A Cry For Justice

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

You Can Do This . . .

After being in an abusive marriage for a long time, we women often believe that we cannot possibly get out. It is irrational, when I think back now, but I truly believed there was no out. And that brought a hopelessness and despair that was unbearable. Indeed, it brought death to my soul. I wanted to die. Many of us understand this. And, now, when I think about the reasons that kept me in for way too long, I just can hardly comprehend the craziness of it all. But, such was my world — crazy. And the reasons I stayed — the spiritual, fear-filled reasons — were not particularly noble. But, they were very much my reality. And, now, when I talk with other women who are in abusive relationships, I never ever tell them to go. That is their decision. But, I do try to uncover the reasons behind the reasons . . . the fear-based reasons. Everything in me wants to physically go over to where these precious daughters of the King are staying, pick them up out of the rubble and bring them to safety. We all want that. Everyone on the team struggles with this same dynamic. But . . . you all have free will. And we would never, ever do what your abuser does — control you. (If you were in physical danger, I think we would all agree that something must be said or done. But, even then, we cannot force. All we can do is warn and offer aid).

But . . . without saying too much, having come through it all . . . not that I have “arrived” . . . but knowing what it was like at the beginning, middle and then . . . freedom, I do want to say this: If you are staying because you think your husband will change, good. If you are staying because the abuse seems fixable, good. If you are staying because God has not, yet, released you, then stay. If you are staying because God has empowered you to do so, then stay. There are many, many good reasons to stay. Sometimes, we just see snippets of abuse. We all get a little sinful now and then. Sometimes, we are just in a “difficult marriage” that can be worked on and made beautiful. But, other times, we stay in a consistently abusive death-bringing relationship / marriage because:

  • We think no one will want us (damaged goods).
  • We think that God will no longer be with us.
  • We think we cannot handle life alone.
  • We think we cannot raise the children alone.
  • We think no one would want someone with a gaggle of kids.
  • We think our life will be over.
  • We think this is as good as it will get.
  • We think we cannot provide for ourselves or that God will not provide for us.

Now . . . just look at that list of lies. Just look. I haven’t seen so many lies in one place in all my life. Every single one of these statements is exactly the opposite of victorious Christian living. And all of these lies claim that we are living this life alone and apart from God’s power. All of these bullet points say, “God does not and will not take care of me.” Oh, how it must break His heart! God cares so incredibly deeply about your situation . . . more than we can fathom. Early on, a friend gave me this verse:

And the people trusted and listened believingly that God was concerned with what was going on with the Israelites and knew all about their affliction. They bowed low and they worshiped. (Ex. 4:31, The Message)

God knows . . . He knows. And he is concerned. If we think that God’s love for us is conditioned on whether or not we stay with an abuser, then we need to better understand who God is. Working at staying with an abuser is work. Christ’s love for us is not determined by our works. He goes with us everywhere, if we have surrendered our lives to Him.

If  you, or someone you know, is staying in an abusive relationship for all the lies . . . please help counter-act this with truth. Or, allow the truth to be a louder voice in your heart than any other voice. It is not easy. But . . . we believe in you! And we believe in the God that you serve!

68 Comments

  1. StrongerNow

    Well said. Looking back, it’s still difficult to articulate the reasons for staying. I agree with your list, but there’s no way I could have sorted it all out in any coherent form 15 years ago. Every moment of every day was filled with fear. Irrational, consuming, confusing, paralyzing fear.

    Living with all of the effects of PTSD while still embroiled in the situation that was causing it, the anxiety was unreal. To this day it still comes back, and trying to move forward in some areas of my life seems impossible. Will my head/heart ever stop believing the lies that I’m stupid and worthless? Graduating from college summa cum laude, but thinking I can’t go after a decent job? How irrational is that?

    • MeganC

      I understand that irrationality, StrongerNow. I will pray that you realize your tremendous worth and beauty, as God’s beloved, hand-crafted work of art. ((((((Hugs))))))

  2. BeenThereDoneThat

    What an excellent reminder to those of us who were there and for those who recognize that they are in an abusive relationship now.

