Where does Focus on the Family stand on abuse and divorce?

Olivia submitted this comment to our Hall of Blind Guides page and with her permission we are publishing it here rather than on that page. 

God led me to your website. I’ve been receiving calls from a counselor from Focus on the Family. She quoted Chronicles and other scriptures before she began stating that it is the position of the church and Focus on Family to not advise divorce, only a legal separation. She said that God’s word is clear, and divorcing is not a woman’s option. However, separation is permissible in God’s sight.

She encouraged me to file for legal separation versus a divorce. She stated most abusers won’t tolerate legal separation, opting to divorce. According to her she is also writing a book. The above approach (according to her) keeps me from disobeying God. It will be my husband who will sin not me using the above approach. Also she encouraged counseling with abusive husband allowing God to change him. She stated you’d feel regret if you divorced him and God changed him. Then you’d want him again so allow God to work through you as he’s working on your husband. The book/author she recommended bothered my soul.

I stated I don’t believe The Lord can be tricked by using the above methods to avoid sin etc. Also I felt in defense of myself and that there was no empathy for my occurring abuse and desire to be free of him/divorce. Instead I felt wrong, sinful, and that divorcing him will require me to remain single per the word of God.

After so many years of church misinformation both written and verbal I found myself free when by “accident” I discovered your website. I have been praying to Jesus for real truth and support and He answered. For so many years I’ve been taking on the role of a praying wife filled with guilt, apathy, resolve and continued connection-seeking with my abuser. Even participating in disastrous couples counseling. All of sudden at 2 am yesterday I googled yet another desperate question about abuse, divorce, Christianity and guilt finding your website. Praise God.

I was shocked (and immensely relieved) when I discovered your list of unsupportive abuse victim resources, i.e the Focus on the Family organization.

Forever grateful

May The Lord continue to bless, guide and strengthen you all.


Updated 28 Dec 2017: While Focus on the Family has made some good statements about abuse of late, we still do not believe that they are ready to be given our confidence.  We, ACFJ, will still not refer abuse victims to them.

89 thoughts on “Where does Focus on the Family stand on abuse and divorce?”

  1. Wow Olivia!! Thank God you found this place, I felt the same way when I found it. 🙂

    She stated you’d feel regret if you divorced him and God changed him. Then you’d want him again so allow God to work through you as he’s working on your husband.

    That’s horse puckey. If my abuser/ex suddenly changed, I would be happy for my kids’ sake, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I’d ever “Want” that man again in any manner. The people who write and believe this nonsense are living in a dream world. Ridiculous.

  2. She stated most abusers won’t tolerate legal separation, opting to divorce. According to her she is also writing a book. The above approach (according to her) keeps me from disobeying God. It will be my husband who will sin not me using the above approach.

    I stated I don’t believe The Lord can be tricked by using the above methods to avoid sin etc.

    Oh for crying out loud.

    BIT rant time, probably incoherent as this stuff really does make my head explode.

    Oh man. I cannot believe this counselor can take herself seriously. Honest to goodness.

    Let’s play hot potato, ‘k? ‘Cause that’s the right way to deal with this. God really hates divorce and filing for divorce is sin, see? You can’t just walk in through the front door so I’ll show you how to crawl through the window. You can’t just leave so I’ll show you how to get him to throw you out! Technicalities and fine print is what we’re all about here. Letter of the law and all that, and God’s word is cleeeeeeeeear on this not filing stuff. So what we’ll do is get him to do instead of you so you can be the golden child with the halo here. This is perfectly OK since just because God says He’s holy and His ways are righteous, He doesn’t really mean it. Let’s find the loop holes and exploit them so you can be the innocent one and he’s stuck with the hot potato burns. Wink wink.

    And she’s going to write a book about this??????

    No. God can’t be tricked like this. Not only can He not be tricked like this, I only thank Him He has perfect aim or else I would not want to be anywhere near this woman when He decides to do something about it.

    1. hahahha BIT I know right!?
      This stuff is majorly triggering! I freak out when “counselors” say this kind of baloney. LOL they know in their hearts that this is #$%*, they need to find a loophole in God’s “plan for marriage” so we can rescue these poor victims, and yet instead of going BACK TO THE WORD and re-reading it with more wisdom and care, they do this!

    2. BIT rant = awesome! My ex husband played all the parts (legal)… he didn’t desert, he didn’t file, etc… so I am the bad guy. FYI he loves Focus on the Family.

      i posted before somewhere about how he comes out the “righteous” one due to game playing. the agony I went through deciding to leave, to file, (he didn’t even respond to the divorce papers) and then go before the judge and read the petition were exhausting, painful, and oh! how I feared God’s wrath and punishment!

      i know now my marriage AND divorce were His will and I am free. If i want another marriage, i am free… however right now, I don’t see that happening.

      So he is free of culpability in the eyes of church and legal interpretation of God’s Word. okay. I can’t change that, but I do know God Himself forbids using His Word to harm others and keep them captive. Reckoning will come.

      wonderful wonderful rant, BIT! applause!

      1. I do know God Himself forbids using His Word to harm others and keep them captive. Reckoning will come.

        Amen, amen, amen!

      2. “FYI he loves Focus on the Family.”

        Aha, that says it all…Organizations that abusive people love should probably be on the red flag list. There is probably a reason that perpetrators love them.

    3. I believe I will pass on the book. I believe she has a sheep suit in her closet somewhere!! Rant on, BIT. There is plenty to rant about here.

    4. Amen!!!

      God, who knows the end from the beginning, sees hearts and motives, watches the terrors and confusions must shake His head in sadness at the folly of these so-called pious people who are nothing but legalists with stones for hearts.

      Go on counseling with him and make it look good so that he will file! That way you look innocent and the church looks holy. Garbage! It’s all about image. And one thing is certain, God is not in it!

    1. Thanks Neil. We are doing our best to get this kind of information out. Our blog is coming up on its two year mark I believe and now we generally have 500-600 readers coming to it every day. Slowly but surely we are becoming a more widely known thorn in the flesh to organizations that have been teaching this kind of anti-victim stuff unopposed for a long, long time. And we hope that at the same time we are becoming an increasingly soothing balm for the oppressed.

