A Cry For Justice

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

Emotional Abuse, “Tangled”, and a Revealing Comment

[October 17, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

For those of you who have seen the movie “Tangled,” you know that the underlying conflict is one that is very familiar to us here at ACFJ: emotional abuse. Many survivors find healing while watching this movie and seeing Rapunzel break free from her abuser; and when she does and is wracked with the overwhelming and simultaneous emotions of guilt and excitement, we all know exactly how that feels.

The power of the emotional abuser and the failure of the Christian church to recognize the effects on a victim were driven home when I read the following on an otherwise positive review [Internet Archive link]1 of the movie by a Christian movie reviewer:

There’s also a moral conflict that’s not quite resolved positively. In a way, it seems as if Rapunzel is rebelling against her mother. That’s because the wicked hag, who pretends to be her mother, is not that wicked. If she had been a little bit more mean, there would be no confusion about Rapunzel’s decision to disobey her or rebel….

Notice they say that Gothel is not that wicked. They feel Rapunzel would seem less rebellious if her mother was more overtly “mean”. This is significant because it is a clear indication of how the Christian culture is missing the point, and badly. We are blind to emotional abuse, and that blindness is what leads Christian leaders to talk about “a tough marriage” (instead of abusive one) or imply that only physical abuse is real abuse. In fact, it seems that to the part of the Christian culture that emphasize patriarchy, submission, and obedience, emotionally abusive behavior is seen as normal and acceptable.

Gothel is perhaps one of Disney’s most evil villains because she has no special powers — her power is to control and abuse and make it seem acceptable to her victim (and parts of the Christian culture).

  • She locks the poor girl in a tower for her entire life, and this can somehow be seen as “not that wicked”?
  • She diminishes Rapunzel with hurtful jokes that can allow her to say a put down while simultaneously making any offense seem like an overreaction (“When I look into this mirror I see a strong, beautiful women – oh look, you’re here too!”) and this isn’t “mean” enough?
  • She can switch into the role of the victim without blinking (“Oh great, now I’m the bad guy!”) and there’s “confusion about Rapunzel’s decision to disobey her or rebel”?

Disney wrote Gothel with eerie accuracy, so much of the early parts of the movie might even serve as a list of triggers for some. But the real testimony to her abusive nature is that she deceives not only Rapunzel, but also real life people who should know better — that is scary indeed.

1[October 17, 2022: We added the link to a page containing the quote Jeff S quoted in his post. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

[October 17, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to October 17, 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 17, 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 17, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (October 17, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. Desley Noneofyerbiz

    Lemme guess…was it Plugged In?????

    Are you allowed to say? It sounds like the attitude towards women and children coming straight out of FOTF.- an attitude that says “sucks to be you if you are an abuse victim. Now get with the program and start submitting/obeying because the ‘doctrine over person’ is our motto.”

    • Jeff S

      No, I’ll see if I can find the site. Overall they were very positive about the movie, which just makes it more obvious how much they missed the mark on seeing Gothel’s true nature.

  2. Amy

    “…wracked with the overwhelming and simultaneous emotions of guilt and excitement…”
    When my abusive ex-husband left me and our two boys four years I experienced this exact same feeling. When he walked out the door our home that day, February 13, 2009, 1:35pm, I wept. Those tears were of relief and release after twenty years of being mentally, verbally and emotionally abused, and only recently to see the spiritual and sexual abuse too.
    But those tears were also from guilt that as a Christian woman I did not do enough to hold my marriage together. If only I had been more submissive or respectful. Maybe I hadn’t prayed hard enough, but reality was I didn’t want to pray for God to fix that marriage, I was afraid, afraid I would be trapped there forever. Trapped in that prison, that tower with no escaped from the slow death of my soul and wasting away of the person God wanted me to be. I was a shell.

    This is my first time here on your blog which I found through Survivors Pathway FB page. I have spent the past several evenings going through the archives and reading articles. Interesting how I develop these intense feelings as I read. Feelings of anger, my heart palpitating, palms all sweaty and tears flowing hotly down my cheeks.

    My story as briefly as possible: I married my ex in 1989, we have two sons ages 21 and 18 and the abuse started while dating, but I was too naive to understand what was happening. I was 24 and felt something not right in my gut, but at the same time my ex could be a lot of fun, very charming especially around others and honestly, I was afraid of being alone if I didn’t stay with him.

    He told me a lot in the beginning how if I did things as “normal” people did I wouldn’t mess up so much. When I would apologize for something, say I’m sorry he would say in a snide voice, “yes you are.” Lots of stabs at me disguised as jokes and he would tell me I didn’t have a sense of humor, I was no fun. Tons of sarcasm and eventually cold shoulders given. I was told constantly how I made a big deal out of everything and whenever I would try to discuss something that had happened between us he would tell me that either I brought it up at that moment it happened or I was not allowed to talk about it later on…often I needed time to cool down and collect my thoughts and would approach him the next day over something.

    He was very emotionally detached from the kids most of the time, got mad over little minor instances, broke toys if he were angry. The kids and I tried so hard to keep peace in the home. I cringed if one of them cried at the wrong time in fear he would get upset. I worried they would break a new toy for fear of his hatefulness towards them.
    We walked on eggshells constantly and let me tell you, twenty years is a long time of walking on eggshells and trying to please someone who was a walking time bomb, never knowing when he would explode.

    He let me know how sexually inept I was and requested things in bed that I was not comfortable with that he had viewed through porn before we married. He always insisted I please him, but never once in twenty years ever tried to give me pleasure.

    We became believers about 10 years into our marriage and were both baptized. After that I can see now where the spiritual abuse started, but until recently I did not recognize it. I was to be the good little Christian wife submitting to him, respecting him, but he could do as he pleased. He always said that marriage was a like a business…he was the boss and I was the employee, because after all you cannot have two bosses in a successful business and he believed a marriage was to be run the same way.

    So, four years ago after I had begged for two years to get counseling and to do something to make our marriage better, he packed up his van and left. But his reasoning for leaving was to prove to me that I could not live without him and he came back a few months later and at the insistence from some men at the church we had attended at that time, he weaseled his way back into our home for about a month. Life had actually gotten so much better when he’d been gone and when he came back I felt the heaviness of his presence invade me and I could feel myself dying inside again, I finally got him to leave and worked up the courage after a year to file for divorce.

    There is so much more to my story, but I will end it here by saying I survived. Life came back into my soul and I drew closer to God than I had ever been. I am now remarried to a wonderful, loving man and am thriving in a healthy marriage which I had only ever dreamed about. I guess fairy tales can come true…all in God’s timing. 🙂

    • Jeff Crippen

      Amy – GREAT story with a happy ending!! Thank you. And it is wonderful that you have joined us here. If you would like to tell your story more fully and have it posted on the blog as an article, just email it to us – swordtrowel@gmail.com Stories like yours have a huge therapeutic effect on all of us – even the stories that maybe don’t have quite as happy of an ending, or stories that are still ongoing and in the making. So, as is so common, your abuser took his “Christianity” and turned it into a weapon. As George Simon writes in his new book The Judas Syndrome [*Affiliate link], this is a violation of the commandment “You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain.” Characteristic of pharisaical religion is the use of God’s name and word to oppress people. I am really, really glad that you are free.

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
    • Jeff S

      Thank you for sharing your story Amy, and welcome to our small part of the Internet.

      I can really understand what you are talking about after he was gone and came back- I had a similar experience and it was very eye opening. Life was NOT better together.

      That particular scene in Tangled where she flip flops between elation and guilt is a big tip off (I think) that the writers knew something of emotional abuse and the effect it has on people.

    • Katy

      Oh Amy, I’m so glad you are free. I do hope and pray that your boys are able to get past what they say growing up, and that they can have healthy relationships in the future. It’s my hope for my 2 boys as well. God bless you 🙂

    • Just Me

      “I would try to discuss something that had happened between us he would tell me that either I brought it up at that moment it happened or I was not allowed to talk about it later on…often I needed time to cool down and collect my thoughts and would approach him the next day over something.”

      Amy, I gasped out loud when I read this. YES x 1,000!!! That’s how I was never able to break up with him. I would say something like, “Yesterday, when you did x, I was really upset. I don’t want to be with someone who does x.” He would tell me that since it happened yesterday, it no longer counted, and I could no longer break up with him for x. If I wanted to break up with him for something, I had to do it right away. And I FELL FOR IT!!!! It’s so crazy in hindsight. I’ve posted about it before, but once I got in my car and drove away from him. He chased me in an angry tirade and found me at home and broke open the door. I was terrified! It was the closest I got to getting away.

