Jeff S, a male survivor who recently joined our blogging community, has thought a lot about neglect as a form of abuse. We invited him to write a guest post about it and here’s what he wrote:
[October 21, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
I found this blog recently, and like many of you it has been a breath of fresh air — so much of the understanding and empathy I’ve needed was found outside of the body of Christ until now; here it is possible to have both!
Based on my experience as a neglected husband, Barbara and the “real” Jeff [Jeff Crippen] asked me if I could contribute some of my thoughts and experiences about neglect as a form of abuse. I am honored to contribute and hope that what I have to say will be edifying. Before I write anything else, I want to say that I am quite humbled to read the accounts of women (and men) who have been terrorized in their homes. While my experience was indeed painful and the most difficult thing in my life, several of the stories I’ve read are on a completely different level from what I went through. Nevertheless, neglect is very a painful and subtle form of abuse, and the effects on me as a person, as well as the response of the church, are all too familiar to many who frequent this blog. Also, I fear there are probably many out there who have been in similar situations and have no idea how to make sense of it — my hope is that this may help.
To be clear, when I talk about “neglect”, this is the word I have chosen that I think best relates what happened in my marriage. The only expertise I have on this subject is my experience, communication with other neglected husbands and wives, and a couple of books I’ve read. So with that in mind, my definition is of neglect is: “an unrepentant and continued failure to participate in the basic functions of the family”. I am NOT talking about “she never does the dishes” or “he leaves his clothes all over the floor”, or even “he never takes the kids when he gets home from work”. We all have our issues and they can be extremely painful to deal with, but these things alone to not characterize neglect in the way I’m using it. The situation I’m talking about is when one half of a marriage completely relies on the other to the point that the neglector ceases to function and the neglected becomes responsible for all that must happen for the family to exist. Examples of this look more like “he doesn’t work or help with the children — he’s not even looking for a job and just sits in front of the TV all day” — and not just for a few weeks, but for an unreasonably extended length of time.
Sometimes we all get so beat down and worn out it is hard to function (say after the death of a beloved parent); in those cases we all know as loving partners we step up and take on whatever is necessary to help our loved ones get through it, but when someone’s lifestyle is characterized by non-involvement with his or her family, this is a real problem and very painful to the spouse and children.
When Jeff Crippen talks about the attributes of an abuser he mentions power, control, entitlement and justification. The “doesn’t do the dishes” guy isn’t necessarily someone exhibiting this. He is showing carelessness and irresponsibility, and maybe some other negative attributes. On the other hand, the guy who spends years doing nothing but watching TV while his wife struggles to keep the family alive is doing all of those things. He exerts power and control over her by relying on her faithfulness to sustain his entitled life of non-contribution. Maybe he justifies it by claiming it is “too hard to find work”, that he “was mistreated and fired unjustly”, or that he “suffers from depression”. Whatever the excuse, the situation ends up with his wife completely focused on doing everything she can to make his way of life possible. There are no threats, accusations, or even harsh words; he doesn’t need them. He controls her by knowing that she is bound up with him and will always take care of his needs. And it will crush her soul.
I won’t spend too much time on my story — the short version is that my ex-wife spent years in bed not involved with me (or our son after he was born) except on very limited terms; I learned by the end that a family dinner meant dinner in the bedroom. I felt unlovable, rejected, and I began to lose any sense of identity I had. My goal was to be like Christ, and I believed being like Christ meant sacrificing me for her. That’s how I was supposed to love – as Christ loved the church, and He died for the church.
As things unraveled in our marriage she was diagnosed with depression. I started looking for resources to help (my church was against therapy) and found a forum for spouses of depressed people. It turns out many had a similar story to me — and it was both women AND men. While domestic violence appears to be largely (though not exclusively) a male form of abuse, neglect appears to be much more of an equal gender problem and, in my experience, is often linked to depression (and depression is diagnosed more often in women, though I met plenty of depressed individuals who did not neglect their families).
I learned a lot about depression over the last two years, both in the mental hospital where my wife stayed and through a book I read entitled Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield — she suffers from depression but she wrote the book for the “fallout”, the name she gives loved ones hurt by those who suffer from depression. She emphasizes the hard road that it is for a depressed person and really evokes empathy and understanding from “fallouters”, but in the end she also gives guidance on when a “fallouter” has to make the decision to leave for his or her own protection and health.
I want to be VERY clear that I’m NOT saying depression (or any mental / emotional disorder) means a spouse is neglectful. Many times with the right treatment things do get better. It was with a mixture of joy and sadness that I listened to a woman at my new church stand up to give her testimony about God’s grace in her life: how she had been depressed and acted so horribly to all of her friends, but with medication and work God turned her around. Now she is happily married with children, is involved in their lives, and people enjoy being around her. I cried through her entire testimony because I wanted to know why she could make that choice and my ex-wife couldn’t.
In the end, neglect IS a choice, and it is a choice not to honor marriage vows. The Scripture recognizes this in Exodus 21:10-11. Depression is not a cakewalk, but neither is it an excuse. A depressed person is not entitled to marriage without responsibility or participation.
On the inside of my wedding ring my ex-wife had inscribed “A Great Team”, but in the end we were not a team, and that broke my heart.
[October 21, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to October 21, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to October 21, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to October 21, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (October 21, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
103 thoughts on “Neglect as a form of abuse”
My heart goes out to you and your suffering. My mom and dad had very similar issues in their marriage. I want to share my experience and give you some information that I think will help you. It will be a couple days until I can do that. I have been writing a response for over an hour now and have had too many problems losing the message. My laptop is in the shop, and I just got a new phone that I am not familiar enough with yet. I hope you will check back for my post in a couple days…May God be with you…
Barbara, I so appreciate what you and Jeff Crippen are doing to bring clarity about abuse. I sincerely hope you and Jeff C. know more about abusive neglect and Jeff S.’s story than what he has revealed on this post.
My internal red flag’s are waving after reading this post, as several statements are all too familiar to me after being involved with an abusive person. I am literally shaking as I write this.
Song, I am SO, SO sorry that my words caused you pain. I knew this was a possibility and I tried very hard to be careful in what I wrote. I can only say that both Jeff and Barbara have heard a lot more of the details of my story. My initial version of this was about 3x as long, but even this trimmed out version ended up with quite a few words.
When I first came to this site I was very cautious because I never really characterized what I experienced as “abuse”- she never physically assaulted me (except by throwing pillows- harder objects were reserved for the wall or television) and she didn’t really put me down (until the last year, when her actions toward me became much more overt). I’ve always felt like the relationship was characterized by “neglect, with some acts of emotional abuse toward the end”. My therapist told me that “abuse doesn’t always take the same forms”, but (being someone who worked with violent domestic abusers) he also told me that domestic terror is a “whole different level of abuse”. I don’t ever want to presume to know what it is like to be the victim of that kind of violence, so I’ve always been cautions about using the “abuse” word.
After reading materials from Jeff after corresponding via email I can see the same underlying attitudes in what drove my ex-wife to behave the way she did, even if it manifested itself differently. Both Jeff and Barbara showed a lot of sympathy and understanding to me, and honestly it’s been the first time I’ve experienced that inside the church. Most of my interactions with my Christian friends end up uncomfortable because of the divorce.
I know I’ve read of many men and women (mostly through my interactions with depression) who have experienced similar situations as my own, so it was my hope that by addressing the situation of the “neglected” those people could find a voice and a way to heal. I have a thousand thoughts on this subject, but a lot of it is reasoned speculation (not verified through research) and would take up a months worth of posts just to say it all. I am no expert, but I do want to contribute whatever I can so eventually the church can handle situations like neglect a lot better.
I would very much be interested in knowing what flags went up and of there’s a way I could clarify or restate what I said. And also, if others have similar responses I think it would be good for Jeff and Barbara to know (I’m sure you can send an email if posting publicly is uncomfortable). I think it’s important that this blog be a safe place- I know Jeff and Barbara work hard for that. I would hate to see my words become tools that increase the pain of those who come here for refuge.
Hi Anon – Oops – It’s actually Song who was triggered, not me. Your questions are good, though and I was wondering the same.
So sorry Julie Anne,
Yes I was in fact replying to Song.
I’m curious and wondering whether you are being triggered because this post is coming from a ”husbands” experience rather than a ”wife’s.” And Would you have recieved it easier had it a woman who wrote this?
“Song, I am SO, SO sorry that my words caused you pain.”
Thank you for trying to apologize. Let me clarify that your words did not cause me to feel pain. What I said was that I felt fear.
“I do hope that you’ll see I’m coming from a good place and not a malicious one, but I don’t want you to come to that knowledge by overriding your defense mechanisms.”
I didn’t say that you were coming from a malicious place. I said, “What I wanted to convey is that I hope that the subject of neglect as abuse will be discussed at greater length than what has been so far presented.
I don’t know Jeff S.’s story and what he experienced, and I’m sorry I still don’t have a better understanding of the abusive neglect he suffered.”
It was not clear to me how you experienced abusive neglect from the fact that your wife suffered from depression.
Song – Interesting. Could you help us out a bit? What specific statements are you reacting to? Jeff S has had really good input with us in the past and we asked him to do this guest post on neglect as abuse. With some more specifics, I bet Jeff S could clarify some things for you?
Jeff, I didn’t see your reply until after I posted my other comment. I will try to help you out. It may take me a little while. I have to get passed the fear first. Thanks, Jeff C.
My comment “I sincerely hope you and Jeff C. know more about abusive neglect…” isn’t stating what I wanted to communicate. I was shaking and trying to process what I was experiencing, and it would have been better to have waited until I had processed it. I apologize for my lack of self-control and for not proof reading before I sent the comment. What I wanted to convey is that I hope that the subject of neglect as abuse will be discussed at greater length than what has been so far presented.
I don’t know Jeff S.’s story and what he experienced, and I’m sorry I still don’t have a better understanding of the abusive neglect he suffered. I do know my reaction to his post came from his presentation and language, as it is similar to how my abusive person speaks.
Are you able to articulate the kind of language spoken to you? I’m interested in understanding. There is something powerful going on when people connect emotionally with comments and can finally receive validation. Being alone in the process is a very . . . well, lonely place. ~Julie Anne
Song, thank you for your words of encouragement. I am healing, recovering and doing better every week. This blog has done a TON for me in the past few weeks because finally there are people who “get it”. God has really been faithful to put the right people in my path at every step of the way.
But i do want to say that would I never ask you to suppress or negate your feelings about my post. I believe that feelings are ALWAYS valid- no can ever tell you “you shouldn’t feel that”. I do hope that you’ll see I’m coming from a good place and not a malicious one, but I don’t want you to come to that knowledge by overriding your defense mechanisms.
Thank you for your questions and statement. The problem I’m experiencing is that I don’t want to devalue or invalidate what Jeff S experienced in his marriage. So I’ve been trying to figure out whether or not I’m reacting to Jeff S’s post because of my own experience or if I’m reacting to how and what Jeff S is saying in his post.
Jeff S, I’m so sorry for the pain you experienced in your marriage and in your church. It must have been very difficult for you to have felt neglected, unlovable, rejected, and to lose your sense of identity while you were married to your wife. I hope you are healing and recovering.
Dear Song, I just woke up here in Oz and have read all the comments so far, and I see you’ve made further comments after your first one where you said you were shaking. May I send hugs to you over the internet? It’s never nice to be triggered.
