A puppy is coming on Saturday. I’m very excited, as are my granddaughters. I’ll post pictures next week when we pick her up. Her name is Addison, Addie for short. My granddaughters decided Addison if it’s a girl, or Edison, Eddie if it’s a boy. Grandkids are so much fun. They remind me of goodness and beauty and wonder in the midst of a perverse generation and culture. It’s scary what kind of culture and world they are facing as they grow up.
My pastor began a series of sermons called Tough As Nails on the book of Daniel. How did Daniel stand strong in the midst of a culture gone mad? This is my prayer for myself and for each of you. Conservative church culture embodies some unhealthy ideas (although naming them as Biblical) about headship and submission, a woman’s role, the sanctity of marriage and how to reconcile broken relationships.
I read a quote this week from Dr. Martin Luther King which I think captures a way forward. He wrote: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
This is our last blog in the series on sexual abuse in marriage by Darby Strickland. Sexual abuse of any kind is always a misuse of power by someone with a selfish, greedy and cruel heart. It is the opposite of love and rejects everything God stands for in marriage. It’s time for pastors, church leaders, and every one of us here to use our power: our voice and our vote to seek justice, change, and correction, especially when sexual abuse is perpetrated in marriage.
Sexual Abuse in Marriage: 12 Ways to Help Victims
This is the third in a series of blogs on the sexual abuse of women in marriage. My goal is to help counselors and pastors to recognize when a wife is being sexually abused by her husband and then offer appropriate help. In the first two blogs, I described what marital sexual abuse is (Part 1) and discussed why women might not realize what is happening to them (Part 2). In this third installment, I offer some thoughts on how to help women in this situation. (You can reach Darby at www.darbystrickland.com)
When God places women in our care who have been sexually abused in marriage, he is entrusting us with a tender and clear mission. These women face tremendous suffering and need us to care for them with gentle wisdom. They also need us to be strong—calling evil acts what they are—evil. This is not a comfortable calling, but it is a critical calling, one after Jesus’ own heart (Luke 4:18-19). Often it means we, ourselves, need to acquire additional wisdom and learn what it means to embody Jesus to these dear sufferers. The last thing we want to do is to inadvertently hurt them when we try to help. So, let’s start with the basics. We know we are to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), especially when someone is facing evil (Rom. 12:9-12). We are to be compassionate, gentle, and patient in our care (Eph. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:8). In addition to these basics, here are some practical ways to walk alongside and minister to these women.
1. Ask. Sexual abuse in marriage is frightening to reveal. Sadly, a large percentage of my counselees who experience physical and verbal cruelty are also experiencing sexual abuse. It is not something that women usually disclose because shame, stigma, and confusion contribute to silence. But speaking about it and receiving support is crucial to safety and healing.
One way to help victims is to bring up the topic. I usually say something like: “More than half of the women I see in oppressive marriages experience hard and difficult things in their sexual relationship. Are there ways that you struggle with physical intimacy? Things that make you uncomfortable? Do you experience any unwanted sexual activity? Do you ever feel pressured?” Sometimes victims are only ready to say “yes” to these questions but are not comfortable discussing the violations themselves. Do not press, just periodically check in asking them if they are ready to talk or have questions.
Consider, especially in a church setting, inviting a woman to bring a female friend and supporter with her to counseling. It can be overwhelming to discuss such abuses with a pastor or other church leader and the tangible comfort provided by such a person will reduce her sense of isolation and vulnerability.
2. Listen. Abuse is not something you can solve with words; there are complexities and evils that our words are inadequate for. Do not feel that you need to say something to make it better—you can’t. Sit with the suffering. Your presence alone is powerful, lifting shame. Keep in mind it is good and right for the victimized to feel hurt, fearful, and angry. Do not sanitize their speech but trust that, in time, God will shape their lament.
Right now, the important thing is for them to tell their story. No matter what it sounds like, they are bringing the terrible secrets of their life into the light which is a beautiful act of trust and faith.
3. Listen for ways they wrongly feel responsible. Husbands who abuse their wives in this way are master blame-shifters and convince their victims that everything is their fault. With sexual abuse, this is particularly damaging, so it is important to be consistent in reminding them that they are never responsible for another person’s sin (Mark 7:20-23). Oftentimes, bad teaching from Scripture sets them up to believe their husbands’ lies. Be alert for ways that the misuse of passages like 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 (sex is their “wifely duty”), has compounded their guilt and suffering.1 Clarify that marriage does not equal consent to unlimited sex or unlimited types of sexual acts.
4. Let victims know repeatedly that the abuse is not their fault. Once you discover the ways they feel responsible, work to lift shame and guilt. Never tire of making these declarations and affirming this truth.
