A Cry For Justice

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

To Fish or Cut Bait? The Ambivalence in Leaving an Abuser — by Ellie

One of our readers, Ellie, submitted the following article.  Thanks very much to her for writing for us all about the common dilemma – should I stay, or should I go?

2 Chronicles 25:5  Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this.”

I put 20 years into this marriage. It wasn’t all bad. I learned so much. I figured so many things out. I know how to have fun with this man. I know what makes him smile, laugh, sing, what makes him relax – well mostly anyway. I see something funny and I think of how much he’d like it too. And I want to share it with him. 20 years. 20 YEARS! I know his voice, his smell, his favorite foods, what size clothes he wears. 20 years. I don’t hate him. I don’t call him names or wish bad things would happen to him. I know that he is deceived – and that he likes it that way. I know that I’m not safe with him. And so I left.

Twenty years. That’s a long time, a big investment. Twenty years of hoping he’d change. Twenty years of hoping that this Sunday the sermon would reach him. Twenty years of living in fear. Twenty years of trying to read his mind like this:

Equilibrium for Narcissists is a state of fusion with others who have something they need. Whether the Narcissist deliberately sets out to undermine your autonomy or just ignores your separate existence, that predisposition to fusion means that you will not only be expected to do what the Narcissist wants but to also know what that is [Husband jokingly referred to this as “mind meld”], to want it yourself, and – this is important – to be able to produce it. It is as if you must live inside the Narcissist’s head, share her thoughts and feelings, and be able to perform things that even she isn’t able to do. Anything else is an affront to her Narcissistic sense of entitlement and need for perfect mirroring.
(From Why is it Always About You?  Sandy Hotchkiss, p 142)

And being threatened or worse, or berated or both if I failed to read his mind.

This is very hard. It’s hard to cut bait, to feel like I’m losing that 20 year investment, that hope that he’d surrender to God and I could get my best friend back. So hard. So sad.

But I heard that passage in 2 Chronicles the other day. And this part really stood out to me “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this.” Oh I needed that. And I have clung to that. “But what shall I do about the 20 years I’ve given to this marriage?”… “The LORD is able to give me much more than this.”

But what if, today i don’t want it? What if what I want today is my best friend, that wonderful man I thought he was? I’ve marked the landmines (so I’d like to think). I could do this. Right? Nope. Not right. He never was that man. He never was surrendered to God. And I didn’t mark the landmines. I made him comfortable in his filth. And I almost got myself killed in the process.

The LORD is able to give me much more than this. I can’t imagine it today. But I can trust Him. And I will.


  1. Joe Pote

    A beautiful post, Ellie! Both honest and compassionate.

    You’re right. It is so VERY hard to walk away from that vision…that ideal of how things should be or could be…if only…

    I remember, a few weeks after divorce, hearing God speak to me, so clearly, encouraging me, and telling me that none of it was wasted. That every thoughtful deed and loving word, He accepts has having been done for Him. No wasted effort, whatsoever. It is all accepted by my dearest and closest covenant partner as eternally cherished acts of love toward Him.

    Praise God!

  2. Heather 2

    Oh Ellie, to give up our hopes and dreams, the investment of decades, the desire for him to be all that we believed he was or could be….

    To choose to walk away and trust God with the loss … I have been there too. So many of us walked away after very lengthy marriages when the scales began to fall from our eyes.

    We must be strong and courageous with His power. One day it will all be redeemed for His glory!

  3. AJ

    Wow, great post. So helpful for those of us just leaving but still hoping…always with the hoping they will see, really see and change. Maybe giving up on that means realizing he does not think I am worth the effort. On the other hand it would be so sad to stop hoping for him. No longer hoping for the relationship but hoping that he will find healing and wholeness.
    Pretty clear I can relate to the ambivalence piece!! Thanks for sharing Ellie.

  4. Change My Body...Change My Life

    Ellie, thank you for this post. 20 years for me as well, and I walked out 2 months ago with our daughter. Last night was the dark night of the soul finally, where I lay in bed in shock and let it really hit me what I had left behind. I could hear God in my heart telling me He had much joy in store for me…but all I really wanted was the man I imagined my husband could be if he really tried.


  5. Katy

    Wow this is wonderful. I have not ever read that passage in this light – what hope!
    For a long time I thought that the only thing about those years that was NOT wasted was the kids – as if that was the only good thing that came out of it. But what if I’d never had children? I would have been even further devastated at the loss of those years. This really speaks to how none of our life is wasted. Not one day is “lost” – it’s all going to count for something.

  6. Ella

    Wow, sounds like you were writing about my experience – even the part about almost being killed in the process. And no, at the time I left I also could not imagine how God would be able to give back much more. But He has, more than I could have ever dreamed, and he will for you too. Take heart and be of good courage!

  7. Amy

    Ellie, how beautifully written. I can feel your heart through your words. I can feel the pain, the heartache for something that should have been, but will never be. Yet you are right, the Lord can give you so much more than the 20 years that have passed.
    I was married for 20 years when my ex walked out on me and although he tried to come back only because he was told by the church he had the right to be there as head of the household, I finally had the courage to say NO.
    And I used to think what a waste those two decades of my life were, but I now see very clearly how those years were only preparing me for the blessings the Lord had in store for me. And honestly, I learned a lot about myself through those years and see now how strong and courageous I actually was, and am.

    And no you may not be able to imagine all that God can and will do in your life, but just keep trusting Him and putting one foot in front of the other and He will lead you.


