What Do I Do With My Guilt?


Good morning friends,

Thank you for your prayers.  I think all of us on the East Coast are just about at the end of our patience with old man winter.  I have shoveled more snow in the last 3 days than I have in the last 10 years.  There is nowhere else to put it. I’m grateful I do not live in the city.  People are desperate for parking places. The snow has no place to go.  Front-end loaders are picking it up and dumping it in fields on the outskirts of town.  It is surreal.

Today’s question:  I just finished reading your book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  I’m amazed by the awareness the book brought to me. Although I have known for many years that my marriage is destructive, I've never felt like I had a “good” reason to leave.

My husband isn't physically abusive and therefore I've always felt like I need to suck it up and be a good godly wife for my husband and 3 kids. I've come to a point in my life that I'm tired of the way we live. I feel like I'm past the point of wanting to work things out-I just want out!

I feel very guilty for feeling this way. If there is any hope that my marriage can be saved then I should be willing, right? I've said for a long time that it will take a miracle to turn our marriage around. Not that I don't believe God can perform miracles, I just don't see any in my future. Is it really worth the hard work?

I feel like I have sacrificed so much of my life and my children's lives that he doesn't deserve any more chances. When I feel this way the guilt sets in and the cycle starts over again. I feel so stuck! Where do I go from here?

Answer:  Thank you for being honest about wanting out of your marriage.  You said that you’ve come to a point in your life where you’re tired of the way you live and you’re past the point of wanting things to work out. You just want out.

But then the guilt sets in.  Let’s start there.  Guilt is an important emotion to pay attention to.  Guilt functions much like a smoke detector.  When it’s set properly, it warns you of impending danger so that you take appropriate action.  But sometimes smoke detectors are too sensitive and they sound the alarm when you open your oven door or when you burn the toast.  Instead of warning you of real danger, they become an irritant and a false alarm.

In the same way, sometimes our guilt alarm is a little off and we feel guilty for things that are not moral failures or sins but merely human emotions.  As women we can feel guilty because we asked for something we wanted instead of always giving in, believing that somehow that makes us selfish. Or we can feel guilty for sticking up for ourselves instead of submitting, feeling like we should always turn the other cheek or let the other person have his or her way. We feel guilty when we disappoint someone, upset someone, or don’t cater to their every need, want, and request because we tell ourselves that our purpose is to make people happy and if we don’t, somehow we are bad, or doing something wrong.

So instead of telling yourself you’re bad for feeling the way you do, perhaps a more helpful route would be to explore why you feel the way you do.  Once we accept our feelings (without judging them) it’s more likely that we can fully understand what’s going on.  The psalmist asked himself a question about his own emotions.  He asked, “Why are you downcast, Oh my soul?” (Psalm 42:11).

The psalmist could have felt guilty about feeling depressed, after all he should be thankful that God had given him so much. But he didn’t. He simply asked himself why?  In exploring his own feelings, he understood that he had misplaced his hope. He had put his hope in what God would do instead of who God was.

I don’t know for sure what your feelings are trying to tell you, but they might be a good indicator that your marriage isn’t going to change and therefore you need to stop putting energy into something that is dead (your marriage). The picture I see is continuously giving CPR to someone who is already dead.  You feel guilty giving up but at some point you must acknowledge and accept that the patient is dead.

Can God do a miracle and raise the dead?  Yes. But then it’s God and not you doing the work.  A resurrection is obvious, tangible, visible.  If God stirs your husband’s heart to change his ways, can there be a resurrection of your marriage?  Yes, but it will also take your willingness and this is another place where you feel really stuck.  From what I hear, even if your husband changed, you don’t want to put anymore of your energy into rebuilding this relationship because you don’t feel he deserves it.

That’s where things get a big tricky.  Who “deserves” grace?  No one.  So friend, if God can change your husband’s heart, he certainly can change yours too. If you’re willing.  That’s why it’s so wonderful to be brutally honest with God.  “I don’t want to go to the cross,” Jesus said, “But not my will but yours.”  Can you say that to God too?  “I don’t’ want to be married to this man anymore.  But not my will but yours?”

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m NOT saying it is God’s will for you to try harder, stick in there, or keep hoping for something miraculous to happen in your marriage.  I’m not saying that God hates divorce so much that it is his will for you to sacrifice yourself for your destructive spouse to continue to harm you and your children.  But what I am saying is that your guilt may be signaling something that’s off in your relationship with God.  That you have gotten so tired, hurt, and angry in this marriage that it’s hard for you to trust God has your best right now.  It’s tempting to rush ahead of him and strike out and strike back because you’re tired and angry.

That is why I talk so much in my book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage about building your own CORE strength.  I want women to want to make decisions that are God centered and God honoring because that will be absolutely best for you and your children.  But there has been so much misunderstanding on what is God’s will in marriage that so many women, like yourself, feel that is God’s will just to suck it up if they want to be a godly wife, but that’s not true.

You can be a Godly wife by speaking the truth in love such as, “I can’t continue to pretend that things are fine and what you do doesn’t deeply harm me and the children.”

My concern for you is that from the tone in your letter is that you’re not only tired of your marriage but you are a bit frustrated with God’s way and you want to break free from both.  Please don’t do that.  God loves you and your children and your husband.  You may need to take some very firm steps to let your spouse know that you won’t live this way anymore. It is not God’s will for you to be abused and mistreated.

But please don’t forget to ask God what your next step is.  Guard your heart against bitterness and resentment that I sense is creeping into your spirit (and perhaps that’s what the guilt is for).  Ask him to give you grace (which doesn’t mean allowing an abuser to keep abusing you, but to show compassion for the blindness and stuck place he is in, without enabling him to believe it’s okay to stay there).

If you stay on this blog, you will hear story after story from the women who felt God leading them out of their abusive marriage into safety and sanity and healing.  Sometimes that resulted in reconciliation, sometimes that resulted in permanent separation and even divorce.  But when you know God is in it, there is no guilt even if there is sadness.

Friends, it’s your turn. Share your pearls of wisdom.


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  1. Peg on February 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    What an excellent answer once again, Leslie! Your wisdom just amazes me! If this lady could separate from her husband to a place of peace and emotional safety, I feel that she would begin to gain some emotional strength and that the desire to just end the marriage would diminish somewhat. I know her spirit must be frazzled. I agree that her guilt could be what I’ve come to term “false guilt.” Perhaps there might be some guilt from not respecting herself and her children enough to make some hard choices for a better way of life. I would just advise her to find a way to separate from him for now or ask him to move out until they can seek counseling. First of all, she has to realize that what he is doing is just as damaging to her and her children as physical abuse. Call it what it is—abuse; declare that it is wrong. That was one of the most difficult steps for me. Once I proclaimed that I was being abused and confronted my husband with that, I was stepping out in faith that God didn’t want me to allow this man to sin against me time after time and be unrepentant and unwilling to admit wrongdoing. It’s difficult to learn how to show compassion for an abuser’s blindness and pridefulness. But it’s easier to learn how to pity him and pray for him when one has finally found some peace and rest from not having to be exposed to the person daily. When one begins to experience some hope in life again and even some small amounts of healing, it makes such a difference in the heart’s ability to extend grace and mercy to someone who is really unaware of just how harmful and hurtful their behavior is. Actions speak louder than words most of the time. Assertive actions (boundaries) taken in gradual steps without harshness and unkindness are effective eventually. God’s will is certainly that your marriage should be good and growing. There’s no way it can be good and growing right now. I prayed this morning that God would help my husband (we’ve been separated for almost a year) realize his sinfulness and bring him to repentance. Until that happens, there will be no change in him. I say to this lady to stand up for what she knows is right and good and then step back from the marriage and work on her relationship with God. That’s helped me greatly. Hopefully, she can separate from her spouse to gain some sanity, peace, and healing.