    2. Neil, my pastor kept assuring me that my church was a safe church, but I always felt unsafe, and felt bad, almost disobedient, for feeling unsafe. Next time a pastor says to me that his church is a safe place, I should ask whether it is a certified safe church.

  3. One more comment. Another survivor that I was recently helping get away from her violent husband told me this:
    “Every night when he passed out drunk, I laid my hands on him and prayed. Every. Night. For many years.”

    God finally answered her in prayers – by rescuing her. She probably could have left much sooner but God had to really pull the rug out for her to let go of this evil man. Like so many of us, we stayed way too long.

  4. “The above approach (according to her) keeps me from disobeying God. It will be my husband who will sin not me using the above approach.”

    This is the definition of legalism.

    God looks at the heart folks. If you have divorce in the heart, manipulating people doesn’t make it any “better” (as if it needed to be “better” in the case of abuse). God is not fooled. Look at what happened to people who tried to fool God in the scripture and they did not fare well.

    The crazy part is, by giving steps to make an abuser divorce (which, BTW, she can offer no proof that actually work), she’s acknowledging that divorce is a good outcome without saying it. It seems this is the worst of all worlds: deny divorce for abuse but twist the scriptures to get there by introducing a completely extra-biblical notion of “separation”.

    If a divorce is the good outcome, then it is God’s outcome and you don’t have to manipulate people to get there.

    1. God looks at the heart folks. If you have divorce in the heart, manipulating people doesn’t make it any “better” (as if it needed to be “better” in the case of abuse). God is not fooled. Look at what happened to people who tried to fool God in the scripture and they did not fare well.


    2. Exactly! Well stated, Jeff S.!

      The law doesn’t allow us to do the right thing, so we’ll use this loophole over here to bring about the same result by another means, so that the sin is on the other person, not us.

      Nothing but LEGALISM!

    1. Jeff that link is amazing. They understand what abuse is, and they recognize the need to stop it. And yet they can’t follow through. They keep coming back to the idea of “legal separation”. In Texas there is no such thing. My options were divorce or nothing (legally speaking).

      1. yeah but why are they so scared of victims being set free from abuse? Is it just because they think everyone will pretend to be a victim? Or is it because they want the divorce rate to look pretty for the public? both?

      2. Katy- Yes, it is amazing. Why? Is it because they really believe that the salvation of people and the world is the family? Or is their theology one that is what I call Luke Skywalker theology – “I just KNOW there is some good in you Dad!”? So that if we all just try hard enough we can make it all work and be one big happy family. Of course that is impossible where there is no repentance, and you won’t find repentance in a sociopath.

      3. Or, Katy, maybe they just think that if they start telling people that abuse is grounds for divorce, they are going to open the floodgates and everyone who is dissatisfied with their marriage is going to run down to the courthouse? Of course what we see in the vast majority of abuse cases is that the victim tends to err in just the opposite direction. And they WANT their marriage to work. That’s one reason they stay in the abuse for 10, 20, 30 or more years. Now, in one sense it might open a floodgate of divorces BECAUSE JUST MAYBE THERE ARE THAT MANY ABUSE VICTIMS out there? But that wouldn’t be a flood of sinful divorces, it would be an exodus from Egypt.

      4. Sounds like the State of Texas is in agreement with God’s word on this one…because I find no such thing as legal separation while remaining legally married in the Bible, either.

        Yes, I had the same response on reading this article, Katy. How can someone have a relatively sound grasp of what abuse is, some of the things that should be avoided, the absolute necessity to escape the abuse, the inability of the victim to stop the abuse apart from leaving, at still not see divorce as an option…and still place the burden of ensuring the abuse stops on the victim? It makes no sense!

        Essentially, they are saying, “Yes, I know it’s not your fault; yes I know you have no control over the abuse; no, you absolutely cannot allow the abuse to continue….and…oh yeah…you and you alone are responsible for ensuring the abuse stops…without divorcing the abuser…despite the already recognized fact that you have no control over the abuse other than by fleeing…and despite the fact that most abusers don’t stop abusing and in the rare instances that do stop it requires many years of counseling and usually involves multiple misteps…”

        It makes no sense!

        My only conclusion is that FOF has focused entirely too much on the family and not enough on what God has called us to do, “…to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humble with thy God” (Micah 6:8).

      5. Jeff C – I don’t buy the excuse of not wanting to open the floodgates. Yes, I do believe that sort of reasoning is part of why so many pastors preach a message of legalism in this area. However, it simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

        For the many abuse victims, as you’ve pointed out, the marriage NEEDS to end. The need to make their Exodus from an abusive covenant.

        Now, many will argue that far too many couples, today, don’t take their marriage vows seriously enough. They call it quits at the first hint of trouble and aren’t willing to do the hard work of working thru issues.

        This may be true. I’m sure this is sometimes the case. However, for these situations, has the legalistic approach of the church kept them from divorcing? Apparently not, or these pastors wouldn’t be so worked up and concerned about the divorce statistics. So, why keep trying an approach that clearly isn’t working for those who don’t take covenant vows seriously, and which imposes unnecessary bondage on those who do take them seriously?

        No good ever comes from adding more legalistic restrictions to God’s word.

        Far better to focus on teaching people how to honor their covenant vows well, while they are in covenant, than to try to place restrictions preventing the covenant from ending even when the vows have been egregiously violated.

      6. Thanks Joe. So maybe it is simply what it always seems to be – self-preservation of the corporation? If FOF started ok’ing divorce for abuse (of course we don’t need their permission!) then would it mean that their donations $$$ would suffer? I mean, you don’t have to actively mentally think this stuff to still be motivated by it. How many pastors and churches would be all over their case if FOF changed their view???

      7. Joe, I agree, I think you are right about FoF. Their entire ministry has been built up on the rock (cornerstone) of the traditional family unit, with traditional “roles”. Everything is invested in that.
        Oh – your son is on drugs? Maybe if mom had stayed home instead of working..
        oh – your husband likes to hurt you? Well divorce isn’t the answer.
        Easy to see where things go off the rails.