I want to reassure you that Jeff S shared a much lengthier version of his story with Jeff C an myself by email (at Jeff C’s request), well before we thought of inviting him to write this guest post. And from the beginning of our interactions from Jeff S, Jeff Crippen and I have both felt that Jeff S was a genuine male victim. I know you are not challenging that, but I just wanted to make it crystal clear, for all our readers.
I too would like to know more about what words or phrases triggered you …. if you feel like sharing that with us, in your own time. But the most important thing is to take care of yourself emotionally, in whatever ways work for you. Bless you, and thanks for sharing.
Also, feel free to put your thoughts/ story /reactions into an email to myself or Jeff C, or both of us, if that would be easier to do as a first step. Maybe you can teach us more about neglect as a form of abuse.
Thank you, Barbara. Your internet hugs are appreciated. 🙂
I also appreciate you and Jeff C, and have confidence in your abilities.
Jeff C., My red flags went off reading this post since I am a wife that has been accused by my husband of being neglectful towards him because I was experiencing depression. I was experiencing depression because of my involvement with him and his emotional and verbal abuse. Once I realized what was happening and why I was experiencing feelings of depression, I emotionally pulled away from him and, as much as was possible, stopped being involved with his life, which led to more accusations of neglect from him of me not fulfilling my marriage vows. I was blamed for being neglectful because he was experiencing the consequences of his own behavior.
I know this is an old post and discussion, but I had the very same response reading this. My husband accuses me of neglect because he doesn’t feel loved. And to an extent, he isn’t. I’m trying to figure out where my coldness is just my own lifelong hangups (although I’m not cold with my kids, or with a few close friends), versus what might be my reaction to years of patterns of, well, I guess, abuse.
This accusation has always had the effect of me taking responsibility for how badly my husband feels. He drinks (or withdraws, or whatever) because of the pain of not feeling loved. Or respected. By me or the kids.
He would absolutely see himself as Jeff in this piece, me as the abusively neglectful wife. And “love” me anyway.
I’m struggling with this one.
I despise how so many jealous attention hungry abusive men manage (in just a few years of marriage) to turn a happy, financially independent, emotionally balanced, sexually well adjusted, confident woman into a shadow of herself and then call her aversion to his company “neglectful” and blame her and use her being a victim of any past abuse as the root cause for her current distress in the relationship (to take attention away from his own behavior) i blaming for depression, anxiety etc they have sown in her life… On her and her life before him. Please.
I am sorry that your husband has accused you wrongly of this. I can tell you that in my case I spent YEARS assuming the fault was mine and trying to fix the relationship. I even had family trying to tell me to get out, but I assume if I loved harder and sacrificed more, then she would want to be involved.
Yes, abusers will portray themselves as the victims, and it can be hard to tell the difference. I think Jeff’s book does a good job of helping people see through true victims and the false ones.
I spent a long, long time assuming I was the problem, and even after my divorce I wondered if I had been the cause of my wife’s depression and neglect. The tendency is always to take responsibility, but I’ve come a long way down the road of understanding that there was nothing I could have done to fix or change her.
The difference between your husband and myself is that I did not attempt justify any of my behavior based on her behavior. The poor choices I made I am responsible for. Even up until the end I pushed through to try and be a good husband and do the things good husbands do. It took coming to the basic end of me before I’d even say a negative word about her, and even now I don’t like to say anything bad. This is a reason I didn’t go into details here- it don’t want to feel like I’m chronicling a record of wrongs on the internet.
I should also mention that I understand the coldness. I had it too and wrote a post about it on ACFJ: The Wall
Sometimes we have to detach in order to protect ourselves. Such a detachment is not the kind of “neglect” I wrote about in this post, because it isn’t neglect. It’s a boundary and a safety mechanism.
I do apologize to everyone who was triggered by this post. I can only hope that it ultimately works out for good in the end.
Thanks, Jeff S 🙂
Those things make sense, Jeff. And I completely get not wanting to say negative things. My sense of guilt when I do, even if they’re true, is sometimes overwhelming. I guess this article was sort of a trigger for me because I’ve been accused of being cold and uncaring for years and years.
Thank you for sharing your story. May the Lord continue to heal your heart from the damage that was done to you in your marriage. I believe that it’s important to show compassion and love to whoever coming out of a painful place ‘male’ or f’emale.’ Many, many women have shared gut-renching stories, on this blog. So it’s almost easier to hear, I think, and I could be totally wrong when the horror shared is coming from a ‘female’. Your story is your story and you should never feel or have to minimize what has happened to you! We need to be pools of safety for one another.
Jeff S, even though domestic terror is on a whole different level, what you experienced should be validated. I can imagine how hard it would be to find people who truly understand what you went through. Even women who have been physically battered find it hard to be believed (I am about to visit a friend who suffered head injuries and couldn’t get a restraining order), how much more those who don’t have bruises to show.
When I first read the opening lines of your post, my attention turned to the marriage of my parents (who are still together). If I had not gone through my personal journey of understanding abuse, I would have not suspected that my father is a victim. I don’t think he is terrified of her (domestic terror normally happens when the male is the abuser), but he is certainly very hurt and disappointed although he rarely vocalises it. From what I recall, she was a neglectful person – not irresponsible, as she was capable of holding responsible posts for most of her career – but she neglected their relationship. She relied on him to do everything, and if something was not done right, he got the blame. She never lifted a finger to do anything but she expected everything. So when you used the word neglect, it immediately resonated.
I am not an expert, but I would posit that the kind of neglect you referred to can also be classified as emotional abuse. In any case, where I live, neglect is included as a form of abuse when it comes to child protection. I know of cases where they visit mothers who are reported for being neglectful, and unfortunately, these are often false reports with originate from the perpetrator, who make trivial reports about neglecting the children. The REAL perpetrators get off the hook and the victims get into trouble for supposed neglect. I guess we need to be educated a lot more on what true neglect is.
Oh, and by the way, I wanted to add that sometimes, words from a male do trigger me, but that is normally when I detect “abuserese”. I know it is easy to be manipulated, but I think it is also possible to detect “authentic-victimese”, and the many posts from the regular male contributors in this community sound totally that way – no subtle blame, only sound reasoning, understanding, empathy, and most of all, sometimes, they articulate the exact sentiments in my heart.
I do understand, though, that part of the post-traumatic stress is the ability to be triggered. Hugs to you, Song, and hope you get the clarification to help you on your journey to healing and recovery.
Jeff S- I appreciate you telling your story, and I’m very sorry for what happened to you.
I did have some difficulty though with the idea that a person with depression is fully responsible for their neglect of others. I’m sensitive to this because in the past I’ve suffered from severe depression. I did care about people but I just didn’t have any energy to relate to them. Some people neglect others because they are basically self-centered and uncaring, and it sounds as if you were a victim of this. I just wonder if depression is a separate issue?
KayE, first of I do think that depression and neglect are separate issues- I only brought it up because in my story (and others that I met) the two were linked. She constantly appealed to depression as a reason that her behavior was OK and why I shouldn’t be hurt by it. Anything can be used as a weapon, and this was hers.
I did not mean to say or imply that a depressed person is “fully responsible for their neglect of others”- if anyone has a spouse who suffers from depression and expects them to “get over it and move on”, they are going to be disappointed; depression is real and it is hard. Seeing many, many folks at the mental hospital convinced me of that. And in the end, I think depression is too big for people to just solve themselves, they need help- God’s help and help from professionals who know this disease.
The “choice” I referred to in my post was not the choice to “get over it and behave normally”, which I think some people unfortunately expect, but rather the choice to take responsibility and learn how to cope with it in a healthy way. In my case, one of the programs she went through had to remove her for continually leaving and not fulfilling the things they asked of her. This was a program she begged me to get her in to and my mother stepped in to pay for (because it was way beyond my budget).
I was willing to support her in any way I could, and those suffering from emotional disorders need that support- bit I could only support. I couldn’t do it for her.
Song, one difference I can say about our situations was that in your case you withdrew as a means of self protection. In my case she wanted me to be around her, but solely on her terms. That is, she wanted to eat together, but she only wanted to do it watch TV in our bedroom. She wanted to spend time with our son, but only if he wasn’t being fussy. One of the last examples before the end was when I invited her to go to the park with me and our son. She said “I’m not up for it”, but then hesitated and suggested maybe we could all go shopping for her birthday instead. I said we could go shopping tomorrow but the park was probably better for our son to be ale to get out and play- she repeated that she was too tired for that and went back to watching TV.
I do not think her neglect flowed from her depression, but rather she used depression as an excuse to disengage from her family.
KayE raises an interesting point – it’s difficult to discern, from either side, where personal responsibility ends and using a condition as an excuse begins. I feel like Jeff S has genuinely journeyed through this maze. There may have even been times when his wife was actually unable to care for herself or her family, thus making it even more difficult for him to know when it was time for her to step up.
It again comes down to actions reflecting attitudes. Is the person trying to do what they can? Does the person KNOW what they can do, and if not, are they trying to figure that out? Are they asking for help or demanding/requiring it? (even passively)? Are they looking for solutions to the problem, or are they denying there’s a problem or blaming the other person for it?
I struggled with this in my marriage, perhaps putting too much hope into his legitimate neurological differences and not enough personal responsibility on him. He denied he had any problems or even differences (wouldn’t even let me talk about ways we could work through them) until I told him it was over. Everything was my fault. Then all of a sudden, his differences were the reason he was the way he was (plus still being my fault for not talking to him the ‘right’ way). So he now uses his situation to avoid responsibility, though his condition doesn’t affect his ability to take responsibility.
The obvious thing is that my husband was never completely debilitated by his condition and is able to take responsibility for things, but chooses not to. This is shown through his blaming and other behaviors. If he was unable to take responsibility, then I would have to bear the burden of caring for him and the family.
Jeff S, I too am very sorry for what you’ve lived. What you lived sounds like it could be a type of emotional abuse. While I have no reason to doubt what you share is true, I do see some statements that felt triggering to me as well. Song I’m not you or trying to claim to know what may have been triggering for you, but just saying that I can see where you’re coming from.
What I’m referring to is general, in that what was coming across,in part, is that perhaps, Jeff S, because your ex-wife was dealing with depression, your needs…in bed, emotional affirmation, etc, were not being met and you felt neglected. As KayE said, maybe it is selfishness with depression as a separate issue. Or a combination of the two. I have never been diagnosed with depression. But I do know when I’m struggling the most or feeling depressed or grieved about my life’s circumstances, I don’t have much to ‘give’, sometimes even to my kids. However, habitual withdrawal is a common trait with those who are diagnosed w/depression. But you also described that your exwife was actively involved with other peoples lives, so that offers the question of how she used her energy was a choice. And that is where I believe emotional abuse would apply. I experienced alot of this while I was married, a clear choice of showing loads of interest and compassion toward other people, because that was ‘seen’ and self-serving on the part of ex-h.
Edification, love and genuine compassion begins at home, and is a natural spill over into other people’s lives, rather than using it as a means of self righteousness and getting attention.
One of the most important lessons I’m learning in my healing and recovery is to trust my gut. And then, to try to understand if the trigger was/is something to act on now and is a red flag. Or is it that it’s shaking a memory that could happen again. I think as survivors, we almost always have our radars ‘up’. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Rebecca, in fact I did feel like my needs weren’t getting met- though it took me a long time to realize I was even allowed to HAVE needs. In fact I had my family telling me for years they were concerned about me, but I burshed it off and told them they just didn’t understand.