    Even 13 years after walkout due to emotional and physical illness (I believe God’s nudging for me), it is easy to walk down those same paths in my mind – could I have worked harder? Maybe I was imagining it? IS God upset with me? Why does he look like such an upstanding church-going citizen now? Why didn’t church leaders see the impossibility of “fixing” the marriage? Why didn’t my children see what I was going through?

    So, even after being in this sort of marriage for 25+ years and being OUT for 13, I think I should print this out and tape it where I can see it almost daily.

  3. Beth

    If you have been emotionally / verbally abused for years, and have experienced two minor incidents of physical abuse with a 5 year gap in between each incident….and your husband does not really see how he has abused you, continues to minimize or excuse it as he was just frustrated, and had too many pressures in life and needed your help and support as his wife….is any amount of time waiting for healing going to help save the marriage? Without true accountability and CHANGE, how can this type of marriage be saved? Even living apart for a few months, the abuse still continues to a certain degree, yet the husband does not see it….or the rare times he acknowledges it and says he is sorry….it does not prevent him from doing it again the next time. There is no trust that things will change, and therefore no hope that time is all that is needed to heal and save the marriage.

    • MeganC

      I can feel your utter frustration and desperation, Beth. I wish I could answer all of that for you. Really, only you and God can decide how much is enough or whether or not it is time to escape an abusive relationship to save yourself or your children (if you have any). Everyone’s time-table is different. Just as long as you know that God does not want you or any of His precious children to be abused . . . and He is always waiting with open arms. xoxo

      • Beth

        I have made the decision to file for divorce now, and the pressure from my husband and from others to give it time and try to work on marriage together is overwhelming. Add to it the guilt that they attempt to heap onto me about how against divorce God is, and how wrong and selfish I am for not sticking to my vows, it is all just crushing to my soul. This has not been a rushed decision on my part, and has been coming for years. I tried for years, even seeking counseling on my own when he refused to go, in an attempt to save our marriage. I have tried to be more, better, different….nothing has worked. I can no longer live that life, and have no reason to trust or hope there will be any change. I have two teenage children, at least one of which has also suffered from the abuse. I cannot make him see that he is abusive, and I cannot live with the abuse anymore. It is very hard right now when people cannot understand why I feel I have no choice, but to leave the marriage. It has drained me emotionally.

      • MeganC

        Beth — So many of us have been there. I am so sorry for your pain and your agony. While we often hear that divorce is “the easy way out”, I am not sure that could be further from the truth. For those who love Jesus and wish to follow Him, it is pure agony to finally make the decision to leave . . . and then, when we do . . . we are further judged and scrutinized. Most of us here, if you were to meet us, would never do that to you. You have made a brave decision and we stand by you, precious child of God.

      • joepote01

        Megan C – Yes, that whole “easy way out” myth is exactly that…a myth. You’ll never hear anyone who has been through a divorce say it was the “easy way out.”

        For a believer who finds themself in an abusive marriage there is no easy path. There is no choice between hard and easy. All paths are difficult, and the question is which path is best? And how do I best pursue godliness in my situation?

        BUT for the believer, there is also Christ…our Great Redeemer and Deliverer…our Friend who sticks closer than a brother…our Provider and Healer.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Megan C – Yes, that whole “easy way out” myth is exactly that…a myth. You’ll never hear anyone who has been through a divorce say it was the “easy way out.”

        Joe,

        No kidding. Someone who opposed my friend’s choice appealed to the easy way out myth at one point and I was like, “you’ve got to be kidding!” From what I saw her have to endure from so many places, divorcing her abuser was anything but easy. On the contrary, it was agonizing. Thankfully she is in a position where she is able to practice No Contact, but he still gives her a hard time if he can. And the torment she endured at church was remarkable. How she is still standing at all I have no idea. 😦

        She is standing, though. And doing well at it. 🙂

      • MeganC

        Yes, Joe!! Amen!!

      • His Child

        Beth, time itself doesn’t heal anything. It sounds like you have come to that conclusion too.

        You rightly said, you cannot MAKE him see that he is abusive, and you cannot live with the abuse anymore. How can anyone argue with that??