      8. I don’t know if this link will work or not, but I’ll try it: Freedom, Justice and Religious Liberty for All — Dr. Dobson’s August 2013 Newsletter [Internet Archive link] [The original link replaced with an Internet Archive link. Editors.]

        In all fairness, this isn’t an FOF newsletter, but a newsletter from Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk…a close affiliate, but separate organization.

        Note the many references to family:

        Strengthen Families like yours…
        Invest in the future of our nations families…
        …Helping families like yours be strengthened and equipped with the Judeo-Christian worldview…
        …reach out to families…
        …share your gift for families…
        Strong families make for a strong nation.

        Do you see the imbalance? What about concern for the individual? What about a focus on God and godliness? No wonder they cannot bring themselves to consider the possibility that divorce may be God’s perfect will for a given situation…

      9. This is changing the subject slightly, but what do you think of the program “Intentional Living”.

      10. Honestly, I haven’t listened to it enough to really have an opinion. Years ago, I listened a lot to Christian talk-radio. Now, only on occassion…while on a long drive by myself…

      11. Jeff C – I think (for what little my thoughts on the matter are worth) that FOF must have so much invested in Focusing on the Family…in upholding “family values” (whatever that means)…in pointing out deplorable statistics in regard to divorce rates, violent crime rates, drug addiction rates, etc. that they tie (by nothing more than a leap of faith) to a decrease in the percentage of traditional families…that they have blinded themselves to even the possibility of considering another paradigm.

        Their entire platform, for decades, has focused on the importance of traditional families, the importance of both parents being in the home, the importance of the husband being the spiritual leader, etc. They, apparently, have lost the ability to recognize when divorce is needed…or to even consider that divorce may be God’s direct will for a given situation. They have blinded themselves to that even being a possibility and have so consistently misinterpretted scripture to reinforce this notion that they can no longer even consider the possibility that they may have misunderstood the meaning.

        Sadly…not unlike the blindness of the Pharisees in being unable to even consider the possibility that Jesus might actually be the Messiah.

      12. “But that wouldn’t be a flood of sinful divorces, it would be an exodus from Egypt.”

        Love this Jeff C

    2. Re the article by FOF My Spouse Is Verbally and Emotionally Abusive [Internet Archive link] that was linked to above, I agree with all the concerns that others have expressed on this thread. To those concerns I will add that I found the tone of the article distancing, perhaps even a tad patronising towards the victim.

      Furthermore, the article advises the victim to

      Make sure that the therapist you choose understands the dynamics of abuse, power, and control, and that he or she is well trained in the highly specialized field of marital conflict.

      That sounds like good advice, but it’s unrealistic.

      First, it assumes there are many therapists who understand the dynamics of abuse, power and control, when that is not the case in our experience, and our experience is verified by the likes of Catherine DeLoach Lewis (a registered counselor in NC) who says that undergraduate training programs for counselors and marital therapists do NOT cover domestic abuse. So FOF seems to be leading the victims down a blind alley by implying that there are many therapists out there who can help them.

      Second, it assumes that a victim who is just barely coming out of the fog to recognise she is being abused, knows enough to be able to assess which therapists are sufficiently expert in domestic abuse do be safe for her to consult with. That’s like asking a new college student to assess the expertise of their professors. They simply don’t know enough yet to be able to make that judgement. Therapists may say they know a lot about domestic abuse, but that doesn’t always mean they really get it.

      Thirdly, there’s a red flag: FOF use the term ‘marital conflict’. That’s a pointer that they see the issue as mutual. ‘Conflict’ has connotations of mutual blame, takes two to tango, etc. Gong! Danger! Therapists who say they are expert in ‘high conflict marriages’ usually don’t get it about domestic abuse. This term ‘high conflict marriages’ is rife in the divorce racket and many NGOs and “institutes” are offering expertise to ‘help’ couples ‘manage’ their ‘high conflict separation and divorces’. The divorce courts are complicit in all this racket, often ordering the parties to pay for these professional ‘services’ till their funds are exhausted. The fact that FOF calls it a ‘highly specialized field of marital conflict’ tells me that they are (perhaps unwittingly?) buying in to this whole racket whereby professionals are raking in the money from the suffering victims of domestic abuse. I say perhaps unwittingly to give them the benefit of the doubt, but actually I am fairly cynical. I would love for FOF to assure us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are not going along with the money spinning.

      The FOF article goes on to say

      It would be ideal, of course, if your spouse were to seek counseling as well, but we don’t recommend that the two of you do this jointly, at least not in the beginning. It’s far too easy for an abusive spouse to manipulate a couples counseling situation and subsequently turn it to his own advantage or use it as an excuse for further abusive behavior. If the thought of professional counseling is too overwhelming, consider talking to a pastor or a good friend, or see if you can get a neighbor to take you to a community center where there are people trained to deal with domestic abuse issues. The idea is to find out what you can do, not what you can’t do, and to act accordingly.

      Hmm. It’s good they warn about the dangers of couple counseling, though it would have been even better if they had more emphatically explained those dangers.
      But the recommendation that the victim talk to a pastor or good friend. . . well, as we know, that may be helpful, but it may be very damaging, depending on the knowledge and doctrine of the pastor or the friend. Having just emphasized how important it is to choose a professional who really understands abuse, power and control issues, the victim is then advised to at least chat to her pastor or her friend — who may not have a clue about abuse, power and control dynamics! Logic? Duty of care for their readers? it’s baffling. But it’s typical of talking out of two sides of you mouth, that we find so often in the field of domestic abuse and Christianity. Sigh.

      1. It took me at least two full years to start figuring out what questions to ask to assess if the counselors knows about abuse. I had two that were pitiful guides, one that did not do any damage and one that knew nothing but was open to learn and was excellent for my son.

    3. Also, at the end of the FOF article they recommend Paul Hegstrom’s book. Marissa, I know you found it a helpful book and I can believe you. Almost any book that tells some truths about domestic abuse is helpful for someone who is at an early stage of the learning curve. Any drop of water is wonderful, in a desert. 🙂 But we recommend Lundy Bancroft’s book way over Hegstrom’s. And it’s interesting that FOF do not mention Lundy Bancroft. It’s also interesting that FOF recommend LIfe Skills International, which is an organisation set up by Hegstrom. I’ll let readers connect the dots.

