A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Post Separation Abuse: My Experience and How I am Trying to Overcome

When I left my husband in Europe, I was completely unprepared for what I have heard Barbara call “Post Separation Abuse”. Somehow, I thought that, if I left, he would be gone — vanish completely out of my life and we would all be better! This was a highly naive thought. As we all know and I have seen discussed at length, leaving an abusive spouse is highly stressful. We lose friends, lose family members, lose our standing in church . . . often lose our things, respect from others, time with our children. And, our children! They need double love once we take that very brave step. The pressure mounts and the stress levels rise. However difficult it is though, we gain our freedom, which is priceless. No matter what the cost, it is so worth it

I struggled deeply when I first left. I took my four kids, four suitcases and traveled alone from Germany to Colorado, USA, not knowing what we would face or where I would find help. Within just a day or two of landing, “Dan” had contacted all of my family members and, somehow, allied himself with them. I was shocked that he had taken such effort. I was still on shaky ground . . . I had made the decision and I still was not sure if it was the right one . . . and then my uncle suggested I get “help”, as I had crazily packed up my children and left my seemingly godly husband. I was flailing. I could barely keep my spinning head about the waters of insanity. I found myself defending myself constantly and to everyone . . . I became drained from telling my hidden story of abuse over and over . . . and I could not seem to stop doing it. I so desperately wanted someone to be on my side! I barely knew ANYONE outside of the fundamental denomination in which I was so deeply entrenched. I had one or two valuable “lone wolves” that were carrying me at this point but they were both far away. I felt helpless and terribly afraid.

I received letter after letter from “concerned church-goers” who insisted I was in sin. Letters like this one:

Something you probably know, but beware people that rally behind you to tell you how “right ” you are. You may be doing the right thing, but people should be coming to you humbly, compassionately, sacrificailly and telling you that this time is for you to examine your sin alone, and not to look at the sins of Dan. That your heart is the one that is responsible to be blameless. I am only expressing this to you at this time, because I am concerned with so many people coming at you stressed and panicked that the truth may be hard to see. It is late, but I will try and send scripture behind that.

I believe there is some freedom in leaving a situation for a time to try and get help for your spouse, or to get your children to a safe place. But your foremost responsibility is to pursue your husband lovingly, and selflessly as Christ pursued you, with a gentle, and kind heart. If you are not being confronted with your sin right now, if you are not looking at only your own sin right now you are in extreme danger. All of us are sinners, you WILL NOT be healed until you look to your own sin. Megan, even you, who I love dearly, have a deceitful heart, and if you tell yourself that you can understand your own heart than you have already been deceived. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” This road is hard.

This confusing spiritual abuse continued for months and months. I could hardly stand it. Here I was trying to find a job, provide for my children, care for their deep heart-wounds and defending myself constantly. I lost weight; I developed early onset arthritis and a cyst on my side that was benign but had scared me!

I had not learned how to set boundaries, yet. Had not even heard that it was “permissible”.

What made things worse were the emails, phone calls, letters, gifts and text messages I was getting from my then husband. It was constant. And he did his mischief in a pointed and, rather evil, way. For instance, I would get a string of text messages in the middle of the night. Caught off guard and vulnerable, I would shake terribly and be unable to rest for hours. His messages to the children and me were highly manipulative. He called and spoke to every friend of mine he thought he could use to “win” me back. (I put “win” in quotes because his version of winning me over was to make me out to be a harlot sinner and then graciously offer to take me back!)

At this point in my post, I would like to say that I feel very blessed Dan does not live on this continent (although this does create some other unique international messes). I have friends whose ex husbands show up on their doorsteps regularly; who harass; who insert themselves into the daily lives of these precious women. To that, I wonder if there is a way for a man of God to step in and protect these precious souls? And, why is this not happening more often? But, that is another post . . .

This constant aggression from church-goers and my ex went on for months and then, one day I realized . . . He is still abusing me.

I left . . . but I still allowed him to control me every day. Around that time, someone made a nonchalant comment about how some women are manipulated by their ex husbands their entire lives. I desperately did not want to be one of those women . . .

I got a lot of help and sweeping, thick boundaries started popping up all over the place. Phone numbers were blocked then changed. No more phone calls allowed; no more texting. Our communication was minimal from that point on and ONLY about the children. I am training myself to disregard 98% of what comes from my abusive ex. I keep things short and pointed and I simply refuse to allow him to control my emotions anymore! I also ask for assistance. I ask others to “screen” his messages, which is highly helpful. If he comes at me with anger and tirades, I am learning to stay cool and level-headed. It often makes him angrier. But, I am beginning to disregard it and I no longer cover for him so he only just makes himself look like the abusive man he is. I have to ask Jesus for a lot of strength; I could not do this on my own.

If I could relive the past 16 months, I would have chosen one or two trusted people with whom to share my burdens. I did not realize that some people don’t really care about me . . . they just want the scoop. It becomes exhausting. I have learned how to say, “Thanks for your interest but I don’t want to talk about it.” My children and I need all of my emotional energy. I do not just pass it out liberally anymore.

I don’t have it all figured out, yet. And I still have my up’s and down’s. I am feeling stronger each day as I train myself to become wholly free from his domination. And, as for the church-goers . . . surprise to me that I do not have to stay friends with the entire world! If they make you feel unsafe in ANY WAY, block them, ignore them, do whatever it takes to find the space and secure setting you need to catch you breath.

