we may not appear to be nice”. That is exactly my own concern about how I would come across if I were to confront, and the reason why I said “for me, part of the right timing is God showing me that I’m able to be truly humble in my confrontation”. Chances are, if I’m not appearing nice / kind / tenderhearted to my wife when I’m confronting her, then I’m probably not being kind and tenderhearted, and I’ve likely still got a “log in my own eye” that needs to come out.
I once heard some insightful teaching on Matt 7:1-5. The teacher noted that once we’ve taken the log out of our own eye, we will also become more empathetic to sin struggles of others since we have gone through the trial and hard work of recognizing and dealing our own sin problems. Therefore, we are better able to come alongside others and confront with kindness, gentleness and compassion, while still telling the truth.
Exactly. That’s why building CORE strength is important and C – living in the truth, is accepting the truth that you have your own logs too. That creates a posture of humility in that we are not arrogantly insulting the other person but we are to speak the truth in love about how they have hurt us or hurt our relationship.
Wretched, I asked you difficult questions, because sometimes abusive men get on this site to scope out their wives, write delusional posts and falsely proclaim their victimhood.
Yet, men can enable just like women can. Why do you want to spare your wife the consequences of her bad behavior? How can she grow to be the woman God wants her to be if you cushion the nastiness of her words and actions? Please don’t tell me you are praying them away. God gave us good brains to use them. What I hear is timidity and cowardliness. Do you need a support network to help you take action?
Thank you for clarifying. I’ve answered your remaining questions in my replies to others.
I have a great support group (including a number of women) who are helping me determine the appropriate actions, thanks for asking.
That’s a good thought (being more empathetic once we have fought our own battles with sin). I feel that is where I am at with my husband. I cannot and should not confront. I am not In such a bad situation that I should leave. His past has caused him great problems, I believe.
Yes, I agree. I believe each of us has something in our past that causes problems, unfortunately, some have had more significant problems than others. Having recently become aware of more details about my wife’s family of origin issues, my heart just breaks for her. It really motivates me all the more to be there for her, and be the husband God wants me to be for her.
Only God can give us that kind of love and compassion when someone also hurts us. Yet sometimes our compassion enables them to stay stuck in their own dysfunction. I remember working with a client who was stuck in bitterness and anger at her dad because he sexually abused her as a child. As we worked and worked, I was compassionate but I also challenged her to move beyond stuck and into her present life and to make better choices. She didn’t want to. She wanted to stay a victim and be “justified” in acting and reacting “because I’ve been hurt”. My compassion did not help her wake up. I did not help her mature. It did not help her take responsibility for her own life choices. It just enabled her self-pity to grow. So there is a fine line between validating the pain someone is in, and excusing and/or indulging their ungodly and sinful behavior when they could learn to make other choices.
Thanks for your reply, Leslie.
“Only God can give us that kind of love and compassion when someone also hurts us.” – I agree, but it is also what I’m commanded to do as a believer whether I feel like it or not. So, it is also my choice whether I will be obedient to God; and in my experience, when I’ve chosen to be obedient, God has been giving me an overwhelming sense of peace despite my present situation.
“there is a fine line between validating the pain someone is in, and excusing and/or indulging their ungodly and sinful behavior” – agreed, I’m just saying that having a more thorough understanding of my wife’s background issues allows me to empathize even more and “give her some slack” as she’s wrestling through things. So, I’m praying for God to show me His timing for confrontation.
Another thought I’ve had a lot recently is that as spouses we seem to quickly lose sight of who the real enemy is. Our enemy is not our spouse, it is Satan. I have to realize that my wife may be in a different place than me spiritually right now, and I can’t force her to move forward, I have to let the Holy Spirit work in her heart.
When I view my wife with my “she’s hurt me” glasses, It’s oh so easy to fall into the victim / target trap. I guess that’s where you’re saying that too much validation of someone’s pain can get them stuck there. If I surround myself with friends that just keep agreeing with me in that line of thinking, then I get stuck (thankfully, God has given me friends that don’t do that). When I choose to view my wife as a precious daughter of God who is struggling with sin in her life (just as I have struggled with sin in my life), my perspective changes entirely. I realize that I need to stand with her shoulder to shoulder to do battle against our common enemy, Satan. I realize that by focusing first on dealing with my own sin instead of ruminating on the hurts done to me by my wife, I can become a far more effective warrior in this fierce battle against Satan.
I agree that our battle is against satan, Wretched. What made me take action ( in confronting and separating from my husband) was the following paraphrase of Eph 6:12.
Our battle is not against people, it is FOR people AGAINST evil.
I needed to go to battle for him. That meant putting our marriage on the backburner.
It was the best thing I ever did for our relationship.
Timing IS so important. Keep praying. The Lord uses His children to answer prayers. He very well may ask you to be the agent of change in your wife’s life. He may ask you to fight for her in a way that doesn’t feel nice. The Lord disciplines those He loves – always in love, but it’s dicipline none the less.