  5. Olivia. I too was led to this site after a 2 am desperate prayer. God is so very faithful. I had seen other resources but none “felt” right. After my desperate prayer finding this site felt like my soul found it’s peace. Like God was saying THIS is what I want you to hear.

    It is a wonderful community. Many blessings to you!

  6. I haven’t read your article yet, but I was ready to call Focus yesterday and ask that very thing. They seem very smug and marriage over people oriented.

    1. SMUG! yeah. “If you are perfect and work / pray hard then God will change your evil husband and he will be saved” — It’s fantasy thinking, wrong understanding of how God works, bad doctrine on marriage and divorce, and elevating marriage over the lives of the people in it. I never understood how awful these trite little divorce teachings were until I was faced with my own terror. These “church” teachings are totally SINFUL

  7. I do not agree with this posting as my experience has been quite the opposite from the counseling I received from Focus on the Family. I was counseled to remain in the Matthew 18:17 stance. I was given sound referrals for books to read on domestic violence, one of which was “Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them” by Paul Hegstrom, PH.D. The counselor I spoke to have me follow up calls many times on her own to touch base and hold me accountable for keeping myself and the kids protected. I understand not all who called about abuse received the same wisdom I received but please show the other side of Focus on the Family. It was through sound biblical advice that I stayed separated and filed for divorce. Keeping that strong stance of Matthew 18:17 allows the abuser to feel the weight of their own sins (if that’s possible, its been 9 months and my husband is still the same, possibly worse and I am thankful for my order of protection everyday).
    You may want to pick up the book to read. In no way is it ok to stay in an abusive relationship. I too, find this site comforting as many times I’ve had scripture used against me, but that’s when the church structure is failing. If your small group isn’t holding the abuser accountable then its the abuser, not the victim that should be cast away.

    1. Hi Marissa – We are glad that in your case you were told that you could divorce for abuse. But as you can see from the FOF article that I linked at the end of one of my comments here, that is not what is consistently being told to victims by FOF. Also, if I am not mistaken, we have written on this blog (Barbara may want to jump in here) about how the Matthew 18 process is not a recommended one for instances of abuse. Barbara originally wrote that it was in her book, Not Under Bondage, but has since come to the position that this is an error. We are glad that in some ways FOF understands certain aspects of abuse, but they still have a long way to go and until they travel the rest of that distance, we cannot recommend them as a resource for abuse victims. Thanks again for sharing your experience. [Here is the link to that article by Barbara on Matthew 18]

    2. Marissa, thank you for sharing your experience of FOF, especially since it may have taken courage to come in with a different opinion. I am so glad that your experience with FOF was a lot more positive than Olivia’s.
      I guess that illustrates what we see all over the place: the way domestic abuse is handled varies greatly according to the individual pastor, church, counselor, etc. There may or may not be a policy on how to handle domestic abuse in an organisation, but how that policy is interpreted and put into effect (or skidded over or ignored) may depend on the personal doctrine and experience of the individual that the victim happens to seek help from within that organisation.

      That is one reason why we made the title of this post a question, rather than a statement. I hope that FOF ask themselves this question and want to improve their way responding to domestic abuse. They have interviewed Leslie Vernick on their radio program, which is a step in the right direction, but personally would like to see them ‘get it’ about domestic abuse a lot more. Paddling in the shallows with this stuff just doesn’t cut it.

      I’m interested to know what the person(s) you saw at FOF meant by “keeping a strong Matthew18:17 stance.” Did they mean you should/could treat your husband as an unbeliever? Did they say that you could treat him as an unbeliever even if your local church hadn’t officially ruled that he was to be treated as an unbeliever? Did they mean that you could separate and divorce as part of that Matthew 18:17 stance? Did they spell out that it would be OKAY and NOT A SIN for you to initiate divorce? Did they tell you that this is official policy of FOF, or did you get the impression that it might have just been the view of the individuals you were dealing with?

      One of the problems with applying Matthew 18 to domestic abuse is that the abusers usually stymie the process by making allies in the leadership. The abuser masquerades repentance and begs for the marriage to be restored and the victim is then typecast as the sinful party for digging their heels in against reconciliation. So in many churches, the Matthew 18 process is turned into an unjust farce, a tool to further torment the victim, rather than a tool to vindicate the victim and free them from the abuser.

      So Marissa, you were lucky that in your case, Matthew 18 was not an instrument of torture, but an instrument of justice and liberty.

      bless you, and thanks once again for bravely sharing your experience. 🙂

      1. Oh, my, you’re correct–abusers make allies with the leadership. They know just who to hang out with. This insight, now that I see it in writing, gives me chills and totally affirms my experience! Ditto for masquerading repentance. Whew!

  8. Now having read the article I will be turning the radio off when Focus comes on. I have not felt comfortable with them for a while anyways. The advice this lady was given did seem like trying to trick God. That is stupid. After having legal separation, X’s adultery and other things, I knew he would never file. He doesn’t care if he is divorced or not. I am so glad I did it. I feel physical, mentally, spiritually and emotionally better than I have in years. I will be visiting. your Hall of Blind Guides list.

  9. Welcome, Olivia. May you find the truth of God here and His direction for your safety and well-being. I know you will also find here, people to help and support you as you walk through your abusive ordeal.

  10. As a mother of a severely abused daughter, my heart goes out to you, and every abused woman who finally got the bravery to seek help within a ‘church’ or ‘para-church’ (like FOF) and you were met with advice that went directly against what your conscience was demanding, ‘for you to get away from this violent person, and never go back, or near them again.’