      I’m so glad that you’re free. I think that someday, I will be too.

      • Barnabasintraining

        He would tell me that since it happened yesterday, it no longer counted, and I could no longer break up with him for x. If I wanted to break up with him for something, I had to do it right away.

        These guys are such jerks.

        Here’s one for them:

        “Oh. OK. Never mind what you did yesterday then. Instead I’ll break up with you for what you’re doing right now since I can’t be with someone who can only listen to me on HIS schedule. Byeeeeeeee!!!!!”

        It’s pretty unlikely I would have thought of that at the time, but I’m thinking it now and I say it counts now.

      • Just Me

        BIT, that’s great!! If he ever says something like that again, I hope I remember what you wrote! Looking back, I’m shocked at what I put up with. I find that my anger is mostly directed at myself for not seeing through the manipulation to be able to get away.

        I do feel that I’ll be free one day. Our son has a lot of health concerns, and for now, it’s more important for me to be able to be a stay at home mom. I don’t know how I’d be able to juggle a job with the amount of appointments he has and the illnesses he comes down with.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Just Me,

        I know I wouldn’t have seen through the manipulation either. I think in the moment it is very difficult because there is always either plausible deniability, or “look over there,” or “not me! Look at YOU!” I can see everything behind me with perfect clarity and I’m great at coming up with stuff any time after it’s usefulness is expired, because, of course, then it’s behind me…. 😦

        I’m glad you are hopeful about freedom, though!

    • Just Me

      It’s me again. I’m quite chatty today. “but reality was I didn’t want to pray for God to fix that marriage, I was afraid, afraid I would be trapped there forever. Trapped in that prison, that tower with no escaped from the slow death of my soul and wasting away of the person God wanted me to be.” I feel the exact…same….way.

      • And Just Me, I felt the same way too, at the final end of my first marriage. I had not one molecule in me that could pray for that marriage to reconcile. I could pray for God to forgive him his sins, because I have some glimpse of how awful Hell must be. But I could no longer pray for the marriage. I was spent. I could not do it. Nothing in me could be mustered up. I was all at the same time numb, angry, outraged, fearful, frayed and unraveled . . .

        I’d spent so long praying for the marriage already…

      • Just Me

        Thank you, Barbara. That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t hate him and I don’t wish for harm to come to him. I can pray for his repentance–and for his sake, I do genuinely want him to come to repentance. But I don’t wish it for my sake. I really, truly, honestly just want him to leave me alone (and most of his family too).

        It’s like being wrongly convicted and in prison and praying for the prison guards to be nice to you. Whether the guards are nice to me or not, I just want to be FREE!

      • That prison analogy is a good one, JM 🙂

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Love the prison analogy!! And I just want to grumble…it’s nothing, not bad, not him breaking into my house again, but sigh. A few weeks ago I had a chance to surprise my parents and on whim took one of my kids and drove out of state to visit them. Was gone just over 24 hours, I think it was 27 hours! and he threatened legal prosecution and then in the next sentence send something about how he hopes the kids grow in Christ. Honestly! Blood boiling!

    • Healinginprocess

      .” Lots of stabs at me disguised as jokes and he would tell me I didn’t have a sense of humor, I was no fun. ….This comment brought back memories I was told he was only joking and that I couldn’t take a joke. I was also told I was too sensitive and had no sense of humor. If I told him he was hurting my feelings and that he really was not joking he minimized his actions even more. He usually did this all in front of both his and my younger children. Being the butt of his jokes in front of the kids and his denying what he was really doing and how it made me feel hurt even more…totally belittled and made insignificant.

      I also was afraid and did not want to pray for the restoration of our marriage. When I did pray it was not really heart felt. I did not want to be kept in that prison…I wanted parole. I would feel guilty because I did not want my marriage restored. I not longer feel guilty because as I have studied abuse, I realize it is normal for victims to not want to return to the abuse and that abusers do not usually change.

      Thank you for your post and I am glad you are now thriving in a healthy marriage.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Hi Amy!

  3. Heather

    I saw my mother in Mother Gothel. It was always about her. Thus began my life of abuse. I was in my late 40’s before The Lord showed me this truth. It is no surprise now that I see how my mother had prepared me for a marriage with a passive aggressive. It took me decades to see! Though I divorced my husband and have chosen to emotionally and physically divorce from my mother, the scares are deep. And I wonder if there is hope for me. I am facing more counselling to help me come to grips with my life. I pray The Lord will heal the past and grant me a healthy future.

    Thank you, Jeff, for being used by The Lord as you seek to give us a voice.

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      It was the same with my mother, Heather. I wasn’t allowed to have feelings and everytime I did voice even the most respectful complaint (that usually had to do with abusive boyfriends) she would threaten to drink (she was an alcoholic) until I sucked up and begged her to forgive me. Her boyfriends always came before her kids (we pretty much raised ourselves) and when I would try to talk to my grandma about her abusive boyfriends she would tell me “your mom has needs too. Don’t be so selfish.”
      Many times she would come home and attack me for nothing at all (presumably because she felt guilty over leaving her responsibilities to me). I got called a slut pretty regularly and she would dictate to me my motives and thoughts in a negative way.
      When my mom would physically attack me – and when she finally kicked me out at 14, she would go around playing the victim to everyone and then twist the facts around even to me! It was definitely crazy-making. But I think the the last straw for me was when she kicked me in the back when I was 7 months pregnant as I was going down the stairs just because I got into an argument with her dead-beat boyfriend. When I told her I was going to press charges (because she darn well could have hurt my child!) she threatened that if I did that she would never speak to me again.
      I think she felt guilty for the way she raised us and whenever I would try to talk to her about some of the things that happened to me after she kicked me out, she went cold and distant, as if she didn’t care. This hurt so bad.
      But the amazing thing is that she has repented in the last couple of years and we now have a closer relationship than ever. I never thought for a moment that could happen.

      • Wow Desley, what a story! I’m so glad your mum has repented and you now have a positive relationship with her.

  4. Song

    This is such a good description of the covert abusiveness experienced by so many people. Thank you, Jeff S.! You did a great job at extracting the subtle control and abusiveness upon people, the lack of discernment from people who don’t understand or don’t want to understand abuse, and the hidden standard that is applied to what constitutes abuse. This reveals the sick masquerade that is employed by the abuser to garner sympathy, support, and approval for what they do. Thanks for pulling this out of this movie. You have put words to what I experienced when I watched this film.

  5. Saved By Grace

    I have not seen this movie, but I understand and have experienced emotional abuse. It is all around us and many (or most) are not aware of being abusers or victims of abuse.

    Jeff S you said it right:

    We are blind to emotional abuse, and that blindness is what leads Christian leaders to talk about “a tough marriage” (instead of abusive one) or imply that only physical abuse is real abuse.

    We are told to just deal with it, not be so negative, it is just a part of life…..but it is not and should not be so. God wants so much better for each of us. Bullying and emotional abuse is NOT acceptable. Thank you so much for your words.

  6. Jeff Crippen

    JeffS – This whole issue of the media promoting abuse has been going on for a long, long time. Think, for example, of the old sit-coms like I Love Lucy. Most every episode involved husbands and wives lying to one another and deceiving one another. It was “funny.” Same thing with the Flintstones and so many other series. The thing has evolved of course, and even though liberal Hollywood on the face of it decries domestic violence, the fact is that many, many movies and TV series promote it and normalize and minimize it.

    • Jeff S

      Jeff, this is one reason I like Tangled so much. It’s about breaking free from abuse, not normalizing it.

    • Little Miss Me

      I have had a hard time watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” since I noticed that my now ex-husband would do many of the things that Ray would do, but in real life they really weren’t funny. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t funny in my life but seemed so on TV.

      • Katy

        lol, it’s true. In real life I’d shoot myself if i had to be married to someone like that Raymond character. I think the show was funny in the sense that Ray and his entire family were manipulative and selfish, and Deborah was the normal one. 🙂

      • Lyla

        Oh wow, I thought I was the only one! I’ve noticed the same thing too about Everybody Loves Raymond.