And then, breathe.

65 Comments

  1. Barnabasintraining

    Megan,

    That letter you were sent is just plain nuts.

    I can’t elaborate beyond that because my brain is now frozen.

    • MeganC

      And, yet, BIT, I was so rattled by that letter (and others). I was SURE God had left me because of my decision. 😦 I had no concept of His goodness to me in pulling me out.

      • MeganC

        And PURSUE my abuser? Blech, blech, yuck yuck . . . gag gag

  2. Meg, just like you’d probably never heard the term “post-separation abuse” when you were leaving your abuser, I’d never heard the words “make him accountable” used in relation to a domestic abuser when I left my husband in 1999. So when I phoned the elders and told them I’d applied for a no-contact order, I asked the elders to “Give my husband some support”. What I should have asked them to do was “make my husband accountable”. Without the right words and concepts, it’s like trying to pick a lock in the dark with thick gloves on. (not that I’ve ever picked locks!)

    • MeganC

      That is so true, Barb! Lightbulbs going on all the time over here . . .

  3. Jeff S

    Megan, thank you for sharing. So much of your story is familiar to me from my own experience, especially the part about the letters you received. From one of the emails I received:

    “Jeff, as I listened to you last night, I kept hearing you say you tried. And therein is some of the problem. Trying and trusting are not the same thing. That’s why God takes us through these painful journeys. We don’t always know we’re not really trusting, and He has to expose it. Trying is a work of the flesh, trusting is a work of the Spirit. For a moment, they can look the same, and that can be confusing to us. Remember the flesh is a great masquerader. True brokenness always leads to surrender, which always leads to obedience to God’s word and produces the fruit of the Spirit. So when your love has failed (I’m not speaking of the emotional feeling), when you have run out of gas, and feel for self preservation sake (as well as the understandable concern for [your son]), that you want to break your vow, that is not walking in the Spirit. How do I know? “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”

    The evening before was when she’d told me (in person) that I’d not loved my wife with agape love. Later in the letter:

    “Jeff, please, please hear me. I believe you want to live for God and be used by Him for His glory. God has given you an opportunity. A test you must pass if you are to know Him more intimately and experience His power. If there is ever going to be true life changing power in your music and ministry. It’s not about your marriage. It’s about your death. Jesus accepted His death for God’s glory and our good. It’s the same with you. God bids you come and die. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it…” Don’t run from your death, Jeff. Too much is at stake.”

    • The pain I’m feeling while reading those letters from your so-called friend, Jeff, is only a small shadow of what you must have felt when you received them. She’s virtually speaking a curse over you because her words could be summed up as “You will not bear any fruit of the Spirit at all, for the rest of your life, if you end your marriage.”

      • Jeff S

        Thank you Barbara.

        That is the despair I faced. In the end, I said “if I don’t know how to trust, then so be it. I’m not allowed to “try” so I’m just going to give up.”

        My pastor said it explicitly: “if you divorce, you will be miserable for the rest of your life”.

        Another elder: “if you love Jesus, you won’t do this.”

        It’s pretty hard to hear all of that and feel anything but a failure. I basically decided if they were all right, then God hadn’t ever loved me or redeemed me, because if he had then he would have provided me strength to endure. He didn’t, so either he didn’t love me or they were wrong. In the end, God proved faithful and has made it clear that he has always stood by me, whispering that I am his child. If God loves me and did not provide the strength I needed, then they must be wrong to conclude it was what he wanted, because I did earnestly and desperately seek it.

      • MeganC

        I know those whispers, “I am still here, Megan . . . I love you, Megan . . . You are my child . . . no one can take that away.” So precious; so needed; unforgettable.

    • Anonymous

      “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”

      Yes, well the Scriptures also say, that whatever you do, whether it is even eating or drinking, do all to the glory of God. So, how does staying in an abusive marriage that does not glorify God, demonstrate we are walking in the Spirit and doing all to the glory of God?

      I think we need to start making these people who insist we are wrong, prove they are right. Give us the Scriptures that prove God brings and approves of abuse in marriage. Give us the verses that talk about how much God wants His people oppressed and left in depression. Just give one verse that speaks of God doing nothing to help His own and deliver them. Show me where God says His hand is in a man breaking his wife’s jaw. Show me where God’s hand exalts marriage above all. I believe the Word says that whoever loves anyone or anything more than Jesus, isn’t worth of Him.

      They all need to repent from blaspheming Christ and saying that He is something He is
      not — that He is an abuser.

      • Song

        Anonymous,
        I can see where, in some circumstances, your idea of having the people who are insisting we are wrong prove they are right and asking them to prove that God brings and approves of abuse in marriage. I can think of a few verses people would use to prove abuse is okay. This is where I would want to have a slew of verses, such as the many verses that speak of God being our protecter, shield, and help, ready for their few, out-of-context, twisted-interpretation scriptures.

    • MeganC

      Jeff — You must have been in such despair. I KNOW this feeling. Asking God, “Are you with me? Are you with me? Have you left me?” just in AGONY . . . unsure if He still loved me . . . being told I had ruined my children . . . I would never have a “ministry” . . . all of that sounds so familiar. And it is pure evil. 😦 This sentence stuck out to me the most (although it is sickening in its entirety):

      “It’s not about your marriage. It’s about your death. . . God bids you come and die.”