    Many of you know it took a great deal of bravery to even make the call, in your desperation for help and the other person on the end of the phone line, or across the desk of the counseling room, in their ‘attempt’ to ‘help you’ with Godly counsel, likely said what they were taught on the subject of ‘reasons to divorce’ biblically, vs. empathetically listening to their own conscience, which should have been telling them,

    ‘how horrible!, she can’t go back to that!, this home is not safe!, how can she submit to such a violent man? how can she yield her body intimately to such a man? what is this doing to the children? her life is in danger, I must help her! this man is a reprobate! not a believer! I am sure she is not telling me even the worse of this…she is scared, and not sure if she can trust me…I chose this profession for a reason…this is it!!…ect…”

    but, rather, they may have let their heart, and their eyes judge you instead, looking at you as someone who might ‘look’ perfectly fine, or sound like a complaining wife, or an exaggerating woman, possibly married to a ‘good provider’ and a ‘good father’ or ‘good tither’ who ‘couldn’t really be that bad’

    The only verses on divorce that seems to stand out to the ‘average’ counselor/pastor are Matt. 5:31-32, Matt. 19:7 and Mark 10:4 which all noticeably are speaking of putting ‘her’ away, or giving ‘her’ a bill of divorcement with the ‘interpreted’ direct implication of a woman’s guilt, vs. a mans. Though the woman feels like she is in an abusive jail, desiring desperately for someone to show her there is a key out of the bondage of an abusive marriage, the counselor/pastor puts her in ‘a religious jail of guilt,’ for considering divorce, from such a man, as if she does not already carry a huge load of guilt from the blame the abusive person lays on her.

    Regarding FOF, yes, they have many great resources for families, and they ‘are’ a blessing to many. It sounds like this particular counselor was ignorant of scriptures, and perhaps in her busyness of her ‘job’ she has learned to give the ‘pat’ answers that further entrap women. Remember, Jesus is the ONLY high priest. This professional is not the final word. This para church, is not the final word. God’s word is. You, as a Christian woman ‘can’ study to show ‘yourself’ approved unto God’, in the word on this subject, and the Lord will bless you, and show you that he is a merciful loving God who hates violence against weaker vessels, and ‘vengeance is HIS’ on the abuser, and on those who mislead the wounded into bondage. Though there is safety in a multitude of counselors, all of you are not going to be blessed to find those ‘safe counselors’ ‘in’ your area. Thankfully, there is a site, like this, where you can find men ‘and’ women of God, who have devoted their lives to the study of God’s word on this particular subject, and how it relates to your tragic situation.

    As most pastors/counselors will remind you of how ‘Jesus forgives your husband’s abuse, and, so should you forgive him, and return…’

    Don’t ever forget,

    If your abuser ‘is’ one of the Lord’s children, entrapped in a sin of violence, that if in fact Jesus’ Blood covers his egregious sins against you, if those around you want to condemn you for ‘sinning’ by choosing divorce from a man who has annulled the vows he made to you by ‘his’ sin of abuse and violence…

    Jesus’ blood can also cover ‘that’ supposed ‘sin’ of divorce, as well. There is no sin ‘his children’ can commit that is ‘not’ covered by HIS blood.

    Rest in HIS mercy, and grace and Love for you!! Find comfort in this forum where you will NOT find condemnation for divorcing such a man and where you will be taught from scriptures and the common sense approach of how the word of God truly views abuse and does allow for divorce in cases. His word is NOT void on this topic.

    I pray you are soon released from the prison of abuse you have known.

    For the sake of the Kingdom!

    1. how odd I NEVER connected Chist’s blood covering the sin of divorce as much as if covers the abuser’s sins. its a good argument to throw back to those who demand you suffer or die (and if you have children–kill their spirit too).

      that aside, I think I will bask in the knowledge that my divorce is as forgivable as his abuse.

      1. Won’t Tell – Yes, it is good to see the incongruity of speaking of Christ’s blood covering one sin but not another. But I just want to also point out to everyone that in fact divorcing for abuse is not sin, in spite of the claim by so many churches that it is. It isn’t. There is no sin that needs covering in such cases. If you divorced for abuse, then that divorce does not need to be described as “forgivable.” It is positively righteous in fact. This is a vital point that we all need to get a firm hold on.

        For a related blog post, see Divorce is Sin… Says Who? – Guest Article by Joe Pote

      2. If you divorced for abuse, then that divorce does not need to be described as “forgivable.” It is positively righteous in fact. This is a vital point that we all need to get a firm hold on.

        I am going to put this in my journal of reminders of truth, when the opposite prospective rears its ugly head and it is out there. Maybe even sitting in the pew next to me.

  11. Olivia, I can totally relate to how you feel. I was tortured for a very long time about the right or wrong of leaving and that is the only thing that kept me from leaving sooner. Advice like you got from the counselor at Focus kept me in that marriage for at least a year after I started to come out of the fog, believing I would commit mortal sin if I divorced, but my soul kept crying that God has to be more merciful than that. I am thankful you found this site and thankful for its existence! Barbara’s Not Under Bondage site was one of the ones that helped me finally allow myself to leave. If this one was around then, I hadn’t found it but wish I had!!

    I am glad you called the counselor out on trying to manipulate God by trying to get you to manipulate and push your husband into filing for divorce. As I read your story, that’s what I was thinking….”but isn’t that trying to manipulate God? And that would be abuse…Wow….” and they counsel this regularly? That is deeply concerning.

    For me, it turned out that my abuser was the one to file, but that was an act of God, not anything I did to try to manipulate him into it. God just showed me through Barbara and others, that it was ok for me to go when given that opportunity. He opened the door and prepared me to be brave and walk through. But that advice to try to deceive God and manipulate someone else (God doesn’t teach to repay evil with evil), that is scary.


  12. It’s chilling to read how FOF “gets it”. I have to assume many, many others also “get it”. How do they sleep at night?

    What evidence does FOF have that “creating a crisis” will turn an abusive man around?

    1. it’s like scheduling an intervention with a drug addict? That’s what they must think, since they lean on Matthew 18 as well.

      The issue that is holding them back from being effective (and Godly) in this ministry is their wrong doctrines on divorce. period. Somebody better have an awakening soon, cuz the train is pulling away from the depot.

  13. I love the description of being filled with “guilt, apathy, resolve and connection-seeking with my abuser.” That has been my experience as I sought to be the one through whom God would work to bring change to my then-husband and our relationship. But I discovered that change can only come when both parties desire it. I also discovered that divorce is not the unforgivable sin and on the other side of divorce God still loves me and has plans and purposes for my life.