  7. Katy

    oh – and this is so funny – my ex finally agreed to a divorce on February 14th, 2009 – so we were on the same road on exactly the same time! Valentines Day has interesting memories for me, for sure 😉

    • Jeff Crippen

      Katy – go buy yourself a box of chocolates on the 14th!!

  8. Now Free

    Amy was free on Feb. 13th and Katy on the 14th…what wonderful Valentine gifts! 🙂

    • Amy

      Well, not completely free on the 13th of 2009, but my divorce was final about the 13th of April 2011.
      But I still do not feel completely free. The lies he has told and somehow convinced mutual friends to believe still come to haunt me to this day. Just today I discovered how he used his manipulative, conniving ways to sway some dear old friends we had been close to for years to turn away from me. Crazy how he can have that kind of power and even more crazy how people that knew me for so long could believe his bull—-! And the worse part is the crap he has told my boys and how they, at least my oldest, has fallen for most of it.
      My boys live with my husband and I while they are going to school. And although they are doing okay for the most part, the past year was very difficult as they adjusted to my new marriage and having to live in a different home. I sold the house my ex and I had bought eight years ago and moved in to my husband’s home last November when we got married. My boys are doing good now and have adjusted pretty well, but their father, my ex I believe is still manipulative and convinces them that I am so bad. Having said that though, I know my boys love me and we have always had a really close relationship, and through it all I’ve done my best to keep that closeness with them.

      Everyone says that time heals all wounds and in time as my kids get older and perhaps have families of their own they will see more clearly how their father really is. I’ve always kept pretty quiet about all that went on between their father and myself during these past four years especially…as I said, there is much, much more to my story and the abuse DID NOT end after we separated. My ex has told so many lies about what happened these past few years between him and I, but I tried hard not to talk bad about their father to my boys so I kept pretty silent even in the midst of knowing and hearing the lies said about me to others. I worry that I have done wrong by not speaking up for myself so my boys, especially, would know the truth. There are days where I just want to sit them down and tell them the whole story, not as a way to slam their father, but as a way for them to know the truth. And yet, everyone tells me to just put it aside, make peace with it and let it all go. Sometimes I feel a real pull, whether from the Lord I’m not sure, to write my story…whether a book or just on my blog. I did keep a blog after my ex left just to help me get my feelings out and as a way to heal. You can read it at: Daily Wanderings [Internet Archive link].

      Okay, enough rambling for now…thank you all for your words of encouragement.

      • MeganC

        Amy, you wrote:

        The lies he has told and somehow convinced mutual friends to believe still come to haunt me to this day. Just today I discovered how he used his manipulative, conniving ways to sway some dear old friends we had been close to for years to turn away from me. Crazy how he can have that kind of power and even more crazy how people that knew me for so long could believe his bull—!

        This is very painful. And can often cause a victim to doubt herself over and over. I know how this feels and I am sorry. I try to tell myself that those who are true friends will stand by us. And that the sifting is a matter of protecting us from those who would otherwise hurt us. But, it doesn’t take away the sting when friends or family abandon us and choose to believe our abuser.

        Welcome to our blog. We are so glad you are here.

      • Now Free

        Amy, I know exactly your thoughts about not feeling completely free. After I left my “husband” of 42 years over 15 months ago, little did I know that he would also manipulate me and utter and even write slanderous, hate filled lies about me to family (yes, even our son), organizations such as the crises centre, acquaintances, business associates. We had next to no friends. I became isolated.

        When I fled from my home to a cheap hotel, he manipulated the police officer (the very one who urged me to leave 3 days ago!), our daughter and grand-daughter into believing Crazy Mom is Missing and they should find out where she is. Even though my daughter knew I had left him and had my cell phone number….

        He pretends to be s-o-o- concerned about me, but his real mission is to destroy my good reputation. Also who can believe a crazy “not at all well in mind and body” woman (his description about me to our son) can be believed that this “wonderful caring man” abused his wife physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally, spiritually, sexually ( mainly in a verbal manner) and financially.

        I had let my grown children and my mom know why I left, but for almost 6 months I’ve barely mentioned him. They know what I needed to tell them, and from my experience, nothing is gained from any further talk about him…not right now, anyway. I want a divorce but separation papers haven’t even been filed yet due to his lying and heavy hatred and manipulation.

        Don’t even think for a second that your sons will truly believe his lies. He might sound convincing, but your sons know and love you. Don’t let others try and convince you otherwise about what you feel in your innermost being. God will show you the right time and place to speak to them. You will be in my prayers.

        I read a small part (for now) of your blog. You have a wonderful gift for writing. Sorry for my rambling too but just wanted you to know that I truly get how you feel as there are so many similarities in our abusive experiences.

      • Amy, welcome to the blog from me too.
        Post-separation abuse is par for the course in most cases of abuse, so far as I can gather.
        And after separationg abusers VERY OFTEN escalate their attempts to enlist allies to their side. They target anyone and everyone who may be a support to the victim: church members, friends, extended family including the victim’s own children, professionals and others. They lie and distort the truth to make these people think the victim is crazy, profligate, sinful, unChristian, etc.

        With your sons, I understand your desire and impulses to tell them more of the truth. I don’t think there is a hard a fast rule about how much or how little to tell the children. I think you don’t have to listen to the advice others give you if you don’t want to, especially of those advisers don’t have a good understanding of the dynamics of abuse and the post-separation abuse tactics that the abuser is using still. What does your gut feeling tell you would be wise to do? I suggest you pay attention to that.

        If you think it would be helpful for your sons to know more of the truth, for example, to prevent them from believing their father’s lies and distortions, then by all means I think you may tell them. When telling children such facts, the wise protective parent will of course bear in mind the age of the child(ren) and what they are capable of comprehending at their level of development. And in my experience, it is a good idea to tell the facts without conveying too much of one’s personal emotions in the way one tells the facts.

        For example, I often used to feel outraged, hurt and angry about my ex’s behaviour, but when I spoke to my daughter about things he did or said that I believe she needed to know about, I tried to talk with a fairly objective tone of voice, not an emotional tone of voice.

        I think it is alright to say to a child “Daddy hurt mummy, so mummy no longer felt safe being with Daddy. That’s why he doesn’t live with us any more.”

        And I also think that if the abusive parent is having visitation with the child and twisting or training the child to have beliefs and values that run counter to the beliefs and values of the protective parent, it is okay to say to the child something like this: “Daddy believes so and so, but I don’t agree with him. He and I have a different opinion on that. This is what I believe:_________.”

  9. speakingtruthinlove
    • Amy

      Thank you Barbara for your reply.

      Yes, my ex did try his hardest and obviously still does, to get everyone turned against me. He wanted everyone to see what an un-Godly person I was because I chose a divorce, while he would never consider divorcing. He did such deceptive things like having our tax return that year sent to a new bank account he had opened when he left. We still had our joint checking account open for several months after he left and when I didn’t see the tax return directly deposited when it should have been, I called our accountant who informed me that my ex had given them “our” new bank account information. I replied that the account was not mine and explained what my ex had done. He was very upset over what my ex had done, but within a week was on my ex’s side because as a Christian he thought divorce was wrong and my ex had let him know that I was not willing to work on the marriage. Amazing… 😦

      On a funny note…my current husband and his ex-wife had attended the same church as my ex and I, so we all knew each other. My husband shared a story of how my ex had stopped by his house one day when he was outside working. Now my ex is disabled, but honestly played up his illness for lots of sympathy…I know that sounds harsh but it was true. He used to use an electric wheelchair, but suddenly after he left he was walking all over the place. So when my ex stopped by my husband’s house that day he mentioned to my ex how he seemed to be doing better and my ex told him how he was doing much better after getting away from me because it was killing him. Really?? When he told me that story after we started going out I laughed and said that obviously I hadn’t done a good enough job! LOL

      I know that one of the lies my ex has spread about me is that my current husband and I were having an affair while I was still married. And unfortunately, I think that is something my boys have heard from their father and I’m not sure if they believe it or not. So, that is one of the things I would like to sit down and discuss with them, just to make sure they understand the truth…I NEVER had an affair and would never have done that. I’ve been praying about whether I should talk with them and if so for the right timing. Everyone just tells me to drop it and that one day they will know the truth, but how can someone know the truth when all they hear are lies?

      I appreciate all the welcomes and encouragement from everyone here!

      • how can someone know the truth when all they hear are lies?

        Yep yep yep!
        That could be a motto for this entire blog!