      WHAT?! REALLY?! Jesus came to bring DEATH? This is so obviously from the Enemy I can hardly believe it. That is NOT what that verse means . . . how distorted and disgusting. Jesus came to bring LIFE — and life to the full.

      • Joe Pote

        Yes! Thank you, Megan, for writing my thoughts. That letter to Jeff really sounded Satanic…

  4. Still scared

    Are we sharing samples of awfulness we received from counselors about our abusers?? I love love love this piece. One of the things I am doing is limiting all contact to only email that is cc to two other trusted advisors.
    This is a awful letter I go from one of my biblical counselors, I tried to change all the names.

    [Note from Barb inserted here: I know SS told us it’s an awful letter, but I’m just putting a TRIGGER WARNING HERE because it is truly truly awful. Please don’t take offense SS, I know you did warn us, but sometimes a double warning can be helpful… 🙂 ]

    Gxxx –
    You keep clinging to the fact that Kxxx emotionally abused you.

    We both know Kxxx has not seen his behavior as emotional abuse. He has flatly denied that he would intentionally physically hurt you. HE has claimed you have abused him.

    And without God in the picture – you both would be left with no choice but to cling to your respective positions.

    But when God is present in a situation, we MUST look at things differently.

    God IS in this situation. GOD is who you should be so clinging to – not only as your Bridegroom BUT ALSO AS Kxxx’S!!!!! You should be clinging to the fact that God works IN HIS TIME in the lives of His children.

    You need to STOP clinging to your position that Kxxx is an emotional abuser and cling to the TRUTH that God changes hearts. Cling to the fact that GOD works in the lives of His children – so whether you want to believe Kxxx is saved or not – a call you have NO right to make, you can know God IS working in his life because YOU are God’s child.

    To cling to “Kxxx is an abuser” is to cling to an idol. God is a jealous god and we are to have no idols before Him.

    God works in His time. God takes his children to places that result sometimes in only a little pressure needing to happen to get to the heart and sometimes LOTS of pressure to get to the heart.

    And sometimes, God works in the lives of those who think they know Him even if they don’t.

    God is the one who changes hearts. God is the one who changes people. God cares for YOU. As such, He is working in the lives of those people who are interacting with you. Some He will leave in a state of “death”; some He will let remain unchanged; and some He will change.

    The thing is, He is not going to reveal to YOU who He is changing and who HE is not NOR when HE will work.

    You have in recent weeks left absolutely no room for GOD to being doing a work in Kxxx. I am sure there is way too much fear of “believing in Kxxx and the change only to be fooled yet again” at work.

    And I have not tried to tell you Kxxx has in fact changed. I don’t know if he has changed. As you requested last year, there should be a sustained period of consistent change to indicate that behavior is more than a superficial change.

    HOWEVER, GOD wants us to ALWAYS respond as if HE has accomplished a change. GOD calls us to BLESS our enemies; let love cover a multitude of offenses; be patience, kind, and loving. Notice again – I am not saying you are to feel that Kxxx is sincere. I said you are to respond.

    Your responses to me – thankfully to me – show none of this. Your responses have shown a bitter, angry, hold onto offenses person.

    Do I get it? Sure. BUT, my counsel is supposed to come from what does GOD wants us to do. GOD has shown us how to love our enemies when Jesus died for us. I want you to think about this for a minute.

    Patience is an action. Love is an action. Resting in God and HIS work is an action. We are to take captive those thoughts that would derail our actions. We are to take captive thoughts that would cause us to judge others. When we don’t, bitterness and anger take over like a slow ember burning.

    When you make a campfire, it is really important that you find all the embers and douse them. Embers burn long and are hard to see sometimes. But they can in time ignite a forest fire. When we don’t take captive our thoughts, we are letting embers burns.

    WHY do we choose to respond in a godly fashion even when those around us might not, better yet don’t deserve a godly response?

    BEcause of God and what He did for us and DOES for us.

    According to James 2:10, if we keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, we are guilty of ALL. That makes your judgmental spirit and any other sin you commit on EQUAL PAR in the eyes of God with any sin Kxxx has ever done. Your sin needed a SAvior as much as Kxxx’s.

    Are you really going to sit there and tell me God is NOT working in Kxxx’s life and cannot change Kxxx? If you are, then I would tell you that you do not serve the God of the Bible.

    In truth – I know you know God but I believe you have become blinded by hurt and fear of going back to that old life with the old Kxxx.

    But GOD IS WORKING in this situation.

    Kxxx is ALWAYS going to be in your life because of the kids. So you will always have to respond to him. Therefore, because you are God’s child – I KNOW this, God IS working in Kxxx’s life.

    The question is – are you going to continue to be judgmental in all that he does – reading “between the lines” of what you think is going on or are you going to respond as GOD would have you respond.

    NO WHERE are we allowed to behave wrongly. David, when faced with exacting justice on Saul – a man who truly “deserved” any punishment David issued, knew he could not from GOD’S perspective.

