We’ve had some great discussion this week about whether or not a person in an emotionally destructive marriage has biblical grounds for separation. Instead of tackling a new question this week, I want to continue this dialogue because it is so crucial not only to individuals in destructive marriages, but also to those in the church who advise them.
I also want to encourage you to watch this week’s video on my home page called, “When Trying Harder Becomes Destructive” which goes along nicely with this discussion.
We’d all like to categorize things in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, biblical and unbiblical but I don’t think things are always so clear. James 3:2 tells us that we all stumble in many ways. Husbands lie sometimes. Wives lie sometimes. Husbands say and do hurtful things, so do wives. In some marriages there may be a swat, a slap, a yank or a pinch in a moment of anger or frustration. So what I want is for us to dialogue and biblically think through three questions: I’ll get the discussion started but we all need one another’s input.
1. Does the Bible say physical abuse is worse than emotional abuse?
2. Are these sinful behaviors grounds for separation in marriage?
3. If so, when are these things grounds for a separation or even divorce?
First, does the Bible differentiate between physical abuse and emotional abuse? In this past week’s blog discussion there seemed to be more empathy and biblical permission for a wife to separate if her husband is beating her with his fists but not if he’s crushing her spirit with his words. One woman wrote me privately and said, “My pastor said emotional abuse is too fuzzy to allow for separation. Physical abuse would be clear, but emotional abuse isn’t.”
Yet, God’s word clearly has much to say for the victims of verbal and emotional cruelty. See my video on What is Emotional Abuse for verses that support God’s care for the emotionally abused person.
Research on those who have suffered with chronic emotional abuse show that it can be far more harmful to someone’s long term health than physical abuse can be. Physical injuries heal. Wounds to one’s soul and spirit are longer lasting and usually more damaging. Why do we tell a woman or man who is being emotionally abused that they must stay in the marriage because being pummeled by words is not serious enough to justify a biblical separation yet if this same person were being regularly pummeled by fists, or stabbed by their spouse, most pastors and church leaders would not only allow a biblical separation, they’d advise it.
God’s word says it best. “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18) and “Who can bear a crushed spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14). When someone is stabbed with a sword or knife, it leads to grave and often fatal injuries. The Bible says the impact of reckless words is like being stabbed and is just as injurious as physical abuse.
Second, is abuse ever grounds for separation or divorce? There seems to be some fuzziness on the meaning of covenant as well as the oft misquoted passage in Malachi about divorce. Some here have referenced Barbara Robert’s book, Not Under Bondage which is excellent. She says, “God did not say “I hate divorce”, nor did he condemn all divorce. We should therefore stop using the slogan ‘God hates divorce'. If we still need a slogan, it would be better to say, ‘God hates treacherous divorce, but he does not hate disciplinary divorce’.” In other words her extensive research shows that there are biblical grounds for divorce and one of them is abuse.
Marital covenant has also been assumed to be a unilateral, one sided covenant but Biblical scholars do not indicate this. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary says, “The essence of covenant is to be found in a particular kind of relationship between persons. Mutual obligations characterize that kind of relationship. Thus a covenant relationship is not merely a mutual acquaintance but a commitment to responsibility and action. A key word in Scripture to describe that commitment is ‘faithfulness,’ acted out in a context of abiding friendship… To appreciate the many OT laws on marriage and divorce, one must understand that marriage itself was a covenant relationship. The solemn promises exchanged by a man and a woman became their covenant obligations. Faithfulness to those promises brought marital blessing (Psalm 128; Proverbs 18:22); violation brought a curse.”
In another source, various types of covenants are explained. According to OT scholar J. Barton Payne, marriage is a parity covenant. A parity covenant is a contract between equal parties – an agreement entered into that includes promises to each other. Each party was expected to keep his or her promises and to be loyal to the covenant, but sometimes that didn’t happen. And when it didn’t, the covenant was broken, considered null and void. Severe consequences could follow one breaking his covenant agreement. That’s what God hated in Malachi, husband’s breaking their covenant agreement for trivial reasons.
Last, when is the line crossed? When is abusive behavior biblical grounds for separation or divorce? Most people would allow infidelity as biblical grounds for divorce, yet not all marriages that suffer infidelity should end in divorce. When there has been repentance sought and forgiveness granted, I have seen many marriages healed and restored. That brings great joy and glory to God. Just because one has biblical grounds does not mean one should pursue separation or divorce.
Each story is unique. Each person who has been grievously sinned against will need to wrestle with the impact that the abuse is having on your body, your soul and your spirit as well as your children. Therefore you will need to pray and ask God two crucial questions: 1. Is it best for me and my children to leave or to stay? It is biblical to be a good steward of your physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, sexual and financial health. 2. Is it best for my spouse for me to leave or to stay? What is his greatest need right now and how can I meet it? Is it best for him to remain blind to his sin, unrepentant and unwilling to repair the damage he’s done? Or is it more loving to leave (or enact church discipline, or tell someone) letting him know that you will no longer enable his sin against you to continue without consequence.
As you grow and pray and seek wise counsel, hopefully you make the decision you do because you believe it is God’s will and the most loving thing you can do for yourself, your children and your spouse.
Oswald Chambers writes: “To choose to suffer means there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.”
Please know whatever choice you make, whether you stay, whether you separate, or whether you divorce, be prepared for more suffering and grief ahead. Your decision will bring challenges and criticism for those who think you are making the wrong choice. Your choice will bring opportunities for growth as well as temptations to sin. Knowing that these stumbling blocks and stepping stones are ahead of you will keep your eyes open so that you can be more vigilant over your heart and mind.
Choose God, not suffering and he will instruct you and counsel you in the way you should go. (Psalm 32:8).
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Thank you so much for writing this blog, this is an issue I’m finding is hugely misunderstood in our churches today. I have separated from my husband, and I have often been asked the question “well, has he actually hit you?”. I am sure the people asking this question are well intentioned, but they are only adding salt to the gaping wound in my soul, no he has not physically hurt me but he has demeaned and damaged every part of my heart to the point of my body continually getting physically sick from the exhaustion of dealing with it every day.
When I made the decision to separate it was after focusing on changing myself for over a year, and I finally had peace from God that it was time for me to leave. Not only for my own safety but also because it was time to stop allowing my husband to continually sin against me. I finally realized it was not in God’s plan for my husband to abuse, and it is ok to allow him to face the consequences of his own actions and decisions.
I think every person needs to make this decision for themselves and only after a LOT of prayer and wise Godly counsel. Godly counsel is so important, as that decision needs to be made with the right heart and the right goals in mind. I am very thankful the Lord led me to Leslie’s books in order to get my mindset straight before leaving, I can now be confident that I have done (and continue to do) what I could for my marriage and I have not sinned in how or why I left. God is still working on me, but I am so thankful to be away from the daily poison that is my marriage.
Thanks for these thought provoking blogs.
I also enjoyed “Who has the final say?”, and thinking of that and the marriage vows, which vow is more important….wife promising to obey, or husband promising to cherish? It’s interesting to read of the “parity covenant”, therefor it should be equal. Yet, like physical abuse is more “clear”, I think husbands see a wife’s “disobedience” more clearly than his lack of “cherishing” her. I wonder if some don’t even know the meaning of the word “cherish”. (my son asked my husband once, and he didn’t have an answer)
You are so correct. My husband always points out my “disobedience” by his perceived notion that I am not being submissive enough. But, if I was to question whether he was “cherishing” me or being loving, it would go right back to me being disobedient. It is such an ugly cycle.