    1. Bronz18, you’ve provided a clear concise descprtion of what I experienced…as well as many others who frequent this site.

      I love how you phrased this: “But I discovered that change can only come when both parties desire it. I also discovered that divorce is not the unforgivable sin and on the other side of divorce God still loves me and has plans and purposes for my life.”

      So true! Blessings to you!

      1. And not only is divorce not the unforgivable sin, sometimes it’s not even sin! (Unless God sinned when He divorced Israel.)

  14. I read this before leaving the house this morning. I recently found a local DV support group. The group is studying Lundy Bancrofts book Why Does He Do That? What a blessing and how disturbing to hear the stories of other women going through the hard emotional process of healing. Anyway, I turned the local Christian radio station on (I usually listen to just classical) and lo and behold Focus on the Family had a dynamic sounding woman speak to a group of women on being a wife, as I listened I began doubting my decision to end the marriage.

    If I did not have the resources I have to counter the so called biblical perspective on submission and no divorce I would have been sucked right into the message of “no matter how he is acting” I have to hang in there and be the wife God wants me to be. I was thinking of how many abused wives are listening to this and believing that no matter what he does or says that is abusive, if I am faithful the Lord is going to save my marriage. I use to believe that, I used to say those kinds of encouraging things to others. I use to listen to FOF daily. I thought it odd when a dear friend that is an abuse survivor commented that she no longer will listen to FOF. Now I understand why. Praise God for all He is doing through this website, and I thank you for all the hard work that is poured into this resource. God bless you Jeff and Barb and all others that share their experience strength and hope…..hugs to all Lauralee

    1. “…if I am faithful the Lord is going to save my marriage. I use to believe that, I used to say those kinds of encouraging things to others. I use to listen to FOF daily.”

      Same here, LauraLee. There is so much there that seems so good…but I’ve learned (am learning) that something’s also not quite right…and the something is not a minor point, but a potentially lethal error.

      1. Joe you bring up another point I feel like harping on, which is the idea that if a teacher is “mostly good” or “mostly right” then if he’s wrong on just one topic, we shouldn’t be too harsh because nobody is right about everything.
        The little bit of yeast leavens the whole lump. When you are right about most of your finer points of doctrine but horribly wrong on one issue that causes direct suffering and torture of others, the gloves are off.
        1 Corinthians 13:
        If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing

        followed closely by this little nugget (v 6-7):

        Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects

        SO…. I feel no need to coddle FoF, or Piper, or anyone else who perpetuates this kind of pointless, endless suffering with no remedy.

      2. Katy – I completely agree. In fact I’ve been mulling over how best to approach a blog post on that topic.

        In general, I try to give a lot of leeway for different beliefs, different understandings, different emphasis, and different traditions among various denomonations, churches and congregations. This is especially true for areas where I have, myself, been previously mistaken…and feel the need to have grace for others…

        BUT…this is not a minor error! This is a potentially lethal error! AND…we’re not talking about groups that simply don’t have a good understanding of this area and focus on another area where they do have understanding. No, these are groups who are in serious error, and MAJOR in promoting potentially lethal bad doctrine in this specific area!!!

        I’m rapidly becoming less tolerant…a lot less tolerant!

      3. I am crying while reading all of this. I feel so pulled in 2 diametrically opposed directions. I will read these articles you are suggesting (the link about “divorce, who says so?” by Joe P. I think it is) so I do have some more studying to do (although I’m on these sites at least 2 hours a day!) I think my biggest issue is that as I have become “stronger” setting stronger boundaries, and in fact am moved into another room, (4 months) my spouse is being kind, tender, at least to my face (3 weeks) and he does not SEEM to have an ulterior motive. In other words, for 28 yrs, he has been very manipulative, angry outbursts, humiliate in public, (no hitting but physically intimidating) all of that, but I was a very wimpy person. If I am who I am NOW, maybe he wont BE like that because he cant get away with it anymore. Maybe this is the one where the guy actually DOES change. I know that idea is what kept me chained (hurtbylove.com’s article “Why abuse victims stay in 6 words or less: Because she has hope that things will change” is the premise and I totally agree with it) but I see that things ARE different.

        So now it becomes a question of: Can I trust that he will stick with it if I reconcile? How will I know if I don’t try? Yes, I have tried before but I was never as clear on “what abuse looks like” so I was unable to articulate what he was doing. 28 yrs is almost 10,000 chances for him to wake up and say, “I really need to stop yelling at my wife and kids and controlling everyone with anger and manipulation.” But he didn’t . But what if he IS getting it now. (I have the articles on TRUE repentance and he is NOT there for sure. Maybe I am just so releived that he is not abusing me that I am giving him too much credit?) I am having one of “those” days.

        So glad you are all here to listen to my ramblings. I don’t want to be “led”(misled?) by any person / church / radio program / book ever again and that includes this website. But I HAVE learned SO much truth here. I have no feelings for my spouse but I also dont hate him. I have forgiven him but now it is a matter of reconciliaiton: Can I ever trust him? If he is now NOT abusing me, then what grounds for divorce would I have? It’s all very confusing. I feel like taking a vacation from thinking about any of it. I have not even decorated for Christmas. I just don’t see the point. It makes me feel like all those years I tried to make everything “right” for my 3 kids is all just a fake waste. Thanks for being here. All of you.

      4. Debby, you are in a vulnerable position now. Many churches refuse to allow divorce for abuse and if you approach the pastor, you may find yourself in yet another confusing situation. Often their agenda is to pressure victims to take back an abusive/unfaithful spouse based upon a flimsy statement of repentance.

        I have a few suggestions. Before you make any decisions consult with a counselor (NOT a marriage counselor) by yourself who can help you wade through the confusion. A good counselor will assist you as make your own decisions on how you wish to proceed. I went to a local abuse center and they gave me information and validated the abuse we endured. That was the key to finding my way out of the fog.