    You keep making judgment calls on what Kxxx is “REALLY” saying/doing instead of just responding in a godly fashion. You need to remember, God will NOT justify anything you think or do that is against Him as okay just because for years Kxxx was awful. Paul murdered hundreds of Christians and in the blink of an eye, he was changed. His actions were not held against him by God ever after that. And God used him to bring the church to the gentiles.

    Is God working in Kxxx? Yes, He is. Is God bringing about a change of heart? Not sure. All we can testify to is that Kxxx is still trying to work at the relationships – even if being done poorly. Kxxx has presented a couple things to you this week in a “nice” fashion. Your responsibility to God is to respond graciously back.

    Your responses have to be about God and lately you have let them be in your heart all about what Kxxx did to you for years.

    You cannot judge Kxxx’s heart and be right with God. When you presume to claim to know what is going on in the head or heart of another – such as your “arrogance” comment, you are judging that person.

    Kxxx’s actions today were reasonable. He is a father voicing concerns for a child. Respond in a godly fashion to that as if to GOD. Kxxx’s actions today deserve a godly response.

    Notice – I am not saying Kxxx deserves. His actions deserve, God deserves. THAT is what I am saying.

    You need to refocus your eyes back on God. You had been for a time praying that God would get a hold of Kxxx’s heart. What if God has? What happens if your anger and hurt has so blinded you, that you CAN’T hear God’s voice? Then who is the one behaving in an ungodly fashion?

    IF Kxxx has a real change going on, then time will be given to show you all you need to see. BUT, you HAVE to have a heart ready to see what GOD is doing in the lives of those around you.

    This next challenge is totally my opinion based on your words – I believe you don’t want God to change Kxxx because then you would have no choice but to actually try at reconciliation and you don’t want to be married to Kxxx anymore – even if he does change. He has hurt you so badly, you don’t want to let him back into your life – ever.

    That is my opinion – and I hope I am wrong. But I can only be wrong if you seek God in this. Because Kxxx really has hurt you deeply and that is a wound that is hard to ignore. And God is the only one who can truly heal the wounds Kxxx’s behaviors have caused.

    Last September, Rxxx told you he saw anger. You denied it. I am telling you – compared to this time last year, the anger is palpable – you have a LOT of anger you are harboring. We are NOT to let anger control us and it is beginning to control you more than you will acknowledge. Your anger is controlling how you think about Kxxx and what he is doing.

    Rxxx told you you were angry.
    Pastor Dxxx told you he saw bitterness and anger in you.
    I’m telling you that you are angry.

    How many times is GOD going to have to use others to tell you His message before you will listen?

    I don’t think it is coincidence that you keep receiving this message. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in an almighty God who uses others and our circumstances to talk to us.

    I know this is a hard message to receive. I have been praying about your heart for weeks now about this and God has been telling me to confront you. I know you can choose to ignore it. I know you can think you know better than me.

    So having followed God and His leading, I need to leave this is His hands.
    Praying,
    Jxxxx

    • Jeff S

      I hope readers can spot the mistruths in these letters, for there are many.

      One thing I want to respond to specifically: “I believe you don’t want God to change Kxxx because then you would have no choice but to actually try at reconciliation and you don’t want to be married to Kxxx anymore – even if he does change. He has hurt you so badly, you don’t want to let him back into your life – ever.”

      I pretty much stated this explicitly to my marriage therapist. I felt a great deal of shame for feeling this way, but I was well aware that I didn’t want things to improve. Or more accurately, the thought of becoming vulnerable enough to try and work on the marriage scared me to death. I called this “scorched earth” to my therapist. I felt shame for that at the time, but after a total meltdown by her after a seeming improvement, I was glad I had not made myself vulnerable to her.

      So I don’t know what kind of indictment this is supposed to be. Your counselor basically said “He has hurt you so badly you don’t want to let him back into your life – ever. You should be ashamed he hurt you that bad.” That’s the implication right? The counselor SAYs he did the hurting and to a degree that you don’t want to let him back into yor life . . . and then blames YOU for being hurt? What kind of logic is that? More importantly, what kind of compassion is that?

      • Just Me

        How about how the counselor lectures her about judging him and “reading between the lines” but then goes on to tell her what he/she assumes is going on in Still Scared’s heart? It made my head spin to read that email.

        Jeff, I totally feel the same way. In my heart, I don’t want him to change because then I will have to find a way to “get over it.” I want him to change for his sake and for the kids’ sakes, but not for mine. I do pray that if he ever does genuinely change, that God will give me whatever it is that I need in order to get over it.

        I have a cycle that I go through. First, a hurtful incident happens. After I process the initial hurt of it, I feel relieved because it shows me that he isn’t repentant. As time goes on without another incident, I start to get panicky, thinking, “I think he may really mean it this time. How am I going to get over it?” Then another incident happens. Rinse, lather, repeat.

        I think there were many years where I could have come back from this, and we could have developed a great marriage, but too many years of fake repentance have squashed my ability to rebuild trust.

      • Joe Pote

        Well stated, Jeff!

    • Barnabasintraining

      Oh my goodness, Still Scared.

      I only read through about the first half and will read the rest tomorrow when I have time, but that is almost exactly the kind of counsel the victim I know has been given.

      I could throw up. I honestly do feel actually physically ill reading these letters. They are awful.

