Hello! Susan here with my monthly contribution to the Leslie Vernick & Co blog. We have entered the Lenten Season and many of you are taking part in special practices. For me, this is a time of reflection and lament. I have been accessing several resources to help me know myself and discover my faults and blind spots. I praise God for all He has provided for me in order to be right with Him. As I recall the work of Jesus, I am in awe of both His humble mercy and His great majesty.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins. (Romans 3:23-24)
Rejoice! Easter is Coming!
This Week’s Question: I have been in this relationship for 15 years and have made excuses for far too long. There have been some unforgiveables that have opened my eyes and led me here. I have left the home with the kids, but he won't talk to me and just bullies me about how inconvenient I am being. Are there any resources I can point to for HIM to work on and discover his ungodly ways? I have a hard time in the moment saying anything because I truly am speechless by his increasingly mean and abusive behavior. My wall is so tall I am not sure he could ever knock it down to start over. I know my silence isn't good either – I almost feel like I am playing the same games he does! I just can't muster up the energy to fight anymore. The breaking point was his invasion of my privacy and reading my messages on his computer – he refuses to talk to me about why he started to do it and just threw a flippant “I want a new husband” text to my sister in my face. After some thought, the fact that he IS reading my texts and isn't concerned about my mental well-being is disturbing – there are some dark messages in there! It just shows how little he actually does care for me. In studying Leslie's book, I do think my purpose is to show him God's true character (that he didn't learn from his southern Christian upbringing) but how do I do that? He mocks me and my “godliness” as if I know nothing! Coming from a broken home, I don't want to play the games my parents did – he will be the worst co-parent I already know. But how do I lead him to water so that he can work on himself?
Coach Susan’s Response: I commend you for acknowledging the hard truths that have led you to this place. Although you have not been specific about what “unforgivables” you have experienced, I will assume they are things you would consider to be deal breakers in the relationship. It sounds as though serious relational boundaries have been disregarded. That can be devastatingly disappointing. You have been brave to take your needs seriously and find psychological and physical safety for you and your children.
I would like to encourage you to continue to be diligent about your commitment to the truth. If you listen to your own voice, you have already discerned that his mean and abusive behaviors are increasing as you move toward your own well-being. He believes it is just an inconvenience to him that you are making a move forward to find safety. Your safety matters! Perhaps you have had conversations over the 15 years to let him know how his destructive behavior is affecting you. If you have already given him feedback and he has mocked you, it is very likely he does not want to recognize his destructive ways. Trust the truth of what you see in his actions.
You stated you have had a hard time saying anything in the moment. Although it may be used as such, remaining silent is not always a destructive tool. Silence can also come from a place of survival or even wisdom. I believe you are speechless because your body is shutting down in self-protection. When we are threatened, our brain goes into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Being in survival mode takes immense effort and therefore our thinking brain shuts down to conserve energy. Perhaps you are freezing in fear. In the past, you used your energy to fight. Fighting with your husband was likely a protective measure as well. It is not going to go anywhere except toward creating a winner and a loser. Alternatively, healthy, assertive discussions can help to resolve conflict and foster connection.
You have built protection around your heart for a reason; he doesn’t get to “knock down” that protection without your consent. If he were to start over by treating you differently for a long period of time and establishing a new pattern of behavior, you may choose to lower that wall of protection yourself. If you remove your boundaries of protection to allow him to start over without any evidence of real change, he will likely harm you again. It would not be wise for you to allow him access to your heart given the current pattern of abusive behavior he has established.
You believe your purpose is to show him God’s true character and point him to Jesus, where he will discover his ungodly ways. So let's break that down to see what God’s true character calls us to. Do you recall the initialism of WWJD? In this instance we can ask, “what DID Jesus do”, not just what would He do? Jesus was mocked and abused as well. What did He do about that?
You were likely taught that when Jesus was mocked and abused, He endured the suffering and allowed it to be part of His mission. He was willing to take on the suffering of the world and used it to bring about redemption and salvation. This is true. Is it the full story?
I implore you to search the scriptures for more examples. However, here are just a few that took place a short time before Jesus went to the cross. Jesus left, not once, but three times because the religious leaders intended to mock and abuse Him.