        MeganC said, so many of us have been there. I would put it this way, “SO MANY OF US HAVE BEEN THERE!!!!!!” and I can’t emphasize it enough. What you are going through is not unique, although I’m sure that our God will intervene, support, guide and help you in a way that is unique. God bless you on your journey!

  4. I believed all of those lies. I did finally break free but it took a mountain of courage and I felt like I was leaping off a cliff, hoping that God cared.
    Now, I find that I believe the same things about my career. I am unhappy with my career, I desperately want out, but then I tell myself all the same things. That if I quit and do something else, it will get worse (I’ll have to take a paycut and work for minimum wage or something) – that God will not provide for me if I quit- that this is as good as it gets – that God does not care about my well-being or my happiness – etc etc.

    It is so weird that you can finally get the courage to leave an abusive relationship but then fall right into another one, or maybe believe the same lies about things like jobs & other places you feel “trapped” in. I struggle with trying to find the balance between “this is the way life is, it’s miserable for everyone, this is normal” and “no – God cares about me. I have freedom to make changes and He won’t let me fall”

    Personally, even 5 years after my divorce, I’m not totally *there* yet..

    • I should probably mention that my abusive marriage was far worse than my terrible job, and that life *is* better now after the divorce. I can recognize that. I think what I’m getting at is levels (or degrees) of misery, LOL!

      • MeganC

        *It is so weird that you can finally get the courage to leave an abusive relationship but then fall right into another one, or maybe believe the same lies about things like jobs & other places you feel “trapped” in.*

        Katy . . . I hear you. As you know, I still struggle with a lot of these same issues, just in other areas. Afraid to give my opinion, afraid of rejection, afraid to speak out . . . I never struggled with those things as a young woman in my 20’s but now it is a daily struggle that is most definitely improving — but, ever so slowly. The good news, I suppose, is that we always always have that wholeness and healing waiting for us, if not here, someday with Jesus. Other than that, it seems to me like all we can do is keep trying and praying for a lot of grace. xoxo

      • AJ

        The other day I was celebrating the fact that I could be free to be sick. No one angry with me for needing to rest or about how inconvenient it is for them. It may not be an easy way, I totally agree but there is small things to celebrate.

      • Brenda R

        AJ,

        I’m sorry you were/are sick and that you felt you couldn’t be before. I know what that feels like and it hurts. I have MS and there is always something wacky going on with me. X was not in the least bit happy about it.

      • and your MS means you often keep me company in the wee small hours (US time) while I’m over here in Oz wide awake and most of the rest of the blog are asleep. 🙂 I so appreciate that. Even if I don’t reply to your comments after I’ve published them, I smile and feel your companionship when I read them. So, smiles from one wacky sister to another 🙂

      • Brenda R

        Barb, lol Since the docs added a new med or 2 or 3 to my repertoire, I sleep a few more nights straight through, but I will still be out here from time to time keeping you company I’m sure. It has meant a lot to me that there may be a post or 2 in my email to make my middle of the night time awake time worth while. I just hope my sleep deprived responses make sense. Of course, sometimes my non sleep deprived responses don’t make sense. ; )

      • Your comments have always made sense Brenda. No problems.

      • MeganC

        I know what you mean, AJ. But, I’m sorry you were sick!! xo

  5. joepote01

    Very good post, Megan!

    It is hard, sometimes, knowing what to do or say to help others. I see the lies they’re believing and hear the desperation in their writing voice…and I want to say “Run! Run far far away! Divorce your abuser and don’t look back!”

    But I also remember my own years in an abusive marriage. I know how many times I tried again. I know when I finally heard God’s voice telling me it was time to stop trying to make it work…time to stop hoping she’d change…time to walk away from the relationship for good.

    And I know how hard it would have been for me to accept any earlier that it was time to walk away…I remember neglecting good advice from wise friends counseling divorce. At that point, it felt too much like giving up on something that was precious and worth trying to save.