  10. Not a Fairy Tale

    I’ve read/posted here for a while, but need to conceal my identity:

    When I read this post, it made me cry. The confusing thing about my situation is when do you draw the line in the sand? At what point is enough enough? I’m married to a patriarchal hyper-Calvinist religious addict. We have a lot of kids and have been married over two decades. After some traumatic events last year which led to some serious soul searching, I have become aware that my husband has not been treating me as Christ loves the church. Instead of any communication or emotional intimacy, he does “works” and does it cheerfully without complaining. So on the outside, everyone sees his works thinks what a wonderful husband he is to me in how he takes care of me and provides for me. Last year, he left the bedroom for 7 months without explanation (no evidence of porn/outside relationships). Our primary communication is involving our kids’ busy lives. They have no clue that I am alone and emotionally abandoned in this marriage.

    The difference I see in my husband compared to many stories of emotional abusers is that he believes he is being completely godly. He believes it is his responsibility to rule over me, to be priest of the home and he says most of the marriage problems are because I do not submit. It is all based on spirituality and his way of interpreting his role as husband. Last week we got in an argument and he told me to stop talking in front of our teenager. Later, he told me that I was in rebellion. He believes he is justified in saying this as priest of the home. He treats me like I am his kid, not his wife. He has told me that I am not a Christian, that I need to repent. I do ministry work online with hurting people and he calls me a hypocrite. He tells the kids to pray for me because I’m not right with the Lord. Being in the same room is difficult for me because of his spiritually judgmental attitude. We’ve been in counseling for a couple months and there has been no improvement. In fact, it’s opened my eyes to the fact that we really have no marriage.

    Sunday’s sermon was about abuse/suffering. The pastor said that victims often offend God when they don’t acknowledge who they are in him and we should be willing to suffer a little for Him because this life is temporal. I was abused my whole childhood and now have more than 2 decades of emotional abandonment with my husband. To think that perhaps the last few decades of my life could be like this is a very disconcerting thought.

    • Jeff S

      My heart weeps for you- what you have shared touches me deeply and I’m so sorry that you can feel so alone, especially when you are working hard to bring hope to others through your online ministry. I am and will be praying for you.

    • NAFT, that sermon about abuse/suffering sounds to me like it was very poor. The church at large tends to have many mistakes in its doctrine of suffering. They can get some things right by the letter of the Word when the talk about suffering, but for a number of reasons they don’t get it really balanced and Biblical ––– with the result that genuine victims of abuse, such as yourself (all those years of childhood abuse and now two decades of emotional abandonment in your marriage!) are sorely wounded rather than helped.

      One part of the problem is that when people teach about suffering, they often overbalance by saying that since we are called to suffer like Christ, ALL suffering is to be endured without any attempt to stop it or escape from it. They miss the Biblical principle of fleeing which is mentioned and illustrated many times in the Bible; they just ignore all that and encourage victims to suffer suffer suffer, and make them feel guilty for wanting the suffering to end.

      Another part of the problem is that they teach that we are to suffer like Christ in every respect. But that is impossible, and unbiblical. You and I cannot die on the Cross for all sin. We cannot purchase the atonement for sin. Jesus suffered the passion and the crucifixion once, for a particular purpose; but our suffering cannot and should not be equated to His in every respect. That would be pressing the analogy too far. And to say we must suffer exactly like Christ would be hubris: it would be making ourselves out to be little gods. And it would be foolish: making ourselves to be doormats for every fool who may want to walk over us and trample us under his feet.

      Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Matthew 7:6

      How often is that scripture referred to in sermons about suffering? Almost never!

      Anther big difficulty is that most Christians don’t understand trauma and its effects. But the Bible tells us things that, if we have ears to hear, will help us understand how to respond to victims of trauma and abuse.

      A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

      If you want some hugs, please help yourself to these across cyberspace (((((HUGS in ABUNDANCE))))) 🙂

    • Jeff S

      “Sunday’s sermon was about abuse/suffering. The pastor said that victims often offend God when they don’t acknowledge who they are in him and we should be willing to suffer a little for Him because this life is temporal. I was abused my whole childhood and now have more than 2 decades of emotional abandonment with my husband. To think that perhaps the last few decades of my life could be like this is a very disconcerting thought.”

      I hope you will indulge me here – these are the lyrics for a song I’m working on. This is as personal as it gets for me, but it was written to capture how I felt when I was told to remember who I was in Christ, and that meant to endure suffering for his sake.

      This idea that our pain doesn’t matter, that somehow suffering abuse equates to suffering for the Gospel – it is identity destroying. It says that we are unimportant to God, and that the only way we’ll be happy is if we can lose ourselves completely. That is not the God of scripture – that concept is far more like eastern mystic religions that teach we should empty us of ourselves. The God of Christianity is not like that – he empathizes with individuals and cares about who and where they are.

      If we believe in a sovereign God, as your church no doubt claims, then we believe he intended for us to be created as we are, and he created us with the GOOD desires to be whole and loved- why else would the highest of commands and summation of the law (per Jesus and Paul) be to love one another? Our identity is not found in suffering at the hands of those who wish to do us harm, but in being the people that our Creator created and our Redeemer redeemed.

      I hope these lyrics can show you that you are not alone.

      Who I Am

      Does anyone care who I am?
      They all seem to think it’s ok
      That the way God created me to be
      Should all be wiped away

      Should I remove the part of me
      That only wants to live in peace?
      To live my life to overcome
      The hope that I could be free?

      Could I allow all that I am to be destroyed
      Sacrificed so I can be another’s toy?

      But a still small voice calls out to me
      And says I’m forever his
      That he loves me and he knows me
      And desires that I live
      He wants me to be loved
      He wants me to be whole
      He created me to be who I am
      And he is in control

      When did we begin to believe
      That all we are is sin?
      Have we forgotten we’ve been restored
      And our hearts are fully cleansed?

      Called out of darkness to a new kind of life
      Not to fear in shadows but dance in the light

      Yes a still small voice calls out to me
      And says I’m forever his
      That he loves me and he knows me
      And desires that I live
      He wants me to be loved
      He wants me to be whole
      He created me to be who I am
      And he is in control

      Your voice is growing stronger and I hear you Lord
      As you tell me that I always was your plan
      So I lift up this tired life to you Lord
      To thank you for who I am

      Your powerful voice calls out to me
      And says I’m forever yours
      That you love me and you know me
      And gave me life forevermore
      You want me to be loved
      You want me to be whole
      You created me to be who I am
      And you are in control

    • Jeff Crippen

      NAFT – if you have not been able to read about abuse much, let me give you some more excellent titles to look for. If you need help obtaining them or don’t have the funds to do so, please contact us and we will get them to you (with your permission of course). You can find our emails on the About Us page of the blog. From the study that I have done, abusers know exactly what they are doing. The facade that they choose, often religion, is merely a place for them to hide and dupe people. If you read Lundy Bancroft’s book, for example (Why Does He do That? [*Affiliate link]), you will see that Bancroft has discovered this to be the case through his experience with some 2000 abusers.

      I am also sorry that you had to endure that “sermon.” Barbara’s assessment of it in her comment is right on.

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
      • Not a Fairy Tale

        Jeff C, You and I have connected before (look at my e-mail address) and I do have that particular Bancroft book, per your recommendation. Finding the time to read it is a challenge! I’m going to make an extra effort to do so.

        I’m having a hard time believing that he knows what he is doing. I think he is really blinded. My husband is completely convinced he is being godly. He is a purist and does everything to the letter of the law: never complains about me, alway serves. In the counseling office, he is flabbergasted when I suggest that he shows no emotional care or concern for me. It’s a shocking statement for him to hear.

        Thank you, Jeff S and Barbara – your responses moved me to tears. It’s hard to believe I’ve been denying this all of these years, but I guess it makes sense because of my background and combine that with the patriarchal influences and bad church experiences. I cannot believe I am in this place. But here it is. Thank you for praying. The sad realization for me is that sometimes people do not change and that presents a difficult dilemma for me, one in which I never thought I’d face – the possibility of divorce.

      • Jeff S

        NAFT, I identify with your description of your husband, especially the part about how he responds in counseling. It’s so hard to feel like you can hold them accountable when it seems try are doing what they think is right.

        For me, I had to decide at one point that whatever was or wasn’t going on inside my ex, her behavior was causing me pain, and that pain could not be denied by anyone- not even me.