In John 7:1, although He was expected to arrive before the Feast of Booths, Jesus would not yet go to Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Verses 10:39-40 teach us that because of the increasing hostility, as well as efforts to stone and arrest Him, Jesus escaped and went to an unpopulated area across the Jordan. Later on in verses 11:53-54 Jesus stayed near the wilderness, no longer walking openly among the Jews, whom He loved and wanted to save.
It is not always God’s will to endure suffering. If He makes it possible to flee danger, then flee. Like Jesus, we are to follow the will of God wherever that leads. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Dear one, please don’t suffer in vain.
Jesus fulfilled His unique calling when He suffered intense abuse and died for our sins, but He did not always choose to endure suffering. Sometimes he left the abuse and mocking to find safety with The Father. Other times, He knew He had other purposes to fulfill and fled. Either way, Jesus's example of humility and grace in the face of suffering and abuse is an example that we can all strive to emulate. He showed us that it is possible to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us. He also showed us that we can be strong in the face of adversity and that we can remain faithful even when we are persecuted. Remember this; at times God calls us to suffer for good and other times He calls us to flee evil.
You asked, “But how do I lead him to water so that he can work on himself?” Like my friend Chris Moles, founder of MenOfPeace.org, often says, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. You can, however, feed him crackers”. In other words, make him thirsty for the one to true God and the amazing life that comes from knowing Jesus. He may become thirsty when he sees how satisfying a life with Jesus can be through the witness of your life. Likewise, he may become thirsty when he experiences the natural consequences of treating someone with abuse or indifference. The relationship becomes damaged or broken and the perks of that relationship are no longer available for use.
God has instilled an insatiable thirst in all of us that only He can satisfy. In John 7:37-38 Jesus invites us to this truth, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
All have the ability to accept the satisfying gift of the Holy Spirit, yet not all do. The Word of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit are the ultimate resources to help us see our ungodly ways.
I encourage you to place your focus on gaining the resources you need in order to be safe and well. God does have a purpose for your life which will reflect His glorious character. Stay close to Him and He will guide you in the direction of His will.
Beloved Readers, how are you following the will of God in your destructive relationship? What character traits is He building in you as you suffer for good or flee evil?
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You can’t lead him to do anything. You can only change yourself. He has proven his isn’t interested in changing. I know you have a dream of a good marriage to a healthy loving man. Sadly, your dream has been crushed. It is only a dream in your head. The sooner you get out of denial and accept your terrible situation the sooner you can separate from it. Detoxification takes times. Go zero contact. You deserve better than this! God can work without your assistance. He doesn’t need your help to fix your husband. Your husband doesn’t want to change. He gains power and control from abusing you. His evil is harming you. Step aside and let Satan have him. Run. Flee. Save yourself.
Read Lundy Bancroft and Don Hennessey’s books too.
There is obviously a lot of back story that is missing for those of us making comments. But I gather from your Question that you love your husband and you care about your family and you desire to restore a healthy marriage..
Yes Jesus did remove himself from situations because it was not his time yet. He knew the Father’s plan for him and he walked on this earth perfectly to fulfill it. I don’t believe that we can take from that, that we are to permanently leave our spouse and subject our children to a life of growing up in 2 homes. That is certainly not WWJD. (Yes, if there is real abuse, some form of separation is needed)
What you can do is PRAY , our battles are not flesh and blood they are in the spirit, read the Word pray to prepare yourself in the full Armor of God every day.
The Holy Spirit can move in yours and your husband’s life. There is NOTHING to difficult for God through the power of the Spirit
Seek out, Rejoice Marriage Ministries , for resources and encouragement to stand for your marriage.
Do you think Jesus would remain with someone so disobedient to His commandments, after telling us we can divorce for sexual immorality (aka an unforgivable)? Do you really think He believes the marriage needs to be saved at all costs and it’s more important than the safety and sanity of the individuals in the marriage? That’s not at all Biblical and doesn’t represent any of His commands throughout His Word on how to treat others and guard our hearts. He cares about us when our abusive husbands don’t, and would never call for us to suffer needlessly for Him.
I believe Jesus would say, extend grace. As I made clear there is missing back story.
Are you say we should all remove our selve from those who do not keep His commandments. That would be a very lonely life. (You who are without sin, then please, throw that stone)
I’m sorry, we make choices as adults, we marry, we start a family and then due to our selfishness and sins we abandon our children to to a broken home.