Nancy, thank you for your reply.
Thanks for your reinforcement of the importance of prayer. I have to admit, that was an area of my spiritual life I had let slip. It’s truly amazing to see how God is answering prayer right now in my life. God answered one of my prayers this past weekend while I was right in the middle of praying for it… I could hardly believe my ears!!! I know not all prayers get answered that fast, but this was mind blowing, and faith building!
Re: “It was the best thing I ever did for our relationship.” – I trust that means you’re back together with your husband? I’m curious, would your husband also say that it was the best thing for your relationship?
I also appreciate your comment regarding timing, I believe that through prayer, God will give me a peace about the right time to confront. I may not even need to be the one to confront, God may have someone else in mind for that task.
re: “The Lord disciplines those He loves” – agreed (Prov 3:12, Heb 12:6). My main concern (as I’ve posted before) is that I don’t think it’s my place to be the agent of discipline for my wife. I believe that it’s my job to support her as best as I possibly can when the Lord eventually brings that discipline into her life; to help equip her bear it, to help her navigate it, to help her see God’s hand in it and to grow through it. Not to actually do any of these things for her, but to be by her side encouraging and supporting; not leaving her all alone through the struggle. That’s why it’s oh so important that I view her with the right “glasses”on!
God is so good- that He answered your prayer in the midst of you asking!
Yes my husband would agree it was the best thing. Left unchecked evil grows. We had allowed it to grow in our relationship for years, by sweeping things under the rug, hoping things would change, pretending all was well when it wasn’t, letting untruths go un- confronted etc….
My h was so good at blaming me for his faults ( with a smile) that I needed to remove myself in order for The Lord to work directly with him. This way I could be supportive and loving of his issues ( had I not gotten out of the way, he would have continued to blame his issues on me). In other words, the separation made things clear. What was his, what was mine, and what is ours.
Yes. We are back together and Christ is at the centre. We have a new relationship.
God is so good 🙂
I should add that I was good at taking responsibility for what was not mine. That’s why the tough love thing was particularly guilt inducing. But it was what was needed, in our case.
Wretched sinner,I wonder what your thoughts and situation is like now.
I really love this. It’s encouraging. It’s just so so hard to fight a battle that your spouse seems oblivious to, while trying so hard to shoulder the weight of everything else (pretty much alone), and feeling worn down and tired from it never being good enough.
A.E., Re: “feeling worn down and tired from it never being good enough.” Yes, I understand and identify with that completely. However, I’ve found strength in the Lord by continually going back to who I am. I am his child, and he loves me enough to send Jesus to die for me! I have to keep meditating on this over and over again. This is one way I’ve found I’ve been able to get some of the negative self talk out of my mind.
Obviously we need to lean on the Lord and let Him fight our battles, but I am so overwhelmed with everything I need to be doing in this season of life, it’s hard to remember to do that.
Again, I can completely identify, and my heart goes out to you. I keep lots of scripture available to remind me how the Lord is my strength… and you are right, He will fight our battles and He will win!
Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Psalm 37:7 – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
(I have to admit, I have difficulty with the “wait patiently” part :-)… that’s an area where God is working on me)
Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 4:12-13 – Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
(I know I often forget that Christ expects me to join in His suffering, but the following verse tells me why it’s necessary)
James 1:4 – Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Finally, this passage is a graphic reminder of the spiritual battle we are in and how we need to prepare and do battle… and it reminds us to keep our eyes on the real enemy when doing battle:
Ephesians 6:10-18: the whole passage is worth memorizing, but here are some sections that jump out to me for my circumstance, I hope they are an encouragement to you as well:
v10 – “…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” – I can’t do battle against Satan in my own strength at all, I WILL fail.
v11 – “Put on the whole armor of God…” – I need to put on the WHOLE armor, not just part of it. If I leave any piece off, it will be a point of weakness that Satan will attack.
v12 – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age…” – This is a reminder that my wife (or any other person who hurts or wrongs me) is not my enemy… Satan is the enemy.
v13 – “Therefore take up the whole armor of God…” – A reminder again, just in case I missed it, that I need the WHOLE armor, not just part of it.
v18 – “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” – Prayer is oh so important. When I neglect this and begin to take matters into my own hands I can be sure of one thing… I will make matters worse! When I pray and wait on the Lord, He truly gives me a peace that passes all understanding. I can truly rest in Him and trust Him to work in my wife’s heart as He’s worked in mine. I admit, it has not been an easy journey to get to this point, but this is just a reflection of how weak my faith was. I pray every day for God to increase my faith in Him.
One thing I know for certain, when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of both husband and wife, what’s on the other side is an amazing, God glorifying marriage. That’s my heart’s desire, and that’s why I’m willing to be patient in my current suffering to let God finish his refining work on me.
Is It Possible That Spouses Who Manipulate Are Unaware They Are Being Manipulative ?
Yes, it is possible. I was a manipulator and didn’t realize it until God lovingly and gently opened my eyes.