    • Julie on March 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      Wow Peg. This is my story. Only, separation hasn’t happened yet. Just recently seriously looking into this. Thank you for your honesty. You articulated so well! You love God, and are being obedient. This is my desire- to honor HIM! Blessings! J

    • Anna on April 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Yes I hope she can separate. I have been married for 30 years. All the children are adults. I have a nursing degree. Yet I have just last week filed for a LEGAL separation from my husband.He has never been physically abusive but increasingly emotionally destructive- neglect/abandonment and abuse.I could no longer stay well. The legal separation assures me financial security. It’s costly to retain an attorney but it is worth it. This move has been a huge wake up call for him and I pray that he will surrender his heart to the Lord through it all. May God be praised in all of our lives. Stay strong in the Lord women.

  2. Cyndy on February 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    “…when you know God is in it, there is no guilt even if there is sadness.” SO TRUE! I saw a turning point in my life when I asked Daddy God to “buckle up” the belt of Truth for me. I told him I didn’t trust my husband and I didn’t even trust myself to come up with His Truth. I told Him if I couldn’t trust Him to feed me truth, I was a goner! I began to trust Him to weed out the lies in my emotions and mind, and He hasn’t stopped yet– utterly trustworthy! As I deal with more and more sadness in our family–heading toward divorce– I’m know I’m okay. That guilt doesn’t have the hold it used to on me!! Trust Him, my friend, with your heart and mind! He won’t let you down!! 🙂

  3. Stephanie on February 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    I agree with Leslie’s assessment from personal experience. You feel guilty letting yourself off the hook (getting out of a destructive marriage) and then you get angry saying you should be off the hook and you determine you’re going to do it yourself, then you feel the check in your spirit and you feel guilty again for wanting to get off the hook and you should be a better Christian, wife, etc… I begged and pleaded with my husband for years to stop treating me the way he did and he could have cared less. When I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore, I went round and round in the guilt circle I mentioned above.
    What stopped the guilt circle was when I finally sat down and prayed to God about literally everything I was feeling. I told Him how much I didn’t want to be married to my husband and how horrible it was being married to him mentally, emotionally, physically, and that I wanted to be let off the hook for my marriage and then how guilty I felt about leaving him, etc. Through all of that, the Lord listened, but He kept saying to me, ask Me what I want you to do. I resisted asking Him what He wanted me to do, because what if He told me I had to stay and change myself? What if He told me OK, you should leave?
    Living in the guilt circle kept me from action. I knew that if I asked the Lord, He would tell me; then I’d have to act. That was the scariest part — finding out what the Lord would have me do and then acting on it. I had to submit my will to the Lord’s will and follow through with what He told me.
    I’ve been separated for many months now and I still continue to ask the Lord sincerely what He would have me to do, even though it might be the thing I really don’t want to do, like going back if my husband repented, as a check on my heart and motivations. Consequently, I don’t deal with guilt at all and I’m not angry at my husband either. I have compassion for him, but I’m not willing to lose my life trying to convince him that he’s destructive and about all of the very real, negative effects of his behavior.
    The Lord isn’t getting me off the hook either. There’s plenty of hardship, but more importantly, the Lord freed me to serve Him again. It’s all about the Lord and serving Him. You won’t be getting off the hook, you’ll just be free to do what you were meant to do, whether or not you leave.

  4. Mary on February 19, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Oh how I feel for you. Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” My pastor shared this one to me a few weeks back for the guilt I still carried in leaving my 23 year abusive marriage 7 months ago. He told me his guilt story when he was a young man. Jesus died for all of these issues and we don’t want to live them out over and over. His shed blood was once and for all. I understand this guilt and not wanting to continue in this abusive marriage. Lesley is right on with God being able to resurrect your marriage, but only He can do this by stirring your husbands heart and also your husbands free will in choosing to work with Gods direction. God will not force His free will on anyone…they have to make that choice themselves. So do explore your guilt in prayer and a open heart to receive. God may be directing you to leave. He did for me through a early morning vision. I also had some doubts about “why God was not hearing my supplications” all those years, but in retrospect He was there and as always in His timing. He does not desire ANY to perish and continues to hand these abusers more rope…not to hang themselves as the world believes….but to give them more as they are falling deeper and deeper into the pit. If God stirs your husbands heart to change and he desires to do the work, that may change you also. I would have given anything for my husband to want to change. He made it clear he wasn’t going to and with his mental disorders and age… he isn’t going to. I had to leave for the gift God gives each of us is our individuality to us alone… not to hand to another. That is not a Godly marriage. God Bless and take in all the comments that we blog here. Maybe one sentence in one reply will be a message to you.

  5. Penny on February 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Leaving an emotionally abusive marriage has been difficult but worth it. My relationship with Jesus is much stronger…..my anger at my almost ex (6 years and counting) is over…even though his controlling behavior continues. There is peace in strengthening oneself in healthy ways…..and praying for his soul helps my own growth.
    Leslie thank you for your work in this area. I am writing a multi genre novel based upon my experiences….Grace is the main character.
    Part of my concern is that women so often stay in the marriage for the children because they believe the satanic lie that they are selfish if they leave. God gave us gifts to share….we can’t do that if we hide under a basket afraid to step into light…..God needs us to minister to each other in this. Penny

    • Leslie Vernick on February 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      I’d love to read that Penny. I think fiction writing can go straight to the heart in a way that non fiction does not. May God anoint your fingers as you write.

      • Penny on February 23, 2014 at 9:33 pm

        Thank you, Leslie, for your encouragement. I am sending several women to your site. I am hoping to publish and then donate sale money to help abused women…..maybe we could work together on this at some point.
        I might self publish or send draft to Hay house.
        Connecting this way with women is so encouraging. I pray that your work and parts of mine….will help awareness and growth….for all. We are….can be empowered….through Jesus’ love….through each other.
        It is possible to break the abuse cycle….
        Thank you again for your teaching in this area!

    • Sandra on April 21, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Penny, thank you for this encouragement. My husband of 57 years left our home last fall, but is begging to return, even threatening suicide to our daughters. He keep sending notes and voice mail to me saying he still loves me and that we need to “save our marriage.” He has never asked for forgiveness regarding his verbal abuse and desertion, but keeps blaming me for “hating” him. I don’t hate him, but do feel pity for his lost state. However, I can never live with him again, and praise the Lord for the His peace and the freedom I now have to serve Him. With love & prayers

  6. Bonnie on February 19, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Wow, this one really spoke to me, thank you to both the writer and to Leslie for her response. My situation is different. I am staying with my alcoholic husband and trying to apply the “if you stay, stay well” mindset. I also believe he is a narcissist and struggles with depression and other mental health issues. Whenever he starts blaming or baiting me into an argument I remind myself that he is sick and that I can choose to respond differently, that I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to, and that I can speak my peace. Unfortunately, I am plagued with guilt. My husband guilts me because I don’t trust him, because I don’t have intimate relations with him, etc.
    I know that when I feel guilt, I am falling away from God and not trusting Him. I find that I start believing my husband and beating myself up for not being the perfect wife despite his behavior. I am involved in a few different support groups and I also know that when I start struggling with God’s will for my life and what He wants for me, I start isolating myself and not reaching out to my supportive friends. When I isolate, I start stewing in all that negativity and believe my husband’s lies about how the downward spiral of our marriage is more my fault than his and that I am incapable of forgiving him.