    • Still scared

      Sorry if this is too long, whew! I didn’t realize a year plus out how much this still hurts so much. Oh course I am angry! I don’t want to be bitter, please let me express my anger so I don’t grow bitter. Anewfreelife mentioned it’s like a wound, a deep wound needing wound care, the dead tissue needs to be slowly removed and the wound needs to be stimulated to get circulation before healing can happen.

      • MeganC

        Still Scared — This letter is repulsive to me. What darkness it must have brought you! It is like every word was meant to shoot you down . . . every little arrow full of poison. All of it angers me but then — THEN to wrap it up and say:

        How many times is GOD going to have to use others to tell you His message before you will listen?

        Oh, I’m SORRY. This was GOD condemning you? He’s not in that business. No, buddy, this was not God speaking. He doesn’t talk like this. It angers me that people manipulate using God. “I’ve been praying about it for weeks and I believe God wants me to . . . . ” I mean, how can you argue with THAT? All the evidence in this letter is to the contrary. Nope. This is not from God. It is from the Pharisees. Obviously. If your aunt’s wearing a mustache, call him your uncle . . .

      • anon

        Absolutely repulsive. Nothing but finger pointing going on. You this and you that. No compassion what’s so ever. So sorry…you have every right to not want to stay married to such a man.

    • Dear Still Scared, it was not too long, it was what it was. 😦
      I think it’s possibly the worst letter I’ve ever read in this genre. (Hey, we need a name for this genre of letters! Any suggestions?)

      So much guilting of you, so much illogic in scriptural interpretation, so much false humility on the writer’s part. And it’s easy to see that K was spinning the fairy floss to convince the letter writer that “He is a father voicing concerns for his child.”

      One little piece of contradiction, among all the masses of contradictions in the letter writer’s stance: –
      She is quite comfortable declaring that she sees YOU as a “bitter, angry, hold onto offenses, judgmental person”, but she won’t accept that you see Kxxx as an arrogant abusive person. Hmmmmmm. . . It’s alright for her to do it to you, but not alright for you to do it to your abuser, who, after all, you know FAR better than she knows you. You lived with him for years. I bet she’s never lived with you!

      It reminds me of the double standard that many unbelievers in Australia have about Christians. They say “Christians are intolerant, and being intolerant is the worst thing ever, so Christians ought to be shut out of public debate. And they should be prevented from exercising any discrimination when appointing staff for their organizations.” But they won’t admit that they’re being intolerant by saying this.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Barb,

        All of that.

        I started to compose a reply saying this “counselor” is blind to his/her own arrogance and had to stop because I am so angry right now I just can’t spit out the words.

        These people make Job’s comforters look good.

      • Still scared

        Thank you all for noticing how awful the letter was. I showed it to a few people and one said it was awful but most just said, “she means well” or just brushed it off or didn’t want to discuss it. Validation that I am not crazy…so important!

      • Joe Pote

        Oh, no! The letter was HORRIBLE and abusive!!! You definitely were not over-reacting! You were probably under-reacting…

        Blessings to you, Still Scared!

    • Anonymous

      God has been telling me to confront you.

      So, how come she hears God, but continually says that you don’t? How come she is so certain she is hearing God correctly, and is so absolutely certain you are hearing Him so wrongly? She must have that “special gift” of the Spirit where she can crawl inside your body and know how you are thinking and feeling. Hmm…

      This “counsel” would be good for two people who cannot agree on the color of the carpeting to put in the house, or how much coffee to make or money to spend or how tall the toilet should be or whether pork or beef is better — BUT — this is not good counsel to anyone who is being abused. People just cannot know or understand or know what God wants in this way, if they are not in the same boat.

      In a word? Barf

      • MeganC

        It’s true, Anon. It is dangerous territory putting God’s mark of approval on your arrogance!

      • Anonymous

        In two words, spiritual abuse.

  5. Anonymous

    All those well-meaning letters – I’m speechless! I’m amazed all of the recipients didn’t feel pressured to take their advice and pursue reconciliation. Shows you have spine.

    • Jeff S

      I can say for my part I persued reconciliation as long as I thought I could and still survive. The moment I stopped trying was the moment I knew if I kept on I wouldn’t be able to care for my son. And even then I did my best to remain “open” to reconciliation. I prayed evey night that if she changed or the marriage could be fixed that God would not let me miss it.

  6. Joyce

    I feel like throwing up too. I couldn’t read all of some of the comments. I will later when I feel stronger because I want to honor what you all have been through. I too, have found the less conversation with my husband the better. Also, I have stopped communicating with some people who used to be my closest friends. I think they meant well, but I have enough pain from my situation to handle without having to deal with any friendly fire.

    And I agree that leaving is totally worth it except for some in situations where the children will not be safe because of family law custody crap. I am glad I stayed as long as I did, otherwise he may have gotten some custody and my kids have been put in that hell without me there.

    My latest friendly fire was last weekend. I was a bit unsettled because it was my 20th wedding anniversary. A well meaning friend wanted to pray for me and prayed for God to bless my husband and show him the truth and restore things. Whatever that meant. And I felt guilty because I don’t want my husband to be blessed and there’s nothing to restore. I only want him dealt with somehow or in some way that will make him will leave us alone. Maybe that is being blessed; in that he would be prevented from doing us any further harm. I don’t know.