        I am so sorry you are at this place, but I have great hope for you. I will be praying for you as you consider the choices ahead of you.

      • Not a Fairy Tale

        Jeff S – I have read your story and have connected with so much of what you have gone through. I know you get it. You know my ministry work and what I deal with. It was kind of shocking to hear my oldest adult child tell me that she hasn’t seen me happy in a long while. That tore me up inside because it means that my children at home are not getting a whole mom. With so many kids, I’ve been kept busy and also in the patriarchal environment, we are taught to never “diss” on our husbands. We are never to talk badly about them, but to pray for them that God will get them to turn their hearts. So in the meantime, we endure silently, hoping, waiting for something to change. All I know is he is literally sucking the life out of me with his unspoken words and behavior. I am a different person when I am not in his presence.

      • Jeff S

        Yes, I do know your ministry work and that you are a very strong person. I have a lot of respect for what you do and have already gone through. There is so much noise in this world of evangelical Christianity, but I think we are all in the process of peeling back the fog to experience the real faith of Jesus.

        To quote a great song by David Wilcox: “There is evil cast around us, but it’s love that wrote the play”. In the end, we are all going to be out of this fog and with our Heavenly Father, and that is a great hope indeed. I hope you can take heart, even as you are seeing the darkness more clearly.

        Thank you for your kind words about my story- I am glad that what I’ve shared has been good for you. My experience is the one thing I know that I know, so if can help anyone I want to share as much as I can.

      • Mama Martin

        Not A Fairy Tale
        My heart weeps with you and I breathe deeply because my husband also was spiritually abusive. He took what was good – my whole-hearted commitment to God and desire to serve others – and used it to control me. By twisting Scripture so slyly, he made the Bible say what God had never intended (the lies were so close to the truth and had been built so slowly that I didn’t see). It was so hard to see. The book that helped me is “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” – and believe me it was well hidden in our home as is slooooooowly went through it the first time in tears saying “This is true, not in my church, but in my marriage. Ohhhhhh”
        Please, please do not listen to your husband’s words. Look at his actions instead. Do they match with what he demands from others?

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      Hi NAFT

      I just wanted you to know that I have been watching this conversation closely and my heart goes out to you. The way you are being treated (and in front of your kids!) is deplorable in the sight of God. Whatever headship and submission means. this is not it. This is a perversion and it is not loving or sanctifying. If your husband really believes what he is doing is right before God, he should have no problem sitting down with you to listen to your feelings around how his behaviour is affecting you. If he refuses to humbly do this, then he is certainly not interested in what God wants but is using God to keep you under his thumb.

      I recently came across a Charles Price sermon (from the People’s Church, not the name-it-and-claim-it guy) and it might be helpful to you.
      Responsibilities in marriage [Internet Archive link]

      I think Pastor Crippen covers headship and submission as well in his sermon series on abuse.

  11. Heather

    Desley, I learned last summer that there is someone in our life who became our first abuser. In my case it was my mother. It sounds as though yours might be your first abuser also. I cannot condone anything that she said to me and the way she made me feel. She is still living, in a rest home, and I have chosen to disengage now. I mentioned earlier that because of her treatment I was primed for others. In my case my marriage to a Passive Aggressive, quiet type, proved to be what caused me the most damage.

    I am glad that you are strong and able to give voice to the violence that was done to you. Our churches are filled with people who refuse to listen. Sometimes I wonder if it is because they will be faced with the truth in their own lives and marriages. It’s that old saying, Ignorance is bliss. I know, because I lived that way. Our minds have unhealthy ways of dealing with pain in order to survive. We create fantasy lives and then one day when we “see” our whole world turns upside down. We have done such a great job at it that no one believes us when we confess the truth. A friend of mine told me that my life was Oscar worthy!

    I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that once we stand up and speak out it is a beginning.

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      I agree Heather. I think you are wise to assert your boundaries with your mother, too. A Christian friend of mine (pastor’s wife) has a mother that continually abuses her. She thinks she has to endure it in order to “honor her mother.” I think it is not really honoring someone if you let them walk all over you. That is a cop-out…but I also understand how hard it is sometimes to demand respect from others. And I guess it gets harder when it comes to close friends and family members.But by demanding that respect, you are really sending that person the message that you know they are capable of better. It is really digniying.

  12. Heather

    NAFT, my heart also grieves for you. I came from a Calvinist background as well. My husband was not a legalist, but others were. I had biblical grounds for divorce but that was not why I divorced him. I divorced him because we did not have a marriage in God’s eyes. I was never treated as a wife. I used to see myself as one of the children. He was emotionally unattached. And yet, he is a rule keeper. He is quiet and passive. He is not one to get involved in confrontation, therefore, when I needed him as the children were getting out of hand as they got older, he did minimal disciplining. He wanted to remain the “good parent.” Those were his words. He also loves to help others. He’s the go-to guy. So, when my world blew up, which was when my eyes opened, my church turned their backs on me and fully supported him. It’s such a long story, over 30 years.

    Legalists abound in much of Calvinism. Legalism contains not one drop of grace. Not one! Jesus condemned the Pharisees. But He showed grace to the humble and hurting. Many Calvinists believe that if you sin after becoming a believer then you never really were saved. Well, I don’t know about you, but the Apostle Paul had a lot to say about that! As long as we are in this body on this planet we will sin. We all struggle with the flesh. And Calvinists must beware of the sin of pride, just as the Pharisees before them.

    Nothing about your suffering is right. One day abuse will be dealt with for eternity. I pray that you will have found a couple of people in your life to support you. We can forgive our abusers but that doesn’t mean that we should reconcile and live in fear for our lives.

    • Jeff S

      Yes, Legalism can show up in Calvinist skin, which is sad to me because a Calvinist should be the most truly humble of people. People abuse doctrine to come up with these kinds of things.

      I must admit to being a Calvinist and that it is fundamental to my thinking as a Christian. But again, it leads me to thankfulness for God’s grace in my life, not an oppressive view of others.

      • Heather

        Yes, Jeff. I have Calvinism in my background too. Sadly, it is being used to hurt people who love The Lord.

      • Desley Noneofyerbiz

        I am also a Calvinist, though I would not call myself a hyper-calvinist anymore. I think there is probably some grey area in there somewhere. But I think Calvinism does introduce some extra problems into abuse situations too. After sending off a desperate email to my pastor about my husband’s apathetic attitude toward our children’s overall well-being, he responded to me by quoting Proverbs 21: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD ; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

        I walked away feeling like the responsibility was on me to pray my husband into shape, or on God to change my husband, rather than on my husband to who was making his own choices.

      • Jeff S

        What a terrible response to you. I assume this pastor has nothing to say on politics? No point in trying to change anything if it’s all in God’s hands anyway right?

      • Desley Noneofyerbiz

        Uh, that would be negative. He is moderately involved in politics and believes it is the Christian responsibility to do so since we have that privilge to influence the country this way. I just don’t think he thought it was bad enough to warrant intervention….even though our kids have been without health coverage for years because of my husband’s lies. Perhaps it will warrant intervention when one of the kids gets seriously injured or sick and can’t see a doctor?

      • Jeff S

        It just seems his verse applies more to politics than an abusive husband (not that it’s a good justification for ignoring either).

      • Desley Noneofyerbiz

        No it’s not a justification for either. But looking back now, I think that should have warrented some kind of intervention. He probably should have helped me to understand submission does not mean negligence? He should have held my husband accountable for both his lies to the government, and for him expecting me to lie for him on the government papers.

      • Desley Noneofyerbiz

        To his defense though, he was willing to talk to my husband to encourage him to tie up the loose ends, but then I thought maybe it wasn’t submissive enough for me to go over my husband’s head like that. So it is probably my fault…but that passage didn’t help.

      • Just Me

        Desley, Was he saying that God’s desire is that your husband treat your children that way?? It sure sounds like it.

        I’ve been really enjoying your comments, by the way. You add another layer of intelligence to the already amazing intelligence that’s on this blog.