Please read all of Christ’s teaching, He “allowed” divorce for immorality, He didn’t demand it and certainly did not make it “unforgivable”.
Please note I do suggest some sort of separation in cases of real abuse, that space should be devoted to prayer for restoration of the marriage and the family.
A spouse “suffering” is not needless. Showing your children trust and faith in the power of God and His Spirit to restore a marriage is NEEDED.
I, too, love my husband deeply, and can identify with the question posed in this blog all too well, except my marriage has been 24 years of promises of change that are fleeting. I have changed so much about myself to try to appease my husband so that he would finally be happy, that I don’t even really know who I am anymore . It has taken a long time to finally admit that my kids and I have suffered emotional abuse at the hands of my husband, but when I did separate and come back, nothing changed on a permanent basis, because it didn’t have to for him. I came back and he could continue to abuse. Trust me, I begged God in every way I knew how to save my marriage, but God won’t take prisoners, and my husband has chosen himself and his abusive ways over our marriage and family. I know that God has released me from this marriage and I will be filing for divorce. I have to. My husband will be reaping what he has sown, and although I struggle with the loss of my marriage like I am grieving a loved one, God has given me the strength to stand up for my children so they know this is NOT what a Godly marriage looks like. They deserve more than this, and I do continue to pray that someday my husband will truly allow God into his heart, but he has damaged my ability to trust him beyond repair, so my staying would just permit him to continue in sin, which hurts him as much as it does me and our kids.
Your offered solution may work for two self-giving, other-centered and loving individuals, though a problem of such severity in such a relationship and is 1) not comprehensible to loving couples and 2) shocking and offensive to both partners if it does occur, not just the victim of the abuse. There are good marriages like that. But God does not necessarily override the consequences when one individual’s choice continues to be abusive and wrong toward the other partner. God sometimes does provide a secure path for the wronged partner to leave the relationship. God has healed me in so many ways since I followed Him out of my marriage– my idol for over 40 years — I left it behind, now free to serve and worship Jesus Christ alone.
I love your response Susan. People often talk about Jesus turning the other cheek, but he didn’t always do that. He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple, he walked away when they wanted to throw him off a cliff, he called out the sin of the Pharisees many times. He wasn’t afraid to call it like it was. Here is a blog outlining some other ways Jesus stood against evil: https://carolineabbott.com/2012/09/does-turn-the-other-cheek-mean-we-must-submit-to-abuse/ . I hope you will seriously consider Susan’s advice to look for resources for your own well-being. Blessings to you.
Some resources that have helped me see my situation more clearly were Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries books. I also read Changes That Heal and Safe People by the same authors, and of course Leslie’s blog and books. I’ve actually reread them several times to gain strength and perspective as the years have passed. I am staying well and speaking up for myself and my boundaries after over six years of finding these resources. Most recently Dr. Alison Cook’s podcasts and her new book have helped me grow. Please continue to pray and ask God for wisdom as well. You are his child and he loves you.
P.S. These resources are for YOU. Your husband is perfectly capable of finding his own resources if he is interested. I’ve learned from that mistake. I can suggest resources, but even if my husband reads them, his attitude is to find fault with them. So he is on his own regarding that, unless he asks for suggestions. At the end of my life I won’t need to answer for his actions, only my own.
So well put. I am so thankful this type of abuse is being called out and that it is not of GOD. The Holy Spirit has revealed to me about 6 years ago and has done a great work in me and is still uncovering for me to whole. I am so thankful for you and Lisa T. Boundaries and Goodbyes even though she went through much pain. She has and will continue to free women who are in destructive marriages.
I agree with the two ladies above—you cannot make an unrepentant selfish man look inside and do his necessary work! You can only work on yourself, understanding how precious you are to your Father, Who grieves over the damage and destruction you have experienced at the hands of the one who has broken his promises to love, protect, and cherish you!
Do not be fooled by persuasive talk! I imagine he has used this tactic many times before to manipulate and control you…look at his actions over time!
He has broken your trust and your heart and only you get to say how long it will take to rebuild trust, IF it EVER can be rebuilt.