Sounds familiar, Michelle…
My husband actually told me one time (while I was crying because of another episode of his dishonesty, anger, and calloused indifference )… after asking him if he thought he was upholding his vows to love, honor, and cherish me? — His answer: “Quit asking me what I vowed and focus on what you vowed: To love me for better or for worse.”….
So, you have to keep up your end and he doesn’t? That sounds a lot like John Piper’s book “This Momentary Marriage”. According to him, it doesn’t matter what your spouse does as long as you do your half the right way. That book was taught in my church and is very popular. No where in the book is abuse addressed. It is very sad that many people will remain silent due to books like that and churches supporting those ideas.
I think there is wisdom in keeping up your end even if he doesn’t but that doesn’t make a good or godly marriage. It just keeps you from stooping to the destructive person’s level. When one repeatedly breaks the covenant the marriage relationship is broken. In my book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong I say, what looks like the right behaviors in one marriage would absolutely be the wrong behaviors in another. That’s why it’s so important that we not take a cookie cutter biblical counseling approach to these very difficult marital problems. They can cause much more pain and heartache and enable sin to flourish.
I have read all of your books Ms Leslie. They were a huge help to me during the past couple of years before I separated. In a good marriage you would expect there to be times where one or the other is not acting right. The other person does need to maintain and not allow it to bring them into the pit. There is something to be said about waiting for the spouse to calm down and then discuss the issue and realize you will not always agree and don’t have to. My objection to Piper’s book is there was no reference to there ever being a time when enough is enough. His theory is that if you are in Christ you can handle anything. And although that is true, God may not expect you to continue in that situation until death. There are many instances in God’s Word where he allowed people to let the chains be left behind. He will give us strength to endure wherever he puts us. We are all assigned to this world as we are passing through on our way to meet Him, but sometimes, even in marriage God allows reassignment. John Piper and too many others would not agree with that.
I got the same response from my husband when I tried to point out what scripture states about marriage and the responsibilities he promised to uphold. His irrational response is that I am judging him. No! God’s Word judges him. That was my response. There is no way to make sense of how they “reason” things out. My husband’s main tactic is to shout above anything I try to say so that he doesn’t hear it. His anger is his main weapon. And then he has the audacity to tell one of our counselors that I have the anger problem. He’s in total confusion and denial! I have been separated from him for about 4 months and we have no contact at all. He’s puffing in his corner of retreat and is certain that he is totally right in every way. My sadness is for his soul. The fruits of his life are not clear evidence that he’s even a Christian, yet he professes to be and claims he fasts and prays. There’s just no way to communicate with these guys! Only God can drive the right message home to them if He so chooses. That is all I pray for now—-that God will choose to straighten him out!
Peg I couldn’t agree with you more. You’ve said everything here in this post that I’ve experienced. Mine always said he’s a christian but, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He spoke ALOT and it wasn’t in the spirit of love and kindness. You’re right God can and will drive the right message home to them if He chooses and straighten them out. Remember also God is not going to go against their free will. They have to want to come to Him also. People can choose a direction contrary to God’s will and He won’t deny them there choice. That’s why this can be difficultfor the ones left behind watching all of this. I so feel for you as I’m feeling the same.
So much of what you have said feels healthy, both spiritually and emotionally. Thank you for your insight! Seeking God’s will!
I really needed this article. I stayed for way too long(21 years) in an abusive relationship with a husband who was physically abusive, though he was very careful to never hit me, but rather restrain me, lock me in rooms, pick the locks and come in after me if I tried to hide behind locked doors, not allow me to use the bathroom, chase me, lock me in the garage, take or threaten to take my keys, or hang on the door of the vehicle if I tried to get away. He was also mentally, verbally, emotionally, sexually, financially, and spiritually abusive. My church pressured me to stay and just “try harder”. I thought God hated divorce and would punish me if I left.
I struggled with why it didn’t seem to matter to my church or to God why all of the different abuses my husband heaped on me didn’t matter…just as long as he didn’t hit me. But he was physically abusing my children, punching, kicking, throwing, along with verbally and emotionally abusing them.
By the time I finally got up the courage to leave,despite my husband’s threats and my own fears, my children had been begging me to leave him. The only thing keeping me from driving into a tree, rather than go home, was I knew I could not leave my children.
I have felt at peace between God and I about our separation. We have been separated for a year. Despite all his promises of change, there has been none. I am now at peace pursuing a divorce. I realized a while ago, that I have been at peace about it between God and I for quite some time. I have stayed married to my abuser in order to make other people happy. No more. I only have to answer to God. I have to believe that the same God who sent His Son to die for me and to save my soul, does not condone nor expect me to stay in a marriage where my soul is being destroyed. Not to mention the souls of my children.
The two last questions in the article really struck me. Is separation/divorce the best thing for myself and my children? Having been separated for a year, I can unequivocally, without question, with a resounding “YES”, say this is the best for us. The difference in our home, in my children, and in my soul does not allow for any other answer. None of my children want us to return to him.
The second question was even more striking to me. Is it the best for my abusive husband? Again, without question, I know it is. I am not enabling the sin between him and God to continue, allowing him to escape consequences God has been trying to put in place. He is even a better dad to the kids when he only has to see them for a couple of hours every couple of weeks. We are not constantly fighting, so that also must be better for his own emotional well-being. While he would deny it, I absolutely know that it is also the best thing for him.
I really appreciate how this article put so many of the very things I’ve wrestled with in perspective. I wish I had this years ago. I might have saved us all immeasurable heartache.
Leslie thank you can’t come close to how grateful I am for you and the work you are doing here. It is true that no matter what choice you make there will be challenges ahead. One of the hardest obstacles to overcome is people’s criticism. Everyone seems to have an opinion about these matters. Until you’ve walked through the valley with difficult people you can’t even begin to comprehend the insanity. Every choice brings a host of consequences. I used to think the problems I was experiencing were unique. After reading the comments from your readers I realize it is happening all over and inside the church. There seems to be a pattern of behavior here. Hopefully church leaders will wake up and tread lightly as they council the wounded.
Wow! What a well thought out clear directive on things to consider when considering separation. I am at a stage in my marriage where I am strongly considering the course of separation. I have tried everything from couples counseling to an intensive in-house 30 day treatment center for my husband’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and while I do see improvement it is not enough to allow for me to heal from the abuse I’ve endured for years and years. Every time his NPD comes back into the picture and we have an “episode” of him cornering me and screaming at me my walls of resentment go higher and higher. The path we are on now will surely lead to divorce. If we can separate for a period of time and we can work on our issues individually (his extreme selfishness and my resentment) I think we might have a chance to have a happy marriage again. But as things are, I cannot heal with his suppressive presence in my life. I’m getting great resistance from most of the “church” people I know. They have made an idol out of my marriage by putting the state of my marriage above the well-being of the people in my family (myself, my husband and my two small boys), and that causes me great distress to know that I have very little support outside of my family. I spend most of every day in tears. I’m having trouble holding down my job (I am the only bread-winner as my husband refuses to work) and my kids are dependent on me to provide for them. It has all become too much for me to handle.