5. Protect their story. Do not to ask too many questions about the details. Questions can cause further exposure and shame. Go at the woman’s pace by asking broader questions, taking her cue as to what and when she is comfortable sharing. Consider your role. What will it be like for her if you know details? This is especially important if you are a pastor or elder.
Sometimes in a church context, it is necessary to share information, so be clear about who you will tell and what you will say. To the extent possible, do not expose the tender details of her story. Ask her who she is most comfortable with knowing. To honor her story, ask those whom you tell to make an effort to connect with her. Even if it’s via a note, they should acknowledge the woman’s suffering. I have heard from too many victims that silence from those in church leadership who know their story is excruciating; it feels like rejection and disgust.
6. Share how their story affects you. Sexual abuse is isolating, and it can feel like no one, not even God, sees or cares about what is happening. Horrible things have happened and we need to embody God’s heart for them. God hates what is occurring and is grieved by it. Your heartfelt responses and tears can be healing for them.
7. Provide needed resources. They need to know that they are not alone. Offer to connect them with an advocate, pastor, counselor, medical care, legal support, another victim, or a trusted friend.
8. Speak beautiful truths. Being sexually abused comes with a special sense of shame. It can penetrate so deeply that the victim begins to believe horrible lies. The woman might come to believe she is repulsive, unlovable, dirty, permanently disgraced or even worse that her story will contaminate you. Remind her that she is a treasured possession.
9. Be patient. Sexual abuse in marriage is devastating trauma. Research has shown that it is harder to reveal and experience sexual abuse by an intimate partner than by a stranger. Worse, many women go on living with the husbands who violated them.2 We do not expect sexual assault victims to have contact with their rapist let alone share a home and bed. It is quite unimaginable what they are going through, so be patient.
Trauma victims also tell repetitive and circular stories, and it can be hard for them to make decisions, or even consistently believe that they are victims of abuse. Keep in mind it is not always possible for them to face the trauma while they are living in it. Oftentimes, we have a greater sense of urgency about their situation than they do. To care for them well, we must live with this tension and proceed at their pace. This can be hard on us when we see the amount of pain and suffering they are enduring, but it is vital for them that we do this. God has never-ending patience with us, and never tires of communicating to us life-giving truths. Imitate him.
10. Do not tell them what to do or make decisions for them. Due to the power and control dynamics fueling abuse, these women often do not have the freedom to make choices at home. Hence, they do not need one more person telling them what to do. It is important and redemptive that they make their own choices, especially considering that they are the ones who must live with the after-effects. Whether they stay, leave, confront, or remain quiet, their choices will lead to more pain. Help them by providing wise options. Pray through the choices and process potential outcomes. Encourage them with the knowledge that God will supply the wisdom they need and let them know that they have your support.
11. Involve the necessary authorities. It is not always easy to discern how and when we should interact with the legal system so here are some guidelines. Rape within a marriage is a crime, but few women wish to report it and ultimately that is their choice. While this might leave us feeling fearful for them, we should remember that they have to endure the fall-out and be ready to take self-protective measures. Police know this so they usually require the victim to make the complaint (not the counselor) unless life-threatening violence is present. We do not have a legal obligation to report domestic violence, but we should be communicating the value and potential protection of involving the police. When a victim is ready to make a police report, help her through the process—it will be an extremely difficult experience.
A notable exception to women making their own decisions concerns children. Anytime children witness sexual abuse (or they themselves are physically or sexually abused), it is considered child abuse and we do need to make a report. Keep in mind that this will create a dangerous situation for the mother and child. The woman needs to know that you are reporting the abuse, and a safety plan should be implemented.
12. Lament with them. When unspeakable things happen, it is hard to even find the words to describe what has happened. For these women to pray, they need words—words to connect their hearts to God and others. Telling their story and sharing their heart is essential to healing. Help these women find the words. Help them speak to God and others (wise helpers) about their suffering. Locate passages of Scripture like Psalm 22, 27, 55, 109 and 140 that give words to their experience. Pray with them. Pray for them. Give them words they can bring to God—words that expose the darkness with light (Eph. 5:13) and that bring redemption and healing.
It is my prayer and hope that this list equips you. But more than that, I want it to encourage you to move towards women who have been violated by their spouses. You might already know who these women are, but it is far more likely that there are many unknown sufferers living in your midst. They need wise and gentle helpers who are ready with the compassion of Christ and words of God to guide them.
Friends: Is there anything else you would have wished your counselor or pastor would have said or done to help you with what was happening to you?
1 See the first two blogs in this series for more information on this issue.
2 While it might be best for a separation to occur, there are many reasons victims do not leave, which means, at least for a time, continuing to live with their abuser.