    And even today, I don’t regret those years of keeping on trying. I’m glad I had a strong desire for a godly marriage. I’m glad I had a strong commitment to my covenant vows. I’m glad that, today, I can look back and say with confidence that I wholeheartedly lived out my covenant vows, in every way…and that there was absolutely nothing I could have done differently to make that marriage a healthy relationship.

    I would not advise anyone else to wait as long as I did…yet I’m glad I was not too quick to leave…and I know the timing was God’s and that He was preparing me.

    It really does come down to sharing God’s truth…and being supportive and encouraging of each individual’s personal decisions.

    Thank you!

    • MeganC

      Thank you, Joe. I know what you mean by this: I know when I finally heard God’s voice telling me it was time to stop trying to make it work…

      There is peace in knowing that you did all you could and stayed as long as you could. And that the release came from God . . . I, too, would not advise anyone to wait as long as I did. But, I know I did my best. And God never asks us to do more than that.

  6. AJ

    Can I ask this community to please pray hard today. Our church is in a major battle over this issue. We are fighting a head pastor who declared where he stands on Sunday by preaching grace, in a nutshell there is grace for every offence in marriage but we never leave. He quoted the verse where Christ in humility was willing to die for us and we are to follow what he modeled. (Realize I’m just picking out the offending parts and leaving all the other flowery grace filled words behind).
    One tiny little spirit filled 80 year old lady is going to battle for us today because he has not heard all of our words for the past year. I’m just asking all of you to pray.
    Blessings,
    AJ

    • I will pray, AJ. Do you have a copy of my book [*Affiliate link]? if so, you might like to show this pastor the pages where I talk about the biblical principle of separation and fleeing from persecution (pp. 29-31). If he can agree with that principle in general, then press him to explain why on earth it should not also apply to fleeing an abusive marriage.

      But that’s just a suggestion. Guys like this rarely want to tease this out rationally; they are too restricted by their emotionally-bound attitudes and prejudices.

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

        He has heard Many times from us and been offered many books, he prefers “the grace based marriage book.”

    • MeganC

      We can pray, AJ. Please keep us posted.

    • Brenda R

      Aj, Yes, I will pray. And a BIG Amen for the 80 year old woman going up to bat for all those behind her.

  7. Beth

    How bad does the abuse have to be, and for how long, to justify leaving the marriage? I can relate to all of the items below, although he does not see that he has been abusive.

    EMOTIONAL ABUSE

    Insulting her in private
    Putting down her friends and family for years
    Making her feel bad about herself
    Calling her filthy names
    Making her think she’s crazy
    Making her feel guilty
    Using Male Privilege; acting like “Master of the Castle”
    Making all the big decisions (most, not all big decisions)
    Being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

    ECONOMIC ABUSE

    Not allowing her a voice in important financial decisions – he has final say in all major financial decisions, and some she has little or no input on; her opinions are discounted if they disagree with his

    COERCION AND THREATS

    Threatening to leave her – multiple threats of divorce for almost 10 years

    INTIMIDATION

    Making her afraid by using looks, gestures, or actions
    Throwing or smashing things, destroying property
    Lecturing her on what she does, what she watches on TV, what she reads
    Limiting her outside involvement, not forbidding it outright, but complaining enough about it to the point she pulls back and limits her outside involvement with others or even volunteering

    JEALOUSY AND BLAME TO JUSTIFY ACTIONS

    Minimizing, Denying, Blaming
    Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously
    Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
    Saying she caused it.

    He has resisted counseling, gone to few sessions on his own and stopped, now is insisting I go to marriage counseling with him, after refusing my attempts to get him to go for years.

    • Brenda R

      Beth, I believe I know this man.

    • Beth, the fact that you have been able to compile that list shows me that you have already come quite a way out of the fog and confusion which an abuser shrounds his victim in. So well done. It sounds like you’ve read a lot already on the subject and have worked hard to try to understand what you are dealing with. Well done!

      You asked: “How bad does the abuse have to be, and for how long, to justify leaving the marriage?” I don’t think there is a RULE or set of bullet points which will answer that question. It sounds to me, from the outline you’ve given above, that you have grounds to leave and consider the marriage dead because you husband has definitely broken the covenant by this pattern of conduct he’s displayed and his determined unwillingness to admit to being an abuser and change his character so he no longer abuses. He has fought, actively, and covertly, both manipulatively and openly, against changing. His choice is clear: he wants to continue to abuse you. So your choice is : do you wish to remain in this marriage? I can see from your other comment that you’ve decided to divorce him. I respect and support your decision.