    I love the fact that I have learned to reach out to others and find support during this difficult time in my marriage. If it hadn’t been for these hard times, I wouldn’t have found the support that I have now. I don’t know yet if I am going to stay or go but I do know that I pray every day for God’s guidance, for Him to speak wisdom to me, and for Him to plant my feet on the solid ground that I need to stay strong and connected to Him.

    • Laura on February 20, 2014 at 10:17 am

      God is an awesome God. Just last week i was lead to this web-site by a pastoral counselors recommendation. I read and watched ever available resource that was available here to help me understand better why I left an emotionally destructive marriage. I realized things are in God’s time and not mine and was struck with the fact that this blog descriptively spoke my story and provided the peace and solace of heart and mind that I so deperately needed to hear. The eloquent mastery of explanation eased my soul and showed me all the pain and suffering I’d carried in accordance with quilt can no longer be identified with. My life has been difficult inside and outside of the marriage and all that has saved me is the Lord.

      I would like to share that since I’ve reached out for support from other Christians with humility and love, I have received and been given a greater lot of guidance and remarkable tools to live the FRUITS of the SPIRIT than I’d have ever imagined possible. Ask and you shall receive! AMEN

  7. tawnya on February 19, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Hi, I too had guilt. I have been gone for almost 5 yrs now. I took every bible study group, every 40 week counseling with women and men in church, only to find the try harder mentality. About 8 mths from my leave a group came into our church called lifeskillssandiego.com they are a 30 week program on dv and healing, making sense of the crazy. I found my patterns in why i pick men like this and this was finally a class in getting to the root. No more try harder books and pray with women groups. I hit the nugget, the stuff people dont want to address in church, and why they cant because there uneducated on the definition of abuse.. I was able to be taken down my timeline from birth on and saw my parents and all the failure they set me up for to be conditioned to be hit and verbaly abused.My heart always yearned for better but i was a child in an adult body that was not allowed to tell you no or i feel uncomfortable with those actions your taking.I was groomed to shut up and groomed to explode when my boundaries were crossed.I was never taught fair fighting rules and ‘I’ statements . I was not taught what to look for when change needed to occur in myself or my partners.The more I went to church I just strived to hold myself better and go inward only to sicken my body and spirit, crippling me as a mom of 4. I said enough one day and walked away from 5000, for 6 yrs steady.. growing up on wel fare money this man was my hero, but was my abuser everyday.I settled for him saying ”dont bite the hand that feeds you” and I would shut up and jump to orders, to lose a house, car and a debt card was crippling to me, especially from me coming from lil money and getting to go to restaurants and not burger king.I was on drugs at 11 and sold my body early from what I learned on how to survive..I was so tired 2 kids and yearned for a prince to save me and give my kids a dad.I chose out of lack of knowledge, lack of value, and lack of support.I was getting groomed by a women who was asked to leave our church because she was advising ladies to get divorced.She had info and advice that only one could hear if you knew this was destructive and not just disappointing.She had invited me to a 8 week course, I was still in the home and was desperate for someone that i could just tell the truth to. I sat week after week listening to women in the same kind of marriage and they were, 10,15,20,25, 30,33 yrs in them, trying to get more tools to be a fantasy wife..I could no longer go home and sleep, I was heavy burdened and being abused by the day..keys taken, debt card taken, water thrown in face while in bed, I was hiding my purse and because of my fear I could not find it, I had brain fog! He would tell the kids to tell mom to be nice and maybe you can go to the park today My son said mom why cant you just be quiet so we can leave.. That was it…..The dumb tax was paid by the women in the group and by my daily egg shells and stomach pains that hit an hr before he came home each day. I knew and i couldnt go back into denial and I knew no one would believe me because it was verbal and silent stuff. So I did not do the plan of getting money together and so on.. I said hell no I dont care what it takes my God did not die an awful death to have me under this.And left the next day, to only come to get 1000 dollars for 5 people no house, no car, and me applying for shelters.That is when the GUILT set in and I said what have I done. I said God you lied and I think you went to sleep, he got everything and i’m suffering.. We did suffer BUT WE WERE SUFFERING WAY MORE THERE! I had to fight day and night in my spirit man to not give up 4 kids no family around and GOD sent in a person with a trailer til i had enough for an apartment, then the LIFESKILLS class to keep me from going back , I had way to much info and fear of God and today beautiful women.. Im free . My core is being worked on daily and my children got to see a cycle get broken. This women told me all along the way they just need to see one parent modeling it…one parent fighting for recovery since we as adults are responsible to do that.I am there point of refrence, and I could not make excuses because they are just well planned lies, to not serve my kids well! That meant war for me, no buying clothes, no movies,while we had tons of money before we had to get creative and let me tell you..I collected cans for my class fee.. how far would i go to pay and invest in myself for this..we invest everyday in things I have no regret, my kids are healthy and emotionally connected because lifeskills groomed me for that. Leslie is a wonderful resource.. top notch!And I read her stuff with my class to stay forward thinking…BEST PART LADIES.. ”THESE WERE PATTERNS, AND PATTERNS CAN BE UNLEARNED AND RESHAPED! BY THE BLOOD!!!! Lifeskillsinternational is all over the us if your interested check them out! I dont know , all I know is since going I have come out of arrested development and rewire the brain with new patterns and ways and MY GOD HAS BLOWN MY MIND I NEVER THOUGHT YOU COME BACK FROM THIS TRAUMA AND IF YOU DID I WAS JUST GRATEFUL BACK THEN TO EAT AND SLEEP.. BUT GOD SAID LET ME SHOW YOU WHO I SET YOU UP TO BE BY DESIGN AND NOT DEFAULT! GET GROOMED LADIES WE ARE MEANT FOR GREAT THINGS! YOUR PAIN HAS PURPOSE DONT WASTE YOUR TRIALS!I WISH I COULD SHOW YOU A PICTURE OF US, BECAUSE I STILL FREAK OUT IN AWH ALL THE TIME OF WERE THE GOD I SERVE HAS TAKEN ME!!!!!!!!

    • Cyndy on February 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      YES!! Thank you, Tawnya for sharing and reminding us that it’s worth it– and that our Daddy God CAN DO IT FOR US AND IN US!!! 🙂

      • tawnya on February 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm


    • stacy on February 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Thank YOU for sharing your story, It was so easy to read, I could feel your enthusiasm and heeling through your words! I resonate with them also and hope it will inspire others!

      • tawnya on February 21, 2014 at 9:36 pm

        Stacy, May you have great peace, hope and endurance in your journey! IN JESUS NAME AMEN!