Oh sweet Becca,
I can so relate to your story but found as I held tightly to Gods hand on this most devastating journey, there were many others in the very same situation as me and we have been an invaluable support to each other. As you open the door of your story just a crack you will immediately know idiot the person you are sharing with has an understanding and can hold your precious story carefully. On the other hand you will almost immediately know if they hold animosity toward you taking a stand for what is right in your situation. My advice would be to share carefully until you have a supportive community of people who love you. Find a support group even in your area, just hearing the story of others helps. I believe God will show us each and every step we need to take if we continually seek him, and Leslie is so, so accurate when she talks about leaving can also be a path of suffering in doing Gods will. I 100% agree that if we are suffering it must be because we are following him. I pray God will bless you with the loving support of his people and great discernment of his will.
Never mind that you don’t have a lot of people to support you. (Besides you have us on this blog, right?!) Although it can be lonely, this is your time to really take God at his word and trust him. This may be the most wonderful season of your life in a long time. I have a dear friend, who decades ago, had to flee with her 9yr old son to another state where she didn’t know anyone,in order to escape from her mentally ill husband. She is now 75 & says it was the sweetest season of her life with the Lord. For 7 yrs her bills were always more than what she made yet He provided for them. She says she never had the utilities shut off, never went hungry, and always had what they needed.
Ask the Lord for a few verses to meditate on. And then quote them when you’re doing the dishes or driving. Renew your thinking. Just as He did it for my friend , and even me now, He WILL see you through!
Thank you leslie for calming things down and puttinh things back into perspective. It is odd that some people think that we are arguing that God doesnt want our marriages to work. That is not at all how I feel. I know God would love our marriages all to work . But to work two people have to both work on it. I have set boundries and if my husband wants to live in peace with me while getting help then great (he has not gotten help yet). When I started setting boundries it felti better than any tactic I have tried before. The calm peace from God fell on me. I know this for God keeps me in check to walk in love. This love means setting clear boundries. And these boundries are unique to your situation. We are apparently still coming out of the dark ages so to speak on this issue. Even though america is better than most countries the church needs to deal with this. I feel that is why the divorce rate is high in church also. The abusers ARE NOT confronted. Their acts of humbleness only displayed on Sunday are believed by the pastors that the are a good guy and it must just be an emotional wife. I love Christs church and will not stop trying to bring light to this.
I agree. I for one needed to be calmed down after last weeks posts. Along with everyone else on this site wanted my marriage to work. This was not the choice I wanted. Although I was the one who left, my husband was never really in the marriage. Sign the paper and have a slave for live was about what it amounted to. I have been gone for over 2 months. The verbal abuse has not stopped. It was still happening this morning and then he asks if I want him out of my life. My response was that I am not at a point to answer that question and he is not at a point to be asking…ask me in a year. He has seen 2 counselors in the past 2 weeks. If he doesn’t stay in counseling there is no chance at all. I have also made it clear that transparency will be required later down the line so that I will know that he has actually been working on the issues that count for me and will change what needs to be in him. I don’t believe he sees this in his best interest.
Stand strong! Good boundaries are not easy. But you are doing good to set boundaries. I hope he really gets help, even if he doesn’t think he needs it. Do you have support? ((Hugs))
Thank you for the hugs, Loretta!! I am seeing a Christian counselor. I started seeing her several months before I left. I am starting to have more up days than down. I got the Notice of Hearing today for the divorce–that gave me probably more joy than it should. I honestly believe that the Lord was healing me even before I left. I believe the Lord is ok with my decision even though many people are not. Outside of my counselor I don’t have anyone locally that is supportive. Some who say nothing at all or who are praying for us to get back together. That is no longer my prayer. I am moving on. My support system is primarily those who frequent this website and A Cry for Justice. I believe the Lord has lead me here. My earthly family all live far away, but my Spiritual family is only a few mouse strokes away. Brenda
In my marriage of 38 years, the more I tried the worse the verbal and emotional abuse got. My husband was a minister and I knew if I said anything it would destroy his ministry, so I kept quite afraid of God’s wrath if “I” destroyed the ministry. It never occurred to me HE was destroying his ministry and marriage. Eventually he destroyed his ministry and left the pastorate. I lived through hell for many years afraid of God and him. It was only after years of Christian counseling that I stood up to him and threatened to call the police (even though I was shaking inside), that he sought help for himself. That boundary was a turning point in our marriage. Someone observing our marriage told me “you keep trying to be what he wants and he keeps raising the bar.” No matter what I did it was never enough because the problem was never about me, it was his issues but I didn’t know that. Now he admits that he was very emotionally and verbally abusive and would have been physically abusive except I told him there would be no second chances if he hit me. My church pushed me to say and please him and criticized me for not being enough as a wife.
It is so amazing that no one seems to look at the portion of the vow of “loving the wife”, it’s all about us meeting their need. A very one-sided marriage that doesn’t work or bring true intimacy! I wish I’d have had help years before, instead of being a pleaser, I’ve have set boundaries and we both would have been better off, gotten help sooner, maybe have more years that were good. I still have to work at keeping up the boundaries when the old emotional tantrums happen. If I stand up and say no politely, don’t get emotional, just state facts and stay calm, he calms down and thinks things through and it works out. It’s so easy when a husband is throwing an emotional tantrum to give in to him to get him to calm down, but that just gives him a form of manipulation and control.
I also struggle as my husband is trying to change because the memories of so much emotional abuse trigger when he lapses. I know he’s different now, but I have to retrain my brain to remember he’s trying and doing much better most the time, because I tend to think negatively about him, and expect his problem behavior and that’s not what I want. I want to live with good boundaries, expecting him to be a Godly man, so my expectations help encourage him on his new path. If he messes up at all, I go back to the “bad guy” thinking. God is working in us both, but it’s so challenging! I wish we would have separated for a time and both got help, and then slowly rebuilt a relationship on healthy grounds.
Thank you Leslie for your blog, your advice, and your insight. I’ve pre-ordered the book and look forward to new insights. I hope to gain new insights, become stronger and be able to encourage other wives going through abuse.
Your post hits home for me. I am separated now for almost 2 months and my husband has made a lot of changes. He is really a different man now but the “bad guy” thinking is very hard to untrain from your brain. Especially when you’ve been through this cycle of change more than once in a 25 year relationship, and the change has never been lasting. I’d love, love, love more posts here about what to do once he DOES start to make the needed changes! I felt very supported through the process of defining the V&E abuse patterns and even through the choice to separate for the purpose of reconciliation. But now, we are separated. We are going to counseling. We both have accountability partners. We are going on weekly dates and truly falling in love all over again. But I am very uncertain about trusting my feelings about when it is time to go back so I don’t interrupt the work God is doing in him, and me! Praying and seeking Him, and learning to trust my own intuition, but still conflicted.
Barbara, I’d encourage you to watch my video’s for the next 3 weeks on what does it take for genuine healing to take place in a destructive marriage. That will give you a road map so to speak to understand the progress you’re making and how to watch out for the pitfalls. I also outline it in my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope which will be released very soon.
I am so thankful to have found you all. I am seperated from my husband for almost a month. Since I left, his anger is worse. He says he is going to anger management and seeing a counselor but I don’t know if he really is. I do not here from him much at all. When he does call it ends up being very upsetting. I am struggling with how much contact I have with him. If days go by without a word, I feel I should be contacting him. I refrain but it is not easy and I struggle if I am right or wrong to not contact him even though I know it is best for me if I don’t.I feel scared when I dont hear from him and wonder what he is up to and when I hear from him it is very disheartening. He called last night to tell me how much I am financially causing a burden on him because I am no longer contributing to our household bills. The house is in his name, his finances have never been disclosed to me. He told me how much I needed to pay without showing me the bills etc after me continuing to ask him to show me. His reply was always verbally abusive. I am in financial devastation due to paying what he said and when I tell him the way this was set up was wrong,his anger escalates. He says I am trying to take him when in realty I have put myself in an extremely vulnerable situation. When I tried to tell him this last night he called me a moth…fu…The call before that he said his jewelry is missing and wanted to come and look for it! His behavior seems crazier than ever. Please pray for me to have wisdom and to find peace in the times that he does not call instead of thinking I am supposed to be doing something to help him see the truth. My prayers are with all of you too.
