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Are You In A Survival Situation?

By Leslie Vernick

If you were forced to choose between food and shelter, what would you choose? Which one is more important? Obviously, they’re both pretty important. But, if you were in a survival situation and had to wait for rescue, would food or shelter be your priority?

The answer would probably depend on your location. If you’re in Antarctica, shelter would be your first thought. If temperatures are mild, your stomach might be the loudest need.

As a woman in a destructive marriage, you ARE in a survival situation. And deciding what takes priority can be incredibly confusing. So many things are really important: children, financial considerations, doing “God’s will,” and trying to not lose your sanity in the process.

Unfortunately, many Christian leaders get the priorities mixed up. Quoting a few select verses, they counsel women that, because God hates divorce, His will is for you to stay – no matter what. Or, you’re just supposed to forgive and forget. No matter what.

Let me be blunt: that’s ridiculous. And it isn’t what the Bible teaches.

Jesus always confronted those who cared more about rules than people. He consistently challenged the Pharisees for being hypocrites and missing the point when it came to religion (Luke 11:37-54)

Jesus was willing to break the “rules” when a situation warranted it. And, often, it had to do with safety. For example, God told Joseph to flee with baby Jesus and not respect the king’s authority. Why? Because the king wanted to kill Jesus. (Matthew 2:13-15)

God also told David to flee and not submit to the King when Saul was seeking to kill him. 1 Samuel 18-31

God commended Rahab for hiding two Jewish spies and lying to the King’s men about it so that they would be safe.

These are just a few instances in the Bible where God shows he’s more concerned about safety than a legalistic adherence to rules.

So, when we’re thinking of priorities…how to make decisions about your destructive marriage… first and foremost is safety.

Are you in danger physically? Has your husband ever put his hands on you in anger? Has he thrown things? Damaged the house? If so, you’re not safe.

Are you in danger emotionally? Are you regularly belittled and demeaned? Does your husband say you’re not good enough, pretty enough, spiritual enough? Does he withhold affection when you don’t meet his standards? Does he give you the silent treatment for long periods of time when he’s angry? If so, you’re not safe.

Are you in danger sexually? Does your husband force or coerce you to be intimate with him regardless of how you feel? Does he expect you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable in order to please him? Has he been sexually involved with prostitutes or other people? If so, you’re not safe.

Are you in danger financially? Do you have access to all of the money being earned? Or are there certain accounts which are “off limits” to you? Do you know what where your husband is spending money? Are you aware of your financial situation…debts versus income? Or are you left in the dark, forced to blindly trust? Are you given an allowance while he gets to spend whatever he wants, whenever he wants? If so, you are not safe.

Marriage IS important. Sacred. And God hates the pain of divorce.

But friend, God does care about you and your safety. And I believe it is okay with God if you pursue you and your children’s safety rather than continuing to be harmed in an abusive marriage.


The Emotionally Destructive Marriage Audio Book

by Leslie Vernick

Something Has to Change… You can’t put it into words, but something is happening to you. Your stomach churns, your heart aches, and the tension in your marriage is making you feel weary and a little crazy. The constant criticism, disrespect, cruelty, deceit, and gross indifference are eroding your confidence and breaking your spirit.
For any woman caught in an emotionally destructive marriage, Leslie Vernick offers a personalized path forward. Based on decades of counseling experience, her intensely practical, biblical advice will show you how to establish boundaries and break free from emotional abuse.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter! (Giveaway only available to U.S. residents)

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage are Kathy B. and Jackie C


Upcoming Events

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How Do I Handle My Friends Hanging Out With My Ex Husband?

Question: Some of the friends that my ex-husband and I had together in the church left the church where he attends and joined together with our pastor to form a new reformed church. My ex, however, still goes on backpacking trips with them. These friends know that he was abusive in our marriage and they also know that he refused to cooperate in seeking counseling for possible reconciliation. They also know that he hurt me deeply.

I am working to forgive these people for “associating” with an unrepentant abusive man. I do hope that he will gain something from being among them; however, I cannot help but think that in his self-centered mind, this is a victory for him.

I am working to just let God handle it but I have moments when I feel betrayed to some degree. How do I steer away from thinking that this is really not right? Should I distance myself from this new church or learn how to accept that they may never know the depth of what I experienced and they are just not equipped spiritually to know how to handle this situation. I know they love both of us.

Answer: Let’s start with the fact that you know your friends love both of you and go from there because if you know that’s true, then you know they are not going backpacking with your husband to take sides or to intentionally hurt you. It might be he has invited himself to go with them and they don’t know how to graciously tell him no. It is also true that they might not be equipped to know how to handle this situation. However, they might have tried to handle it as best they knew how and your husband remains blind to his own sinfulness.

When a couple divorces, especially when there has been a betrayal of trust or abuse and there is no repentance, it is natural for the injured spouse to want their friends and family to take their side. We want them to bear witness to the reality of our betrayal and the sinfulness and injustice of the situation. It hurts when it seems to us as if they are acting like it’s not a big deal anymore or that both sides were equally at fault.

You asked how to steer yourself away from obsessing about the injustice of it all. Excellent question because steer away you must. Please don’t allow yourself one more moment’s angst whether your ex considers backpacking with church friends a victory for him. You don’t know what he’s thinking. But when you continue to link your well being to him or his thoughts about things, you still give him the power to torment and hurt you. Don’t do it.

Here is What People are Saying About Empowered to Change.

“I Learned some valuable lessons. Knowing Core Values (who I am) is different than my fickle feelings and thoughts is huge for me. Avoiding ‘what if' thinking and ‘worse case scenario disease' will also be helpful to me. Difference between acknowledging and accepting is good for me to know. I acknowledged the problems 10 years ago, but have only moved closer to accepting in last year. Being responsible for my well-being is new to me. Giving up hope of change in my husband has come very slowly. Grieving currently as this is sinking in. Class helped me see a lot of things. Trusting God to work it all ‘into' me. I pray it will move me forward. I need hope for me and kids.”

~ Graduate of Empowered To Change


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.