  8. Megan on February 19, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    This was really tough for me to read. When I read the question by the hurting woman, I don’t see any bitterness. I see exhaustion and (possibly?) false guilt. There is such a thing. Telling a victim that she needs to get a change of heart in order for her marriage to work makes no sense in the emotionally abusive marriage. I have spoken with many women who cannot even find time to pray because they are followed around the house and forced to listen to verbal and emotional abuse. The darkness that a woman in which this woman lives is often impenetrable. She could very well already be pretty convinced that the failure of the marriage is her fault. This sentence right here:

    “I feel like I have sacrificed so much of my life and my children’s lives that he doesn’t deserve any more chances.”

    . . . tells me that she already is highly sensitive to feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders . . . most likely she struggles with false guilt. Only Christ can be the sacrifice for her husband. Not herself and her children.

    I have always loved your posts, Leslie, but this was disturbing to me. 🙁

    • Leslie Vernick on February 20, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Megan, I don’t disagree with you but I am given such limited perspective into what’s really going on in a person’s short question I wanted to cover both bases which I tried to do in the short blog. Yes she may be experiencing false guilt – probably is. Yes she is exhausted and tired, but from my vantage point there could have been more. It felt to me like she was seeing God as a God who wanted her to stay, who wanted her to put up with it, who wanted her to try harder and she just didn’t want to anymore and that’s why she felt guilty. I wanted her to see her God differently. That God was for her and not against her and that God cared about her safety and sanity and that he only wanted her good. That’s why I talked about her guilt also being an alarm bell that something may be off in her relationship or picture of God. I work with women day in and day out with these issues and have found that to be true many times, so I didn’t want to neglect that angle.

  9. Brenda on February 20, 2014 at 2:00 am

    “I can’t continue to pretend that things are fine and what you do doesn’t deeply harm me and the children.”

    This statement is so important and I have said pretty much the exact statement to X on several occasions. Even after I left he said terrible things about me and my now adult children and then still said I love and care about you and them. It got to the point where I said enough, you can’t have it both ways. You can either love us or you can continue on the way you are. I had to be firm about not having contact with him at all other than one last financial situation that has to be resolved.

    We didn’t really have arguments. He yelled and accused me of having other men, threw things, hit walls. I stayed mute. After the first time he said these things and I responded, what more was there to say. It wasn’t true and I wasn’t going to defend myself every time he got this way. He would say we should just get a divorce. I heard that so often that I began to agree. Years ago, I would tell him, “Why, because we had a fight.” That was after he threw a glass at me while I was sitting against the wall on the bed. It shattered and glass was all over me and around me. He never had to hit me to put great fear in me. But there never was a fight. He was really battling himself. It was his issue and I still have no idea why. He says he has decided that he doesn’t need counseling, he never hit or hurt me and it is all my problem.

    On my end there was a lot of guilt for wanting to leave. I thought, like others, that I should just submit and take it. At the same time I thought, I cannot be a wife to this man. Intimacy was painful emotionally and physically and eventually non-existent. So that was another thing that made him angry. I felt shame for not wanting him, but I couldn’t pretend to want someone who would treat me like this year after year just because he had the title of “husband”. According to him he never took any vows, so I guess he was never really my husband anyways.

    God has been good to me. He has supplied all of my needs. I no longer feel guilty about leaving X. He did all he could to make me want to leave. After I left, he did everything he could to make me not want to go back. I feel safe.

    I have, however, in the past month had the opportunity to speak to single Christian men. Nothing personal. We talk about Christian music mostly and they have been brief conversations. But it feels awkward, like I am doing something wrong even though I am divorced. I’m not interested in having a relationship, but I shouldn’t have to feel like I am committing adultery by speaking to another man. I have to stop allowing what X has said to me to keep me from living.

  10. Barbara Roberts on February 20, 2014 at 2:23 am

    I would like to address the lady who wrote this question to Leslie.

    Dear sister and fellow survivor of domestic abuse,
    You said to Leslie “”If there is any hope that my marriage can be saved then I should be willing, right?”

    If there is any hope that your marriage can be saved, God in his omniscience knows that, but you in your finiteness are likely to not have any knowledge of it. That is no fault of yours, and no slight upon you. We are His creatures, and we are not omniscient and he does not always let us in on what he is going to do (or not do) in our lives.

    If God *were* to miraculously work a miracle of repentance, genuine reformation and sanctification in your husband (which He could do just as easily if you were separated and/or divorced as if you remain living with this man, because God is sovereign) — then, and only then, you would know for sure that your abuser had truly changed.
    I suggest that only then would you be likely to feel the desire to continue or resume the marriage, because he would be really a changed man and would be someone you DESIRED to be with because he was kind, respectful, honest, non-manipulative, gentle, trustworthy, faithful, and making reparation as appropriate for all the harm he caused you when he was abusing you. (All that is assuming you had not remarried, which I believe you would have the right to do if you divorce him as things stand currently.) Please see my book Not Under Bondage for scriptural grounds for remarriage after divorce.

    If that were to happen, if your husband were to truly reforme, I think that you might find you were willing to consider living with him as his wife. But why hold yourself over a barrel by expecting yourself to have such willingness when he is NOT changed and when he is showing no signs of changing — and when you are so exhausted and depleted and at the end of your tether because of all his abuse? I think you are making a wrong conclusion when you tell yourself that you ‘should be willing’ while your husband is still being patently and determinedly UNwiiling to live with you in an understanding way as a husband should live with his wife. (1 Peter 3:7)

    I personally believe that the ‘should’ word is the ***S*** word for Christians. We use it far too often; and as victims of abuse we tend to crucify ourselves by ‘should-ing’ on ourselves.

    Hope this helps.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 20, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Excellent point Barbara and the SHOULD word is a ball and chain for many people because they don’t feel free to explore what they do feel, only what they SHOULD or SHOULD NOT feel or do. However, guilt is also a warning bell that something else may be amiss and that is the other aspect I tried to address in my blog. It may be true, it may not be true for her but I wanted her to consider it as well as other women in this community who struggle with guilt.

    • Cyndy on February 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you, Barbara!! You said “… why hold yourself over a barrel by expecting yourself to have such willingness when he is NOT changed and when he is showing no signs of changing…”. I was sharing my story over lunch a few weeks ago with an older woman in our church who had been through two bad marriages, one which was very abusive. At the end of our time, she began to pray for my husband– for restoration in him, for healing in his heart,etc. I became VERY anxious. When she was finished I tearfully expressed my anxiety to her because I felt the pressure to agree and be willing to see his heart change and the logical conclusion–go back to him. “No, Cyndy, that is not what I meant by that prayer. I believe God wants us to pray for our enemies, that He wants to do a redeeming work in their hearts, but that doesn’t mean you have to go back to him.” I came away with a new appreciation of my position as I pursue divorce, and a freedom from the “shoulds” that is allowing me to pray for my husband without fear that God is going to require me to go back to him, who, at this point, is VERY unrepentant. I have a couple of prayer-warrior friends who are expecting God to change my husband’s heart somewhere down the line, but at the same time are very supportive and on board with my decision to divorce him based on his present actions and attitudes. So, all I know for SURE is what God is leading me to do right now, where my heart is right now, and where my husband’s heart is right now. THAT is all I am accountable for. I have to continually put the unknown future into HIS hands!