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I’m Afraid Of Rejection
Morning friends, I just returned from Chicago where I had a great visit with my parents, siblings and spouses. I’m so grateful I still get to have these wonderful weekends with my family. It’s a tradition my dad and step-mom started years ago. Instead of buying us gifts, they gift us with a dinner out…
Living In The Truth When It’s Hard And Ugly
Morning friend, I’m angry as I answer this reader’s question. I’m angry at her church and pastors for not being wise enough to know what they were dealing with and continuing to make the mistake of prioritizing the institution of marriage and a man’s sexual needs over a wife’s safety, sanity and the well-being of…
Overcoming morbid self-consciousness around others
Question: For as long as I can remember, I have been extremely shy and self-conscious. I constantly worry about what others think about me. I don’t feel worth much and have a very hard time asserting myself. I know this isn’t good but I don’t know how to change. Any suggestions? Elaine in CA. Answer:…
What about a husband that simply decides he will not have sex with his wife any more? This has gone on for years (12+). When questioned why he said “We can try” but never made any effort, made excuse after excuse to avoid intimacy. He preferred to view porn and refused counseling, although he insists he has been porn free for the last 3 years. The rejection is heartbreaking.
I’m in the same boat. Although it’s been 8ish years. No porn use since 5 years ago. The rejection I feel is crushing. I feel cheated in this area, and don’t know what to do about it. 🙁
Did he go into recovery for porn use?
I ask because just stopping the use doesn’t heal the mindsets and how that has in turn affected his own heart and his heart affection towards you.
Lots of interventions needed for any porn use really. Plus, it’s his job to learn and understand that he is the one who has to ‘repair this area of the marriage’ which was taken from you.
Does that help any?
Approx 5 years ago, he did 3-4 mos of general therapy. Most centered around anger/ abusive behavior mgmt. Nothing ever specific to porn use. Yes, it would be his responsibility to repair that part of the relationship. However, that’s the problem. He’s a loner. Doesn’t want sex with me. Doesnt really want relationship with anyone. So he’s apathetic towards any repair or mvt towards me. Back to my original comments: I’m left cheated in this area, and feel discarded and rejected.
If he wants to be alone, then I guess he can’t be married. Are you both fooling yourself with this? He is not available to be married to, right?
Sunny, he has discarded and rejected you. Why are you still with him?
I hope you can hear in my words just how sorry I for what you have been through and what you are going through right now. Lots of trauma involved in the things you are referencing.
Do you have a few educated suppprtive women along side you? Are you getting individual counseling?
The 3-4month therapy he got was a pebble in a large bucket. He needs intensive help and healing.
The fact that he used porn is a good indicator that he reaches for the counterfeits versus the real intimacy his heart does need and want.
Think of it as legitimate needs and using illegitimate ways of meeting those needs.. this is where the damage is done.
The focus yes seems ‘like porn’ which as we all know how unhealthy it is because none of us were created for fantasy or counterfeit intimacy.
I know plenty of women who also have unresolved intimacy issues that are not porn related but heart related and they only want counterfeit relationships. This is nothing of the Kingdom mindset!
This is why intensive therapy that can assist in these areas is critical.
I’m praying for your strength Sunny!
Autumn Nancy Joann Aly- see my comments at end of blog. Had to start new thread cause couldn’t reply anymore.
Purelifeministries.org is a good place to go for help and understanding about the effects of sexual addiction. They care for both the husbands and wives, and online counseling is available plus a residential treatment center in Kentucky. It is faith based and scripture oriented.
I’d also like to remind everyone about a new book that is very helpful: “Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship,” by Ramona Probasco. Next to Leslie’s books, I find this to be very helpful.
Dr. Doug Weiss has an article and a talk on IA – intimacy anorexia. I think you would find those helpful.
As far as your husband claiming to be porn-free, has he done a polygraph? Addicts are notorious liars. Is he also free of SG and fantasizing? You know what Jesus has to say about lust. I would guess that there is still something very wrong in the heart department, that needs some investigation, repentance, boundaries, and professional help. Real love on our part calls for intervention, I think.
Connie, That is a new one for me, What is SG?
Self gratification. Masturbation.
Got it! Thanks
Connie, I have read Dr Weiss’s writings on IA. Very helpful! There are plenty of I’m sorry’s and I’m clean and I’m not doing “any” of that anymore. BUT there is no effort on his part to rebuild trust, work on restoration of our marriage, do counseling just himself or as a couple. I have set boundaries, am involved in a support group and see a counselor. I’m doing my part to be the person I want to be and working to heal my heart. Its sad to do it alone but I am making good progress and I am now very aware of all his “tactics”.
Cindi, it will be exciting to hear from you in a year. You are on the path to healing! Give it time, life gets sooo much better without abuse!
I’m so very sorry for what you are experiencing and have been for such a long time.
I agree with Connie and Moonbeam!