      • Desley Noneofyerbiz

        Hi Just Me,
        Thank you so much for your kind words. You made me smile. 🙂 I don’t really feel like I have too much to contribute here seeing as how my situation seems to be a bit different than most others here, but I do appreciate the insights of others here and I can’t tell you how much relief and healing I have found through this blog. It has really helped me to reconcile with God, if that makes any sense. (I hope I am not seen as a liar for using the word “really”…lol)

        To answer your question, I’m not sure what exactly he meant by quoting that passage to me. That God was in control of my husband? That He was allowing it maybe? That He could change it? I really don’t know. What I found interesting just now, doing a quick Google search of the verse, is that others use it as well to address husbands. In this case, if you scroll down the page you find this verse directed at “A Nagging Wife.” 48 Bible Verses about Nagging Wife [Internet Archive link]

        You also find it here:
        Prayers For Husbands [Internet Archive link]

        So I guess we wives are just supposed to shut up and wait for God to change the husband’s heart?

      • I think that verse about (the king’s heart) is sometimes quoted by pastors when they want to not get involved in a tricky interpersonal problem.

      • Desley Noneofyerbiz

        I seem to be “tick-the-box” impaired lately…

    • AJ

      I’ve just been reading through all the comments and can understand the painful ness of actively hurtful choices on the part of your spouse NAFT. He is choosing to behave in hurtful ways to you in neglecting to love and cherish as he committed to. The part I can’t understand is in regards to the sermon, where in scripture does it say that “Christians” are to cause other Christians to suffer. If he is calling himself a Christian how can the church support his behaviour? If he was an “unbeliever” possibly I could see recommending ministry to him in hoping for him to be saved. But since when do we advocate for Christians causing others to suffer???!!! Aren’t they to know us by our love?
      Confused over here in Canada!

    • Not a Fairy Tale

      Heather – your description of your husband sounds so much like mine. The difficult thing is because of his religious addiction, he is usually highly respected in churches. I have begun to tell friends who know us as a couple about what’s going on and they have been shocked – completely shocked. Now his closest friend has experienced it first-hand. His friend came and confronted him about our marriage problems and encouraged him to go to counseling. Since that time, my husband no longer sends e-mails or communicates with his friend. He is basically a loner now. But he prays like a pastor, beautiful spiritually lofty prayers, he knows his Bible, he will go out of his way to help others and what I find interesting is he tries to connect with others emotionally, yet NOT with me.

      I have wondered what our friends will say if/when they find out. Our family was a “pillar” family in the church. The sad thing is I used to be judgmental about divorce – not anymore.

      Heather, if I may ask, where are you now? Was the divorce worth it? Are you happy? How about your children? That is another big concern. There are so many lives involved in this mess.

      • Not a Fairy Tale

        AJ – Our pastor referred us out for counseling. There are extenuating circumstances with me that I think interfere with the pastor involving himself with us. I think he understood my story well (after hearing both sides), but he seems to be holding me at arm’s length for another unrelated reason, sadly. BTW, the pastor who did last Sunday’s sermon was a visiting pastor, so I’m not sure how our pastor felt about the sermon.

      • Jeff S

        NAFT- my mother divorced my father- she was a believer and he was not. She shared with me these gut wrenching emotions and the pain she was going through (I was 20 at the time) and I was still judgmental. Not completely of her, but of both of them for not making it work. But I thought as a believer she should know better.

        I am very ashamed of that now. What I know now is that unless you are in the marriage, you really have no understanding of the level of pain that marriage has caused. So what do I think of her divorce now? I think I don’t know what it was like to be in her shoes. It’s not for me to judge- she can deal with The Lord and her conscience.

        Divorce can certainly knock us down a peg. When I was 20, I knew everything. Now, not so much.

      • Mama Martin

        Not A Fairy Tale
        I also understand about your husband not connecting with you emotionally. I used to feel like the kitchen table – supposed to be there, supporting whatever is dumped onto it, but not a person, a piece of furniture. It got so that I found out about decisions my husband made from other people, not from my husband.

      • Heather

        Hi NAFT,

        Well, I recently remarried a wonderful man. We live in a different Location.I have my good days and my bad days. The Lord never showed me everything all at once. For that I am thankful. But, there were times that the revelations nearly killed me. Because of my mother’s abusiveness I have so many fears and go to guilt quite easily. I take on the guilt that belongs to others.

        Thank you for asking about my children. They are all adults. It has taken them a couple of years to see the truth. They see things more clearly than I do. It isn’t easy for them. Their father is not who they had thought him to be.

        They love him but prefer to remain distant.

        I think that none of this will be settled this side of glory. So, I take it one day at a time.


  13. Katy

    This is weird because came from the Arminian camp, and that’s where most of my abuse took place. I left and now I’m in a Calvinist church. I think abuse is rampant regardless of what side of that aisle you were raised in.

    • Jeff S

      Yes, I agree Katy.

      For the Calvinist: you don’t measure up you were never saved

      For the Arminian: you don’t measure up, you’ve lost your salvation.

      People find ways to abuse any theological position; it’s no wonder that Paul warned so much about false teachers.

      • Leslie

        Thanks Barbara , when you said : “I had not one molecule in me that could pray for that marriage to reconcile. I could pray for God to forgive him his sins, because I have some glimpse of how awful Hell must be. But I could no longer pray for the marriage. I was spent.”

        What a relief to hear someone else say that. I’m certainly there and feel a bit guilty but not too much :-). I’m seeing my relationship in new light every single day and it just gets more devestating. People just don’t get it though and still pray for our reconciliation and healing. I feel like shouting… “Please don’t pray for reconciliation! Pray for my healing and comfort but not reconciliation. I don’t want that. “. But then I look and sound like the ‘bad guy’. So frustrating.

      • Yes Leslie, I had that too – people in church telling me “We’re praying for the reconciliation of your marriage!” I could scarcely answer them. It hurt so much that they told me that, but didn’t bother to ask me anything about what had led up to the separation, how I was feeling or thinking, or anything really about me at all. They just wanted to keep their pious prim hats on, and go about their lives unruffled.
        Afterwards, I reflected on how I could have answered them. Maybe I could have said, “Would you mind not praying about that, when you don’t really know what’s going on?”
        Or “I’d prefer it if you didn’t tell me what you were praying about. Pray whatever you like, but please keep it to yourself.”
        But there are really no good way to reply when people tell you they are praying for reconciliation of the marriage. They will misconstrue and judge you whatever you say… that was my experience anyway. I just went further into shut down when I was with fellow Christians.
        Years later, one of those Christians who had said hurtful things to me during the separation period, apologized for her hurtful and insensitive remarks. I was so grateful. I hugged and kissed her.

      • Jeff S

        I hated that too, and near the end I started politely asking if they would pray for me and my ex as individuals rather than the marriage. If they didn’t like that request then I figure they wouldn’t bring it up again.

      • Katy

        lol, i had the women’s ministry leader praying for me, and I begged her to please pray that I could sell my house. We were in dire straits, my husband was moving out, i had no job, and i needed to move toward my parents.
        She said “Oh I can’t pray for that. I’ll just pray that your children will always have a home”. – it’s hilarious to me now, the mental gymnastics that poor lady went through to make sure she wasn’t praying ANYTHING that would facilitate my divorce. She was keeping her hands clean until the very dirty end. I think she was glad when I was gone from the church. Thankfully God answered all the prayers that she wouldn’t pray for me 😉

    • Barnabasintraining

      Yes, I agree. Abuse is an equal opportunity problem. There don’t seem to be any particular strains of doctrine that provide immunity. It seems to be more a heart issue.

  14. Leslie

    Requesting prayer today
    I don’t know where to post this so ill leave that to you

    In my own little corner of the world, I wage war against the evil of covert emotional abuse. After 23 years I finally see with clarity all the ways my ” husband ” has manipulated and abused me. I’m standing up finally And demanding change. Not surprisingly, I am met with denial and repeated claims of love and undying devotion.
    Today, I am meeting with my Sr Pastor in a very real ” Cry for Justice”. I am not alone in my church. There are leaders who support me, who believe and ‘ get this’ and I am incredibly thankful for that. I know that is rare. But today is big. Whether the Sr. pastor can hear and trust my experience as truth will pave the way for the church’s response not only to myself by obviously other women ( some who I know about already, many that still Kay hidden) in our church that are waging the same war.
    I would appreciate prayer today as I prepare for this conversation that the Spirit would guide my words in truth and that this pastor would come into the meeting with a truly open heart, and the courage to act and respond.
    I have already given Jeff’s book to one male pastor on staff and he is totally accepting it. Yay. Pray also that he is given the respect to voice this as he has walked alongside me in this journey.
    I do have many praying for me today but I feel a weight so heavy on the importance of this conversation that I wanted to request an ” army” of prayer warriors on this day.
    (If this doesn’t go out as a post I’m fine with that. If Jeff , Jeff, Barbara and Meagan would be willing to support me in prayer today, that would be Amazing. ). Thank you.
    Your books and blogs have given me courage every day to keep active in the fight for justice and truth. I can’t thank you all enough.