Be committed to the truth and walk in it as painful and difficult as this is—it is the truth that WILL set you free!!! YOU are valuable and significant to Him!
Cling to Him—He will NEVER fail you, nor will He EVER forsake you! Keep looking to Him and steeping in His Word! The Psalms were my own lifeline and gave me so much hope!
The “marriage” has been a sham all along and not the blessing God intended for you but oppression by someone who has cared nothing for you and the children but only his own comfort and convenience!
You are doing the wise and good thing to have fled to safety for you and your children!!! Sending much love and support! You will come out on the other side!!
Recall that God chose the Israelites (the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for a special purpose. He offered them an opportunity to become the model nation of His way of life, a beacon for all nations, so that all people could have His blessings. (Isa 44:1). Likewise by leaving God has set you and your family aside to become his family model as means to move your husband.
“Southern Christian upbringing”??? Please elaborate.
I am not sure what you are asking, Maggie.
This is an explanation of what Jesus meant by ‘turning the other cheek’ and people of that area and time knew what he referred to. If a person wanted to hit another person across the face, they used the back of the left hand so as not to touch the palm to the face. If then the person who was hit, turned the other cheek , then to hit them, would necessitate using the palm of the hand, and then it meant that they would be equals , they would be of the same status at that point and that is not what most people want in this situation. So when we ‘ turn the other cheek’ it means to face up to the aggressor and make them realize that we are all equal. hope this helps.
That is so interesting, Anna Marie! I will have to explore the meaning of “turning the other cheek” more. Deeply. So often we misinterpret Biblical meaning and direction because of a lack of cultural/historic understanding . Relating to the question of the day, I echo the advice given by Susan and others. In my situation, I at first spent all my time trying to reach my husband with advice and resources he did not want. It wasn’t until I let go of him and took care of myself that he was able to hear God and he began to do his own work. it was incredibly freeing and peaceful to give back to him the responsibility that had never been mine. I would suggest you look up the term “compassionate detachment” to help you learn how to let go of him. Wishing you self-healing and peace.
I agree that it is important to gather resources, and one of them should be a lawyer who can inform you about your rights in the state where you live. During the time that you are separated, it may come in handy to keep all of the texts and emails he sends you, and as you are able to remember, write down instances of abuse when he has abused you and the children. As he becomes more aware of your determination to stay away, his behavior may escalate, so build some protection for yourself: separate. bank account, escape plan if you have to leave the house quickly, extra copies of important documents, etc. A lot of these are in the books and web sites that have been recommended. It is obvious that you are hoping that things will change….that God will intervene miraculously, but you still need to act in the present. IF it comes to a permanent separation or divorce, documentation of his abuses will help you to get full custody of the children. You have taken a brave, bold step by moving out. Well done! Now is the time to be wise by protecting yourself and your children.
I have been married for 31 years and it has been up and down all the time. I totally understand w here she is coming from. I am still with him but I am sure to guard my heart a lot more than before. God has helped me to deal with him. When he wants to start a fight, I learn not to say anything and answer with yes or no. I have several Christian songs that I keep close to my heart that also helps me to overcome the hard times which help me out a lot. One is “Name Written in Glory”, You Say and others that speak to me. All we can do ask God to help us through this. I did not have any kids but if I did I would have left.. I also do devotions every mornings and read the Word daily. It has been a great help overall. God says He will not leave or forsake us and He hears the broken hearted. Keep trusting God and He will always be there for you.
You did the right thing in leaving for the safety of yourself and your children. They need stability to overcome the emotional roller coaster.
Wow!!! So well said. I am going to save this a refer to it the next time I get questions about how a good Christian woman can choose to blow her family apart instead of suffering for Jesus.
Carrie, the abuser blew the family apart, not the victim. Nowhere in the teaching of our Lord are we asked to suffer for anyone else’s sins. Only Christ did that. We need to remember we are human. Let’s not mix up our roles in God’s divine order. It is utter nonsense to counsel this woman to prostrate herself as a sacrifice for her sinful husband. She just wasn’t designed for that. Let the fool suffer the consequences of HIS behaviors.
I tried to play God for so many years and save h. I thought my bubbly happy self excited about us talking about all we have together would rub off so he would see it to.
19 years later I see he never did. Now when I finally learn my boundaries and to take care of me and walk when I need to itscbeen punishment time from H.