Also, you probably have done your research but often porn brings about impotence. Clearly intimacy issues are at the core of your husband’s behaviors but you continue your path of healing and hope for your own heart. Know HE sees you and HE knows your hurt. He will restore your heart.💜
I think you are right about calling it “intimacy issues.” He doesn’t have guy friends or other female friends. He prefers to be a loaner. He once did a career test, and it indicated that he should be a lighthouse keeper! (Think- all alone on an island for six months. Making sure all external properties are in perfect working order, but no human contact) I’m not sure how to get at his heart, or what’s behind his loner-Ness. It’s deep and pervasive. IAs his wife? I experience it as physical/ sexual avoidance, but there’s more to it than just sexual issues. Any insights friends?
*As his wife, I experience….
Have you applied Leslie’s suggestions from her book EDM?
The only way his heart will ever open up is by the Holy Spirit touching him. God knows how to do this and when; your prayers will avail much, but in the meantime, if you are staying, stay well and get strong in your faith and walk with the Lord. Join a Bible study, find supportive Christian friends, get therapy for yourself, and build a life apart from your h, so that you don’t have to depend on him for anything. Learn to be happy in the Lord, and you will be at peace.
I have a different take on things from above. I was given very similar advice and I feel I for a long time did the above. But it only helped me in some areas. If a husband has attachment bonding issues that also bring about intimacy issues across the board the intervention is key. An avoidant person is going to be content as pie if you don’t ‘need anything from them’
But that isn’t a good example of marital oneness and bonding in a healthy marriage.
What Sunny is describing is complete-independent relationship.
Healthy marriages are inter-dependent and God is at the center of where each individual needs to grow and transform.
Do you agree?
Nancy- I’ve read and reread EDM. What suggestion are you thinking of specifically for my situation?
I am referring to confronting him ( after much heart prepration and practical preparation – as described in the book) with what you will and will no longer tolerate, as well as what interventions you would need him to commit to. Also clearly articulated consequences for failing to meet these new standards.
Aly, Of course I agree with you, but my reply to Sunny was with the assumption that she is staying with him, hence my charge to “stay well.” However, earlier I also asked why she is still with him. He has abandoned her, rejected her, and now he has a full time care giver with no obligations whatsoever. Wow, nice for him! I think you would agree with me that it’s time for some confrontation and consequences, as Nancy suggested, along with some real soul searching about why Sunny has allowed this to go on for such a long time. It’s not really a marriage at all.
Sunny, what, exactly, do you get out of this relationship?
I’m sorry, I must have missed your other posts. Ofcourse I agree with requirements and consequences! To me given what Sunny has shared its essential, maybe she has already put those in place?
Nancy’s comments were examples of just how loving and firm one has to be with such an individual. Especially someone who has chosen to ‘marry’.
I can’t begin to describe the damage counselors who claimed they were experts in abuse, trauma, and destructive marriages did! The whole topic of sex was put on my shoulders.
We saw 6 so-called “professionals” in trauma/abuse who insisted that if I was more open to sex, initiated sex, was willing to have sex more frequently; then the abuse would stop or the counselors would be able to address the abuse with my husband. This happened with each and every counselor we saw! My cries and pleas to not perform certain “acts” were completely ignored by male AND female counselors. If I voiced any objections or concerns, my husband’s abusive behavior became validated in their eyes! Yes, 4 out of 6 actually told me that! I was so confused. This ended up doing incredible harm and was in itself traumatizing with furthering or enabling the abuse to continue. Not only don’t I never want to have sex again…, but the idea of sex is repulsive to me after years and years of further insistence/abuse in this area by the counselors.
BTW…, never ONCE did any of these same counselors EVER address h’s abusive behaviors/actions. There is no one in the counseling profession in my area that is actually competent in addressing abuse, and I’ve heard from many others that they’re having the same problem. Since we’ve gone to 6 counselors (who put the sessions in my name rather than my husbands), going to a 7th counselor needs to have special advanced approval by my husband’s insurance. I can’t afford to see one that’s not covered by insurance. Additionally my attorney says this makes me look like the “unstable one” in the marriage, at least to the courts. Even though I tried to vet the counselors by asking questions ahead of time, these same “professionals” chose to lie or exaggerate their experience. I wish the profession as a whole took more responsibility in holding counselors accountable for misleading and fraudulently claiming expertise in areas where they are actually inexperienced and have not had sufficient training. It would have been so much better if I/we had never been in counseling.
I just wish the “Christian” counselors we saw would have been honest with their lack of training and experience, instead of trying to “wing it” or make it up as they went along. They did so much harm and made the situation worse by validating h’s abusiveness.
Diane I am so sorry for what you have been through. That’s terrible. God bless you.
Diana are you out of this nightmare now? I think there are some nice big mill stones awaiting the irresponsible counselors you saw! How dare them!
Presently I am still married, but most of the time we live separately (for the past 4 months we’ve lived separately). I’m physically disabled and unable to work. I need his medical insurance…., so leaving well isn’t an option for me.