But I did have needs, and the continued ignoring of those needs eventually took a huge toll on me. My entire life was wrapped up in taking care of her and our son- I was a distant third.
I completely understand about not having much “to give”, and that’s why in my original post I talked about those times occurring for us all- sometimes more than others. When it becomes a complete and persistent lifestyle, though, we are talking about a real problem. In the end, I was falling into depression myself, but I wasn’t able to “not have it to give” because of our two year old depending on at least one of us to take care of him.
Dear all, sorry I’ve been taking a restful Sunday and not got back to this thread yet. I’m going to make a comment, but it probably wont’ be for a few hours, as I’m having some friends over for a meal and Scrabble and telling them about my recent trip. Thanks for everybody being courteous with each other and trying to untangle this somewhat Gordian knot of depression & neglect and how those phenomena might relate to abuse. It is a great conversation to be having. Hope any of you who have been triggered can take some deep breaths and stay with us, as I think together we may be able, carefully and gradually, to arrive at a better understanding of all this. Hugs to anyone who wants them.
Song, you said that in your case you were experiencing depression because of your involvement with your husband and his emotional and verbal abuse. And once you realised that he was being abusive and that was causing you to feel depressed, you emotionally detached yourself and withdrew from him to protect and regain your mental health. His accusations that you were ‘neglecting’ him was a way of him shifting the blame to you, rather than admit to and correct his abusiveness. The fact that his accusations re-doubled when you started to take steps to protect your self from his peck-peck-pecking at your self esteem, shows that he truly was an abuser. Any husband who truly loved his wife and had her best interests at heart, would be GLAD if his depressed wife took steps to improve her mental well-being. The fact that he interpreted those steps as more of an affront to him, and a justification to escalate his accusations, showed that he was without doubt an abuser. I am glad you saw what was going on and took wise steps to regain your mental and emotional well-being.
The contrast between your situation and Jeff S’s situation, it seems to me, has been pretty well articulated by him and others on this thread already, but I trust you will permit me to re-state it, for my own benefit and mental clarity, if no-one else’s.
It seems to me that Jeff S’s wife behaved the ways she did not because of Jeff’s treatment of her, but because of other factors to do with her, rather than him. Whether and to what extent those factors included clinical depression, or some other mental condition, or just plain selfishness and laziness, I guess no-one here can say for sure, but it doesn’t seem that Jeff’s behaviour was the primary cause of her behaviour and her emotional state.
I’m going to try to summarize my thoughts on this topic in general terms, rather than making it particular to any of our readers’ stories or experiences. Here’s what I submit. I am open to correction and improvement, this is a work in progress.
A person can have an entrenched and intentional selfishness and thereby neglect their spouse without pangs of conscience; this amounts to abuse of the other spouse. Entrenched and intentional selfishness springs from an attitude of entitlement, which is the core of the abusive mentality. It can manifest in sheer indolence, self-indulgence in their own desires at the expense of other people, verbal abuse, controlling and coercive behaviours, physical and sexual abuse, indeed, all the kinds of abuse we talk about on this blog.
Another person may suffer from depression and as a result neglect their (non-abusive) spouse, but providing they do not have an abusive mentality – the attitude of entitlement – they will suffer in their conscience knowing that they are not presently meeting their spouse’s needs. And they will, in the course of time, often come to a place where they seek professional help for depression and follow a treatment plan and gain some improvement in their mood as a result.
Another person may be a victim of marital abuse and end up depressed because of their spouse’s abusive behaviour towards them. Such depression is not selfish neglect of the opposite spouse, it is a healthy response to an untenable situation. What is often labelled “depression” in such cases is the victim saying “I refuse to be content with being abused!” Victims may (as Song did) also strategically withdraw from their spouse, which is another healthy way of responding to mistreatment by dis-attaching themselves from the abuser’s insidious tactics.
In such cases, it is common for abusers to then further attack their partners saying, “You are withdrawing from me! You are neglecting my needs!” However, this is unfair and untrue. The truth is, the victim is sensibly withdrawing in order to dis-attach from the abuse and regain emotional well-being, and the abuser is reaping the consequences of his or her own behaviour.
Barbara, I think you have summed it up nicely.
I also ended up withdrawing at the end and I judged myself pretty harshly for it. I was doing it as a means of self preservation, but knowing how it felt to be neglected, I felt like I was becoming what I feared.
I particularly like the part about how the conscience interacts within the individual. I also suspect this may have been some of the triggering language used in my original post- that is, my tone was mostly one of sharing my thoughts on the subject rather than my feelings, and it is difficult to see my conscience at work presented in such a fashion. I think you and Jeff have been more privy to my emotional responses in our correspondence.
I probably could shared more of my story, but I’m always hesitant to give too many details about what went on in a public forum. Some of that is that it feels like I’m trying to garner sympathy, and part of it is I just don’t have it in my heart to publicly shame my ex wife by revealing the things she did. Even the few examples I’ve given make me feel a bit guilty.
“I’m always hesitant to give too many details about what went on in a public forum. Some of that is that it feels like I’m trying to garner sympathy, and part of it is I just don’t have it in my heart to publicly shame my ex wife by revealing the things she did. Even the few examples I’ve given make me feel a bit guilty.”
… those words depict an active and sensitive conscience.
In contrast to that, compare the actions of many abusers:
1) they have no hesitation in broadcasting false allegations about what their spouse did to them,
2) they have no hesitation in garnering sympathy from bystanders
3) they have no conscience about publicly shaming their spouse.
Yes, I agree totally.
Bystanders don’t always distinguish between the different scenarios and all it takes is for an abusive person to blame the other for her/his neglect and /or depression to have the victim looking and feeling like the guilty one. On the other hand, there are some who are entrenched in their selfishness and somehow get away with using depression as an excuse.
I have experienced both sides of the coin, personally as well as with my friends. My ex was diagnosed with depression, so he used it as an excuse for being nasty, irrational, and sulky. But when I had to withdraw to minimize his abuse, he accused me of not meeting his needs. The counselors believed his story both ways – that he could be excused for his depression but I had no excuse for being neglectful. I wasn’t even allowed to walk away if he got threatening, or to leave his badgering to cook for the kids who had been waiting for hours for supper. But I was encouraged to understand his silent treatment.
Anonymous, I am sorry you went through that. For the most part I did not have to experience that aspect. Very few of the professionals we saw allowed for depression to be used as an excuse. That didn’t stop her, but they did validate me which was very comforting.
To have the counselor not see what was going on and protect you is egregious. They should have known better.
Barbara, Thank you for how you beautifully summarized the topic in general and my experience. I so enjoy your ability to articulate your thoughts in your writing. This paragraph is an example of what I mean. It’s an insightful description of the core of abusiveness.
“A person can have an entrenched and intentional selfishness and thereby neglect their spouse without pangs of conscience; this amounts to abuse of the other spouse. Entrenched and intentional selfishness springs from an attitude of entitlement, which is the core of the abusive mentality. It can manifest in sheer indolence, self-indulgence in their own desires at the expense of other people, verbal abuse, controlling and coercive behaviours, physical and sexual abuse, indeed, all the kinds of abuse we talk about on this blog.”
Excuses and rationalizations are not the cause or reason for abuse. They are part of the abuser’s arsenal that they can and will use, and they will try to hide behind them. Abusive neglect is another tool/weapon.
Trying to have a relationship with someone who is abusive reminds me of interacting with a bead of mercury. I remember, when I was a child, seeing a bead of mercury. It looked pleasing and solid until I touched it, then it divided into smaller beads of mercury. The more I touched it, the more the mercury divided, until the pieces were almost invisible and hard to track down. It became a frustrating process when I continued trying to interact with it as if it was a solid bead. Mercury is quick and slippery. And, it is also poisonous, especially in heavy doses or with long-term exposure to smaller doses. Those who work with Mercury, and recognize it as a poisonous substance, learn the necessary steps of precaution and protection to minimize their exposure to it when interacting with Mercury. I learned to not touch it.
Likewise, an abusive person may look and act pleasing and appear like a solid, healthy person until the interact begins. When you try to connect with them, they become slippery, using the tools of their trade in their arsenals to bring the divisiveness into the relationship. The more you try to connect, the more the divisive tools are employed, and the person you thought you were relating to becomes so fragmented that you can’t track them down any more. It can be a frustrating process if you continue to interact with them thinking they are the solid person they first appeared to be. An abusive person can be quick and slippery in their interactions. And, depending on the type of abuse, the heavy doses of abuse or the long term smaller doses, the more you are exposed to them, the more poisonous they are to you. Recognition of and learning how to take care and protect ourselves when dealing with an abusive person can minimize the impact they can have on us.
I love that mercury illustration! The analogy is perfect, point by point, in every respect. Thanks, Song.
This thread conversation is very encouraging to me. You have all been very honest and yet interacted with one another in a loving way — speaking truth in love. This tells me that there are people here who truly want to honor Christ and love one another even when difficult issues are put before them. Jeff S – I suspect that this interaction has been a good one for you. Nice work, everyone (but don’t go gettin’ prideful on us:)
You all are such an encouragement to me. A Christian community that is willing to look at brokenness in a respectful and caring manner but not willing to brush over the devestation brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for your sharing and your honesty.
AJ – that is wonderful. Thanks much for being here and we hope you will continue with us.
Jeff S. I am thankful for you sharing your story. I have been told I am very capable and conscientious. So, my husband and my son have found it easy to be neglectful because I
want to make life chores easier for me because they always have an excuse for doing something later….I mean years later, or so late that it screws things up. They are both self-absorbed, maybe even addicted to the TV and or video games. I have gone through illness and I am being treated for depression. A family is suppose to have unity. But I
can’t get either one of them to act in a collective manner. It’s just not that important to them i guess. I feel more like hired help than a wife and Mom. Lots of women have a worse situation. I just keep trying to do my best but not as quickly as before. My heart goes out to you and I hope you can make a life of peace and joy.
Thank you, Christine. I learned a lot about myself through this process and how exhausting it can be when what you have done out of love feels like it is being taken advantage of. I am glad to hear you are being treated for your depression, even though I know it is difficult to be in that place.
I watch very little TV myself these days because it was a tool used to destroy my marriage- I understand that addiction.
One of the best things that helped me that I wish I’d have gotten in my hands a lot sooner was the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud. I don’t think reading it earlier could have saved my marriage, but it could have prevented some of my distress. I DO firmly believe it can help a lot of other marriages that aren’t to the point where mine had gotten.
I learned a lot about boundaries at the mental hospital, but their take on it wasn’t quite right. They would say that co-dependency was “doing for others what they could do for themselves”. This didn’t sit right with me, because it kind of got painted with a broad negative brush that doing things for others was “enabling”. So I was enabling my ex by brining her food in bed, etc (which I was). But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right just to stop doing anything at all- isn’t the Christian love a love of giving?
I really had a lot of conflict about this because I didn’t want to be the kind of person who was enabling or being taken advantage of, but I DID want to be loving and giving. The secular institution made it seem like these goals were at odds. The view in Townsend and Clouds book is a bit different, however. I don’t remember if they specifically were addressing “codependency”, but I was quite struck when they talked about our motivation for doing for others. They said that if we were giving OUT OF FEAR, something was wrong and we ought not to do it. So, if we are giving out of fear that our loved ones will be disappointed in us, or not think highly if us, then we are not really giving. But by the same token, if we are doing something someone else can do for themselves, but we are doing it because we love and not out of fear, then that is a good love.