  11. Andrea on February 20, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Thank you Thank you Thank you! For the question AND the answer! This sounds so much like where I was. I finally made a decision, but still feel guilt about it–especially when people around me pass their judgments and negative opinions . . . .

  12. Julie Anne on February 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Leslie:

    It’s interesting how we can read one thing and interpret it differently. Here’s my take:

    It seems like the wife asking the question is feeling guilty for this:

    My husband isn’t physically abusive and therefore I’ve always felt like I need to suck it up and be a good godly wife for my husband and 3 kids.

    Where does this guilt come from? I think it comes from wrong teachings at church that say that women must stay with abusive spouses. It seems like she is feeling guilty about making a choice to be free from emotional abuse. The church has been very damaging in this area by interpreting scripture as saying divorce is only allowed for adultery and abandonment by unsaved spouse. These are very narrow interpretations and if you’ve been taught this your whole life, you will feel guilty for making a decision that goes against what you’ve been taught.

    Frankly, when reading it again, I think she’s asking you, “are you sure it’s okay for me to make a permanent decision about my marriage, i.e., divorce?”

    • Leslie Vernick on February 20, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks Julie Anne, that’s why I invite my readers to share their perspective. I personally had a lot of guilt over teachings from the church that were oppressive – even when I started to work professionally and all my friends were homeschooling moms or stay at home moms the guilt was strong. However it’s important that women (or men) not allow another person to decide for them what God says. We can influence and share our perspectives about what we think the Bible says but as you can see from this blog, we do not all agree. Therefore, I do not want to be the person someone asks if it’s okay for them to get a divorce. I am just one fallible, human being who can be wrong and I do not know the story of this woman’s life from a paragraph or two. It is God she needs to ask and that’s who I was pointing her to. I just want her to know that I don’t believe God says she can’t.

      • Mary on February 20, 2014 at 3:18 pm

        We all here know the churches have been damaging in interpretation of scripture for only adultery and abandonment by an unsaved spouse. My question on this through research I’ve been doing is this…..can a habitual abuser who professes Christianity be a true follower of Christ and still be a abuser? All sites I’ve read when scripture is quoted use the scriptures in being an unbeliever when abuse is prevalent whether a proclaimed Christian or not. Whether the person was saved at one time or really never saved in the first place, they are not a Christian anymore by their continual bad fruits. In the ideas of the churches and pastors who lead them, this would follow under their two reason narrow rules, adultery or abandonment by an unbeliever. Abandonment while still living in the same house is quite prevalent. I was abandoned emotionally, spiritually, and financially with him still in the home. This opinion may give clarity to some like me, who only looked at the two reason rule when I was praying in a divorce or not. Taking in this knowledge and understanding that one who continually abuses AFTER having the knowledge of Jesus as a Christian, may not be a Christian after all and fall under the “unbeliever” category for some here to make a individual spiritual decision without guilt. What is your comment on this please.?

        • Julie Anne on February 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm

          I’m not Leslie, but how can an abuser who is in chronic sin, shows no sorrow or repentance for his abuse, claim to be a Believer. This to me sounds like the classical Pharisee that we read so much in Scripture. What did Christ think of Pharisees? Did He call them Believers?

          • Leslie Vernick on February 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

            It doesn’t only sound like a Pharisee who believed they were okay by doing good works. It sounds more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing to me. Wayne Grudam, the author of Systematic Theology says this. “A long-term pattern of increasing disobedience to Christ should be taken as evidence to doubt that the person in question is really a Christian at all.”

          • Mary on February 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm

            And the thing is my ex said to me 3 weeks ago in the last e-mail I allowed until I blocked him and am now No Contact said “I’ve asked Jesus to forgive you for not telling me from the separation till the divorce what was all the hidden things that you didn’t let me know and also to forgive me. I’ve asked for forgiveness for my mistakes to. He has and I’m in peace now” REALLY is it that easy to just have a “Maya Copa” Where’s the remorse and true repentance? Where’s all the guidelines that Barbara Roberts, Lundy Bandcroft and Lesley give along with what the scriptures instruct us to do? Oh if it was only that easy but no, it takes real work and that everyone, is where the true figurative heart shows its change and remorse. He knew about all things for 23 years so this was another ploy on his part to take the spiritual 5th and “not know anything, then no responsibility” Thank you for these responses. My ex’s church didn’t put him out after having all this knowledge. They allow him to stay so he’ll continue to go and hopefully change. They do see him for what he is and is a loving church. He abused me for 23 years! The funny thing is he left that church as he said they didn’t understand what he’d come out of in the cult he’d been in for 40 years. More excuses and no accountability. I was in there with him and lost my son to it. I still took my own accountability for this to my family and God. My psycho therapist I met yesterday for the first time who is also a pastoral counselor and teacher of a pastoral group to instruct others said “He is a wolf in sheeps clothing, the Pharisees were the same way, and he equated my individual circumstances and what I endured myself as similar emotionally to the horrific situation in Cleveland Ohio with the three girls and Ariel Castro. He’s right and I just sobbed and sobbed in my pain…remembering “my Christian” husband and the love, support and truth I gave him and still have for him though we are divorced….by him. Professed Christian from him for 45 years as he speaks in churches about doctrine of this cult but doesn’t have the Law of Love from Jesus at all. “you know a person by their fruits” I’m sickened and hurt beyond words and oh the betrayal I feel oh my!!! God Bless all of you.

    • Laura on February 20, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Julie Anne,

      Remakably the sentence you quoted from the writer could have been written by me in 1994 after my third child was born. I married in 1981, and knew I was certainly emotionally abused from the start but more clearly then; and I still didn’t move to God’s calloing. I had many heart to hearts with the Lord but always bowed to guilt from scriptural interpretation on divorcing. The really ironic thing is three members of the clergy advised me that I was being abused after I payed recordings of commom talk my husband used against me. Even the facts of people validating the cruelty of his words kept me doubting. The problem was I am a fallible human being too…just as Leslie responded in regard to herself.

      Fortunately I had an epiphany and saw my husband was not my god or a god. He repeatedly told me I would not survive without him. I will say the last three and a half years have been a struggle, but have taken me to serve God’s purpose for my life. He is the only infallible being and His grace and mercy have worked miracles in my life. Life is still difficult as a 57 year old trying to get a college degree in Social Work to help others, but I am praising the Lord that He put me through my life struggles in a position to be His hands upon this earth. Human Services and yoga are pursuits I have because God has placed me there from experience. I am working in course required internships with both depressed by living through the pain of DV and personal grief but now see the pure wisdom of God’s leading. By going against what I was afraid to accept …Letting go and Letting GOD… I have learned divorce was not only ok it is santified daily by God’s stamp of approval.

      • Julie Anne on February 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm

        Good for you, Laura. I admire you for being able to break free, “letting go and letting God.” You are an encouragement to me.

  13. Lisa on February 20, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    “Why are you downcast, Oh my soul?” This is why I read Leslie’s blog. You know, I was always taught that David was saying his soul was wrong to be downcast. It was very condemning stuff for a woman in an abusive marriage who had just lost a baby and her house to her porn addicted husband’s financial misdeeds. I was taught that being depressed was a sin. But David is just asking. What a great revelation.