Some states allow legal separation and you can still keep his insurance. Does your state allow that? Also, have you looked into other insurance options like Medicaid or Medicare? Without his salary you are probably eligible for many public assistance benefits. I am just staying if you really want to be free from abuse there are options.
Unfortunately the type of treatment I require for my disability is not covered under Medicare or other government insurance programs. It’s only covered with private insurance companies.
Thank you so much for sharing this information and being a guest “blogger” on this page! You are educating and validating many women that are being abused by their husband’s AND counselors! Education is incredibly powerful for those of us who have suffered chronic abuse! God bless you!
There is no relationships with my H due to medial issues. It is a relief to have this problem. I do feel sorry for him though. We live together like room mates.
He’s never really demonstrated affection like I would have liked. He said that’s just not the way he is. In my twisted thinking I thought wrong affection was better than no affection.
Our ritual now is a perfunctory hug at the end of the day before going to bed
My love tank is empty. Sometimes I feel like I want to be loved, yet at the same time I’m relieved there is no love. I don’t know if I’m capable of love any more. If anything happens where I’d lose this relationship, I think it would take decades for me to feel safe again where I’d want to get close to someone and to be able to trust.
Does anyone else relate to what I’m saying?
I understand exactly how you feel, especially the remark about your love tank being empty. I care about my husband, but the hurt, rejection, betrayal, and lies have taken a toll. There is a huge wall around my heart which feels like there is no way love can be given or taken in. TRUST is such a huge issue. There is hope Brave Rabbit; I believe that there is always hope.
Thank you Cindi for sharing and giving me hope. I’m so glad we have this blog where we can feel trust to share things with each other. I’m glad I can share my feelings and know I’m not judged.
Blessings to you and all who are on this blog!
The most devastating thing was to be treated as if I was mentally unable to make requests or decisions. When I decided to ask for help I had already gone to police and was told there is consent in marriage for sexual abuse that isn’t rape. It was insane.
Going to the church and friends they treated me as mentally ill, irrational and not reliable in my testimony. They saw a terrified person who was asking for their protection and thought: “she is crazy and not making sence and her fear is so great she must be out of touch with reality”. My partner had at this point tried to set me up to be arrested by asking me to bring a knife to a meeting – oh course I was terrified! Becuase of my husbands lies there were people who actually made efforts and did convince the elders I was not to be trusted because of my “mental state”. I was being psychologically abused at the community level! Of course I came across as paranoid!
I would want people to understand that sexual abuse is ALWAYS accompanied by and is started with psychological abuse. Dont ever forget the motivation people have to protect reputations – they KNOW how to come across as “nice” people and work peoples perceptions. They do this in order that they can continue to abuse people!
I have evidence as recorded conversations, emails and records for psychologists and yet no one wanted to see them. I am still afraid to make any steps as to what to do with this kind of information.
I am grateful for this site and others that are advocating for people understanding trauma and not discounting the terrifying things people are willing to do to perpetrate sexual abuse. It needs to be understood so we can prevent it from happening. Or stop it immediately when it is revealed.
Are you now, Leanne? Have you escaped your abuser?
How are you now?
Regarding at later post I want to say that you can move on and away from sexual abuse. Yet you need to ask yourself why you allowed yourself to be abused for twenty years. Other, non victimized women or men, leave after the first sign of abuse .Why do many on this blog stay?
I know my answer of why I stayed, I took a vow of marriage and thought I had to endure the sickness. I knew it was crazy andsick to subject myself to being a human dumping but I elevated my vow above my value as a human being.
Wow, Moon Beam! That insight about elevating your vow above your value as a human being is so clear. Only the Lord could have revealed that to you. Worthy of repentance, and freeing at the same time. Our value as humans before God cannot be overstated. He loves us!
Wish I could post this under the first article in the series. Anyway, what if a partner consistently ignores your request to not do certain things sexually, or – shove their hands in your pants whenever they want, but always apologize when you remind them not to do that! It seems like a milder form-just disrespecting boundaries I guess.
That is an “unwanted act” and is disregarding of you. Saying he’s sorry and then doing it again makes it very clear he is not sorry at all. Actions speak louder than words. He is behaving as if he is entitled to your body, which is very devaluing. Mild abuse is still abuse. Take the word “just” out of “just disrespecting boundaries”. My heart goes out to you.
Hazel, that move your describe is about power and control. It was never about sex. It was a move to prove his sense of domination over you and to keep you subjected to his authority. How abusive and evil!