I am right there with you. I have been separated for a little over 2 months and initially the anger, rage and threats were unbelievable. The words that came out of a man who is now claiming to be a follower or Christ were/are unbelievable. Every few days there is another blow up followed by a period of I love you’s and other hog wash. The blow up’s tell me all I need to know. I paid the bills in the house, but he spent and then I had to worry how to pay and usually didn’t bother to tell me that he had spent the money. I would ask about the credit card bills and his response was “I work too you know”. Neither one of us makes a large salary, but most of our marriage I made more and allowed to spend less. The one time that he did make more than me, he suddenly wanted to split the bills 50/50. After a couple of years, he let his temper get him fired. Amazingly, the tune changed. He didn’t want to split the bills 50/50 anymore. It was all “our” money.
I used to think that I could help or change my husband. The more I tried to “help” my husband to see the truth the further he was from it. It is not possible to help them see truth. Only God can change them and only if they want it. You are blessed when he is not calling. Enjoy it!! I have not had one day that my soon to be ex hasn’t called and/or emailed. If I don’t respond, it gets worse, but so be it. I will not conform to his will. I will pray for you and all of my Sisters on this site. Brenda
From reading this post, I would say that you and I think a lot alike. I have tried very hard (it’s a daily battle) to focus on MYSELF and MY OWN HEALING. I have discovered through our (now 2-month) separation that his verbal and emotional abuse was only half our problem. My co-dependency was the other half. I have been hearing about and not understanding the word co-dependency for years. Since I’ve gotten away from the daily battles with him, I have been able to focus on myself, my own needs, my own faults and weaknesses. I am amazed at how co-dependent I am.
I would say let God minister peace to your heart and mind when you don’t hear from him. ENJOY that time alone with just you and God. You need it! (I need it!) I don’t believe that YOU are supposed to be doing something to help him see the truth. If you are anything like me, it’s your efforts to do so (because you love him!) that have driven him farther and farther into the abuse cycle. I don’t believe God put us in our marriages to take His place. We are to support our husbands but GOD through Hid Holy Spirit, is the One who is supposed to reveal sin and convict. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten in God’s way by trying to show my husband what I’ve read in this book or another, or heard on one radio program or another. Men who struggle with verbal and emotional abuse (and certainly physical too) need help, but not from their wives. They simply cannot receive it from us no matter how well intentioned or well presented we make it.
There are two exceptions… 1) When we are in an emotionally healthy marriage, our husbands will desire that we mirror them to help them see how they come across to us and others. (We aren’t there right now.) And 2) our ACTIONS speak volumes. The Boundaries in Marriage book is a great one that helped me see how what I DO will speak to my husband more than what I SAY. So when we separated, we said “No more.” and when we focus on our OWN HEALING, we say “Let’s both look at ad let God heal ourselves, and then maybe we can come back together in a healthy relationship.” But that’s gonna take time. Trust has been destroyed over how many years? It can’t be rebuilt in a few weeks. We must be patient with ourselves and each other as God heals us both separately and then together if both people are willing to see the personal healing all the way through. My thoughts. I hope it helps! I covet your prayers for my husband and I too.
Thank you for writing this. I know this is a very under talked about subject. I feel the need to write here that in my situation I am the abuser. I say that with horrible shame and hurt as I really can still not completely understand the hurt I have caused my husband. I have repented to God and my husband and have asked for forgiveness. I am working hard on myself, my thought and prayer life especially right now. I am having a very difficult time accepting the ongoing consequences of how I’ve treated my husband over the 5 years we’ve been together. I have not found much support online in any form for the abuser who wants to change….desperately!
This is not the person I want to be…not how I want to make the love of my life feel, and definitely not how God wants me to be. I am thankful that God is using my husband to be an object of change in my life. I’m thankful that my husband did not continue to just suck it up and move forward. That being said, changing something like this is harder than I ever would have thought!
I would greatly appreciate prayers for my continued efforts to be the Godly wife I SO badly want to become. Furthermore, prayers for my husband as he has a good deal of healing to allow God to do for him.
I pray that somehow my post here is valuable in some way to someone. It is very difficult to admit something like this. I find it helpful to read comments like those above from the other side of the coin as a reminder of how hurtful and damaging my comments/attitudes have been.
Heather, thank you for courageously sharing that you are the abuser and it was only by your husband’s boundaries and implementing consequences have you begin to wake up. However you are right, awareness is still a long way from changing those behaviors. I’d encourage you to get some counseling for yourself to learn why you lose control of yourself and ways you can handle your emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt your spouse. I will have some resources on my website shortly for abusers to watch and work on but don’t have them quite ready yet.
Thank you, that would be greatly appreciated. I do have support from a church member who has been through a similar situation and has come through the other side still married. My husband has also been hooked up with a gentleman from our church who is trying to walk beside him through his part. We are both going to counseling also, together and separately. I have faith that God can heal our marriage and my husband says he does as well. For now, we are both dealing separately with our individual sides. My parents were a horrible example for me and I believe his were for him as well. Both sets of parents are divorced. I have learned my current pattern of interacting with my husband from my mother who learned it from her father, etc. The pattern stops here! I am determined to save my sons from having this unhealthy way of relating to their future wives. Thank you for anything you will be able to add to this site for the emotional abusers. Really, I am also the emotionally abused since this is what I was treated like by my mom and why I learned it and know no other way to communicate. So there is plenty on here already for me to start working through on that end of why I am this way.
Heather, I don’t have resources to recommend to you but I do endorse Leslie’s recommendation that you continue with counseling .. .that’s assuming the counselor is well aware of both the dynamics of abuse and how abusers can operate, and also how to heal the effects of trauma and being bad parented in childhood.
And I commend you for your honesty on this blog.
I know of one man who grew up in a very abusive household (in his case the father was the abuser and the mother was the victim) and he replicated his father’s behaviour in adulthood in young adulthood.
But after being arrested and mandated into a men’s behavior change program and doing that for YEARs (way longer than he was mandated to attend) he became a facilitator in the program…. then he became a Christian… then he married a Christian woman. … and then it became evident to both of them that he STILL had abusive attitudes that were affecting the marriage very badly. I guess this just goes to show that we can think we are okay but when we get married we find whether or not we are really that okay!
This man and his wife then separated and he went to an individual counselor who took him back into the trauma issues from his childhood where he really came to grips with all that pain and the mess it had caused in him; and eventually with the counselor’s guidance he and his wife reconciled and they now have a happy marriage. Truly happy. But it was a LONG haul.
Not telling you this to discourage you, but to affirm that it can be done, and that having the willingness to persevere and dig deep is an essential precondition, I would imagine, to getting fully healed — changing from a spouse abuser to someone who does not abuse their spouse.
Oh, I’ve just remembered one agency that runs programs for women who use abusive behaviours. It’s called ARMS.
I’m glad to see you on this site, Barbara and giving encouragement to a confessed abuser. First finding this site and Leslie’s books and then your book and ACFJ gave me the encouragement I needed to attempt to make changes in my marriage and when that didn’t work getting out of the marriage. I don’t believe anyone will have change without putting Christ in the middle of it and truly believing in his power in addition to much counseling. We are nothing without Him.