    I am very encouraged by this post. Just today I saw my situation clearly and no longer have guilt or fear about leaving my passive aggressive (2nd) husband. I have been so mired in what living with him has done to my self-esteem and in all of the losses, and the Christians telling me that “marriage isn’t for happiness, it’s for sanctification” and that if I obey and trust God He will heal my marriage (and if I don’t, He won’t) that I could hardly find myself under all that weight. It does feel weird to feel free and not guilty and ready to take control of how my life will be spent and my health (at least take the control from this man) and give it back to God, who I am pretty sure wants me to honor who he made me to be. I wondered if I had snapped or become a Narcissist. What a relief to see that I will be making choices from a healthy place if I make them from this place. Thanks Leslie.

    • tawnya on February 21, 2014 at 3:01 am


      • Lisa on February 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

        Thank you Tawnya. Your story was so inspiring and I prayed for you. I will start with a separation with some serious boundaries and see how it goes, all the while moving forward for myself. The good thing is I know it is going to work out either way. I pray it works out for you and your children and that you a blessed abundantly!

        • tawnya on February 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm

          Lisa your awareness is half the battle!! I pray dear sister that you get focused on your core and stay focused on learning skill sets so you can navigate these waters with eyes and ears to see! YOU ARE SO WORTH THE INVESTMENT!!!

  14. Brenda on February 20, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Christians telling me that “marriage isn’t for happiness, it’s for sanctification” and that if I obey and trust God He will heal my marriage (and if I don’t, He won’t)

    This struck me Lisa. If they are using your marriage not healing as a trust issue, are they also condemning those who get cancer or like me MS? Did I get this because I didn’t obey or trust God. That way of thinking makes no sense. Marriage should be happy, at least most of the time. I don’t think God has a problem with people being happy in their marriage. I also don’t think God has a problem with us being happy in our singleness.

  15. Cyndy on February 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Yay for you, Lisa!!! I’ve been at that turning point and know how a whole new LIFE opens up to you!! It encouraged me for others I know who aren’t there yet, when I read your post! Thank you– and don’t look back! 🙂

  16. Alene on February 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks to all your ladies…I found so much encouragement in affirming truth in all your words; I sat here jotting many phrases down. I felt like I was living under a bushel…but I was also choosing that. I isolated myself…and I was struggling with God’s will and shoulds. I think tools for growth as a wife and prayer are helpful but in a destructive not just disappointing marriage (telling myself the truth of what it has been) they are not enough (and they aren’t good when used just to support a fantasy wife idea). I loved this “my God did not die an awful death to have me live like this” so speaking up is important, setting standards then like Paul says, if you listen deeply as he discusses marraige with an unbelieving spouse, they can choose to dwell with that or not. There is hope in the words “my children got to see the cycle broken” (though this is slow going for me) and it only takes one parent to model it. I can’t pretend things are fine and what he does doesn’t deeply harm me and the children….even though it is hard to gain strength to skill to say it clearly. I didn’t move to God’s calling; I can think of just such a time in a big way as well as in smaller ways because of the guilt, fear, shoulds…I am so appreciating the affirmation and words to walk stronger.

    • tawnya on February 21, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Alene, you are stronger than you think! God has awoken your spirit to see. He is leading you to the milk and honey. Please invest in yourself and get into a support group, stay focused and know God is in the recycling business! God I mute the enemy and his works and effects. May you bring great seasoned ladies to walk and talk your love and truth next to all of us.! Thank you Lord in advance for your victory in her life and every women here that is asking , seeking and knocking for your will.Lord may above all you would laser and down load copy and paste your truth of our identity and value so we will walk it out daily for your glory!may there spirits be filled with a new wind a new desire and hope to wage this war in Jesus name AMEN

  17. Cyndy on February 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Tawnya, you have a GIFT!! Thank you for using it on this blog!! I think a lot of us have been SUPER-inspired, and en-COURAGEd!!
    Multiplied blessings back to you! 🙂

  18. Robin on February 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    WHAT DO I DO WITH MY GUILT?? well, for 30 plus yrs I felt guilty. Guilty for not being a good enough Godly wife, for not pleasing my husband, for never having a great marriage.
    Then I invested in weekly counseling for 14 months, wanting with all my heart, to find the answers. Guess what??
    I did find them. There would never be ENOUGH I could do, to stop feeling guilty as long as my thinking was so erroneous. My counselor and the Lord did a renewing of all I had been taught, and I started down a new road to freedom. It is not easy, to know which people to listen too and believe and trust. I found out my counselor provided a safe place for me to hear from the Lord. One teaching at a time, started revealing the lies I had listened too and received. A month ago, I broke free. I got a restraining order against my abusive spouse, went away for a few wks, and walked towards my new life. I gave my husband plenty of opportunities to go towards healing and changing into the man, God would desire for him to be. There was no change. So I dropped the guilt, and asked Jesus to lead the way …. It is about 5 wks since I’ve left. In dropping that misguided guilt- I am walking in Joy, Freedom, and Abundance. I am surrounded by many good supportive and wise leaders in our community. My husband has raised up against me, and took 3 of our 4 children with him. No worries. No guilt. Jesus has a plan for my escape and redemption from abuse. I pray for all of you, that are still in abusive situations, you will leave the guilt behind, and know it is for freedom——- HE HAS SET US FREE….

    • Mary on February 23, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Oh Robin
      I wish I could feel the way you do! I want to but I’m so distraught I can’t. I pray all the time and Jesus got me out of my 23 year severely abusive marriage. I am divorced 2 months now as I left and he filed. I can’t get him off my mind and what he’s doing to me since the divorce. The betrayal is HUGE for me. I NEVER saw him doing all the hateful stuff he’s doing to me now. This after professing 45 years of being a Christian. I’m at a loss. I feel so hopeless and want to just not wake up.” Come Lord Jesus quickly”
      It’s terrible. I was a loyal, loving Christian wife. he has 2 personality disorders and is bad. I hope Jesus comes to me and “talks “with me. Love all here

      • stacy on February 24, 2014 at 9:13 pm

        Mary, A friend who had been through similar circumstances to mine and yours suggested I look at it like this: All the terrible stuff he is doing validates everything you finally figured out about him. Take it as validation that getting out was the RIGHT thing to do. No doubts with that type of behavior, right? My husband is posting pity parties on facebook and going for half of my retirement after he “wasted” his own with no regard for my opinion. Even though we have no money or no house and are in bankruptcy he hired a lawyer and so I ended up having to hire a lawyer (thanks to generous relative).
        Please get a counselor and they will help you to start seeing yourself as free of this ‘dead weight’ as my lawyer said. A counselor can help you thrive and enjoy your life, you deserve it after all of this time! Dont give up now, THE WORST IS OVER! Look back at what you made it through and rejoice, you lived through it and you are strong! It took courage to do what you did! You made it. You have a wonderful life ahead of you! I wish we could all take a vacation together and meet each other and have one big HAPPY party! I’ll be praying for you!

      • Robin on February 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm

        Mary, probably none of us are going to have alike experiences. We’ve all had different reasons for going the direction we have. I lived in an extremely abusive relationship for 32 yrs. By the time I found the counselor I have now, I was desperate to find help. I went into intense counseling weekly, and was very focused on doing all I needed to do, to find my answers. I would like to encourage you, if you could send more info. If you were in a destructive relationship for many yrs, and praying to get out, what is causing you now to be distraught. Maybe you weren’t ready for a divorce?? Im sorry you feel so hopeless. God does have answers for you. Do you have a counselor?? Do you have a good support base?? Is your Pastor available to help? I am praying for you. I am so sorry for your pain……

  19. Brenda on February 23, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    That is wonderful to hear. He has set us free. I am not clear whether or not your children are grown or not. I pray that either way, their eyes will be open and relationship will be restored with them. We have a wonderful God.