    • Still scared

      Joyce, yes…the “well meaning” ( note the quotes) people who wan to “pray for your spouse” . I have started putting out warnings when I am sending updates or asking for prayers that this kind of prayer is not acceptable to mention to me. Some may think I am hard-hearted who don’t know me, but most who really know me understand.

      • MeganC

        That’s awful, Joyce. And, SS, that is smart. Joyce, next time, maybe say, “If you’re praying for restoration, would you please pray for restoration for my heart and those of my children after all he put us through?” Goodness.

    • Anonymous

      Joyce, yes, I know what it’s like to have people offer to pray for God to bless your husband and bring him revelation. It’s the stock standard approach. Even after I revealed abuse, a leader said, “OK, thanks for sharing, now I know your side. I’ll still pray for reconciliation and that God shows him the truth.” If I had a dollar every time someone said that, I would be swimming in it. It is still the most common statement I get, even though we have been divorced for a while. I wonder if it ever occurred to those people that many many others have prayed the same thing for a long period of time – is God deaf?

  7. Barnabasintraining

    What you are all proving here is that God does get His counsel through and you do hear Him, in spite of these other voices.

    Not to take away from the horribleness of these “counselors'” messages. What they have put you all through is truly awful and I wish you could have gotten where you are without the excess agony they inflicted.

    But the good news is, you have heard God. And you know it. To which I say, Amen.

  8. Aimz

    I read Meg’s blog and then ALL of these comments. My heart breaks for all of us who have lived this nightmare!! I will share that I left my ex the first time 6 years ago and stayed with well-meaning friends. None of us had experience with emotional abuse so I couldn’t define exactly why I had to get away from him. They counseled me that my problem was not my relationship with my husband, but my relationship with God. I worked hard to resolve this and ultimately, for me, it turned out they were right to an extent – my relationship with God WAS broken. I surrendered to Jesus and He lifted the veil of darkness and I knew I had to go back. We renewed our vows and I went back to pursue my husband with renewed vigor. For FIVE agonizing years, I prayed, I wept, I begged, I SUBMITTED — to the name-calling, the crazy-making, the walking on eggshells, the FEAR — all because I knew God called me to it. My relationship with God was stronger than ever but I was beginning to lose faith. But at the end of five years, God said ENOUGH and revealed the truth to me of what was happening — and He released me from the marriage that was killing me spiritually & emotionally and the life that was destroying my daughter. I left him last September and the divorce was final in June. I had some backlash from the church but I surrounded myself with people who believed me instead. All of this to say STAY STRONG MY SWEET FRIENDS!!! You are on the right path and GOD WILL RESCUE YOU!!!

    • MeganC

      So glad you were able to get away, Aimz. And welcome to the blog! Hugs!

  9. Anonymous

    Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Next time anyone on this blog receives a letter from someone you know is going to give you that type of counsel, write RETURN TO SENDER on it and shove it back in the mailbox! I am learning that I need to stop reading and listening to whoever wants to be “God” in my life that day. I have a god-given right and responsibility to say, “No thank you”, to people who want the intimate details of my life or want to give me their godly counsel, when they have no experience in being abused themselves. I have decided that unless I am talking to someone who has lived through what I am living through, I am just saying, “No thanks, not a good time, I just cannot talk about it anymore, etc.” and let it go at that. I pray you will all be able to do the same. I have found that just knowing it is okay for me to set that boundary, has brought healing to me and confidence that God is able to Save me, by Himself alone, get me to Heaven, by Himself alone, answer my prayers, by Himself alone and lead me through this, by Himself alone. It is nice to have a couple of friends you can trust to share things with, but I do not even have that, after 20+ years of being isolated. I do not have anyone who even actually knows me. But, I do believe that God can and will counsel me Himself, and I will hear and follow. (My sheep know My voice) If others can hear God, so can I! And, I have Jeff and Barb and this blog, but mostly, I have my God, His Holy Spirit to lead and teach me and my Bible. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

    • Just Me

      Well said, Anonymous.

    • Bless you, Anon. And yes, having each other here on this blog relieves quite a bit of the isolation. Thank you for sharing how you say NO to people who don’t know how to help but are determined to throw in their two cents worth (or two hundred dollars worth, as in the long letter that was sent to Still Scared). The mental rehearsals you seem to be making in your head, the practised phrases you run over in your mind for setting boundaries: I do that too. I often mentally rehearse short speeches in my head, and it’s surprising how those practice-runs pay off, how they come to my mind and give rise to good replies in real conversations that I’m having with ignorant ”well-meaning’ bystanders.

  10. Little Miss Me

    These letters are puppetry – they are written, essentially by the abuser’s pulling of strings. There’s no good intentions there in reality – it’s all shadows and mirrors controlled by the abuser, who has convinced the writers that writing them will show their good intentions but only show the abuser’s evil.

    Just Me and Jeff S – I still ride that roller coaster in the hoping and not hoping for change. I had a counselor compare it to when an alcoholic hits bottom and actually changes after having lost everything, and the alcoholic’s spouse is left feeling guilty for refusing reconcilitaion. At some point, though, enough is enough and you really don’t need to justify it.

    • MeganC

      LMM — I love your description of puppetry. So very accurate.