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      I am praying too, Leslie. ❤

    • Katy

      my prayers are with you today Leslie!

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)


    • Praying … not sure if I’m reading this too late, what with the time zone diff and all. Good on you, Leslie.

    • Also, just so you know for the future, Leslie, we do have a Prayer Requests page on this blog: look in the top menu.

  15. Anna

    Tonight I watched Tangled for the first time in ages. I almost threw up after hearing Gothel’s backhanded compliments, the I’m smarter than you game, the just kidding game, the no one else really loves you, you can’t make it without me, “Now I’m the bad guy ([husband] says this ALL THE TIME)” etc. But the part that really almost made me lose it was when Gothel said, “Don’t ever bring this up again.” That’s what [husband] said when I asked about his porn right before we separated. That movie does such a good job portraying the abuse, the confusion, the blame shifting, the selfishness of the abuser. It’s amazing. I can’t believe I missed it the first time I saw it. Of course, it’s missing the threats of physical harm to me and my loved ones and the following through on the threats just often enough to let me know he could… But I suppose Gothel actually did that too when she stabbed Eugene and kicked the “frog.” Next time I watch that movie I’m going to need a box of tissues and an airsick bag just in case I have such a strong reaction again. Amazing. There should be a trigger warning along with the rating!

    • Jeff S

      Thank you for sharing this- I’ve wondered if people have been triggered by this movie. I’m sorry that you were- it’s such a delightful movie that it can betray such a serious topic.

      I was talking with a coworker about Tangled and he told me “My kids and I LOVE mother Gothel- we think she’s hilarious!” I don’t begrudge him for that- I think she’s intended to be humorous- but it’s amazing how people can have such a different take depending in their experience.

      And yes, I missed it all too the first time- it wasn’t until after my divorce when saw the emotional conflict of Rapunzel after she leaves home that the underlying theme of the movie hit home to me.

  16. Anna

    Today I’m wondering if Hazelnut Soup was really Rapunzel’s favorite, or if it was Gothel’s and she’d told Rapunzel it was her favorite so many times that the poor kid finally just went along with it. I’m remembering an incident that occurred when we were first married. Husband and his dad went to the pastry shop and got treats and brought me a kaloche. I hate kaloches.
    me: No thanks. I don’t like kaloches.
    him: Yes you do. They’re your favorite.
    me: No they aren’t. I don’t like them.
    him: You said they were your favorite.
    me: I like cream filled things, not kaloches.
    him:Why did you say you liked kaloches.
    me: I didn’t.
    (here’s where we show how very mature we were)
    him:YES YOU DID!
    me: DID NOT!
    him: DID TOO!
    wash rinse repeat and then I start crying.
    his dad: Why are you two making such a big deal out of a kaloche? (miss the point much? Actually, yes he did, he missed the point for 20 years and I was just to ____ I want to say stupid, but I should say naive, trusting, or some “Super Trait”__ to know it.)
    me: This isn’t about a kaloche. It’s about him telling me something I hate is my favorite. Sob sob look like a hysterical shrew…
    his dad: Sigh and eyeroll.

    So I want to think that on the editing floor at Disney is a scene with Rapunzel admitting that she tolerates Hazelnut Soup and it is NOT and has never been her favorite.

    • Yes, I agree, that MUST be on the editing floor at Disney studios. No question about it!

      • Jeff S

        Speaking of stuff left on the edit room floor- on the CD version of “Mother Knows Best” there’s this additional part that isn’t in the movie:

        Go ahead, get trampled by a rhino
        Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead
        Me, I’m just your mother, what do I know?
        I only bathed and changed and nursed you

        Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it
        Let me die alone here, be my guest
        When it’s too late, you’ll see, just wait
        Mother knows best

      • Anna

        Where did I put that airsick bag? Man these triggers just whack me on the head!

        I also like it when Rapunzel sings about coming out of the fog and into the light.

      • Jeff S

        I wonder if they left it out for the sake of time or because it took Gothel to a whole new level (adding guilt and shame- the rest of the song focuses on diminishing Rapnuzel’s ability to take care of herself).

    • Jeff S

      You know, I remember several conversations that were just nonsense because she “remembered” stuff it didn’t make sense for me to have said. And of course, when I remembered stuff that looked bad for her, she would say there was no way she would have said it. She always boasted of a photographic memory and ridiculed mine. I believed it too 😦

    • KingsDaughter

      Oh Anna! Thank You for sharing that example! It really helps me understand SO much. I always beat myself up for getting into these silly debates with my husband! From the outside it does sound silly and as I would consider these CONSTANT bickerings (which he would use as an example to show me how “contentious” I was), I could not verbalize why I would even take the bait. NOW I can put words to it! It was not about “kaloche” it was/is about the principle and being controlled. That helps so much to understand! Thank YOU!

  17. SJR

    I watched Tangled with my girls when it first came out on DVD. I didn’t know why it triggered me so badly when it had nothing to do with my past abuse. Maybe it was because I was then, and still am, in the middle of what might be abuse?

  18. TJ

    My mom is Gothel. Skin tone, hair color (but if it was wavy), sarcastic jokes, etc. She always tries to control me using intimidation, power, or fear. Whatever works. And tries to make me think I’m overreacting or it’s “all in my head” b/c she “never did/said that” or “she doesn’t remember that”. I’m just “imagining” it. Grandma and everyone else says I’m “selfish and she has needs just like I do”. She claims I do nothing. (3.8gpa, no sex (I’m abstinent), drugs, alcohol, good group of friends) like really. I’m just now learning how to stand up for myself. For years I’ve always thought it was “normal” for ppl to make fun of me if they were just “joking”. 16 years and I’m JUST now learning.

    • Hi TJ, welcome to the blog. I think it’s wonderful that you are waking up at 16! Many of our readers took decades longer than that before they started to come out of the fog and see the tactics of controlling people for what they were. Hope you have a look at our Resources pages (see the top menu). We have some books we highly recommend. I think you’d get a lot out of George Simon’s In Sheep’s Clothing [*Affiliate link].

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
  19. G. F. Mom

    My mother was like that and I ran away from home for months but now she is repented. Now my mother in law lived with us for ten years of my marriage. It was really hard. She was very covert and a gas lighter when confronted. Made me out as delusional lying to my husband right in my face. I followed somebody’s advice and went on Vacation to my moms and I told my husband I would not come home until he asked his mom to move out. He waited long to get the courage to ask her. He even got flu like symptoms. The only reason I came home after a whole month was because his friend told him to “man up” but the point is even he has psychological enmeshment really bad because his mom is that good at what she does. I try to avoid her as much as possible.

    • G. F. Mom, I’ve heard other stories from survivors like that; women who were married to men who were emotionally enmeshed with their controlling mothers. It’s a very difficult place to be, if you are married to a man like that. He is weak as dish-water when it comes to his mother, but obstinate and controlling towards his wife. And the mother gets him to side with her and they jointly persecute the victim. Ugh.

      • G. F. Mom

        YES, and I am SO afraid he’ll be like her. I told him this recently and right now he is really working on himself. But he is also neglectful because he is a workaholic and he has a caustic boss right now. He is really trying but I feel so neglected because of his work hours and five kids and no car. Thankfully his mom lives far enough away but she’s coming tonight! 😦 My parents are far away. No friends, car or places to go. Often little to no money to walk to the store. So it’s just a situation of abuse I am feeling so downtrodden. I often feel like a little girl like when I was in my teens dying to be old enough to move out. I feel bad because he loves me in his tiny selfish or limited way but he’s passionate about this degree of love he professes to have and I feel he is very afraid to lose me and my kids LOVE him and I do to but most of the time I feel like the wife of Peter Pumpkin Eater.

        Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
        Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
        He put her in a pumpkin shell
        And there he kept her very well (according to him).

  20. [Note from ACFJ Ed: This comment comes from Arwen2002. I’m putting it here on her behalf because she accidentally submitted it on another thread.]