  20. Anna on February 23, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    At any point did anyone feel as though their prayers and cries didn’t make it past the ceiling? And while you might have gone to your pastor, you couldn’t because he is your husband? Who do you turn to then?

    • Leslie Vernick on February 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Anna, Does your husband report to an elder board? Do you think they would hear you? Friends, let’s pray for Anna, she needs the gathering of believers to support her.

      • Donna on February 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

        I’m new to this blog, but I want to thank all of you for your honesty and courage. I’m in Anna’s shoes. My husband is/was an associate pastor and the senior pastor’s wife once told me, “if you would just respect your husband everything would be alright”. Even though I knew that wasn’t true, it’s a hard saying to wear.
        I’m back in counseling, again. After spending time on this blog and watching Leslie’s videos, I’m finally coming to grips with the depths of the emotional abuse I’ve suffered.
        Please pray for many of us who are pastor’s wives and find ourselves caught in no man’s land….or, so it seems.

        • Leslie Vernick on February 24, 2014 at 6:47 pm

          Lois Evans has a ministry to pastors wives (Tony Evan’s wife). She and I talked at a conference about the isolation that pastor’s wives feel in this situation and I believe she would be a good resource. I can’t put my finger on her website right now but if you google it it probably will come up. I’ll search for it over the weekend if you can’t find it.

          • Donna on February 24, 2014 at 8:01 pm

            I found the website. It is for Senior Pastor’s wives only.

        • stacy on February 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm

          I believe you can call Focus on the Family and they have free online counseling center. One of the counselors goes to my church and has been of help to me, when my husband was threatening to leave regularly he told me to tell him “ok, go ahead and leave” They have lots of experience with these issues because they get calls from everywhere.I copied this from their web site. When I have called before I never had to leave a message. I hope it helps.

          To reach Focus on the Family’s counseling service by phone, call 1-800-A-Family (232-6459) weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor or chaplain to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you.

    • Mary on February 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      You are in my prayers as I know your feeling other than not a husband who is the pastor. I feel my prayers are not heard and I’m languishing in doubt and despair. How much more to take. God knows though.

  21. Anna on February 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I just learned of this blog yesterday from a friend. While reading the question and various comments, I felt as though it was my life on display, the one no one is ever supposed to know about. As for the elder board, not really sure they would be much help. However, reading these posts you realize there is hope. Thank you.

  22. Brenda on February 24, 2014 at 4:56 am


    I haven’t had this experience. What about a pastor at another church? Do you have elders at your church that you can trust? Maybe a Christian counselor? I have just prayed for you and will continue.

    • Donna on February 24, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      The problem with trusting leadership in your church is the great possibility of getting burned. I tried this in a church where we had served for 25 years. The outcome was that my husband was fired after his one and only “well deserved sabbatical”. Of course, during this time our marriage was doing well.
      I have been blessed with some extraordinarily faithful women from that church who continue to bless my life and thy know the depths of my struggles.

  23. Howard on February 25, 2014 at 7:15 am

    I was just reading the blog and replies and realized the view points are all from women. Not sure if it is by design but I thought I try if a man’s point of view will be welcomed.

    My loving wife (now my ex loving wife) accused me for being emotional abuse her and have followed the steps all the way to divorce. I have admitted my actions toward her needs to change but she insisted I have other hidden issues I need to deal with and she just can’t trust me anymore.

    What I want to say is the husband is not perfect. If the guilt is moving you toward reconciliation, you need to consider that seriously. Our heart tends to deceive us (men and women)especially when we are hurt but God’s word is never wrong. God designed the family so he wants a healthy family, not a divorced one.

    Wives are not perfect either. We can see Eve was the one that was deceived. The spirit of Jazebel is in the Bible to warn us a person can become just like that. I see a lot of woman biblical character as example of treatment and I think we have to give equal weight to both side of the issue.

    Having say that, husbands can be ignored easily by the wives and the hurting words can come from the result of the deteriorating relationship. This is not to give husband the right to do wrong. Often they are victim of emotional abuse just as the wives. Husbands are victim of silent treatments, lack of communication and unwillingness to be forgiven. If wives set the bar so high, the divorce is only option.

    So when there is guilt of any kind, we need to seek the Lord and confess.

    Hope my reply helps instead of creating confusion.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 26, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Howard sometimes our guilt is not from God, it is from false standards that other people put on us For example, many women feel “guilty” when they say “No” I don’t want to do that. They are told they are selfish, uncaring, uncooperative. They feel guilty. But is the guilt something they should as forgiveness for or is the guilt coming because they are living by someone’s rules that they are never allowed to say no or disagree or have a different opinion. God never told a woman or a man they can’t say no. In fact Jesus often said no to people. Therefore as my writing says, guilt is a warning bell to self examine and talk to God. Where is the guilt coming from? If it’s coming from the Holy Spirit – then yes, repentance and humility are in order because we have violated God’s standards. But if not, then we need to recognize that our guilt is not appropriate and that we are bowing to someone else’s standards and not God’s.

      You’re also right that a woman is not sinless and at times, reacts sinfully to her husband’s behavior. Mostly women are on this blog because my book was written for women (although I have other books, such as How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship) which are written for either gender. However, when we’re talking about abusive/destructive behavior in marriage we’re not just talking about two sinners who mutually sin against one another. We’re talking about a pattern of behavior that regularly dominates, deceives, disrespects, diminishes, degrades and dismisses his or her spouse. That is not just sinful, it is abusive.

  24. Howard on February 25, 2014 at 7:29 am

    The spirit of Jezebel in both men and women:

    1. They gain power by diminishing others. It is causes them a rush “win” over someone. They manage to get in positions of authority, and are difficult to displace, once there.

    2. They are controlling, manipulative, bossy. Often passive aggressive.

    3. They can either be war-like in their personalities, so that they are intimidating, or so sweet, timid, charming and charismatic, they are able to fool and recruit others to join them.

    4. The spirit is critical of others, vicious to the point of blood thirsty as to reveal weaknesses.

    5. They are never wrong in their own eyes; they are unable to apologize.

    6. They recruit others to rally behind their charges against their victims. They act to persuade recruits, and do not give up this activity until the recruits are won over. If the potential recruits do not cooperate and accept their position they will grow angry.

    7. They are by nature narcissistic. While they tend to be oversensitive, they have no concern for the feelings of others. They are not sympathetic about their victims, and tend to play the role of victim themselves, in order to gain sympathy. This way the real victim is left stranded, and opposed by others if they ask for help. Being the center of attention really pleases them.

    8. They lie, and they believe their own lie. Avoiding the truth, or intentionally acting to withhold truth is part of a false picture presented to others.

    9. Impulsive, disorganized, failure to plan ahead. Life is often chaotic and family in their care is in disarray.

    10. The have a lack of remorse after hurting someone. They can justify the harm and remain smug about their victory.

    11. They prove to be consistent irresponsibility, unpunctual, undependable. Will make rash promises, but cannot be trusted to fulfill.