      I wonder, sometimes, if it isn’t wise to put a time limit on your hopes for change. I might be wrong about this. I waited 12 years for change. After I left, I told myself I would give him a 6 month trial. If my leaving didn’t help him see the need for change, nothing would. After six months, I closed the door on those hopes. I am sure this is not for everyone. But, even if he HAD changed during those six months . . . the amount of unraveling he had to do would have taken a decade. And, by then, my children truly WOULD have been ruined.

      • Jeff S

        For what it’s worth, there was a time that I was perusing divorce that I was still open to reconciliation. I had two VERY SPECIFIC criteria that I considered essential (but not the entirety) of what I would need to be convinced of before I would consider halting the divorce proceedings. I did not tell her of these two “baseline” criteria (because I was wary of being fooled).

        1. I needed to see a genuine desire to want to take responsibility for being a mother to our child. I needed to see her desire to spend time with him, hunger for those moments, and not pass him off whenever the opportunity arose. There have been points I was at least convinced enough of this point that I might have considered reconciliation.
        2. I needed her to take responsibility for the harm that she’d done to me. And by this I mean she need to admit she did it (not blame it on depression, me, or anything else) and have a plan for the future to make sure she would not behave in the same way in the future. So something like “Jeff, I did xyz, I know it hurt you and it was wrong. There are lots of reasons that influenced that behavior, but ultimately I know you were depending on me, as your wife, not to hurt you like that and I let you down. I am sorry, and I hope you can forgive me, understanding that I am a sinner. I cannot promise perfect behavior in the future, but I have looked into possible programs and developed relationships that will hold me accountable. I want to present to you a plan that will help me become safe for you as well as provide protection for you and our son when I do fall short.”

        Whether #2 would have been enough for me, I don’t know, but I needed her to take AT LEAST that level of responsibility before I could move forward with reconciliation. Instead, her view was always “if you could understand what it feels like to be me, you would understand my behavior and be able to forgive me.” In the end, for her it was always something for me to fix- I had to be the one to change. As long as that was the case, I did not see reconciliation as possible.

      • MeganC

        JM — Oh, how I KNOW. My ex got saved 6 times during our marriage, promising change. My hopes would be dashed every time . . . until I did not trust a word coming out of his mouth. The breaking point for me was when a mutual male friend offered to help him give up his pornography — hold him accountable. My ex refused the help saying, “I’ll wrestle it out.” At that moment, I knew that he didn’t want to give it up, along with so many other sins going on in his life. I remember thinking, “This has become his friend“.

      • Just Me

        The very tricky part for me is how my husband pretends to change. He says all the right things to the counselor and to others. “I’ve hurt her. I’m very sorry.” It used to be followed by “There’s nothing I can do now. Those things are in the past. I can’t change them. So if she can’t get over it, that’s HER problem” The counselor never once, ever (at least not in front of me) called him on that. Of course there was something he could do. He could genuinely repent. He could change whatever it is that was going on in his heart that caused him to do those things in the first place. He couldn’t go back with a time machine and not do it, but he could keep from hurting me in the future by changing his mindset. He doesn’t use the “it’s her problem” line anymore because I’ve called him on it too many times. But the attitude is still there.

        That’s what makes it so tricky. He appears to be repentant to everyone else, and even to me. But as time goes on, he eventually does something else, and then the cycle starts over again. And of course, it’s always my fault in the beginning, because “you’re too sensitive. What’s your problem? Can’t you take a joke?”

        It would be so much easier for me if he would just say “That’s how I am. I’m not changing. Take it or leave it.” instead of this pretending.

      • Jeff Crippen

        JM- Any counselor worth their salt would have spotted that nonsense right away. Minimizing. Blame shifting. Accusing. Unfortunately there are a lot of unsalty counselors out there. You know more than the counselor. No, you can’t take a joke. A bad joke.

      • Song

        JM,

        I really feel for you and very much relate to your experience. That cycle is the crazy-making part of it.
        “It would be so much easier for me if he would just say “That’s how I am. I’m not changing. Take it or leave it.” instead of this pretending.” Yes, you are correct..it would be easier for you if he was honest. But I believe they know we want honest, verbal communication. It’s the love of the game of giving us the pathetic non-apology-apologies without the congruent behavior all for their fun in watching us react, their narcissistic love of themselves, and the lack of love for people that motivates what they do. And, through their actions, abusers are being honest with us… that it is how they are, they won’t change, and we do have to take it or leave it.

        It’s a nasty business trying to relate to an abuser.

      • “It would be so much easier for me if he would just say ‘That’s how I am. I’m not changing. Take it or leave it.’ instead of this pretending.”
        Ah, yes. But that would entail a greater measure of honesty than an abuser is ever going to use!
        That’s the rub. They aren’t honest about their abusiveness. And they aren’t honest about their intentions to keep being abusive.

    • Joe Pote

      “At some point, though, enough is enough and you really don’t need to justify it.”

      Exactly!

  11. MeganC

    Here is an email I recently got that is an absolute trigger for me. I shut this down quickly. Maybe he/she meant well but I scared me to DEATH:

    Sender: Can I ask you a few questions? I am praying for you and feel a few things stirring in my soul. Hopefully, if you are willing to have this conversation, the questions will not come across as rude or mean or belittling. You have had more than your fair share of them.
    Meg: I am not taking questions right now. LOL! Thank you, though. Take care! 🙂
    Sender: Well, okay. I am praying you are receiving Godly council from someone(s). You have made it very clear that you don’t need a friend right now and I can take a clue. Best wishes Megan.