Here’s a thought. Is your husband gay? I am married to a pastor who stopped being sexually intimate with me 20 years ago. When I asked what was going on after a year, he’d say things like, “Well, I’d like to get back into that someday.” and, “It would be too noisy, and I don’t want to disturb the kids.” etc. After 5-6 years of this, we went one year to one couples’ therapist. He quit once the therapist started to focus on him. I continued with the therapist because I didn’t know what to do. The therapist pretty much suggested I leave him. After a few months, we went to a different therapist for a year. Once that therapist started to focus on my husband, he quit. My husband suggested a third. I knew he was just going to keep shopping around until someone should agree with him. The emotional abuse and rejection were out of this world. I never could have imagined so much suffering, not to mention slamming heart, stress, panic, fear, grief, screaming out to God…. I never went to the bishop because I was convinced they’d never believe me. He was such a “great guy” with such good theology. I spent time on the phone with the on-staff psychologist for “pastors and their families” at “Focus on the Family.” One of the things he said was that I should become a student of my husband. So I became a silent, hyper-observant and “critical” observer. It was a real eye opener. I knew that my husband had been in a long-term homosexual relationship in seminary (with a fellow seminarian), but he had repented, etc. and I believed he was not gay-no way! But in becoming a hardcore observant student, I learned that only sensitive, young men made him sparkle and shine. Here was the deep down issue. It had been hard to identify, because he was not acting on his desires. My husband gave up being gay for God, but that did not make him a heterosexual. Looking back, I think once the kids, whom he super desired, were born he started to drift away. He dumped me about 10 years into marriage, but I think it started covertly 5 years into it. He idolized his mother, and she idolized him. The former Anglican Chaplain-to-the-Queen, Gavin Ashendon, in his discussion as to why he left the Church of England, sited, among other things, the deep problem of the homosexual clergy. He stated that at the heart of this problem is the sin of idolatry. My husband is a vulnerable narcissist; full of blame; emotionally brittle; and someone with whom one cannot discuss A THING.
So fellow sufferers: have you considered that your non-sexually responsive, rejecting spouse is gay? That he lashes out at you because he is suppressed and cannot face himself? I can’t tell you what a painful, tough journey of discovery and understanding this has been. Initially, it was like being shipwrecked and thrown up on the beach half dead. It took me about 4 years to sort things out and find understanding and let myself off the hook. And as an aside, I did not leave him because I did not want to hurt the faithful of our little but wonderful congregation (they never would have understood, because the pastor was so wonderful); I had seen what so many divorces had done to kids, and I did not want to destroy the future happiness of our three kids; and I was financially trapped. I do not kiss or hug my husband. We have slept in separate rooms for at least a decade. I live my own life. I try to avoid him, but try to be polite with commentary no deeper than, “Oh look! There’s a squirrel!” Though when I forget myself and try a conversation, I see where it’s going and sink back to silence. He is now retired (I still work) and has cancer. Time is not on his side.
Ellen, I am so sorry,
Ellen, job well done. Your road has been unfair and difficult. I hope your children are happy and thriving as adults. If time is truly short for your husband, you can finally be free when he passes.
I image the mourning process will be even more complicated as you look back at all you lost including your hopes and dreams. Would you have done anything differently in retrospect? You were the burden bearer for everyone else’s happiness and sin. I hope you finally get to live as a free woman soon.
The girls told me unsolicited to leave him a number of years ago. I think he turned all three off to God and church. They are honest, hardworking and nice people. Maybe someday God will be more important. I certainly believe I planted good things for later fruit.I think I’ve done my grieving when I emotionally divorced my husband, and I’m sorry to have to say that I don’t think there will be any grieving to speak of. I am sorry for him that he’ll have things extra to go through before God. His dishonesty with himself made all our lives tougher. I feel sorry for him at this point, but I’ve moved on. Good question though on if I was the burden bearer for everyone else’s happiness and sin. I will think on that.
Ellen, Maybe some honesty with your daughters would be a good idea. Help them to understand you and to know that this isn’t about God, it is about poor choices and misunderstanding the word of God.
I recently shared copiously with my youngest daughter when we had a long weekend together (she lives half the country away). She’ old enough and experienced enough to understand. I have learned a lot through reading, therapy, God, friends, family, and shared what I had learned with her…. At least at this point in time, I have a more calmed perspective, so I didn’t have to be wrought up, which I think was good: it wasn’t husband/ their father bashing. I am sure she felt for me. My story is pretty bad, unfortunately. And my eldest, also a daughter, and I have spoken in the past, and she understands a great deal. I always try to let them know how God has helped me survive it all, even though things didn’t change. Unfortunately, my son is a male in his 20’s, and the reality is “they don’t have a clue”. It’s just the way young men/ boys are wired. They can’t see things that the girls can. His sisters will have influence on bringing him up to speed. They all have a really good relationship. I am really blessed that way. And another silver lining: this whole thing has given me an even stronger relationship with my daughters that maybe I otherwise would not have had.