    12. They often express irritability, aggressiveness (open or subtle), and can be quick tempered.

    13. This person is an “outlier” or non-conformist, they have their own ways.

    14. Psychological counseling will not help, since they deny their condition.

    15. They may claim religious sentiments, but are found very superficial in spiritual disciplines. Places emphasis on emotions over depth of condition.
    16. These women tend to control their men with sex. And they pick passive men (Ahab’s) so they can dominate them.

    17. They are usually married but often end up divorced. They may entertain affairs. If single, can be bisexual or promiscuous.

    May the Lord help us examine our hearts with honesty.

    • Addie on March 3, 2014 at 1:55 am

      Sounds like the most perfect description of my husband that I’ve ever read!!! God began to show me who he really is deep down and it took me 7 years to hear Him because of all the teachings of the church as was mentioned above, ie ‘God hates divorce, no way out unless there’s adultery or abandoment, etc.’ I had a “Biblical” counselor tell me that this was my cross to bear – until my husband showed just a small amount of his anger in a session, then he seemed to start believing me a little bit more. I have struggled with guilt, and I will call it “false guilt” because that is what it is! It’s like Leslie said, it is guilt because of what I grew up hearing taught all my life in the church. Over the last few years I have seen several links to some excellent articles on this blog! I have read the book, “Divorce, A Gift of God’s Love” by Walter Callison. I have come to realize that what the church teaches that the Bible says is really not so cut and dry as they say it is! God showed me that He did not like how my husband was treating me at all. I had a hard time believing Him because of all the church had taught me. I felt like the church taught that God only cared about marriages – not the people in them. So sad! And so not true! Leslie’s Book, “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship,” the “Boundries” books and “Safe People” by Cloud and Townsend,and last but one of the best “Fool-Proofing Your Life,” have helped me so very much! God also showed me to start keeping a notebook to write down the “craziness” scenes right after they happened and to date them. This was for myself to go back and read when I am feeling guilty and like I should have tried harder to make our marriage work. For years I told myself that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill, and I would also not be able to remember things that happened because I would unconsciously block things out of my mind. I tried for 29 years and went through several marriage counselors that he always quit for one reason or another. We’ve been separated for 2 years now, and like some of the above messages state, it has helped me have time to heal and to think more clearly with being out of the chaos. We are now in the divorce process. Every step is painful, difficult and I need to always take every thought captive and bring it into obedience of Christ, which many times means fighting guilt with truth! He was getting more abusive and more out of touch with reality as he got older. I had hoped and prayed he’d get better with time. All I can do at this point is daily seek to walk with God and to entrust my husband into His almighty hands. I still love my husband and probably always will but realize that it is very destructive for my children and I to live with him and financially disastrous to stay married to him. I am assured that God does not want us to live with him either and He has showed Himself strong on our behalf in many different ways that He has provided for us! I am now in a Divorce Care group and the support with people who understand is very healing. I know I still have a ways to go in the healing process, and maybe in some areas I never will on this side of heaven but I know God loves me and He doesn’t take kindly to people mistreating His children!

      • Julie on March 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm

        Wow Addie! Another story…SO much like mine. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m just starting to read Leslie’s blog. I didn’t know this was here! God showed me. I need these reassuring letters SO much! Blessings, J

      • Wilma on March 23, 2015 at 1:01 pm

        I am new to this blog and I feel like God has led me to Leslie and now to this amazing blog. I have felt so alone for so long feeling that on one would understand. This blog is truly a blessing to me. I just figured out that the reason I have felt depressed and sad during most of my marriage is because of the emotional abuse. I could not admit that, it sounds so awful. I too was raised in a legalistic church and my dad was and still is very strict and old fashioned, so divorce is not an option in his eyes. I have wanted out of this marriage for years, but the guilt was so overwhelming, I just felt that this was my choice for a husband and I have to suck it up and live with it. I feel like my husband felt the same, I would never divorce because I was a Christian. He never attended church with me, until I asked for a divorce last summer. Now he goes to church, talks to the pastor, attends Bible studies and tries to do all the right things. I feel like he is grasping at anything and this will make me change my mind. I don’t love him anymore, we have lived like roommates for at least 5 yrs and he is fine with this, I am not. The guilt of how my dad feels about divorce, how my kids will feel, and now the associate Pastor trying to get us to work it out is making things worse for me. It took me so long to get the courage up to tell him I want a divorce and he went to my Pastor without talking to me first and told him I asked for a divorce. I wrote him a letter a second time explaining my feelings, because when I talk to him I feel he doesn’t get it and he sent the letter to my Pastor and associate Pastor. He says he didn’t know how to respond. I was livid that he kept getting them involved without my consent. Now that he goes to church, he is trying to look like the good christian man. The associate Pastor responded saying that I’m not trying to work it out. When I said in the letter I want peace and to be happy, this is what the associate Pastors response was “Does God want us to be happy? Actually, our happiness is not a top priority for Him since the way we define happiness is by having the circumstances of life go the way we selfishly want them to. No, God is much more interested in us being holy which often is depending on Christ”. He sent me another random email making me feel guilty, yet again. He is only hearing one side and I know what I’ve been through. The guilt from all sides keeps holding me back from moving forward to living a happy and Christ-filled life. I ask for prayers as I go forward and talk to my husband again about our seperation.

    • Jody on March 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      I am curious as to where this list came from, it sounds familiar, like from a book or article but not necessarily from the Bible. It sounds like a definition of a narcissist or arrogant person or a controller, or several lists compiled together. Did the writer come up with it on his own, and what kind of person, exactly, is it describing?

      • Leslie Vernick on March 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        Good question

  25. Anna on February 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Brenda, thank you.

  26. Brenda on March 3, 2014 at 8:35 am


    I don’t think we ever completely heal. We are fallible human beings. We can forgive, but forgetting just isn’t going to happen. We love that small side of our former spouses that was cute, adorable and once in a while even almost loving. That part will be in my heart forever. The rest I have had to work on forgiving and move on. But for the most part, the sweet part is not who they really were or are. It was a facade, a mirage. I have only been divorced a few months, but a burden,a weight has been lifted. Joy has replaced fear. Finding truth in who I am in God’s eyes has replaced the lies that I will never be good enough and everything that has happened to me in my life is my fault. It isn’t.

    You are completely right: God doesn’t take kindly to those who mitreat his children!! I am glad thankful that I know that now.

  27. Addie on March 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Thank you for your post! You summed it up so beautifully! It is really hard to know what to do (even mentally) with the parts of my husband that seems sweet. Like you said I know it’s a mirage and even when I was enjoying his good moods I know that they weren’t real and certainly wouldn’t last. I think that because they are all that kept me going in my marriage for so long that I held on to them so tightly and made them so much bigger that they really were. I formed such a habit that I easily slip into it now. Then I have to do battle in my mind all over again and remind myself what his actions have been and how he treated me and my kids.

    I’m so glad to hear encouragement from the other side (of divorce)! I am in the process and it is hard!!! So glad to hear the joy has replaced fear and a burden has been has been lifted for you! I too am seeking the truth of who I am in God’s eyes and the plan He has for me! I am asking Him for healing that only He can bring!

    Bless you!

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