        Don’t rush to make a quick decision if you don’t have to. Also, keep up your boundaries and follow your instincts. If you doubt that his repentance is genuine, it probably isn’t. Be sure to keep safety in mind as abusers can become dangerous, especially when you are planning to leave. Blessings to you as you search for direction.

      5. Hi Debby, you said

        . . . as I have become “stronger” setting stronger boundaries, and in fact am moved into another room, (4 months) my spouse is being kind, tender, at least to my face (3 weeks) and he does not SEEM to have an ulterior motive . . . but I was a very wimpy person. If I am who I am NOW [not wimpy], maybe he wont BE [abusive] that because he can’t get away with it anymore. . . . Can I trust that he will stick with it if I reconcile?

        Here are some things you might like to add to the mix of what you are thinking through:

        Yes, you have become stronger and more educated about abuse, so you can recognise it a lot easier and have some practice in setting boundaries. You quite rightly have gained confidence in your ability to set boundaries. That is great.

        However, when the abuser (I’m calling him that just for simplicity and because you said yourself that he has not shown full signs of repentance) gets more closeness — more psychological / physical/sexual access — to his former victim when she starts trialing reconciliation, he generally starts, bit by bit, to drop his good behaviour, as now he is gaining back his goal, his target. And on her part, the reconciling woman who had successfully practised boundary setting may not be able to set her boundaries quite so well, when that greater closeness is happening. It gets harder to see when and where to set boundaries, especially if the abuser is very covert and incremental about how he is reverting to destructive behaviour.

        You might like, therefore, to consider taking a greater length of time in this separation, and even perhaps trialling a living apart separation, under separate roofs, so that you can continue to practise and consolidate your boundary setting skills and strengths. And if you do this, especially if you live under different roofs, my guess is that your husband will start to show you even more clearly how much or how little he has really changed. (really, as in where it counts: not just moving the deckchairs but a change of heart, the rubber on the road.)

        What would be the risks, dangers AND / OR possible benefits of you prolonging this separation from your husband while you continue to grow in strength yourself and have more time to observe his behaviours and responses? You would not have to have decided to make it a permanent separation, just a continuation or variation of the status quo you are in now. I believe there would be prudence it giving it more time, and especially since I have seen so many women (myself included) reconcile, thinking that they were able to handle it but eventually finding that they weren’t — because the abuse recurred.

      6. Well, I guess 3 weeks is the magic number because he came in raging last night. Threw marriage tapes at me (that I have already listened to but he says I obviously need to listen to them again.) I told him he is an abuser and marriage tapes arent going to help us until he gets help. He continued yelling, “YOURE the abuser! Dont you get it?!!” and I asked him, “What is it that I dont get? Tell me.” And he couldnt answer. He still doesnt understand that I am in another room because I need to heal and that I have nothing I am trying to “gain.” But he does have something to gain. Me. It seems like right when I am starting to be “sucked in” (he’s been making dinner and doing stuff around the house, etc. being mr nice) God reminds me why I shouldnt. But then, I dont want to be presumptuous. The evil one whispers “He wouldnt be doing this if you werent rejecting him.” But I think (now, after getting information on what i am dealing with: abuse) “If he is repentant of what he has done, then he would be patient with me as I heal and understand why he is being “rejected.” But it seems like entitlement to me. Not caring what he has done, just caring that it affects him.

        He just kept bringing up all my shortcomings in the past (the 4 times in 28 years I hit him because I couldnt get him to stop crazy-making and yelling at me. Lundy helped me see this was self-defense btw, the other day when I lost my patience with my teen son (whom I have a good relationship with) and yelled at him. I did the mature thing and sincerely apologized, being specific about my behavior and that there was no excuse for it, etc. He kept bringing up our wedding night when, because of sexual abuse growing up, I came face to face with the worst kind of debilitating fear that I had no idea was even there. I “rejected him” and we dealt with that for 12 yrs until God miraculously healed me. I sought help. I didnt continue making excuses for my behavior. I knew it wasnt normal. So for the past 16 yrs, that area has been good. I am whole. So I dont know why he keeps bringing it up. I really thought it was settled.

        Whereas I keep bringing up his behaviors from the past to show him that they are the same (although not as frequent) as they have always been. Isnt there a difference there? He seems to be “looking” for dirt to throw at me. It is pure deflection. I told him that “yes, I make mistakes.” He yelled, “Well, I make mistakes too but you want me to just forget yours but MINE are abuse?” (That would have really thrown me off a few months ago!) I said, “Your “mistakes” are ongoing, repetitive, without remorse when they hurt me or the kids. It is your normal way of dealing with stress. When I react to that in an angry or impatient way, it is rare, and I very quickly sincerely apologize even when I am still mad. I ADMIT when I have wronged you.

        I’ve abused you? Have YOU written desperate, heartfelt letters to me over the years, identifying the abusive behaviors and begging me to stop and get help? No, but I have ago, I received a text from someone at church saying that my anit-husband showed up there again, after several months absence(to no avail) How many mornings have YOU woke up with fear and dread wondering “What will set him off today?” No, but I have. Have you TALKED with anyone about how “abusive” I am, that I have been that way for years, and been told “Well, God hates divorce. Your need to love her more, be more giving, more patient, more Christ-like, essentially , ‘Its all up to you, bud. If you do this, she will stop abusing you.’ No, but I have. So, just where are you getting the idea that I am abusive?”

        Anyway, I could go on. I have taken your words of wisdom under consideration and to be honest, my 16 yr old has his permit now and even though I havent admitted it to myself, I think I am just stalling (to move elsewhere) until he can drive so he is mobile and can stay with me or go home whenever he wants to. (His dad WILL use his authority over him to catch him in the middle and he knows I will give in when it comes to hurting the kids). I think my bottom-line fear is that he WONT get it and even if I divorce him, he will always think it my fault. I am not quite ready to bear that truth yet.

      7. Sounds like you are gaining insight and are giving yourself good, truthful, confidence-building praise and encouragement, and at the same time you are wisely and maturely recognising what fears and trepidations you have, and working strategically with all that complex mix. Good for you, Debby! It’s a journey, and you are doing well. 🙂

      8. Debby –

        I completely understand your turmoil.