With Jesus working through people like you and Leslie change can be made in the Church.
Heather, check out the book by Beverly Engel called The Emotionally Abusive Relationship. How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing. Often the abused becomes the abuser. So it makes sense that if you were abused by your mom that you can carry that relationship into your marriage and become the abuser she was. Many churches offer SOZO – inner healing. Be sure to thoroughly investigate those churches for experience before getting involved but it could be instrumental in dealing with shame, fears, insecurities, etc that could be causing you to abuse. Beverly Engel wrote this book for the throngs of individuals coming through her practice that were being abused. IF I remember correctly, and I’m not sure I do since it has been a long time since I read her book, I thought I remember her writing it bc she realized she had narcissistic tendencies and had been an epiphany that she was an abuser.
You get a great pat on the back for just having self-awareness. Do you know what many of us would give just for our spouses to come to awareness? God gives us ALL grace. Take His grace and keep moving forward. Work on yourself, heal your wounds so your marriage can heal. I stand in agreement with you that you will heal. God will complete a good work he has started.
Beverly’s book is probably the only one where she addresses victim who is also abuser. I talk about that in my new book a bit too but understand Beverly’s book is not written from a Christian world view. That doesn’t mean it’s not helpful, it is, but understand where she is coming from.
Thank you very much for the support ladies. I struggle every day right now with the horrible distance that all this has created between my husband and I. It’s an awful feeling being so alone while in the room with someone you are bound too for a lifetime by a covenant you both made with God himself. I appreciate any and all support and encouragement I am getting here. I will certainly check out that book. Thank you for the recommendation. ~Heather
Heather, It took a lot of courage to open up here. My prayers are with you and your family.
It was very good of you to come here and write your words. In my experience this site and Leslie’s books, The Ultimatejournet.com, and Narcisismcured.com have made the most sense and helped a lot. Unfortunately, the church and the counselors did not. I pray that you continue on this path towards recovery and honesty. Coming here is a positive step. Perhaps when you mess up next time we can give you some suggestions for how things could have been handled differently. The beauty of this place is that you don’t have to make an appointment and wait a week to get answers. I hope we see many more Heather’s and Claudine’s on this site so that real change in our churches and in our hearts will take effect.
Thank you Leslie for your blog and education and for my sisters that have shared their stories. My last repy was a moment I was caught up in and did not address this weeks topic.I believe the time when a woman seperates and when the relationship has crossed the line is when you sense in your spirit, you must seperate in order to survive. No one ever wants to seperate, but there comes a time though that it is a matter of survival both physically and or emotionally. Both kinds of abuse are equally dangerous. Even if someone is not being abused at the hand of another, the emotional and or verbal abuse is as or more damaging. The bruises and scars are there, they are just hidden from sight. Inner wounds are just as painful and can be even more dibilitating. It is wrong for anyone to cast judgement on a woman for saving herself from this distruction, especially if she is also trying to mother innocent children. She should be protected and loved. God does not want our purpose here to be abused by anyone, especially someone we love and believed loved us. My moments of feeling scared I mentioned in the last reply happen when I start to take back the responsibilty to fix the marriage. That is what I am referring to when I speak of feeling I should be making contact or wondering what he is doing (like going to counseling etc) This happens when I take my eyes off Jesus. I start to worry that if my husbands actions are not showing change or desire to fix the marriage then nothing is going to get better or I sometimes feel the need to get through to him and make him see the truth. I am learning that in God’s hands, my life is going to get better and my life is the only one I have control over. We have been conditioned to keep worrying about our husbands and it is ok to be free from that bondage as well as the bondage of abuse. Only God can change them if they seek him. Thank God we have sought after the Lord and He is there to comfort and protect us.I am praying for all of you for continued strength and peace and so thankful there is help for those of us enduring this experience and for Leslie being the woman of God she is and advocating for safety and the rights of women who are seeking safety.
I am still having some issues within myself like you mentioned. Being separated with basically no communication lines has been a difficult pathway but a much needed one! I, like you, vascillate from being very strong one day and not being too concerned about what my spouse is doing and falling into that mode of thinking that I NEED to DO SOMETHING to get the truth through to him. And I’ve gone that route by giving him a book or by calling to discover what he might be doing toward reconciliation. I took some things of his down to his farm gate last week and I learned very quickly that the book has apparently made him angrier and he was much bolder in his attack! So, once again, I learn that I cannot do God’s work. I’m leaving it in God’s care and pray that God will forgive him and change his heart. Yes, our lives are the only ones we are responsible for. This is my second marriage. I had my children by my first husband and they are now grown. So, at least I do not have to be concerned about how this marriage is affecting others. Now that I have found this blog, I feel that I will be greatly strengthened by all of you! I thank God for pressing me forward to seek the help from many areas.
Leslie, I heard you on the Faith Radio Network this morning and just wanted to thank you for helping people understand that true love confronts evil behavior and is not ‘tolerant’ of that which harms people in light of eternity. The Church, for the most part, does not want to deal with Matthew 18 conflict resolution and thereby allows for people to suffer in their woundedness. Pastors must understand that being ‘peacemakers’ in the image of God is not being ‘peacekeepers’ at all costs,afraid to deal with real issues. David Augsburger’s book: “Caring Enough to Confront” made a huge impact on me. Only truth received has the ability to set free. Speaking the truth in love is the only way we will see maturity in the Body of Christ. We must make constructive confrontation to be seen as the true love. Thank you for your work.
Thanks for sharing Peter.
I love this, Peter!
Augsberger also has a great article called ‘The F Word — Forgiveness and its imitations.’
Thank you for posting this article and website. I am finding it a good resource.
I wanted to see if anyone has read “His Needs Her Needs”? My husband wants me to read this book he says it has changed him. But I don’t think so .I can’t trust him,years of verbal and mental abuse has taken it’s toll on my mind and an affair he will not admit to. I’m so tired ,he wont see what he has been doing. We went back to therapy on Wednesday .He lied ,lied & lied. after in the parking lot he told me I attacked him. I feel like I’m going crazy. The church therapist want’s us to give it 6 mounts.He told me I blow every thing out of porpotion.It us to be like everything was just an accident a bad day, or what ever. But for the last few years it been games,name calling he picks like a kid ,a bully .Will the book help me ,he doesn’t yell at me ,but somethings not right .every time I let my grade down he will ,blame me for something I have no control over.He thinks it’s ok.A man gave me a card last week at dinner ,I did not take it he put it on the table I was leaving it there had no need for it. When we got home my husband flipped out,You should not have even talked to him “my husband was right there talking also. I was told you should have gave the card back I never touched it ,it was on the table .So I’m disrespectful he just didn’t call me the names I was always called. In the therapist he was the victim. When is it time to stop trying .
I didn’t read the book but just looked it up online and read some excerpts from it. I don’t know how he translates the written word, but from what you have said about his behavior, I would say no it won’t help. This is a book that talks about small ways to make your a good relationship better and not get to the point where it is falling apart. Going the extra mile. The husband is asked to help with the dishes and he wipes off the countertops; the wife is asked to help him pack for a business trip and she adds a love note with a spray of her perfume on it. That was one example of making the relationship better, which is great for those who basically have a good marriage and just want it to be better. If you don’t have a good marriage I don’t see how this will help. If he is lying to the therapist, you’re doing these little things would be nice, but they are not going to make him stop calling you names and belittling you. He also has to be willing to do his part.