So (to use an illusration I directly asked at the secular instituion and received an unsatisfactory answer) is it enabling behavior for a husband to get his wife a glass of water before bed? They said it was, and then kind of stumbled around to say that sometimes co-dependency is good without really giving guidance abiut WHEN it is good. Under the framework of Townsend and Cloud however, the question is whether I am getting the glass of water because I fear I will disappoint her if I do not. That’s a really good question and reveals a lot about the health of a relationship, I think. If I fear my wife will think lowly of me for not bringing her a glass of water before bed, I am not doing it out of love.
In the final analysis, in my case a lot of my giving was out of fear- fear of her being mad at me, fear of disappointing her, fear of not measuring up. I hasn’t even realized this until I read the book (which sadly was after the divorce). I have since made a promise that I will never again give out of fear (I’m sure I will fail in keeping this promise, but it’s a good goal).
One thing I will say about “lots of women have a worse situation”- this is true, and it’s the kind of thing I said (and say) to myself a lot. However, we must never assume that because someone else has it “worse” somehow our pain is lessened- it still hurts. And to be honest, we have no idea how God has prepared others who are in worse situations- what we know is that he has given each person what he or she needs for every trial, and that he only allows us the trials we can stand. In all of these things, he uses them to our good. I mean by way of this to be encouraging that God has made you, knows your circumstance, and is as every bit concerned with you as he is with people is “lesser” or “greater” trials.
Dear Jeff S,
I am finally back at my keyboard trying to keep my promise of a week ago. I hope that you will see my comment here, even though it is so late in time. I tried to respond to your post right away because I didn’t expect many people to do so. Was I ever wrong! I think that it was good that I could not write during this time because I was so encouraged to see the wonderful responses and attitudes of the other writers. My Mom suffered from severe depression in the 1950s when even the professionals did not understand severe mental illnesses, and medications were new. She then developed paranoia and post-partum psychosis after her 6th child was stillborn. I do not think that either of my parents were abusers, but they did act abusively toward each other, mostly because they did not understand the illness that she was experiencing.
In the late 1980s, my Dad had passed away and I was my Mom’s main caregiver. It was about that same time that Mom was treated with medication that worked. It did not make her completely well, but it helped her dramatically. She no longer needed or wanted to lie in bed most of the time. At about that same time I discovered an organization called the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI was most of all a family support group, where I learned about depression and other illnesses, and I learned how I could help her most appropriately, and maintain my own mental and physical health at the same time. NAMI provides a free 12 week class for families that is nationally acclaimed. I volunteered for this organization for 20 years and helped teach these classes. One thing we taught was that illness should not be accepted as an excuse for bad behavior. Deciding what is genuine illness and what is a choice to behave badly is very difficult, and it is very helpful to be able to meet with and discuss these issues with other family members. The educational classes and support group meetings go hand-in-hand to help a loving family member make good choices in how to respond. When I first found NAMI, mental illness was still an area where there was a lot of blaming and stigma. Even today, the professionals find it hard to teach families about coping, if they are not themselves a close relative and caregiver of someone who suffers from a mental illness. It is better for a Christian to be in a Christian support group, but if there are none, then we need to use what God provides. I highly recommend NAMI: National Association on Mental Health [Internet Archive link] . From that national website one can access local support groups, and many members are believers. At least that was my experience.
It was partially through my experience at NAMI that I was able to recognize that my own marriage was abusive. I learned how to speak appropriately with someone who has a mental disability, who can be very frustrating, but to do it without being disrespectful. And that is the issue that defines abuse for me. The Bible teaches us to respect all human beings. I believe it means regardless of whether or not they are respectful toward us. We also need to do what is best for them, even though they may not agree with us. In the case of my mother, I was in a position of strength, because she needed a guardian. She accepted a lot of the decisions that I had to make because I presented it respectfully to her, and she knew she needed help. In my marriage, my husband was in a position of strength, because we had set up our family on a headship-submission model, that was a part of our church teaching, and it steadily deteriorated over many years. (The church also provided no help when I asked for it.) I think that poor teaching on Biblical headship and submission was responsible for the abusive behavior in my parents’ marriage as well.
How do you stand up to someone who is being disrespectful to you, and still be respectful to them? Who seems to see your attempts to stand firm as only weakness that just escalates the situation? To someone who has been steadily undermining your self-confidence and your children’s respect for you. When you have only seen role models that have resorted to abusive behavior, the church has no idea how to help, and you feel like a total failure, what do you do? I finally decided that I had to stand for what was right. We would never get any better as long as we kept on doing what we had always done. I have been blamed for breaking up the marriage. Yet, once I took a stand for Jesus, followed through on legal separation, and started working on changing myself, Jesus started to provide all kinds of information about abuse, confirming what I had discovered on my own. Then I was finally able to call it what it was. All of this has been very difficult for me to untangle in my thinking, and Jeff Crippen’s sermons helped me a lot there. Then Jesus provided good teaching on headship-submission and divorce-remarriage. Barbara’s book Not Under Bondage led to many more that have been helpful in this area. I have made so many mistakes in dealing with all of this, but Jesus is always there with his hand outstretched, willing to forgive and lead on. May He do so for you, as well. Blessings.
Thanks for all you’ve said J Ann. I am curious about one thing. You wrote about someone (presumably your husband) “who seems to see your attempts to stand firm as only weakness that just escalates the situation”. Can you please tell us a little more about that?
My abuser labelled my attempts to stand firm as defiance, in-submissiveness and lack of femininity (‘always wanting to wear the pants’). He basically thought that whenever I stood firm and drew a line, I was being mean spirited towards him. I’m curious to understand how an abuser would claim that his victim’s attempts to stand firm are ‘only weakness’. It’s not that I disbelieve you; I just want to understand better.
Barbara, I guess that my comment about weakness was a little vague. He did not start out in the marriage being a controller, but things deteriorated into that, because we eventually disagreed on so many things. He felt compromise was bad and is proud of his stubbornness. If I stood up to him on an issue, I couldn’t use the same threatening tactics that he did, because it went against my priciples. He would accuse me of just wanting to win, and my ideas were stupid. I meant that my stance was seen as a weak attempt, because I would not go any further, but it would cause him to escalate. He would just act threatening and go ahead and do what he wanted. I knew that he was capable of hurting the children or me, and I did not want to push it that far. I would “choose my battles” and speak up firmly. I would then be in for a long spell of withholding and verbal abuse. He has never appologized for anything. He made a weak attempt at it in counseling once, but I made it too easy for him by telling him what I wanted, and he said,”Yeah.” I was so disappointed that the counselor did not call him on that. By the time I began to understand what was happening and have any idea about boundaries and such, our situation was so bad that the only thing that made him pay attention was leaving.
I wish I had known some of the things in Patricia Evan’s book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, like the incident on page 228. “A man told me that one day, as he and his fiancee were driving home from a movie theater, she expressed an opinion different from his about the film they had just seen. For some reason he said, he got angry and started to raise his voice to her. (He still doesn’t understand why he did this.)
They were stopped at a traffic light. His partner said, “I am hearing abuse from you,” stepped out of the car, and left. (And she hadn’t even read my books!)
He called out her name several times but she was gone. “She just disappeared into the night,” he said.
He felt very shaken. Traffic prevented him from folowing her. He went home. She hadn’t called. Finally, two days later, she appeared.
He never did it again.”
They do it because they can, and it works.
Perhaps this story should be part of pre-marital counseling. It was a risky thing she did, but it saved her from a world of pain.
Thanks J. Ann I think I get it more now. What you said reminded me of my ex. I realised after it was over, and after reading Patricia Evans, that he was like a boy in the playground, or a male in his all-male workplace, who is always jostling to be on top of the other boys. He would even belittle my attempts at drawing a line, because they weren’t as strong as his. It was all about one-up-man-ship. That in itself shows such immaturity, but to treat me, a woman, his wife, like he would treat other males, shows how shallow his thinking really was.
J. Ann, thank your for sharing your story. It sounds like you’ve had a hard road; I’m glad you chose to use that working with NAMI. Through the time when my ex was in the mental hospitals I learned a lot about depression and other mental health issues, as well as the organizations like NAMI and Emotions Anonymous that are there to provide support. The clear and consistent message from every peson I met that worked with my ex was always that depression was not an excuse for bad behavior. In fact, I was impressed with how much they required the individual to do for his or her own healing- mostly for family members they wanted to show us how to erect good boundaries and understand what was going on.
But however much they said “it’s not an excuse”, it’s always what she (to this day) falls back on, “If you only would take the time to understand, then you wouldn’t be hurt by my behavior”. I actually did take a lot of time and effort to try and understand, but it never made it hurt any less.
One thing I haven’t really gotten into much here is how much the headship-submission teaching also hurt us. I was told multiple times that I needed to love my wife sacrificially and it was implied that it was my failure to lead that led to the problems we were facing. I also had to fend off the church sending a bunch of women to teach my wife how to submit, because I felt like that was the last thing the situation needed. Yes, I wanted my wife to participate in our marriage, but I didn’t really think a bunch of women from the church that she didn’t know well and had little reason to trust telling her to obey me was really going to make that happen.
The one phrase that keeps ringing in my ears is a woman at the church who told me “you need to learn to love her with agape love”. I said I had, and for years, but she responded with “Agape love never fails”.
Uuugh! That phrase that keeps ringing in your head, Jeff, would be ringing in mine too, if that were me! How do we get through to these people? They are so brainwashed by their pat simplistic doctrines for ‘how to deal with problems’. I would like to throw them all into the middle of a giant swimming pool full of fairy floss (spun sugar candy) and let them try to swim to shore! It would teach them how dumb their fairy floss doctrines are.
[ Just letting my imagination run wild … ]
Upon reflection, I can think of a good come-back to that lady (wish these thoughts came into my head more quickly!):
“So you think agape love never fails, do you? Jesus loves everyone with agape love, but not all of them will be saved, some will go to perdition. Don’t you need to re-think your doctrine a bit?”
Thanks for sharing how the headship/submission teaching affected your situation, Jeff. I plan to write a new post soon on the similarities and differences between how male and female victims are affected by the teaching on headship and submission.
Barbara, I would like to add that the most dangerous thing (in my opinion) about the way headship-submission is taught in relation to marital problems is the implication that you have the power to change another person. This is a lie- wives are told they can change their husbands if they just submit hard enough, and husbands are told they can change their wives if they love hard enough.
You cannot change another human being. Only God does that. And another human being’s failure to change is not the fault of his or her spouse. By teaching this you make the victim his or her own abuser, because it becomes his or her fault that nothing has changed and the abuse has continued.
One more detail about my conversation with the woman who said that: we traded extensive emails and in the end she really wanted me to meet a friend of hers who stayed in a hurtful marriage that wasn’t really a marriage any more (I would assume abusive, but without knowing the details I hesitate to say it- she only said it was a similar situation to mine). I said I would talk to her and hear her story, provided she did not attempt to change my mind or call my decision sinful. I did not get a response.