  8. Barnabasintraining

    Wow. That’s powerful, Ellie. Thank you.

  9. Jeff S

    Anne, my heart breaks for you- I understand where you are and it is a hard place. I’ve been there- I know.

    I wrote a song recently about how God sanctifies us and works in our lives to transform us, but that in the battle of the flesh it can be easy to long for our former, easier life. The song isn’t about relationships, abuse, or divorce, but the emotions are closely linked, and I drew on my emotional experience to write it. I think in much the same way we want to return to the fantasy of a destructive marriage, as believers we can want to return to a life where we didn’t care about God or the effects of sin. It can just seem so attractive that we forget how bad it was for us. So these lines are about leaving sin and the flesh behind, but they also are linked to the emotions I had leaving my marriage behind.

    The days of simplicity are never to return
    I think of all those pretty little lies
    But deceptions lead to death no matter how easy they seem
    So I’m leaving, I am leaving them all behind.

    • Anonymous

      Anne~I feel so badly for you, because I know just how you feel. You think the time put in is what matters because you keep waiting to put in enough time, for there to be change. But, God’s Word teaches us, that God frees us from oppression and slavery and abuse. When God freed the Israelites from bondage, oppression, abuse and slavery, He said He was taking them out to the Promised land. Once out, they too wanted to go back. Why? Because there is an element of “safety” in staying where you are. It really isn’t safe to stay in abuse, but because you have been there so long, it “feels” safer in some ways, than breaking free. When the Israelites wanted to trade in their new freedom, to go back to the bondage, God was not happy with them. I am not saying He is not happy with us, when we vacillate between leaving and staying. I think He sees that as normal and our hearts longing to do whatever is right and whatever He wants us to do. But, God wants to free us and we have to be willing to walk it out with Him and follow Him to the “promised land” in our own personal lives, if we are ever to get there. I, like you, still deal with these issues and some days am still torn, but I want to follow God to that place, where there is peace and I am no longer torn between choosing God and choosing to stay with someone who could care less about my soul. Prayers being lifted up for you.

  10. KingsDaughter

    Just needed to share; Yesterday was our seventh anniversary
    (we are separated, but he doesn’t see it that way). I tried not to think too much about it, but as I looked back, I saw the hi-lights, our children and the challenges we went through together. It felt good to have walked through those with him, but mostly I saw tears, seven years of tears… … …
    While I remembered waht day it was, I didn’t mention it to him and was glad he forgot because I just didn’t want to see him. He hangs around a lot and there’s not much fighting per se, but its still draining. I really feel guilty about feeling this way— if someone felt that way about me it would sting bad! I know, his actions have brought us here… but it still does not feel good to feel that way about someone. I sent him a text at the end of the day when I was pretty sure it would be too late for him to come over. He was pretty broken and apologetic for not planning anything, I was relieved…

  11. Marah

    I very much relate to these thoughts right now. After 20+ years of very subtle abuse, as well as off-and-on alcohol abuse and deceit over it, I still am trying to understand the truth about my marriage and my husband. How can I even think about just giving up everything? But conversely, how can I even think about descending back into the snake pit. So very difficult.

  12. Ellie

    Marah, I wrote this almost exactly a year ago. I think the most difficult, most tormenting part in all of this was realizing that X could never love me enough to change. It goes against all we’ve been taught in the media and fairy tales since we were little girls. Think of all the love stories where the love of a good woman changes a man. Think of Beauty and the Beast and every dumb romantic comedy were the abrasive jerk meets a wonderful girl and realizes how she is worth changing for. Pure fiction. When I let go of that notion I was much less susceptible to X’s attempts to manipulate me by claiming he needed my help, that he could or would change if I would just ____, or that we were both at fault and needed to change together. Lies. True lasting change can only come through Christ. X cannot love me enough to change.

    I generally don’t miss what I gave up. There are days that I think of the nice house or the nice things we had, but they are nothing, nothing, compared to peace that comes from trusting Christ. I haven’t been physically abused, threatened, screamed at, berated, sworn at, required to pretend that porn isn’t a part of his life, required to pretend that he’s wonderful, required to give up sleep to watch his stupid TV shows that I hated, required to serve him when I’m hurting and sick, etc since leaving him and going no contact.

    I remember the day I knew I’d have to leave him. It was 4 months prior to leaving. I didn’t think I could do it. I never thought I’d be strong enough. And I wasn’t! And I’m not on my own. It is only through Christ that I can stand. My fear, my anger, my sense of self preservation aren’t enough to keep me away. It is only in seeking Christ, it is only through the Holy Spirit showing me me day in and day out where I had my trust in places outside of God, and that He alone is worthy of my trust, that I have been made to stand.

  13. gin

    wow, I don’t think I have words to express how much this spoke to me. thank you for sharing.

    • Ellie

      Hi Gin. Nice to meet you. You are welcome. This song helps me to remember that the “nice guy” he wanted to believe he was wasn’t real. He never was that man and he never will be. I am not leaving that man. He wasn’t real. He was like a character in a TV show, like Chandler in Friends. Chandler wasn’t real. The nice guy X pretended to be wasn’t real.

      [The link to this video is broken. To quote the YouTube message: “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.” We were unable to find a copy of the video linked to in the Internet Archive. Editors.]

      (lyrics [Internet Archive link])

    • Hi gin, welcome to the blog! 🙂


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