I read many books to gain perspective before I left. Some I agreed with and some I did not. They all helped me to gain perspective. After about a year of that I realized that nothing was going to make a difference except me. Leaving was the best decision for me. I was dying being with him. I feel alive again. Praise God.
Did the therapist tell you that you blow everything out of proportion? If so, how long were you seeing him/her before they made this announcement?
No my husband told me I blow everything out of proportion .I looked at the book in the same light as you ,my husband is a angel now.But what happens when it all comes back around again . we were told to make a list of exceptions.I really don’t have any and I feel bad it seems like he’s trying but I have been hear before .This time it’s different ,my feeling for him are not there I love him but something not there.It make’s me sad. He went Friday and put me back on the business banking account but not our house .I was so afraid of him last year I singed all of the paper work to remove my self. “Stupid” .I don’t care about the money I’ve had to take a part time job ,but I have it. Now he’s bring that up.I know what’s coming he’s going to tell me if I want to be a good wife I will leave it.I work with all men. at a tattoo studio,I know it sounds crazy.But God sent me that job I had no money and it came out of no ware .I’m the only believer and It’s strange I’ve never been around people that don’t believe in God. They except me. But I just wish God would blow the door open one day and teal me what to do.I pray and pray ,I know I have to make the move and it’s hard .I think it was easier when he was mean all the time to just get out.Thank You ! You
God has a purpose for us when he puts us places. He can bring others to Him through you and the people you work with and the clientelle are seeing God through you. God has given you comfort through having that job. He knows what tomorrow holds. Hang on to what he has given you. Your husband asking you to give up your job is his taking away your freedom, independance and a gift that God has given you.
Did your husband own the home, bought and paid for, before you were married? It may not even matter that your name is not on it, you could still be entitled to half its value in the laws eyes. I know it is not about the money,but you may need it in the future. God is providing for you.
I know you want God to blow the doors open. I wanted that too. He works more subtly than that. He works in giving you that job. He works through your prayers and the reading of his word. He is making a path even though you may not see it yet.
The honeymoon phase lasts for different durations of time, but the old man always comes back. You should not feel guilty for your feelings. Our feelings tell us when something is not right. They are a gift.
Thank You !
Sounds to me, from what you’ve said Annette, that it’s definitely time to stop trying, i.e., stop trying to do it the church counselor’s way or your husband’s way.
It sounds like that counselor doesn’t understand or believe that your husband is abusing you, and therefore that counselor will be worse than useless, their counseling could even make the marriage worse because they might be (unwittingly?) enabling and condoning your husband’s deceit and other abusive tactics.
If it was the counselor who said you are blowing things out of proportion, then the counselor is abusing you too! (But it may have been you husband who said that: I’m not clear what you meant.)
Regarding the book “His Needs Her Needs” we have a post about that at our blog A Cry For Justice. We do NOT recommend that book. Here is the post, it has 999 comments, which is quite a lot for our blog.
My husband is the one that made that comment.Thank you for your input on the book. I have not read it by looked it up. it’s not the issue for us. Thank You !
Here are some reviews of that book on “A Cry for Justice”
I hope they help you.
My Counselor calls that kind of behavior “crazy making behavior” when you have to do a sanity check. I’m going to unpack what he is doing to you:
About the biz card: Villifying the victim (you) and playing the victim (him).
You blow everything out of proportion: blame and shame
Name calling: devaluing, intimidation, disrespect
Blame you for something: covert intimidation – keeping you anxious always in a one down position.
Lying: well its lying but it is also probably “impression management”.
When dealing with someone who is covertly manipulative and I’m talking a little bit different than passive aggressive, they are constantly fighting you which is why you are probably exhausted. Only the victim usually doesn’t know they are in a battle all the while, the aggressor is so stealth that they are trying to overcome every resistance you give without letting you know they are conscienciously (how do you spell that word?!)employing a manipulation tactic to get their own way.
The problem in church is that we have all been taught to look our best, behave our best, and come acting as only Aunt So and So needs prayer while we are hemorraging inside and no one knows it and we wouldn’t dare act like the walking wounded. So abusers do the same thing. They are dedicated to impression management all the while they are beating the tar emotionally out of their spouses but one would never, ever know that this charmer is really not what he/she appears. Often abusers are so tied to their behavior that they literally need a break through just to see what they are doing.
This is one of my favorite prayers Eph 1:17-21 (inputting peoples name as I pray). Because if people get the revelation of who God is and what Jesus did for us, and they find out who they are in Christ, they have unlimited potential to be a reflection of Christ which is the image we were made in. When people have this revelation than abuse is eventually no longer a factor. Unfortunately, many do not want to give up being a king in their own kingdom.
Eph 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
Eph 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Eph 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
Eph 1:20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Only God can tell you when enough is enough and if you are strong enough you just arrest him in his behavior. That means knowing and understanding what boundaries are and standing firm. One day my husband was screaming in my face, slamming his hand down on the counter over something so stupid I can’t even remember. You know – one of those temper tantrums three olds throw. I simply looked at him and said, “I’m going over there, grabbing my purse and running some errands. If you have calmed down, we’ll discuss this later but otherwise I won’t be treated like this and I am leaving.” He just stood there and stared. I had a boundary of how I would be treated and acted on it. Eventually, I have left, separated, and we are headed for divorce. My mind and body were exhausted and falling apart. I kept saying Psalm 118:17 I will not die but live to declare the works of the Lord. I realized that even by having to say this over and over to survive the day, I needed to wake up and move on IF I had the provision too and God gave it to me so I did. Have I suffered since, yes. Is my financial situation less, yes. Have I started to heal, absolutely. Do I regret it, no, I have my mind back and my body is healing. It has come at a high cost but so would staying.
Oh ! I understand what you are saying, you know what I’m talking about.I’ve finely started setting the boundaries .It has been hard at 43 I never thought I would be hear.My prayer is for God to create in me the women he wants me to be.And give me to wisdom and strength to do what is best for not just me but for my husband,even if that means I am not in the pitcher .I feel good now but all of this is a war,a roller coaster ride and it has taken it’s toll on me.You never really understand what your living in until you tell other people and their shocked.They can’t believe what your saying. The Lord is slowly strengthening me and I see and know thing’s I never have before.I have been so afraid for so long.I live one day at a time,I have know expectations as to my marriage.I’m trusting God ,really He is truly all we have.My mother always said this to me and I never got it until now.I put this man in the place of God out of fear .My counselor told me I need to respect the husband role,I understand as to how God has set marriage up to be.But I’m having trouble with this.It’s the trust ,it just not there.Thank You!so much for your words .
This may help you to see what healthy behavior is (for you not your spouse): http://www.coda.org/tools4recovery/Patterns2-2011.htm
Focusing on the negative can make you bitter and depressed. This may help you to focus on what the “healthy” behavior is that you would like to make a lifestyle. You can only work on you not your husband.
You are to honor your husband but not honor terrorist activities. Do a word study on honor. Danny Silk wrote a book on the Culture of Honor. Jesus did not enable the Phariseeical system. He spoke truth when they were aggressive to him. You may not have the strength right now to stand firm. When declaring scripture there is much power in your speech if you are a believer and have the Holy Spirit in you. Scripture is living and breathing and a two edged sword. Here is an example of what I declare that strengthens my soul:
Jesus gives power to me & increases my strength
God will instruct and counsel me in the way I should go.