On a positive note, I met this week with a guy from my old church and we had lunch. He said, “what I don’t get is why the church had to become so uncomfortable for you to leave. Even if they thought your divorce was a sin, I’m a sinner too and no one says anything. Just because my sin is private and not on display for everyone to see doesn’t mean I’m any better than you. And your situation was really hard.” He went on to really empathize with my situation and demonstrate he’d been thinking about it a lot an in a compassionate way.
It was like a breath of fresh air- a little compassion goes a long way. And then we talked about his own situation where he really struggles (which has nothing to do with his marriage). We both left uplifted and encouraged. I wish this was the kind of conversation people associated with the church.
Your friend nailed it, Jeff. Divorce is on public display: that’s the difference. [And wooden-minded Christians think most divorce is sin.] But the myriads of other sins that beset Christians such as covetousness, prideful ambition, timidity, emotional dishonesty and feigning affection, being conformed to this world, etc., don’t raise any eyebrows. In fact, they are so common among Christians that I think we get surprised when we don’t seen them!
Yes he did. The thing that gets me, he is from a completely pagan culture, having grown up in an area in Asia where there is no Christiantiy. I have not heard his testimony, but I know he didn’t grow up with faith around him. In some ways his faith is so simple, but he’s not a simple guy and he understands an amazing amount of theology- I just think when he grew up knowing nothing of the Good News and his family knows nothing of the Good News, well he just doesn’t have the time or energy to expend on marginalizing Christians.
Yes, Jeff S, your experience with your friend from the old church was a blessing for you. I just met with a group of women from my old church a couple days ago. We are a monthly book discussion group and prayer group as well. They have continued to encourage me and understood when I was no longer able to attend the church. They don’t necessarily agree with my choices, but have continued to love me and encourage me. (It sounds like you and I experienced different extremes of headship-submission judgement from some at our churches. It also sounds like we still have those who did not participate in that condemnation.) My lady friends are also a newsline to keep me updated on many other church members that I was once very close to. The Lord has blessed me with a new church located very close to where I now live. The women there have welcomed me with open arms, and I have shared information from this blog with the ministers. Sometimes it helps to be in a new situation when you are seeking healing. But it is good to know that our old friends still care.
The Lord provided me just enough people to encourage me that I didn’t fall away completely. He’s good at that, isn’t He?
There was one couple that we knew very well- he used to sing on the worship team I led, and after our son was born she spent a lot of time at our house watching our son (until I hired a full-time nanny). It was actually the wife in this couple who started asking me questions about what was going on in my marriage because she saw it all first hand. And it turns out, the husband had experience with counseling, so I had both understanding and compassionate guidance all in one Christian package. There were several times I doubted my own ability to judge the situation, but knowing that she had been in my house and saw what was going gave me a lot of strength. Incidentally, this couple never supported or protested my divorce- I know it pained them a great deal, but he maintained that whatever happend, it was not OK for my ex to live in the same house with my son and I- he believed she was a real danger. I always got the sense they thought divorce was wrong, but couldn’t think of another way out so they supported me the best they could. I may be reading too much in, though.
And now I’ve found a new church- they don’t necessarily get what I’ve gone through, but they’ve been very firm on not judging me for the divorce, to the point that the pastor introduced me to a divorced man who will soon be marrying his daughter. He and his wife are both survivors of their spouses dying and now have a blended family with 9 kids, so they understand difficult emotional situations.
All of these people have been real blessings in my life.
You are going through a lot, probably more than you realize. My heart hurts for you and I pray for your continued strength through this (I know you can feel weak, but I assure you that merely being able to do what you have done and write this comment shows an amazing amount of strength).
“I do not believe his apologies anymore because he follows them within a day or so with an angry rant… Am I wrong to doubt him?”
I know how that feels- constantly feeling like you are not being understanding enough, or merciful enough, or forgiving enough. But I can tell you from someone on the other side, the doubts are good and healthy. They are there to protect you.
Here’s another post you may find useful.
I would also suggest the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud for a healthy and Biblical view on setting boundaries to protect yourself. My only hesitation is that they, while not addressing it that book, do not endorse abuse in divorce cases, a position that I do not agree with at all. Still, it is a great resource for getting a handle on how to maintain your boundaries and why it is important to do so.
“But now after a couple brief conversations with him my family assessed he is sane and It is I who is nuts for separating from such a wonderful christian man…So I view his words about love and regret as being at least 75 percent legal maneuvering and 25 percent really wanting to be together as a family because now he is without us.”
While the gender of my situation was reversed, I dealt with many of the same extreme behaviors (violence to me and abuse of children) in the break up leading to and even after divorce, and then again over several years many of the same manipulative tactics with family members. It is a very trying time when our families turn on us – it causes us to doubt our commitment even to our own personal safety.
You’ve arranged supervised visitation, and so did I. Here’s something I could offer as a clue. My ex was also allowed supervised visitation weekly by court order, and the promise of future expanded visitation should she receive counseling and have professional medical opinions deeming her mental state to be improved and stable. She wanted nothing to do with supervised visitation, and nothing really to do with ongoing counseling. Instead, she turned to a propaganda war with my family and most of them turned on me at least for a time. She also used to call the children and ask them to meet somewhere privately; “Let’s take a walk in the woods together,” she told my youngest. He had nightmares for months.
“Yet, I am so weary and feel so alone”
Rest assured, God promises you peace and you are not wrong for pursuing it. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and will never leave you nor forsake you. When the opinions of others turn on you, turn to Jesus in prayer. He will be there.
Eventually God shed the light of truth on my situation, I was remarried, and we have had now many years to raise the children to adulthood in a loving environment.
If nothing else, be certain of your Father’s love this day and that there are people here at Cry For Justice standing with you in prayer.
“I do not believe his apologies anymore because he follows them within a day or so with an angry rant… Am I wrong to doubt him?”
You are right to not believe his apologies, as they are NOT apologies. An apology is NEVER followed by angry rants or excuses. He is only using pseudo apologies as a means to control and manipulate you. You should doubt everything he says for his words are lies.
”So I view his words about love and regret as being at least 75% legal maneuvering and 25 % really wanting to be together as a family because now he is without us.”
His words about love and regret are 100% lies. No true husband would treat his wife and children the way your abuser has. He wants to be together again as a family because when you separated from him you shattered the image he created about himself. It is all about him. And now he selfishly is trying to fix that image because that is the only way he makes sense of himself.
Betrayal hurts. You have been betrayed by not only the man in your life that vowed to love, cherish, and honor you, but also your family. But remember that your grown children, the only people who have lived with your abuser, are “adamantly supportive” because they have seen and know the truth about your abuser. And you, the only person to have lived in your marriage, know the truth. Don’t doubt yourself!
As much as possible, limit communication with your abuser. Don’t read his emails, or if you need to, possibly you could have someone else screen them first. Don’t answer his phone calls. I repeat, limit communication with him as much as possible! Keep your boundaries in place! Limiting communication and contact with him are necessary for your healing.
This IS hard, I know, but it is NOT impossible! Stand firm! And know that, as Martin said, you can be certain of God’s love and we are standing with you in prayer.
Thank you so much for your thoughts…the self-doubts and other concerns were crowding out the good things I am trying to make room for. The holidays are a hard time since my mom passed not long ago, feeling like I am loosing my noodle going through this process of separation was making it even harder. I will try to remember your words to direct my heart and eyes to the peacegiver, Jesus… but you all certainly help too 🙂
Yes Anonymouse. Ditto what everyone else has said, and just agreeing that that holidays are a hard time. I think holidays and Christmas in particular are a hard time for those who are in or have been in domestic abuse. And there many contributory reasons that make holidays harder.
As someone said recently to ANFL on her own blog, “Remember to cut yourself some slack!”
REPOST (redactions for anonymity): I am separated and divorcing a severely passive-aggressive bipolar person who hid childhood sexual abuse by a stepparent. The two remain close (will not go into more detail to protect our anonymity) I did my best for the sake of our kids to look the other way from the time I learned of the odd continued relationship. Other things between us brought about the separation. After four traumatic events I lost my capacity to cope with the continued cycle of abuse, I asked for time and space to heal….my spouse would say they understood and would allow it but this was short-lived and kept spinning out of control emotionally until it became frightening and abusive. Once separated I asked my spouse to just leave us be, to heal…but that was not possible. Even the restraining order no longer seems enough, We still feel the behavior even through email and calls my spouse makes to family. While the kids and I make baby steps forward toward personal healing, I find the lengths my spouse is willing to go to to disrupt and undo that work disheartening and sometimes scary. My spouse takes me being mildly courteous as a sign I would reconcile, regularly demands to know my thoughts. When I finally relent after a couple weeks…then takes me sharing my feelings (in response to the demands of an explanation) which I do in a calm, sincere way as abusive nagging and a new challenge. I get a response with bullet pointed arguments that reference “lists” obsessively. This occurred all through our marriage. My attempts to make steps toward healing through counseling (which make my return to healthy mental well-being possible) was an affront, challenge, an insult. The only kind of counseling my spouse wanted was the kind where my spouse had a audience to air his lists…The dynamics now seem to have only changed form…my spouse has stepped into the grayer areas of violating the protective order (good for another 9 months). I receive love letters begging me to take him back alternating with with demanding rage letters. My brothers think my spouse is sane (it is I who is nuts for separating from such a wonderful christian). Never mind that I have proof of what my spouse had been doing to us. Now, I am mostly heartbroken at my easily misguided brothers and at my spouse. BUT ALSO ANGRY at the betrayal. Not very christian of me, I know. It feels like they almost wanted this. Enough history, Back to the point and my question, I do not believe the apologies anymore because they are followed within a day or so with an angry rant…To me it is the same as retracting the very vague apology that was tossed out. Am I wrong to doubt? My spouse keeps emailing begging me to drop the restraining order and go into counseling…calling my family and exs to cry on the phone about the unfairness and stir up old rifts that are newly healing….I hesitate because I have seen how manipulative and conniving with the ex and others up close that occurred…I also believe my spouse has been told he is in a bad legal position and that the only way to regain control and influence it is by convincing me to reconcile. So I view words about love and regret as being at least 75 percent legal maneuvering and 25 percent really wanting to be together as a family because. The trouble is…it was aweful. I have never seen a happy person be so awful to their family (to the point it was when I took out the protective order). Still, I question my own sanity more and more as my siblings align with my spouse (of course based on what they were told by him, at best half-truths, at worst, lies). I sent dosuments to prove what I was saying…but now, I DONT EVEN WANT TO SPEAK TO THEM. If they did say they now believed and understood, I am not sure I would believe that they couldnt just as easily flip back the other way next week. My own grown children who live with it under the same roof are adamantly supportive and ready to testify to what they experienced and witnessed…Yet, I am so weary and feel so alone in this whole business without my Dad and siblings. Do I just expect too much from everyone? Please feel free to edit this down for clarity
Anonymouse, the way your spouse is behaving post separation is classic, he could have taken it right out of the textbook. Absolutely typical in every respect. And it hurts and confuses and destabilises the victim. That’s exactly what it’s designed to do.
When I was being subject to that kind of stuff years ago, I think I had too high expectations of myself. I’d got to the place where I realised all his communications were abusive, even the sugar coated ones. But now that I knew he was abusive (head knowledge) I thought my heart and my emotions ought to be so strong, so resilient, so fortresslike, that what he said and did shouldn’t hurt me.
When I came to accept the fact that no matter how much I saw through his abusive communications, they still always hurt my feelings, I realised that I’d been expecting too much of myself. I had been thinking “I should be able to listen to listen to his poisonous words and be able to handle them.” But that was wrong. I was being unfair to me. I’d been “shoulding” on myself.