The sexual abuse, if one has been at the mercy of someone’s demands and criticizem and name calling. Can one actually heal from that after 20 years of it?
I do think healing is possible from many things in life. It takes hard work (Leslie’s core class is most likely a great start), clinging to the life raft of God, and a sincere desire to choose healing over embracing and cultivating wrong thinking. Once I understood that my marriage had died, I worked emotionally to accept that. It took a long time. I kept hoping I was wrong, because I had loved my husband until he, through unrelenting rejection and verbal hostiliy, destroyed my feelings for him. I am now alone, but not lonely. I have a great relationship with some friends, my daughters and my side of the family. I am loved, appreciated, and welcomed in these places. I haven’t attended my husband’s church in years because I have been attending to my widowed father, who has dementia, on weekends since 2012 when my mother passed. My father’s need was real, and it was a real excuse too to be absent. Healing does happen. I have mercifully had much. I still have a few chinks, but the days are sunnier now. It’s a process.
Lena, I cling to the hope and belief that healing is possible with God holding us up. I have been separated from my H for over half a year now, after 30 years of marriage, having been sexually and emotionally abused throughout it. I still am struggling with believing that some men can be trustworthy, that don’t come from a place of entitlement, and don’t view women as sex objects. I know and believe it in my head that there are men out there that can be trusted (sorry to the men reading this, please don’t take it personally, as this is my issue), but, there is still a lot of head to heart dissonance there that I still have to work through. I have a friend that is happily remarried after a horrific first marriage, so I know it’s possible. We just need to keep working towards recovery (and know that it takes a long time) and trust in God’s grace to continue to heal us. He will continue to guide one step at a time, and I believe it is possible to get to a much healthier place and to heal and I am so thankful to be on this journey and can happily say that I have experienced a lot of healing already and am feeling very hopeful for the future. Philippians 1:6 says that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
Yes there is healing. Part of the healing is giving up on the fantasy that God will heal your husband. Of course God could heal him, your husband doesn’t want to change. He has told both of you No, no, no and no again. You have your answer. Clinging to that fantasy ties up your heart and mind from your ministry and purpose. You are being tricked. Shake off the dust from your boots and let God lead you to YOUR purpose.
In response to what a counselor should have done. I request accountability for assailant spouse. I recommend a counselor driven contract with accountability partners. I swear not to do X behavior. If I do X behavior we will notify accountability paryner A, B and C. An emergency meeting will be arranged and the consequences of such actions will result in this action. ( Separation, financial fine, letter of remorse to offended and public confession etc.) If a second offense occurs after this action plan is initiated, civil authorities will be notified. Zero tolerance rules. Zero.
Yes I’ve done confrontation already.Twice. With others present. No I’m not fooling myself that he’s available to be in healthy relationship. Consequences for this are difficult. No, I can’t make him move out of our house because he’s living independently, refusing sex, not available to me at all. So the burden would be on me to find a new place to live. With three young kids. I have a disability that prevents me from working outside the home. I’m in trauma therapy 2x per week, trying to recover from significant childhood abuse. I can’t do one. More. Thing. My heart is broken with h but at least he’s not hurting us physically right now.w.
I’m very sorry for what you are facing each day. It sounds like you have done some really healthy steps forward in getting trauma therapy for your childhood. Continue to choose things for your health and healing as you are.
When you say your h is living independently, do you mean he has created an in-house separation from you but refuses to find another place to live?
I’m concerned about your comment on sex ‘refusing sex’:
One thing to consider about affection and physical tenderness: some can confuse sex with these very important needs of physical affection. Although sex is so important for a married couple, your current situation doesn’t sound like it is healthy to be ‘sexual’ at this time given the lack of repair on your h’s part and the overall health of the marriage.
Affection and healthy touch is a legitimate need that God designed in us.
No, not in house separation. I just mean that he does his own thing and treats me as a roommate. No sex. No physical affection. No touching at all. This isn’t because of a boundary on my part. It’s simply that he won’t or can’t go there at all for some reason.
Here’s a section from Leslie’s response to a writer, 3 blogs ago:
“When you emotionally detach (in a good way) you accept reality without bitterness. You accept that your partner is not capable or unwilling to repair, repent or truly reconcile, so you don’t keep begging or banging your head against a dry spout for a few drops of love or care”.
I would suggest that you ask The Lord to enable you to emotionally detach.
This will be heartbreaking, but if you do the work of releasing your relationship to The Lord, then you will stop putting yourself in the demeaning position of being constantly rejected.
“Detaching means that you have come to a place where you let go of any requests for her to do something for you, for her to respond a certain way, repent, say she’s sorry, go to counseling, or be nice or respectful or loving towards you. You don’t NEED her to love you, or honor you or be truthful to you, or be faithful to you in order for you to be okay. It doesn’t mean that those needs or expectations are not reasonable in a normal healthy relationship”
I loved this answer. It describes the result of the HEART WORK of letting go of the relationship.