God gives me wisdom, knowledge & understanding.
My God supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
God hems me in. He is in front of me and behind me.
God has me under His wings and His angels guard me.
For MONTHS I prayed Psalm 70 & 71. I’ll include 70 but look up Psalm 71. It may give you comfort that God hears you and knows what is happening.
Psa 70:1 O God, hasten to deliver me; O LORD, hasten to my help!
Psa 70:2 Let those be ashamed and humiliated Who seek my life; Let those be turned back and dishonored Who delight in my hurt.
Psa 70:3 Let those be turned back because of their shame Who say, “Aha, aha!”
Psa 70:4 Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.”
Psa 70:5 But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.
Don’t ever pray the outcome you want. (Read Matthew Henry’s commentary for what I’m trying to say. http://biblehub.com/1_samuel/15-23.htm control is another word for rebellion) Pray God’s will and He will tell you what is right for your situation.
Also helpful is to pray Hebrews 4:13 asking God to lay bare the situation but always praying for God’s (not man’s, not your friend’s opinion) wisdom and His discernment with what to do with what you see.
Life and death is in the power of the tongue Prov 18:21. Rightly divide the Word. Use the Word to declare His provision over you. Praise Him. Take back your life.
Hang in there. YOU ARE THE DAUGHTER OF THE KING!
Luke 22:32 I pray your faith will not fail you.
God bless you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to put all of this here . I have saved it so I can go back to it.
I agree with Donna, I am so worn out and it has affected me mentally and pyh. I cannot be healthy in this marriage of 27 years anymore! All these posts resignate in my soul, all I want to do is cry…
Leslie, don’t publish this comment if you think I’m being too forward in mentioning my work on your blog, but I was interviewed recently by Mark Brown about the question “Does God Hate Divorce?” and the interview is on YouTube.
FYI, Mark Brown and his wife Christi run the FB page I Will Stand which is addressing domestic abuse within Christianity.
My new friend Barbara Roberts has written a book on divorce in cases of abuse and in the link above she is interviewed about the statement, God Hates Divorce. Does he? Check it out.
Leslie, I am so glad you and Barbara are working together. Between your books and blog and hers (ACFJ), I have found peace in leaving my marriage. It was to the point that the only reason I was staying was my standing with God. Through much reading, counseling and prayer I finally realized that my staying was only enabling my husband to continue in the sin of abuse. I no longer believe that adultery is the only reason for separating as the church would have me believe. I am learning to have discernment over what is being preached and what the Bible says in its entirety and not just one or 2 verses that prove one persons point of view. Thank you both for the work that you do.
A marriage covenant has vows, according to Scripture they should include faithfulness and physical and emotional support. When one party breaks a vow, the other party can declare the covenant void. However, there is also an aspect that we are all sinners and all of us need forgiveness and to forgive, so there is also the question on when is one to accept that the other party is not willing to change. Each situation is different, however one should realize ahead of time that a marriage counselor’s job will be to try to salvage the marriage and rarely will they give counsel that one party should divorce. It will be up to the injured party to decide.
I am SO grateful for the ministry and insight God has given you. I was in an emotionally destructive relationship for over 20 years. My now “EX” husband had many qualities that I admired, loved and now miss. However, he also lived in a cycle that wreaked havoc on my heart. Although he has not ever been officially diagnosed, our counselors felt strongly he had either Narcisstic Personality Disorder or Borderline PD and sexual addiction. Although I didn’t realize at the time, his cycles were emotionally abusive to me. I experienced repeated rages, abandonment and unfaithfulness with long seasons of remorse and attempts to repair in between. I still grieve the loss of a marriage, a whole family for my son, dreams and purpose we had together.
But, I also rejoice in a now healthier life for myself and my son. I am deeply grateful for the healing and understanding that have come, unfortunately, through painful circumstances. Much of that came through your insight. It helped me to see thatwhat we had was NOT a whole family as desperately as I prayed for it to be so. Your book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship was like my bible for two years when the ground imploded underneath me and I was grasping desperately for my bearings. It offered truth that helped me to breathe and reminded me I was seeing things clearly. It gave me strength to continue to stand and take the risk of losing all I had. And, as you saw, my getting healthy did not result in my ex-husband’s being willing or able to get healthy.
Despite that, I really have a very different view about God hating divorce and I hope you and your bloggers will hear me out and know that I identify with so much of their experiences.
Every trusted translation of the bible I have does use the words, “God hates divorce.” So, if I am to trust God’s heart AND His word, I don’t want to minimize this statement, but I do want to make sure I am interpreting it correctly. I really believe God DOES hate divorce. Why wouldn’t He? I mean, who DOESN’T hate divorce? It may be the most painful experience a human being can experience? Two people who were made one are now torn apart and left with gaping wounds. He designed marriage to be the closest relationship two people can experience, to be an earthly way to experience His love for His bride! I can’t imagine the pain God feels watching His children suffer because of the pain of divorce. No wonder He hates it! Does that mean he hates us if we get divorced? or thinks we should never get divorced? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! Why do we think that if God says He hates it, it means we are wrong for having it happen to us or making that choice?
I was always deeply committed to my marriage and to my covenant with God regarding my marriage. When things escalated towards the end, I really wrestled with this question. It tore at my heart. I just couldn’t see how this could be happening. But one day while seeking Him, He showed me Jeremiah 3:8 and the words leapt off the page, like God gently showing me His heart and that He, out of everyone in my life, knew exactly how I felt and had been there Himself. “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.” God hates divorce, yet He divorced Israel. He personally knows that sometimes it is necessary despite how it goes against His very design. He wanted Israel to come back, but she had to come back fully to Him, in true repentance. And when there wasn’t true repentence, the relationship could not be restored.
Ladies, please hear God’s heart. He hates divorce because you are precious to Him and this horrible pain and broken relationship wasn’t His design for your life. But neither was it His plan for you to be treated so cruelly and be beaten down by someone who is incrediblly unhealthy. I love how you have said, Leslie, that God doesn’t care more about your marraige than He cares about the two individuals in the marraige. THAT is what is true.
And please know, God will guide you every step of the way. He will be with you AND see you safely through this storm to the other side, whether your become healthier and it spurs true repentence in your husband and an opportunity for a healed marriage or it confirms to you that restoration is not possible. He will care for you.
Reading what you wrote helps me immensely! I am in the “separation stage” right now and have a very prideful and angry husband who only looks at what pain this separation has caused him. His behavior has become even worse since the stand I took to separate from him. I have grieved deeply because I do not recognize the man I am married to. The man I thought I was marrying vanished the first week after our wedding. So, it’s like he has left the face of the earth and another very cruel and defiant man has taken his place. As you stated, people find it hard to believe when I express to them what has happened in this 10 months we have been married. I took my stand and risked losing my marriage; my marriage is really NOT a marriage and has NEVER truly been a marriage. I am glad I took that stand and laid out the boundaries that are giving me peace and stability.
There were very few times that were happy and fulfilling! They were intermittent and short-lived. The abusive episodes became frequent and worsened each time. I rarely was able to even get my feelings or points across as he shouted over anything I tried to communicate. That was very maddening and I ended up just having to walk away or hang up the phone.