In my view, “should” is the S word… to be avoided except in reference to things like the ten commandments.
I learned to give myself permission to block all communication from him, with the only leeway being when it came to important information sharing about our daughter’s welfare.
I let myself off the hook from having to be being an amazingly flexible but ultimately resilient permeable membrane. And I gave myself permission to be a wall.
The other thing that’s making it far worse for you is how your spouse has enlisted you family members as allies. Look at it: he’s got your brothers and your father. All men. It’s relatively easy for blokes to enlist and ally with other blokes. (that’s a generalisation, not an absolute)
So I know it’s hard, but the best way for you to handle things at this time it to give up hoping that you can explain to your family the true nature of your spouse. Just make yourself a wall to them in the same way as you’re making yourself a wall to your husband. Limit the communication with them as much as is feasible, and increase your communication with those who DO support you, like us at this blog. And you also might like to see if you can get into a face to face support group for survivors.
And keep repeating this to yourself:
“It is not my fault; I am not to blame.”
(((hugs))) to you
How or who can i report spousal neglect abuse to?
Vanessa- I am not sure what you mean by “neglect abuse,” or if you meant “neglect” and “abuse.” But you can report abuse that is a violation of the law to the police. Usually, that only covers physical abuse, though some forms of harassment and stalking are covered too. You can go talk to the people at your local women’s crisis center. In some cases, not all that many sadly, you can get help from your church. But be aware that most pastors and churches don’t “get it” about abuse and often put the blame and guilt on the victim.
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
Just to add to what Jeff C said, the laws in different jurisdictions have varying definitions of what is called (wait for the mouthful) Family Violence, Domestic Violence, Battering, Intimate Partner Violence, Domestic Abuse, Intimate Partner Abuse. In some places the definition is wider than in other places.
Furthermore, the definitions of crimes (something that the police can lay charges about) vary as well.
Here is what the law says in my jurisdiction (Victoria, Australia). Assault is physical violence or threat of physical violence that puts the victim in imminent fear of their bodily safety. That is a crime and if reported to the police, charges can be laid. The same with sexual assault.
But there is a much wider definition of Family Violence: it includes any pattern of coercive control that causes the other person in fear. This can include but is not limited to harassment, financial abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, and other things that create a pattern of coercive control or cause the victim to live in fear. In this definition of Family Violence, physical violence is not an essential ingredient; physical abuse may occur as part of the coercive control, but it may not. A victim can obtain a Protection Order from the court that prohibits her abuser from engaging in any further Family Violence towards her and her children can also be named as protected persons under the Order. This F.V. Order is not in itself a criminal charge, it only requires the perpetrator to not behave badly in the future, it does not convict him of behaving badly in the past. However, if a Family Violence Protection Order is in place and the perpetrator does not obey it and his breach of the Order is reported to the police, then he can be charged with breaching the order and that is a criminal offense.
It is wise to check out what the laws say in your own jurisdiction. If you contact a Hotline for domestic violence, they can put you in touch with domestic abuse services in your own state, and the services in your state can tell you what the laws say in your jurisdiction. Hope this helps.
I would report it to your local domestic violence support service or the Domestic Violence Hotline in your country. We have numbers for hotlines on our Resources page (see the tab “resources” at the top of this blog). Don’t be put off by the term ‘Domestic Violence’ and think it does not apply to a case of neglect. It does. ‘Domestic Violence’ (and even the term ‘battering’) covers the whole spectrum of coercive control: emotional abuse (including chronic neglect, the silent treatment, treating the other person like they have no needs and their only purpose is to serve their partner’s whims), financial abuse, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, social abuse (socially isolating the victim) — any pattern of behavior which maintains coercive control over the victim.
You might also consider reporting it to your doctor or a counselor, but be aware that not all health professionals understand the dynamics of abusive relationships and if they don’t understand how abuse works, they may not give you helpful responses.
Keep reporting it until you get some support.
Thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog 🙂
I found this post today due to recent comments. I think what has happened in my marriage constitutes neglect abuse. From the very beginning, even before we had kids my spouse would go to bed early (around 8, sometimes early) while I stayed up working around the house. I would take the car in for service and find that because my spouse didn’t get the tires rotated or the oil changed we were having to get the car repaired more often so, despite his complaints of spending money “we didn’t have” I began to be in charge of getting the car regularly serviced, paying for it myself with what I made doing computer work at home so I could be with my kids. Then he started spending more and more time in what he called “his four walls) our bedroom upstairs. He would come home from work and hide there all night while I decided someone needed to raise our kids so I was downstairs with them. Since he was hiding out, I became the “go to” person for my kids when they needed anything including someone to talk to! When I would try to talk to him he would be “doing his puzzle” (crossword puzzles) so I wasn’t allowed to interupt. I thought “when do I get to have some time to myself?” never, was the answer.
At one point I did medical transcription at home, raised my kids, kept the house as clean as I could without his help at all, and took care of everything else while he worked, came home and hid in his bedroom. I developed severe muscle pain and cried out to God to please just help me take care of my kids, and God heard me! He has gently walked me through this mess, showing me I was being abused by leading me to a Christian counselor who opened my eyes to what was going on. The severe muscle pain was fibromyalgia and I still have it but it is much much better because I’m not internalizing the pain anymore.
We are still “married” but I have learned the art of boundaries and there is quite the wall between us. The kids are grown and they are the joy of my life, even though they have plenty of problems too.
I’m now trusting God to open doors for me to start a new life without the husband. I’ve learned I can do quite a bit of life on my own, including repairing garage doors and putting new seats on toilets! I just have to get up the courage to walk out and start over again.
Hi Dallas Girl, glad you found us. Welcome to the blog. 🙂
You are not the only woman I have heard of who developed fibromyalgia while in a destructive marriage where the husband was chronically breaking his covenant vows.
Thank you, thank you. This post can’t solve my answers or heartache, but hearing from someone who has experienced this approach it from a Christ-centered perspective is an understanding I had been praying for.
My husband of almost thirteen years has ADD (he is on medication). Not so severe that he can’t function, but enough that he has trouble keeping jobs for more than a couple of years at time. He lost his last job 18 months ago, and has refused to find another because he chose to follow his dream of starting his own business. I supported that, though we agreed that if the business wasn’t generating a certain amount be a certain date, he would go find a part time job to supplement. I told him perhaps we could use the change as an opportunity to repair the hurt from the neglect I’d felt for the few years prior.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I went from being a stay-at-home mom (of the most beautiful 3 year old girl and wonderful 6 year old boy) to being a stay-at-home working mom. I provide 100% of our income each month, and take care of the kids. Sometimes,. I pay some teens from the neighborhood come help with the kids. My husband will help maybe a couple of hours a day, usually when he feels like it. We’ve tried counseling, we’ve tried a number of things, but he has made it very clear that he will do what he wants, when he wants, and I may tell him what I think or how I feel but it will not change what he chooses to do with his life or career.
He even has some money in a business account that he won’t allow our family to use. One month, I had trouble paying the mortgage. He refused to help, because he needed to do the ‘accounting’.
I’ve tried to be patient and understanding. For so long, I was convinced it was all my fault. It’s so much more confusing because he is kind, and never yells or screams at me (other than a short stint when trying out medications – he was REALLY mean then). He says he loves me. But he won’t do anything to truly help me, despite insisting that he adores me, and it’s obvious he doesn’t have my best interests at heart.
I have wondered if depression is the problem – sometimes, especially if I’ve asked for his help, he’ll sleep in (he’s been living downstairs for almost six months) till late morning. But, if he has a golf date, or an appointment with someone to talk about things that interest him, he’s up and showered and on time.
I’m so lonely. And heartbroken. I’m trying to do what Christ would do, and I know that he shows an increase in love to those struggling. I don’t want my kids to be without their dad, and if we divorce I will lose the little help I get from him. But my heart tells me that I shouldn’t be treated this way, and I long for the hope that one day I might be loved and treated as an equal.
ar924 – You are sorting this guy out pretty clearly it seems. Takes a long time to do that, doesn’t it? Your concerns about the fallout if you divorce are certainly understood. Leaving is not always so easy and clear cut as most people think. You definitely have good grounds for divorce – this man has habitually violated the marriage covenant probably from the very first day. Just to help validate your observations a bit, I would say that he knows EXACTLY what he is doing, is probably more calculated in this covert abuse than you realize, and that his ADD or depression do not excuse him. Don’t fall prey to any attempts he might make about being a victim or other such pity-craving schemes. That sleeping in late business/depression is an intentional ploy on his part.
I don’t usually comment on articles, but I wanted to first thank you for writing on spousal neglect, even if you could only address a sliver of what it can encompass. Just reading the article helped me feel part of a support group, as I feel very alone in my situation, and I don’t like to discuss my marital problems with family and friends. My husband is disabled with a progressive disease for which there is neither treatment nor cure. I knew of his disease before we were married, and I understood how it would make my life more challenging. I accepted the responsibility. Over the years, his disease has progressed to a point where I do many of the household jobs he once did. While I sometimes feel frustrated and tired (I’m human & a sinner), I am thankful to be blessed with a fit, healthy body and do my best to tackle these “heavier” tasks with a joyful spirit. I ask for very little in return, only love and affection. I’m deprived of both.
For ten years, maybe longer, I have been neglected emotionally, physically, and sexually. In times of stress or emotional pain, I deal with my feelings alone. If I’m crying, he doesn’t try to hold me, ask me what’s wrong, or comfort me that everything will be okay. He speaks the words “I love you” only a handful of times each year. Very seldom does he tell me I’m beautiful. He has never used a term of endearment with me in all the years of our marriage, except he often calls me “Mama.” I am rarely touched in any way: hand to the shoulder, hugged, or caressed. He rarely kisses me, and if he does, it is usually because I have instigated it. He will not show me intimacy unless I ask for it, and I usually have to ask multiple times. If I do not ask for sex, he does not attempt or offer it.
Over the years, I have repeatedly addressed the issue and explained how I feel my needs are not being met. Most recently, I told him that things have to change because I can’t keep living like this. I had almost given up, but we both agreed to work at fixing it. I put my pain aside and genuinely tried to rekindle what remained. I thought if we were intimate more frequently, it would help our love grow. He didn’t seem to enjoy the increased intimacy, which was devastating to me. I stopped instigating it, and he hasn’t touched me since. After only a week, he had slipped back into his old ways. Now, heartache, anger, and resentment are churning inside of me. I still take care of him with love, and I try to give him my affection (although it is sometimes hard to do when I’m not getting affection in return). I haven’t been a perfect wife, but I’m really trying to be one. In reality, I don’t think I could ever leave him. I have an overwhelming sense of obligation. He’s sick, and I promised to care for him. He knows my compassion, and maybe he feels certain I would never leave.
My husband is not a bitter man. He is not cruel or condescending. In fact, he’s somewhat timid, quiet and shy, but happy. He acts like life is peachy, while I feel my heart shriveling up inside of me.
Welcome, and thank you for your comment. I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to share with us. And yes, loneliness is hard and so common in abusive situations. But I hope you continue to read the posts and our readers’ comments and grow to know you are not alone.
Thank you so much for your support and compassion. But especially, thank you for the hug! God bless you!