Heartbreaking and necessary.
I am in a similar situation, in that my husband has chosen to live in our “bonus room” (no heat or air conditioning) and we have had absolutely zero physical contact in almost two years. However, we attend church together, have supper as a family, travel to see family together, are still raising five of our seven children together, etc.
My question is about the detaching – I feel like I have mostly done that, detached. I don’t try to have meaningful conversations anymore or confront him about his actions. But HOW do you exist around others, acting like a couple, but really you’re not a couple in any way. For instance, we are attending a new church. As we meet people and introduce ourselves I don’t know how to create meaningful conversations and relationships with other married couples when we really don’t have a marriage.
Of course, like Sunny’s husband, my husband is mostly a loner, too. I’m probably kidding myself that there will even be opportunity to meet others as a couple…
I have found that sexual abuse is so insidious mostly because you can never tell your children. So even though they are aware that their parents’ marriage is a sham and horrible, they will never know or understand the worst offense. I will not put that burden on my kids. I will never tell them about that area of their parents’ relationship.
I’m very sorry for what you are going through in your marriage and that you have experienced sexual abuse as well. This is so painful and heartbreaking.
Do you have close women who are walking alongside you who know the truth? Are you in individual therapy for what is taking place in your marriage?
I’m confused as to why you are choosing to show up as ‘imposters’ to places, especially church?
I would think that this would add great anxiety to your heart as you and your husband are pretending to be a couple, but living an in-house separation?
By the way most couples experiencing healthier dynamics and intimacy can usually sense something isn’t quite right.
I believe an act of love for him and yourself, and especially your children would be to require interventions.
Beatrice, I want to challenge you on what you feel you would not expose to your children ever even as adults, I can understand why you would want to keep things protected for their own well being but they might benefit later on in their own adult life to have some area of knowledge because these dynamics in marriage can be often generational. (Especially as they reach appropriate age and you don’t have to give all ugly details for them to understand and be educated)
How might you feel if any of your children have a similar marriage dynamic as you are experiencing today?
My mom also lived/ modeled many years protecting my father and herself from their own shame and marital issues and it only compounded her children’s marriages to which each of her children have had to face marriage issues ‘ill-equipped’ as well as certain aspects that could have been prevented.
Fear chose for my mom in many areas.
Not only has she been a receiver of those choices but it has affected those around her.
Have you read Leslie’s EDM book? Are you needing to join her conquer group?
Your husband may choose to be a loner and an imposter in front of others or your kids, but you can choose truth, freedom and healing. You can choose to not participate and not be a contributor to his behavior. You can choose to live differently and nurture your relationships with your children for your present and future with them.
I agree with everything Aly has said here.
It is very confusing for children to experience one reality at home and another ‘reality’ ( not reality, it’s pretense) when in public.
I grew up in a similar type situation as your children, Beatrice. This is not good for their mental / emotional health. For me, I learned to construct my relationships in a fantasy world, as opposed to reality. This coping strategy (learned directly from my parents unwillingness to walk in truth, in public) has caused me lots of relational and emotional pain. This is how generational sin gets passed on.
Conquer is a great idea.
Thank you, so much, Ally and Nancy, for your responses. I know everything you say is TRUE. Yes, I have read Leslie’s book and even recommended it to others. I have had a small amount of individual counseling, a couple of years ago, where my eyes were first opened to the fact that I am in an emotionally abusive situation – as are my children. I have been a stay at home mom for many years. My husband is a good financial provider. I do not have any family in town. At times I convince myself that continuing to live the way we are at least keeps us together for family stuff and enjoying grandchildren. We have been married almost 31 years – our youngest is 10.
I do not have any close friends that seem willing to really walk the hard road with me. I have shared my situation with a handful of friends but I’m not sure any of them think it is really “that bad”. We have only one daughter, who is a teenager. Her dad is COMPLETELY disconnected from her – almost completely ignoring her. This has had such a negative impact on her, and now watching her mom be so weak is another blow.
Thank you for the encouragement and hard truth you tell me. I need to hear it again and again. Thank you for recommending the CORE class. I will check it out and see if it’s feasible. Thank you!!
The people you are referring to as friends, are not friends based on their opinion of things are not ‘that’ bad! Have you been open and honest with them about the living condition and all the pretending?
If you have shared even a small amount of the truth, an emotionally mature,healthy, educated friend would walk alongside you rather than pat your shoulder and convince you things are ok to remain this unhealthily especially to what’s taking place toward your children.
You are their God given advocate and it sounds like you are saying you are exposed to the truth and you have resources to move forward with advocating for your children and especially yourself!
You need a support group to help equip you with strength.
Awareness isn’t the same as willingness to do something about your circumstances.