I have poured over the scriptures and sought counsel and listened to many sermons on the internet with regard to divorce. Your explanation helped me so much. Yes, God hates divorce, but He doesn’t hate me. Yes, I married this guy but was totally deceived and betrayed. That has pierced my whole being! The fact that I stood before my church family and our personal families and my pastor and vowed to love and respect and cherish this man and now find myself parted from that covenant just depletes my spirit. I pray and cry and cry and pray! But what you’ve written gives me such comfort and I know God is blessing you with healing even though you had to go the divorce route. That gives me hope. Ultimately, I may gain wisdom from God such that I can make that decision also. Right now, I am trying to be patient for God’s work to be done. Thank you for sharing your heart!
Andrea and Peg, I have an even better explanation of this ‘God hates divorce’ slogan. I explain in chapter eight of my book “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion” that the words “God hates divorce” are not the correct translation of the Hebrew. Look at the ESV, the 2011 NIV or the HCSB translations for verification of what I’m saying. None of them say “God hates divorce.”
I believe that God condemns treacherous divorce (done for trivial reasons) but he does NOT condemn disciplinary divorce (done for adultery, abuse or desertion). I know Leslie endorses this view of mine because she has quoted it on this post she wrote at the Association of Biblical Counselors blog:
One thing is always absolutely sure is that we all need to know the Word of God for ourselves. I don’t care if it’s a spouse or the church, know the Word for yourself to know how to deal with any problem.
When the Lord dropped the scales from my eyes to let me see a man that was full of lies, deception and a murderous attitude. The only way I can explain it is that I was literally moved by the Spirit to pack up my car and get out as quickly as possible. If the point wasn’t clear enough, I quite literally saw a flashing, red light while I was standing in my family room. The room began to spin and I ‘felt’ the Spirit say ‘Move and move out fast!’ I knew I was in danger if I stayed and the Father did not want me to die.
I will always be eternally grateful for God’s goodness and mercy and for giving me a heart to listen to his urgings and letting only Him be the center of my life.
Mary, thanks for your response. I agree that God will just let folks go on down that trouble road if they show no signs of repentance and/or regret. God ultimately knows where they are bound to end up. And so, unless a person DESIRES to get things right with God, He will let them do themselves in! Sometimes, folks end up in total misery and wonder why! Our job is to just pray that God will not punish them/discipline them too severely. Ultimately, it’s God’s choice but God grants us wisdom to pray mercy for them and that’s for our hearts sake, not for the abuser’s sake. God will do what He needs to do to get them steered in the right direction but he may take a “hands off” approach for a while to let them bring the misery to themselves. If we pray for God’s mercy on them and really mean it, then God sees our heart condition as merciful and willing to forgive. We are then blessed with our standing before God. At least, that’s the way I see it!
Thank you all here for the support and information. You’ve truly helped me. Lesley, I only found out who you are back in August of this year. I’ve read both “emotional” books and the destructive relationship one, I read in two days and it’s been my resource book. Your work is a true blessing and we need you here….all of us. I separated in July after a 23 year christian marriage. He’s 63 and I’m 59, second marriage, no children with each other. Thank God! He had a very abusive childhood, I had a normal and loving one, one as normal can be in a imperfect world. He has 2 personality disorders one being NPD. I was severely abused emotionally, verbally, and spiritually. It came in the form of manipulation, control and all the other traits that fall under personality disorders. The web sight Out of The Fog which is a support site for people involved with others who have these disorders, has been very helpful. My dilemma is I learned all what I know after I left. I was at the end of my existence in Jan 2013. I was seeing my christian counselor and was thinking suicide. I couldn’t take it anymore.I had no hope and was told I wouldn’t go to heaven as “God hates a divorce” yet he’s the one that filed!I was at bottom, so I told him I needed a respite to heal emotionally and spiritually and he can take the time to do this also. He never has. I have healed. I’m where I wanted to be after this time, to “come home”. I can’t though and I’m not. He hasn’t changed. Probably never will with these disorsers along with the abuses. He is the same. The church was counseling him the last 4 months and he informed them 2 weeks ago he wasn’t returning to the church. He doesn’t like what they tell him so he leaves. He’s looking for anyone in there that will agree with him I found out. No one can as it’s the same stuff he put on me all those years. It’s just wrong and not from God! He’s always done this. These men, after a little time, saw right through his ruse. He always looked and sounded so good at church. I live out of state away from him and my pastor said to NOT go back as he shows no repentance, remorse, or responsibility and blames me for all. He said to stay strong and listen to The Holy Spirits direction like I’ve been doing and did. God is working on my ex through these God filled men at his church, but he turns away from what they say. I know these men.I pray for him. God is right there for him but he has to reach out to Him and he’s not. Oh he thinks he’s a strong christian but his walk and tongue show otherwise. There was no adultry. My problem is guilt and “what ifs.” I know more now since I left with all the books and research I’ve done. I didn’t know this was even domestic violence until June. I am filled with guilt thinking “if I knew what I do now could I have stayed and implemented these behaviors like I see here that other women are doing. I feel so bad about this. I then think that where I was I couldn’t even if I new this. I was at rock bottom! I worked full time during this time and took care of ALL of the house in and out. He didn’t work a regular job. Never did. He bought, sold, and traded and it was tough! The last few years he complained every month that he’d have to come up with the difference in the money that I didn’t make. Great provider’s attitude isn’t it. He has not changed at all since I left.I thought he would have least tried to work on our christian marriage as I’m the only person he’s ever had in loyalty in his life. He didn’t. Please if any could give me some advice I would appreciate it. I know that I made the right decision in my own situation as Jesus through Holy Spirit one late night “told” me. He said ” I took you out as your husband was not fitting as the example I set in love and service to My chuch.” I know this put I struggle with it also. I tried everything all those years,but he would not try any reading, counseling or a change in communication. Nothing! Thank you all here as you are my life line… you and Lesley. I just love her! God Bless you all as we are in this together. A very Holy Christmas to you.
You husband abandoned you without ever leaving your home. I have come to believe there are 3 reasons for divorce. The 3 A’s are: Abuse, Adultery and Abandonment. Your husband is choosing to divorce you. That is itself is abandonment. Blaming you for not making enough money when he himself doesn’t work a job that will at least help provide is abandonment. Having you do all of the work to keep up your home is abandonment. If you had no other reasons than these, I believe God would find that moral grounds for divorce regardless of who filed.
You also said there was spiritual, verbal and emotional abuse. God does not want or expect these things to be part of a Christian marriage and if they are there is a BIG problem somewhere. Perhaps the person inflicting these things doesn’t really know the heart of the Savior.
In addition to Leslie’s books, which I have read and keep all of them on my bookshelf and in my heart, I would recommend you read Barbara Robert book “Not Under Bondage”. She did 3 years of research on Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion. It may put your heart and mind at rest.
God doesn’t expect you to live like this or feel the guilt you are suffering. I will pray for you as you go through this journey. I have been where you are and am coming out on the other side.
Thank you so much for your insight. I’ve read many of your entries and feel for you as well as respect your journey. I will look into Barbara Robert’s book. I’ve heard alot about it. He did abandon me by emotional neglect. His disorders are a big affect of our marriage though he is responsible for them He said he never believed in divorce but I know him well and believe he did it because he lost control when I left. He never wanted to try and restore our marriage. He never wanted to take responsibility for his behaviors. Still doesn’t. Personality disordered people HATE loosing control and have a huge fear of abandonment. I never abandoned him! He knew 6 months before I acutally left. I am crawling forward day by day and getting back the internal core that had been destroyed. I am returning to the vibrant,independant, strong, happy woman I was pre him. My adult children are watching this transformation with jubilee. They knew him as pre-teens. Love you all her and only with God’s blessing and direction, we will prevail.