I understand this feeling completely. I remember often saying “I don’t feel like it needs to be 50/50- but 80/20 would be nice”. I was dead serious. I understood that she had limitations (though, after seeing her post-divorce, I now understand those limitations were not as big as I’d believed), but I still wanted to feel like we were working together. That I wasn’t alone.
I’ll be honest, I still struggle to process it. I still struggle with whether or not I should have been able to “handle it”, because, after all, it’s not like she was attacking me.
I once told my therapist “It’s not like what she did was as bad as the domestic violence I read about” and he answered “It wasn’t. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t bad or it didn’t hurt”. I’ve tried to latch on to that, because it can be easy for me to feel like if I didn’t have it as bad as it could have possibly been, then I should have been able to “take it”.
Honestly, I think I probably would have stayed forever if we didn’t have a child. But the added pressure of trying to take care of her and a baby at the same time pushed me over the edge. And one thing I clung to was that I had choices and she had choices, but our two year old did not have choices. In the end, it was not a healthy environment for him, especially with my lack of energy to care for him and endure the marriage at the same time. I could do one or the other, but not both.
I’m glad I left. I’m much healthier now than I ever could have been in that marriage. But I’m not sure I ever would have without my son’s needs being a part of the mix. I probably would have stuck it out in a very lonely marriage.
I don’t have any advice for where you are at, but I’m hopeful that relating my own experience helps you understand your situation a little better.
Thank you so much for sharing. I am deeply sorry you had to endure this type of strength-draining (physically & emotionally) situation, and I pray you continue to heal so that one day you can be completely whole again. I’ve thought the very same thing you did, with the 80/20 scenario. I think I would struggle in the very same way you do, with questioning myself. I read somewhere that neglect is the cruelest form of abuse. I think the fact that the victim questions his or her abuse is part of the cruelty. It’s a vicious mind game, one that outsiders don’t see, hardly recognize or scarcely acknowledge.
What a blessing your son was for you! A gift in so many ways, bringing happiness and healing, and perhaps God’s way of giving you courage to step out.
At first, I was very nervous to post anything here, but I’m glad I did. Your response, as well as Barbara’s, have helped me tremendously! Thank you for taking the time to respond. Your kindness is appreciated.
I should add that my husband’s disease is not life threatening. While he is still limitedly amble, he will one day be in a wheelchair. However, his disease will not affect the length of his life, as far as we know.
If his disease will not affect the lenght of his life. . . that makes you feel even more despondent, I guess, if you envisage yourself being his carer for a long time to come. I feel for you. Sometimes abusers use their disabilities as excuses to be covertly abusive. My second husband did that, I believe. It took me quite a while to be know for sure that he was being abusive. I excused a great deal of his attitudes and behaviours because I attributed them to his disability and the meds he was taking for his disability (actually, disabilities). It was only when he became phsyically violent and yelled at the top of his voice right in my face “I HAVE TO TERRIFY YOU!!!!” that I decided he was being abusive to me. And if abusers do not escalate or become overt like that, it makes it very hard to know what it really going on. . .
Welcome to ACFJ, dear sister. Here’s another ((hug)) for you if you want it. 🙂
Thank you for your kind words, insight, and hug. 🙂 I’ve very sorry you had to endure such a painful and frightening relationship, and I’m thankful you are no longer living in that torment. I am in a state of almost constant prayer, and I know God will lead me to the right decision at the right time. God is never late, and His mercy abounds! I experience many ups and downs. After those rare times when my husband gives me a morsel of attention, I cling to the moment, tell myself ‘maybe everything will get better now,’ and feel guilty about complaining (as though I was overreacting or being too sensitive during my time of deprivation). The reality is this: It’s only an isolated moment, just enough to keep me holding on. And it works . . . for now.
dear Lonely, you might find these posts helpfuL:
The chains that bind us to betrayal and the key to being set free
Victims’ vulnerabilities that abusers exploit
If they don’t ring any bells for you, put them aside. I don’t want you to feel that I’m pushing anything on you if it doesn’t fit.
Well I for one think that a man who spends almost all his waking home time on video or computer games is neglecting his wife and kids badly. Man men (and women) have very stressful jobs. But not all of them go home and play computer games all the time. Games and other passtimes are okay in moderation, but your husband is not using them in moderation! He is using them like a selfish teenage boy, IMO.
I can relate to the game-playing. In my ex’s case, it was television. If I wanted to spend time with her, it would be in front of a TV. That was all she did for the last five years of our marriage.
About the thing where your husband was miserable when he went places with you- has he offered any suggestions about something that might fit better? Is he trying? It’s understandable that not all people enjoy the same activities, but a key is how they work together to find something that is pleasant for everyone. Is he taking responsibility for this, or are you shouldering all of the burden?
I think for someone who is used to shouldering the burdens and accepting responsibility, the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud is an excellent resource (with the caveat that they unfortunately do not explore divorce as a necessary boundary). Learning how to look at boundaries can help you be honest about your own feelings and what you need without feeling like you are not taking responsibility. It can be hard to figure out where responsibilities lie in a relationship like the one you are in.
Three things about boundaries that really helped me:
-Boundaries are not about controlling another person- they are about protecting yourself.
-Never do something for someone else that they can do for themselves for any other motivation than love. It is not loving to act out of fear, even fear of not being perceived as loving.
-We are all given tasks we are supposed to carry ourselves and tasks that require help from others. We should not avoid asking others for help with the latter- we were designed this way on purpose.
The reason I bring up boundaries is because the way you write sounds like how I felt when I was married. Unsure of what was right, feeling like I was doing my best, and helplessly defeated. Clarifying what was my responsibility and things I should own (and what I was NOT supposed to own) helped me a lot. It kept me from taking the burden on myself that really belonged to my ex.
At the end of the day, one important question is whether your husband taking responsibility for the job God has given him in the marriage? It is likely more than earning money.
In my own life, I’ll admit to playing video games. My fiance plays with me sometimes, but I play more. And she’s committed to me that she wants to make time for that after we’re married, because she knows it’s something I enjoy. What I told her was that I will wait an see how it fits into our family life. I’d love to play games, but when I take on the responsibility of husband, all other things must take secondary priority. If it works within our schedule and time, yeah I’ll play some games. But the responsibility I take is to communicate with her and make sure the family ALWAYS comes first- if video games don’t work then out they go. It will never be her responsibility to make sure I don’t play too much. Yeah, if ever I do then she will have to communicate with me about that (because I am not a mind-reader about her needs); however, it means that my job is to create a safe space for her in which she can come to me with that (and her responsibility is to do the same with her hobbies / pastimes).
I know you are in a tough spot; I hope the article and community here can help you.
When I first wrote this article, I didn’t feel comfortable about giving too much actual details about my situation. Now that time has passed I’ve become more comfortable about being a little more specific.
Anyway, I wanted to say that a lot of what you are describing, Kimberly, sounds similar to my own story. We had a garage full of stuff that had belonged to her mother and it was a disaster. And it was promise after promise that she should go through it and figure out what to do with it all. We were approaching two years with a full garage and I wasn’t allowed to touch it. So what you are saying about the promises never fulfilled resonates with me.
I don’t know how it is with you, but in my case I was becoming depressed myself, so when she said she’d do stuff, I just let it fall apart. I think I just couldn’t handle it and was almost to the point of “joining her”. But something snapped- one day I made a choice for myself, and it felt good. And so I started taking care of the things she wouldn’t. And I went into that garage, rented a storage unit, and started moving all of the stuff out to the storage unit one load at a time. She got angry, but I reasoned it was the best way to keep the stuff around so she could deal with it while creating a clean environment to live in. I got the dogs shots that had been neglected. I took over bills that she’d let lag. I started taking responsibility for anything that I wanted/needed to get done.
I remember clear as day what she said to me about this. She got upset and confrontational. She said “I feel like this is your life and I’m not in it”. I remember thinking “maybe this is the breakthrough!” and I said “You can choose to be in it- everything is here and I want you to be a part of my life- our life”. But instead she got more aggressive in her anger lashing out at me.
It was actually when I started trying to take responsibility for things that were falling by the wayside that she shifted from “neglect” into a more outward “abuse”. It got really bad, really fast.
It’s true that you can’t hold him responsible for not doing the things that you want; however, he’s getting an awful lot of the things that he wants from you while playing his video games. At some point, he has a duty to provide his wife with love and affection. These are not optional things- they are part of his vows and tie all the way back to Old Testament law.
I think if you can’t bring this stuff up in counseling, then I would consider a different counselor. Are you seeing one personally, or just with him? Going to a therapist who understood abuse was the best thing I ever did. Couples counseling did very little for us (and the counselor himself admitted in the end it was ineffective).
Thanks for this, Jeff S. It’s nice to hear more of your story. 🙂
Kimberly, also, if the counseling you are having is couple counseling, I suggest you read our posts that at tagged Couple Counseling,
particularly this one:
Why Couple Counseling is not recommended for domestic abuse.
blessings to you. 🙂
Yes, Barbara definitely like a teenage boy and definitely neglecting family
Thank you for sharing Jeff.
joyisnowfree, can you pls email me email@example.com
I have a tip about your safety when commenting on this blog.
Kimberly, I am not able to say for sure about your counselor, but I have heard from another woman that her counselor told her to not dwell on the past. In that woman’s case, I think that was quite wrong advice. That woman needed to think about and remember the past; since she’d been in denial and buried so much, she had little idea how seriously she had been abused and how much she needed to unearth those memories so she could start to feel and heal. When she took up my suggestion and went to a support group for survivors of domestic abuse, she felt such a lot of identification with the other women there, and she came to me and said “Barb, you were right! It really helps to talk about this stuff!”
That counselor of hers was clueless about domestic abuse. He was an experienced psychiatrist, but clueless about how to work with domestic abuse clients.
I have had a lot of those sorts of things happen. Once I was taking a trip to visit the children. By the time I got to one home the car wasn’t driving right. My son took it to his mechanic and it was found there were two things wrong, either of which could send me over a cliff. I called my h, a mechanic also, and he said to keep driving. I was so used to ‘obeying’ that I did. (I wouldn’t now!) And, I think that I subconsciously felt my life was not worth saving. Several hours of driving later, the car died while I was slowly rolling through an intersection after a red light. I told my pastor about it and he said I was nuts, nobody would tell me to keep driving if my life was in danger. I finally convinced him that it was true, then he said I was nuts that I kept driving. Nobody in their right mind would do that. You can’t win, sometimes, can you?
Yep. You can’t win or even make any sense from people who are dead-blind to abuse dynamics.
Oh my goodness, it has taken me a real long time to read all the comments. I have learned so much. Jeff S., I hope you don’t mind if I ask, what was the root of the problem that caused her depression? According to her, why did she feel depressed? I will like to say that I have seen women treat their husbands and children like garbage. Abuse definitely goes both ways. I have witnessed this in my own family and in my previous career working with families. Looking back at the relationship between depression and behavior, it reminds me of the time that I spent working with Special Ed as an interpreter and community liaison. Before administration could take disciplinary action against a disabled student, one question was posed before proceedings. The question was, “did the student’s disability cause him to take such action against the rules? And 90% of the time the answer was no. The disability wasn’t the cause for the student is aware of right from wrong. In my own personal life, I knew that my soon to be x would use hus anxious personality as an excuse to be cruel. But we all know right from wrong. The good thing about breaking free is also not enabling the abuser to continue.