        I remember once telling my sister, “Right now she’s doing all the right things. I just can’t leave when she’s doing right things.”

        Over time, it became obvious that there was no heart change…that ‘doing right things’ was all about re-establishing control and had nothing to do with true repentance.

        Yes, I also understand the frustration of trying to address issues recognized as a cycle. I had similar discussions with my former abuser. She would act all frustrated wanting to focus on the present not the past…even when the past was only yesterday. Nothing done in the past was supposed to count…as though repeated cycles of abuse were no indication of reasonable future expectations.

        I eventually reached a point of realizing I no longer cared what she thought. …and also realized that she had never truly cared what I thought…

        It was not my job to convince her…either of her abuse or of the rightness of my response.

        I have only one authority to whom I must give an accounting…and God stands against abuse and helps the downtrodden. Jesus said:

        “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
        Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
        He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
        And recovery of sight to the blind,
        To set free those who are oppressed,
        To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)

        I’m praying for you, this morning, that God will give you an extra measure of wisdom and discernment…that He will guide and protect you…that He will give you clarity of sight and thought and an extra measure of strength and courage.

        Blessings to you!

  15. I experienced a similar response from Focus on the Family. They called me regularly, expressing concern that I remain in my marriage. When they discovered I had finally escaped my abusive husband and filed for divorce the “concerned” phone calls ceased. I have never heard from them again. Focus on the Family was a very real presence in my childhood home. To say I was disappointed in their inability to offer real support and biblically based advice for my situation would be an understatement. I stayed in my abusive marriage at least two years longer because they convinced me that, as a Christian, I had no other option.

  16. I so connect too… this website trully is a Godsend. I don’t know what I’d do without people who really know and love God and His word… and understand that God loves us enough to not want us to stay in abuse.

  17. Well folks. A very well meaning friend of my husbands just came to the door with a set of CD’s for ME from FOF. He never asked to hear how I was or for my side of the story. He just told me that he felt led to share the CD’s with me. I gracefully thanked him and took the CD’s. Of course after he left I had a very conflicted and angry conversation with him in my head. I was too shocked to say anything in the moment.

    If it wasn’t for this site I would be more spun up and guilt ridden from this gesture. Thanks to what I have learned here I can recognize that my husband has manipulated another well meaning ally that is now working on his behalf to pressure, guilt, and manipulate me. My 16 year old son saw that I was hurt by this mans actions and he hugged me and told me that he was proud of me for standing strong and to let it go because this man meant well but he just doesn’t understand. That was from a 16 year old. In every difficult moment of this awful awakening God holds my blessings in plain sight. God never lets us go.

    So now, what do I do with the CDs??

    1. Oh. If he wants them back then maybe not 9 or 14.

      Instead. “Thanks, but these did not turn out to fit my situation at all.”

      1. Ahhh ha ha ha ha BIT my son saw the video of the CD in the microwave. He votes for that one 🙂

        I like what you said BIT I may write it on a note card and take it with me when I return the discs 🙂

    2. Godo for you, BH! And what a blessing to have your teenage son minister to you!

      God is good!

      Oh…and CD’s make good practice targets. You can even throw them like clay pigeons in a skeet-shoot. 😉

    3. BH, You must be terribly proud of your son and rightfully so. As for the cd’s there is: reusing them to record over, Frisbee, wall decorations, leveling device for a lop sided table, coaster….I am sure there are more uses.

    4. Celebrating with you BH, and please tell you son that he has a fan in Oz who wants to pat him on the back for supporting his mum so brilliantly. 🙂

      Re the CDs. Hmm. all what others have suggested. Or you could offer them to any one of our readers who wants to review them to critique them for our blog. Only apply if you are feeling strong or prepared to ride the waves of the triggers that are likely to ensue! Anyone of our regular readers who wants to volunteer for this task, please email me and Jeff C with your shipping address and we will pass it on to Begin Healing.

    5. You guys are wonderful and funny. Unfortunately, I think he wants the disc’s back but he did not give me a time line. So, if some one wants them to review I would be happy to share my thoughtful (insert cynical font) gift with them.

      When I return the discs…. I wonder if I should just hand them back over or take a moment to let him have it in a diplomatic, speaking truth in love kind of way. I am not one to speak up but I am starting to feel led in that direction. Especially when I am learning that my husband is sharing his part of the story with anyone that stands still long enough. UGH, I have no privacy!

      My son’s actions moved me to tears. The tiny crack in my heart was more than healed it was filled in with gold.

  18. I think a lot of people think that because you are married and have kids that you should continue to stay in an abusive relationship or they are wrongly misled by their pastors or others in the church who have never been in an abusive relationship or experienced domestic violence — which makes them unqualified to give these wounded souls balanced Godly advice.

    Not every marriage is a Godly union. A lot of people get married for the wrong reasons and God never said so!!!!! […] remember it says in the Bible Jesus never entrusted himself to man because he knew what was in man’s heart. Man has their own selfish motivation especially when they don’t have continual relationship with Christ….[…] Jesus’ burden is easy and his yoke is light…Woman matters just as much as man…[…] God says Husbands love your wives as Christ Loves the church. Christ does not beat and abuse his church he loves us and gave his life so You can be free take heart God’s ways are not the ways of man..and he knows and understands your situation a lot more than some of his most beloved followers!!!!

    1. Hi Debra, welcome to the blog 🙂 We are very glad you have found us; it sounds like you know what it is like to be abused!

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

      You may notice that I removed a few things from your comment. I did this because some of our readers might have heard that advice you gave as an order, like they were ‘being told what to do’. We try to avoid triggering victims / survivors by telling them what to do. We find it more helpful to share our own experiences, and if do we want to advise people what we think they should do, we preface it with words like “I suggest” or “I encourage”. That way it doesn’t come across like it’s an order. I hope this makes sense.

      Once again, welcome to the blog 🙂

  19. I too found relief when I stumbled across this website. Unlike many people in this online community, I’m not married to my abuser, I’m his daughter. Nevertheless, this website has been wonderfully supportive and I thank God for leading me to it. I hope you find this website as enlightening as I did.

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