    • Jeff S

      I think examples of boundary setting/responses are good to see. Here is my response to a text I received in January (after I’d left the church, we’d been separated for several months, and the divorce was proceeding).

      Her (out of the blue text):
      Praying 4 u and [your wife]. Ur God is an awesome God and greater than ur needs. The trials of life r great but He is greater. Please take [your wife] 2 c the movie coming out Feb 14th called “The Vow”. I have talked with the couple whose story it is about and God has used it 4 His Glory. U will relate 2 the man I am sure. His wife’s injuries from the auto accident changed their lives. God works ALL things together 4 good.  May u feel God near u today in a special way.    [name removed]

      My response:
      I have not for a moment doubted the awesome power of God- my struggle is with the church, though I’m sure I will work through that eventually. I believe that you, along with many others, are giving advice about a situation which you do not fully understand, and this advice causes me a great deal of pain. I do appreciate your desire to encourage- I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do not believe taking [my ex wife] to see this movie is a very healthy idea.

      I received one further short text accepting my response and heard nothing more. I appreciate that she respected the boundary set and did not offer an further advice. I did not appreciate the idea that watching a movie would be the magic bullet that would save my marriage.

      • Song

        Great response, Jeff. It was honest, gracious, and non-judgemental. Thanks for sharing it.

      • Ditto what Song said. And also, you did her the courtesy of writing in full words, not SMS jargon and shorthand. Well done. Great restraint shown on your part, I think. I would have been puffing green smoke out of my ears!

    • Song

      Megan,

      You were correct to be scared!! That was a loaded email from that sender. I’m so glad you recognized it as such! You go, Girl!!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Boy, Megan! There is an unsafe person for relationship. Shoveling on the guilt, pity, pity, pity. Nice job seeing it and great reply. Boundaries!

      • Megan

        Thanks, guys. This is probably the most successful boundary-setting I have had, yet. I plan on getting REALLY GOOD at it! 🙂

  12. Jeff Crippen

    Megan – i would love to cross examine the person who wrote you that letter. I heard the same statement at BJU – “we are all evil in Gods sight.” Wrong! Since when is a new creation in Christ viewed by God as fundamentally evil? You are NOT a sinner like your abuser. (Mentally yelling and shaking my finger at the letter writr here)

    • Megan

      Thank you, Jeff. I know this line of thinking . . . the verse about “all our deeds are like filthy rags” get thrown around quite a bit to the point of discouragement (why try, then?). It was such joy for me to realize that God loves me and is happy with me.

    • Anonymous

      Jeff, I wish I could supernaturally transport you and your chiding finger to where I am every time I come across that sentiment “we are all evil in God’s sight”. I feel that people try to intimidate me and adopt a superior position because I am not a pastor, but if I had a pastor right beside me, I would feel so much more confident in refuting that statement. But the temptation to look smug and stick out my tongue would be too great, and we all know that pride comes before a fall. 🙂

  13. Song

    Megan, and all the rest of you who have shared your similar experiences,

    The mixture of emotions felt when reading this post was crazy! Reading what you each have experienced from friends, relatives, churches, counselors, etc., on top of the horror of abuse from a spouse… I was speechless. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach from their words toward you, the anger at their treatment towards you, the disgust at their presumptuousness, the outrage at their piousness, the heartache and sadness for you reading your experiences.

    And then the joy and pride and gratitude of each of you for all the life giving words you each shared, of how you handled something, how you got angry, how you were honest with yourselves, how you didn’t want your abuser to blessed to prosper in his abuse, the pursuing God’s heart in the midst of chaos, the caring and encouraging and supportive words shared with each other! You all are amazingly precious and strong!!

    “For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful have opened against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without a cause.
    In return for my love they are my accusers, But I [give myself to] prayer.
    Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, And hatred for my love.”
    Psalms 109:2-5 The whole chapter to me is an acknowledgement of abuse and a prayer against.
    Bless all you mighty warriors!!!!!

    • Megan

      Beautiful, Song! Thank you for your words! They spur me on! Big Hugs!!

  14. Joe Pote

    Do you see the common thread in all these abusive legalistic tactics?

    In essence, they are saying, “Cling to your marriage! No matter how much it hurts, not matter how deeply you are wounded, no matter how hopeless the situation, cling to your marriage. Sacrifice yourself, daily, on the altar of your marriage covenant. Only by clinging to your marriage can you be saved. Divorce is certain destruction.”

    No, they don’t use those words, but that is the message being conveyed. And it is a False Message! It is a message that turns marriage into idolatry, a false god to be worshipped.

    As disciples of Christ, we must cling only to Him! Christ and Christ alone is our source of salvation!

  15. Joe Pote

    Jeff, Megan, Little Miss Me, Still Scared, Anonymous, Barbara, and the rest of you,

    You are all SO Courageous! I admire every one of you.

    Thank you for being willing to share these experiences.

  16. Growthful

    I needed to find this.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Hi Growthful, welcome to the blog. 🙂

      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQs.

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