In the end, I’m not sure what caused the depression. There were definitely some very legitimate things going on that were contributing factors, but I honestly think there was something much deeper that was broken inside of her.
She had back pain, and with that ended up coming a painkiller addiction, so a lot of her depression was attributed to that. Her mother died very young, so that was also a serious event that was hard on her. However, her depression preceded that event, and if I look all the way back to our courtship I can now see signs that things weren’t right even then. And I can admit, I didn’t realize it, but that was probably part of the attraction. I saw someone who needed to be “saved” and that was a powerful drug to a young boy who wanted to be a knight in shining armor for someone.
I can say for certain that she did not have NPD the way many abusers do (which is no surprise, since I believe NDP is typically found in males), and this has made my situation different from others. Also, while I completely agree that abuse goes both ways, in a male-entitled society it is very rare for a woman to be able to wield enough power to terrorize a spouse the way a man can. Because of this, as painful as my marriage was, she used a lot more subtle ways to try and control me. Painful yes, but I never woke up in the middle of the night fearing for my life.
But yes, “did the disability cause xyz” was really the crux of it for me. I believe Christians can be depressed and suffer from depression. I believe marriage to a depressed spouse can work in Christ. But the key is that depression cannot be the excuse for bad behavior. For her, it was always “I know I hurt you, but if you understood what it was like for me you’d get it”. The part that she didn’t get was that as understanding as I could be, it wouldn’t make it not hurt. It wouldn’t make our relationship safe. And there was a line that, once crossed, meant I would never be able to be emotionally vulnerable with her again.
I’ve met some people with depression who have made their relationships work, and the key is they are diligent about taking responsibility and making plans. They hurt their partners, but they also take ownership of making the relationship a safe place.
“The good thing about breaking free is also not enabling the abuser to continue.”
This is more true in my case than you know. Not only was the divorce good for me, but it appears she is better for it. She has actually improved a great deal since the divorce. Is she well? There are still some things that are not good (and honestly, I don’t know too much since I try not to be involved in her life more than is necessary to facility her visitation with our son), but she’s clearly doing a lot better than she was. The marriage was not helping her, and as much as I tried to sacrifice and love her, I was enabling her to continue to be lost in herself.
I know it’s not the popular message with many Christians out there, but sometimes the best grace a person can have is to experience the consequence of his or her sin. My ex now will admit to her bad choices and that what she did was not acceptable. Whether that is honest or just what she knows she’s “supposed to say”, I don’t know. But it isn’t for me to judge. What I do know is that she’s been supportive of my re-marriage and seems genuinely positive about the role my fiance is playing in our son’s life. If she can recognize her own sin and see good in a painful situation, I believe there is hope for her.
Ok, thank you for your honestly. We are all on a Road to Recovery. Jesus is our Master healer.
For what it’s worth, neither my individual therapist nor our marriage counselor ever said that I was enabling her. If the latter had, she would have immediately used this as an excuse saying that I was the cause of her issues. I think I brought it up with my therapist, and while he agreed there was some of that, he was always clear to say that her choices were her choices.
My therapist was big on making me taking responsibility for my choices, but it wasn’t about her behavior, but mine. Rather, he forced me (and it was painful) to look into myself and come to terms with the parts of me that allowed and accepted (maybe even sought out) her destructive behavior. While he allowed a little time in our sessions to express my pain about my ex, he directed our conversation much more toward myself and what was driving my choices. I say all that to say he was not the kind of therapist to let me off easy when it came to responsibility. But he never, ever said that her behavior was my fault.
And believe me, that was something I wrestled with a lot. Jeff and Barbara can tell you how I was when they first met me, and the idea that perhaps it was my behavior that drove her to the hurtful things she did was my biggest fear. I’d tried to love her and serve her the best way that I could, but what if in my good intentions I was the problem all along? Not that I had specific ideas, but what if I didn’t love her enough, or loved her the wrong way? That doubt and fear nagged at me for a long time. It didn’t help that a “helpful” woman at church sent me an email telling me that if I’d loved my wife with agape love, this wouldn’t have happened because agape love never fails.
Even though my therapist was always driving me to dig deep and deal with my own bad choices, he always made sure to affirm that her choices were her choices, and that I didn’t have that kind of control over her. I needed to hear that a lot. In a way, I wanted it to be my fault because then there was something I could do. I could fix it. If I could be that man who died for his wife to save her, I wanted to be that. But I couldn’t. I’m not Jesus.
In the end, looking back, I can see a lot clearer now. During the “neglect” part of things she had what she wanted. When I started pushing back and saying “no” to things (for example, the first real time I stood up and said “no” was when I refused to bring her a piece of cake to her in bed. It was a small thing, but the very act of saying I wouldn’t do something she wanted was devastating to me) then she moved to other, more overt forms of control. She would yell at me and throw things, actions she’d never taken before.
Anyway, back to the topic of counselors, if I could recommend mine, I would times a million. He’s not a Christian, but he understood very clearly what was going on and helped me navigate it to a healthy place. He was “for” me in a time when very people were. That’s one of the problems with marriage counseling- the counseling is “for” your marriage. That’s a great thing when the marriage is what is under attack, but in my situation the marriage was a tool she used to cause me pain. I needed someone to be “for” me and desire to see me protected and healed.
Katherine, I don’t know the specifics of your situation. We each have our stories and only so much comes through over the internet. But I hope there is someone you can go to in your life that is “for” you and that you can trust is interested in your well being. Jesus certainly is, and I believe strongly we need those kinds of people in our lives to be a physical embodiment of Jesus to us when we need his love, compassion, and understanding.
Replace ‘boy’ with ‘girl’ and that could be said by many women who discover they are vicitms of abusive men. Thank you Jeff S 🙂
What wonderful clarity to see and know that For Sure For Sure!
Your story, Jeff S, also seems to me a good illustration of the way the most male victims seem to experience less post-separation abuse from their ex-wives than female victims experience from their ex-husbands. Of course, that is a generalisation, but one that still is worth bearing in mind.
We have heard from male victims who have suffered quite a lot of post separation abuse from their ex-wives —– Friend in Need from Europe is on, and Martin is another. But the research shows that in general post-separation abuse is less commmonly experienced by male victims.
What a beautiful testimony as to how God speaks to us in prayer, when we listen for His voice! God loves us, and while we sometimes must exercise a little patience, His plan is ALWAYS for our good. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Listen for His answers, and follow His guidance. God is never late! Thank you for sharing. Your words inspired me.
My husband and I live in different states for employment reasons. When I come home for summer or holidays he has his interest and time wrapped around his female friends and their is no time for me. We do go places together, but these are as we run errands for him. He asks me what I would like to do, then informs me that he doesn’t really want to do that. I am not considered in the major decision making and my ideas are ignored or dismissed. Being a Christian wife, I try to honor my husband and defer to his judgment. But, honestly, I am very hurt and empty inside. He makes excuses why he can’t visit me and seldom calls since I confronted him about his inappropriate female friendships. Thanks for a listening ear!!
Hi Beth, happy to have you comment here. We hope you keep reading. 🙂
How can I find more info…I’m seeing a counsellor but of course they wont tell you to get a divorce. My husband is neglectful…alls he does is work …and theres nothing to show for it but bills are paid…He never fixes anything around the house, buys what he wants…[details removed for safety reasons] … he never takes care of things until its at crisis ….and he is quite capable of fixing anything.
Hi nessa3, if the counselor you are seeing is one who says abuse is not grounds for divorce, I suggest you stop seeing that counselor. Not all counselors say that divorce is forbidden. Many of our readers have said that they got more help from a secular service that supports victims of domestic abuse, than they got from Christian counselors.
How can you find more info? It depends what info you want. Have you looked at our Resources tab? We have lots and lots of material there.
You might also like to search for key words or tags on this blog, to dig into what are burning topics for you.
My husband had neglected me severely but he has plenty of attention and energy for male friends and associates. If I even try to ask him for more than one sentence conversations twice a week he insults me, gets real nasty, gives me evil looks, and stonewalls me. He has abandoned me at parties and his job parties for hours the moment we walked through the door. He occupies himself during our only time without our […] child home.
It could be 2 dishes in [the] sink and he will go and do them and rearrange all the clean ones and wipe everything down even though I did [that] already.
I believe he may be cheating on me again. I notice whenever he stonewalls me he eventually does a disappearing act or ends up out with a guy friend (he says) and doesn’t answer his phone. He insults me so I will walk away and he can continue to neglect me. I am keeping a strict record of it. I am considering sueing him for mental anguish […]. He has physically hurt me before. [details redacted to protect commenter’s identity]
I have asked him to stop insulting me. I asked him to pray with me and follow the Bible with me and he has yelled “the Bible’s got nothing to do with it” I feel now I am living with a demon. I have become very much into God and my religion. I live pure now completely. This means no bad thoughts and judgements of people, and following completely as the Bible say as a wife. Whatever my husband asks me to do for him that he need I do. Yet he blows my needs off and insults. He [is financially abusing me too]. He has taught our child to talk over me, yell, lie…etc. The police came once and didn’t like his or the child’s attitude. The cops actually looked at the child and [reprimanded the child]. My child stonewalls me like my husband does.
I have decided to move out soonish. The abuse from him, makes me want to just break all connection. I almost died from a heart attack from him. Sometime I feel like I am dying, my [body has dangerous symptoms] from the pain.
I know my child will want to live with me because he / she is changing his / her ways and sees now that a father shouldn’t be like that to me. […].
My husband controls everything and will not let anything be any way but his.
I decided to no longer follow the unspoken of rule of having to join him in bed as a blow up doll […] though I am not even spoke to more than a second for an entire week.
He will call from work but to only see if I am home. He moved me some distance away from my family and abuse got worse.
He is trying to force me out so he can get everything. Now everything is paid for (by both of us) and everything is in his name, he keeps abusing me and when I say I will leave if you dont stop he doesnt care. If I dont leave. He will keep walking around me ignoring me. He only cares for material things and money and drinking.
This isn’t half of the abuse. His abuse is endless. I have scars as proof outside and inside. He has even bashed my important possessions. While I wasn’t even in the room. He gaslighted me and said I bashed his [item redacted] first. Yet I was even in the room and [that item of his] was in perfect condition with his stuff.
My husband is insane and an alcoholic. My minister friend have called him a ticking time bomb.
If I dont leave I will die. I can feel it. I have a family member who was abused by his wife while taking care of disabled kids [details of the outcome for this family member have been redacted by Eds, but it was very serious].
The doctors asked me “are you being abused at home” they were worried about how I was suddenly declining and [my health problems] returning worse. Right now he is stonewalling me for hours now all cause I asked him go start some conversations with me like he does his friends and I asked him to start going over the Bible with me about our vows as husband as wife. He accuses me of using the Bible as a weapon. This is a man who took me to church the first year we met and is [denomination redacted] brought up to be religous and sends his child to church. He thinks he doesn’t need to learn about his vows as a husband.
I am considering divorcing on grounds of spouse abandonment and abuse.
He has checked out and is just abusing me so I don’t move on and he just uses me (money sex…whenever he says)
I just want it over now.
Welcome to the blog! And thank you for sharing.
You will notice that we edited parts of your comment that were identifying for your safety. If your abuser were to find the blog and identify you through your comment(s) the abuser may escalate his abuse. With that in mind we encourage new commenters to read our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.
(…….Insert net-speak for accuracy in describing neglect…….)