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  • October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Many Christian counselors, pastors, and lay leaders are still woefully ill-equipped to handle this very important issue despite 1 in 4 Christian women reporting being in a destructive marriage. I invite you to visit my new website that I’ve designed to educate and equip pastors, counselors and church leaders on this very important topic.

Is Marital Indifference Emotionally Abusive?

Leslie Vernick

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If he doesn’t hit you, it’s not abuse?” This statement is not true. One of the most silent yet destructive forms of marital abuse is chronic indifference.

The opposite of love isn’t hate as many would think. It’s indifference. Indifference says I don’t care enough about you to give you my time, my energy or other resources to show interest, care, or love towards you. A person’s indifference says how you feel or what you want doesn’t matter to that person. Indifference says you are not a person to love, but an object to use. Indifference says I don’t need to change anything to make our relationship better for you if it’s okay for me. Indifference says that you exist for my benefit and when you don’t please me or benefit me anymore, you are replaceable or disposable.

One of the most horrific abuse stories in the Bible is one of gross indifference. A Levite and his concubine wife were traveling home when they stopped in the town of Gibeah. Expecting the typical Jewish hospitality, they waited in the open square, hoping someone would invite them to spend the night. As evening descended, an old man spotted the couple and graciously took them to his house. While the two men were getting acquainted, vile men of the city surrounded the home, beat on the door, and demanded the old man bring his guest outside so they might sexually abuse him.

The men of the town refused to listen to the old man so the Levite grabbed his own concubine and shoved her out the door. The men of the town raped her, taking turns until dawn.

The scriptures say, “When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. Coldly he said, “Get up! Let’s go! But there was no answer. So he tossed her lifeless body on his donkey and took her home” Later on he cut her up into twelve pieces and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel, portraying himself (not his poor wife) as the victim of a horrible injustice (Judges 19:1-30).

The rape and torture by those vile men was traumatic, but I often wonder if her greater suffering was that her own husband indifferently tossed her out the door like a piece of trash, knowing full well she would be used and abused.

Marriage is the one relationship where a man and a woman publically make promises to not be indifferent. They promise to love, to cherish, to protect, and to honor one another. When a person regularly fails to keep his or her fundamental marital promise, the marriage is in deep trouble and to pretend otherwise is not healthy or biblical.

For example, Karen was a wife who loved her husband and wanted things to work between them but he had little time for her. He was too busy running a business and making money. When she tried to talk to him about her feelings, he became harsh and then gave her the silent treatment, sometimes ignoring her for months. When Karen pursued or pressured him to discuss their problems, he verbally attacked her. He accused her of being controlling and manipulative. The only personal connection he desired was sexual and this left Karen feeling empty and used.

Finally she decided to have a heart-to-heart talk about changes she needed in their relationship. Wiring up all her courage she said, “Steve, there is something that I need to share with you that’s really important. Do you have time tonight?” “Okay, but I don’t have all night. There’s a football game starting in about 15 minutes.”

Karen took a deep breath and began.

“I know you get very frustrated when I’m not responsive to your sexual needs. I know you want me to be more sexual with you and enjoy our physical relationship. But the way you treat me much of the time makes me feel angry and hurt.

When you ignore me for long periods of time or accuse me of being things that I’m not, I just can’t manufacture warm and affectionate feelings towards you when I’m upset and hurt.” Then she asked him the million-dollar question. She asked, “Wouldn’t you enjoy our sexual relationship much more if you knew I wanted to be with you and enjoyed that part of our relationship rather than me just doing my wifely duty?“

Steve’s answer floored her. “Of course I would,” he said, but added, “But if wifely duty is all I can get, I’ll settle for that.”

Steve’s response woke Karen up to his gross indifference toward her as his wife, as a woman, and as a person. Everything in their relationship revolved around him and his needs. As long as her body was available when he wanted sex, it mattered little to him how she felt.

Later, Karen told me, God never intended her to be a sexual object nor to sacrifice her body to enable her husband’s selfishness to continue unchallenged.

Indifference can be one of the most unrecognized yet damaging forms of emotional abuse in marriage. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you’d like more information on how to help those in destructive and abusive marriages, visit my new website at www.leslievernick.com/counselors.


Domestic Violence (CD)

By Leslie Vernick

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

The winners of The Heart of Domestic Abuse are Donna B. and Su Ann H.


Upcoming Events

October 27th, 2017
Agape Christian Counseling
Charlotte, NC

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How Do I Love My In-Laws Unconditionally When They Still Hurt Me?

Question: I want to love unconditionally outside of a relationship. Long story short, I have chosen to drastically limit my time around my in-laws because of their (mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law) recurrent expressions of control, condemnation, and lack of respect for me (and my “no “) and the lack of repentance and ownership they express when they have been confronted on these behaviors.

I have heard you say that unconditional love does not mean unconditional relationship. I set up a goal to work towards reconciliation this year – foolishly thinking I was ready, but realizing God is still working on me to bring me to a healthier place. I don’t know where my in-laws stand on desiring reconciliation.

This gets complicated when my husband is reluctantly limiting the time we spend with his family, but he still calls or spends time with them when he’s at work. If he talks to them on the phone when we’re together, he will leave the room so that I cannot hear their conversation. I feel guilty for not “getting along” with them when that is so important to him and I feel some betrayal when he spends time with them and that he doesn’t allow me to hear his conversations with them.

What happens when the old habits continue on the offender’s part and my hurt continues as we work on a relationship? What if I am sometimes the offender/abuser? I cannot truly show love if I am “easily provoked” or if I am “taking into account a wrong suffered” according to 1 Corinthians 13. How do I live in a healthy way, showing love, if I am exposing myself to additional potential hurts?

Am I called to bear these new hurts in order to achieve reconciliation? I don’t understand how we give people the ability to show us change if we are exercising boundaries that were set in place that remove us from those unhealthy situations. I am pretty sure this is a destructive relationship because the offenses show a pattern of behavior, although there are many times my husband causes me to question my sanity when he says I take things too personally and that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do. Help!

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB).

Answer: I think you bring up an important question and challenge that every one of us face when we are interacting with someone who has hurt us, has past patterns of abuse that we fear still creep into the present, or is unchanged.

First, I don’t think God requires us to have a close and personal relationship with everyone. It’s not even possible.

What Other People Are Saying About
Leslie's CONQUER Support Group

“I think the thing I love most is the fact that no matter what time of day I put a prayer request or comment out there, someone is there and replies. It feels like someone is always available to lend an ear or give an encouraging word – even if it's 2am where I am. The other thing I find so helpful is the amazing support from so many others in various stages of the same type of situation. It's comforting to know you're not alone in this struggle, and it still blows my mind as to how many of us are in this type of situation! The suggestions and perspectives of others who have been there, are there, and just realizing something is amiss is very helpful. Thank you Leslie for setting up this venue!!! I can't say that enough.”

– Kathy


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.


Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States