    I think the Lord’s just told me that He wants me to share my own personal experiences in abusive parental relationships in my own life, so here goes. In a lot of ways, I was surprisingly fortunate in comparison to a lot of you in my relationship with my egg donor. She actually was never clever enough to be quite as manipulative as Grothel was. Her verbal abuse of me was never a constant thing on a daily basis. In fact, there were only a handful of real insults she tossed out at me over the years. Once she said, talking about me, “D-mn girl! I wish she would die!” Um, yeah, she was a whole lot of fun. Rolleyes! But she did abuse me sexually, although again I know that what she did to me was really nothing compared to a lot of the hell and marital rape that a lot of your exes put you dear ladies through, but it was still quite damaging. And, my personal favorite, when I was eleven, she attempted to murder me, which in turn caused me YEARS of suicidal depression. Funny…I honestly remember saying to myself when I was a kid before the murder attempt happened, “I know my mom never really acts like she loves me, but I know she cares enough about me that she would never try to kill me.” Yeah well, so much for that “comfort,” right? Of course, now that I’m an adult, I can really see just how horrible and messed up that relationship really was and for a child to try to comfort herself by saying to herself, “Well, at least my ‘mom’ would never try to kill me”….YIKES!

    But you want to know what caused me the most pain? Believe it or not, it actually wasn’t the sexual or occasional verbal abuse. For me, it was the fact that that awful woman was in fact never truly a woman at all. She never REALLY grew up. She was very much so a pathetic spoiled bratty toddler who simply happened to be living in the body of an adult. She did suffer quite a bit physically, but a whole lot of her physical suffering and health decline were things she basically did to herself by KNOWINGLY refusing to do the things her doctors told her to. She died when I was sixteen, and from the time I was about thirteen onwards, she was actually an invalid, but the reason WHY she was having health problems and was bedridden those years was because that’s what she WANTED. The reason our relationship was the living hell for me that it was was because before I was born, she was the center of the show. She was onstage, front and center, and what you guys say here about abuse being a mindset of entitlement is SO UNBELIEVABLY TRUE!!!!!! I firmly believe that before I was born, she honestly expected motherhood and bringing a baby into the world to be like a little girl playing house with her Barbie dolls. It’s clear she hated me, and the reason WHY she hated me was because I wanted a mother / daughter relationship THAT WAS REAL. I WANTED A MAMA…A REAL ONE!!!!!!!! I wanted somebody I could actually confide in and turn to when I really needed to TALK to someone. I wanted somebody who would hug me and hold me and take care of me when I was sick. She, on the other hand, just wanted a doll to dress up in cute little outfits and show off to all her friends and then put away in storage when she was done playing with me. And I would never consent to be her toy. I wanted to be a DAUGHTER, NOT A BARBIE DOLL, NOT A SUBHUMAN OBJECT OR PLAYTHING!!!! And before I was born, she was the center of my dad’s world and everything in his life revolved completely around her. When I was born, in her pathetic spoiled toddler mindset, I stole her thunder. Dad told me that she NEVER really cared for me or changed me or anything when I was an infant. HE did all that, and she hated me because I “stole” some of Dad’s attention away by committing the heinous sin of needing a diaper change when I was a baby. She definitely had a mindset of entitlement, and she really believed that she was entitled to have everything in her husband’s and child’s lives constantly revolve around her and her alone 24 / 7. Those years of physical illness were in fact nothing but a pathetic temper tantrum she was throwing because my dad actually loved me in addition to her — horror of horrors! She WANTED to be bedridden so she could force our lives to revolve around her and her alone, because she was a spoiled brat would believed that she was entitled to be the ONLY person her husband ever cared about, and to have a daughter be her own personal Barbie doll who would give her all the privileges of a mother / daughter relationship without ever actually having to do any of the REAL WORK of being A REAL MOTHER. It’s rather nauseating when you stop to think about it. The woman is actually DEAD today, and all due to a pathetic temper tantrum. Excuse me for being born!

  21. arwen2002

    Thank you, Barbara. Sorry about the mix-up!

  22. AnyAnon

    Thank you for writing this article I can definitely identify with the movie and I have just been awakened to the idea of standing up for myself. My mom is a Christian and she always knew how to show the perfect face. I knew that the way she treats me is not acceptable but I was taught to “always honor your mother” or she’d tell me I had a demon inside of me and threaten me with the idea of hell. She’d make me watch so many sermons on the principles of obedience and rebellion. I am not allowed to have my own feelings, thoughts or opinions.

    If I ever did politely try to stand up for myself the way Rapunzel would my mother would either physically hurt me or verbally put me down by telling me I was worthless a piece of shit, all of her problems were because of me. She’d let me know that when she hit me or insulted me, I deserved it. She’d tell me if she died she wanted me to know it was my fault, if she were sick or sad or when my parents divorced she let me know that my disobedience caused all of it.

    I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. She was so secretive about it and had a different face to show the world. She would often disguise her abuse as if she were doing what was best for me. This made it feel impossible for me to tell anyone who could help me. I was worried they wouldn’t believe me and I didn’t want to ruin my Mother’s reputation. People come up to me and tell me my mom is the most amazing, loving, and caring person in the world. I do believe she cares about others, and me, but she has moments where she blows up. I wish I could talk to my siblings about it, but they’re not ready yet.

    I want to look for help but I’m not really sure how to go about it. This is a confusing time for me. I still am having a hard time becoming aware of how hurt I am on the inside. I know my mom loves me because she isn’t this way all the time. Sometimes she truly cares about me and she does a lot for me. I am just very confused on how to approach the situation or how to heal. Watching the “Mother Knows Best” scene drove me to tears now that I see how spot on this was as my mom. I know it’s a silly take on it, but when I watch it, it makes me aware of what my mom does to me. It’s strange hearing the same words coming from her mom and seeing how Rapunzel accepts it, like I have all these years. I don’t really know where to look for help, or how to heal, or how to stand up for myself but I think I’m ready to start. I love my mom but I know now that she was not disciplining me, but abusing me and I think I don’t deserve this. This is my first public acceptance of this and I’m a bit nervous.

    • Thanks for sharing on the blog, and welcome! 🙂
      You will see that I changed your screen name, for your safety’s sake.

      I encourage you to read our New Users Info page for tips on how to fill out the “name” field when submitting comments here, so as to guard your safety.

      If you don’t like the screen name I gave you, email twbtc and she can change it to a name you would prefer. Her address is under our About tab.

    • twbtc

      Dear AnyAnon,
      Welcome to the blog! How brave of you to share your story – very, very brave!

      Yes, it is a confusing time. Sometimes when a person is first coming to the realization of the abuse that they have and are experiencing we refer to it as “coming out of the fog.” And just like being in real fog, one can feel confused and disoriented.

      Coming out of the fog is usually a slow process, so I encourage you to be patient and take one step at a time. May I suggest that you continue to read and learn from the articles on the blog. Also, continue to comment as you feel comfortable. Everyone here is very supportive and we have much to learn from each other. And to learn more about abuse and what it looks like I strongly suggest you read Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That? . You can find it on our resources page on the top menu bar.

      Again, welcome! And hang in there brave girl! Hey – what do you think about that for a screen name – BraveGirl 🙂

      • AnyAnon

        Thank you so much for your support. I will definitely be reading more. It’s both enlightening to begin to understand what abuse is but I find it a bit painful too. I never really sat down to think about it like this and I guess I’m just not used to the change yet.

      • Yeah, AnyAnon, it IS painful to think about abuse and realise that is the name for what we have been enduring. You are not alone! I think every one of us survivors have found it painful to realise. The pain was there before we realised we were being abused, but the realisation is a new pain, a different pain, more acute in many ways.

  23. Finding Answers

    (Heavy airbrushing….)

    I never saw the movie Tangled.

    In reading the original post and the comments generated, I grasped enough of the picture. (Pardon the pun.)

    The comment by Arwen2002 [under Barb’s gravatar] triggered a long forgotten memory – my “mother” frequently bragging to me how she won Valentine Queen while pregnant with me.

    (Omitting the remaining details for my protection.)

    In hindsight, I see many behaviours in a new light, recognize the way she treated me – or allowed me to be treated – was intentional.

    Also from Arwen2002 [under Barb’s gravatar]:

    ….She, on the other hand, just wanted a doll to dress up in cute little outfits and show off to all her friends and then put away in storage when she was done playing with me….

    ^^^^^^^That! (Another dot connected.)

    I grew up surrounded by lies….


  1. ACFJ: Emotional Abuse, “Tangled”, and a Revealing Comment | flamesword ~ watching in the shadows

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