Sounds the same for you. Your trying to rescue yourself and cry out to others and he punishes you more
Reads your emails and then does opposite of what you need. I realize now this is there choice. There character.
I use to think with people “the poor thing had a bad childhood or this or that happened that there like this.
Now I see 29 years of being the cheer leader for us I was the only one on board.
When I have health issues from the stress I ask him not to treat me these ways and instead of doing that he does opposite and does what hurts me more.
This is exactly what the many narcissist I have had in my life all do. They seem to enjoy killing stealing and destroying and I went far out of my way to help these people in my family and friends and the level of evil is off the charts that a narcissist will go to especially if you expose to you or others there covert narcissist way when your just trying to get help to survive. Look what he does uses it against you.
I now learned this year people have a free will choice in if they want to be like Jesus or the devil and some love acting like Lucifer and I know now there is no changing that.
Ask yourself like I did. What has he changed? How is he respecting you more.
If he brings you a floer in life occasionally and love bombs you does it last?
1st step of core is be truthful with yourself.
That was big for me. Sadly I realized this has always been his character. It use to be a little less because I wanted to be his perfect Jesus like fantasy wife and please my husband and was determined something was wrong with me if I couldn’t
Because he trained me to self doubt me like the narcissist I was raised by and the siblings who did the same.
I ask my H why they did what they did to me?
He said something powerful I will never forget.
“Because they can” I responded Is that why u treat me this way? He laughed.
This was a big lesson for me to take my hands eyes mind off of him and deal with my codependency and Need for him to treat me right.
To look at the shame in me of why I question myself and belittle myself to think there is something wrong w me which is a hook every time he acts this way.
I know now it’s who he is and he does it cause he can.
So now I walk most of the time so he can’t poison my mind heart ears with his lies about me.
I take my fears of being alone and that I can’t fix it to the Lord to learn what I never did before which is love me and have my own back. To be my own best friend and mommy to my wounded child who still thinks I NEED there love and to say I am good enough.
I validate and speak life over me and am slowly learning to treat myself how I have always treated others and how Jesus treated people.
I made my H so big in what he feels and thinks I fully ABANDONED myself my whole life and mostly all of these people who are Narcs never changed.
I learned to start over and only be around people who celebrate care and love and want to be by my side w compassion and wisdom and there is peace.
Your husband does what he does cause that’s who he is. That’s his character. And he can as long as you allow him.
Lastly understanding that It’s really nothingcto do with you.
This is his choice.
You will know loud and clear if he is changing because it would sound like…”I am deeply sorry for how I have treated you all these years” “I don’t like the man I am any longer”
“I am going to do everything I can to get help and I am determined to change me” “I will prove this change to you”
” I hope it won’t be to late and I can earn your trust back”
I am so sorry. Starting today I will do all I can to be this new man and draw close to God for help”
This would be a repentant man and it would be alot of hard work but he is on board.
Do you see any of this in your husband?
I am not hearing that.
Trust me I tried my whole life. You will not be able to convince him to be a Jesus character when he is throwing firey darts at you. This is his choice.
Taking your eyes ears heart completely away from him to do your work is the most rewarding thing. Turn that love toward yourself by giving yourself what you need and grab the hand of Jesus and trust him as your husband.
I listened to detachment video and then said for now I will leave my husband in my mind and get my focus off all his stuff. He is not my business . I leave H to cleave to the Lord as my husband father and friend.
I am finding peace and love for me slowly every time I walk away and don’t allow his poisonous dart to hit my eyes ears and heart.
It’s to much for me to leave so I choose stay well and do what it takes to keep me safe and healing in the process
Wow @Mary. You have really encouraged me!
These statements below have stood out for me. Not just for a husband but also for family members and relations that don’t treat me well.
‘I made my H so big in what he feels and thinks I fully ABANDONED myself my whole life and mostly all of these people who are Narcs never changed.
He is not my business . I leave H to cleave to the Lord as my husband father and friend.
I am finding peace and love for me slowly every time I walk away and don’t allow his poisonous dart to hit my eyes ears and heart.
It’s to much for me to leave so I choose stay well and do what it takes to keep me safe and healing in the process.
More grace for you during these trying times. Thank you.