      The fact that now the vultures and busybodies want to pick and pick at you and push you into what they think you *should* be doing, is hard, but sadly, it’s pretty much the norm for victims of abuse to have to run this gauntlet of judgmentalism from bystanders. My suggestion to you would be: See their attempts to control you and change your mind as just more things you can use to strengthen your character and your resolve — to build a stronger spine for yourself, so to speak.

      You do not have to agree with them. You can tell them that you do not agree with them, like a stuck record, over and over. And if they persist in pestering you, you can tell them (if you like) “STOP IT! Stop telling me what to do! You don’t understand my situation!” And walk away.

      But whatever I say, take what helps or ‘fits’ your situation, and leave the rest. You are the expert on your situation. No-one else knows it as well as you. And you are free to make you own decisions in your own time. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Blessings and ((hugs)) to you.

    • fiftyandfree

      Beth, I was married to someone like that for 12 years. I literally shudder when I read your descriptions of his abuse because I still “feel” it deep inside my soul. Especially the intimidation. He kept me in line by intimidating me and threatening to take the kids if I ever left him. He was a master of minimizing, denying, blame shifting, and of course – lying. Oh, and of course, he used scripture as well as psychology (he’s a licensed psychologist) to load guilt and shame onto me in an effort to keep me bound to him. “You’re dysfunctional and unstable.” “You’ll destroy the children.” “You are not honoring your vows.” “You are bitter and refuse to forgive me.” “God hates divorce.” Yada yada yada. It all makes sense to me now but for a very long time I was easily sucked into despair and resignation by his abuse tactics. It’s such a joy to finally be free. I pray you will be too, and soon. He will likely step up his control and intimidation tactics once you file, but don’t cave in. Keep your eyes on Christ and ask Him to protect you and provide for you through it all. You can count on Him all the way!!! I will be praying for you.

  8. Brenda R

    Working at staying with an abuser is work.

    That is the hardest job I ever had. My emotional, mental and spiritual health are so much better now. Praise God for his rescue. Wonderful post, Megan. You are so right about all of the lies. Lies keep us in bondage.

    • AJ

      Heres a lie I heard on Sunday from the pulpit

      Rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death.  Even death on a cross.  “See Paul’s argument for why we shouldn’t stare through this me lens is that Jesus didn’t.  Even though he had every right to, think about it, if there is ever been a person on planet earth that had the right to focus on himself, wouldn’t it have been Jesus Christ?  He was perfect after all, he had it all together.  But Jesus set aside that right, and he lowered himself to humanities level to suffer and to die for our sins.  And you know what, all God expects of us, in terms of what we are to do in our relationships with one another, is to do the very thing that he did for us, that he modeled for us.  He did it first, are you willing to do that in your relationships?  Are you willing to do that in your marriage? He modeled grace

      • Barnabasintraining

        And you know what, all God expects of us, in terms of what we are to do in our relationships with one another, is to do the very thing that he did for us, that he modeled for us.

        Yeah. This works great in one another relationships. It does not work in all-of-me-for-me-and-all-of-you-for-me abuse relationships.

      • This right here is a distorted doctrine of suffering. AJ’s pastor said last Sunday:

        See Paul’s argument for why we shouldn’t stare through this me lens is that Jesus didn’t. Even though he had every right to, think about it, if there is ever been a person on planet earth that had the right to focus on himself, wouldn’t it have been Jesus Christ? He was perfect after all, he had it all together. But Jesus set aside that right, and he lowered himself to humanity’s level to suffer and to die for our sins.

        1. Jesus suffered and died to pay the price for sin and redeem His people, but it is the height of foolishness to think that we can suffer and die to pay the price for sin and redeem people. To think that, would mean we were placing ourselves on a level with Jesus. We are not equal to Him: His mission was unique. Once for all. We are exhorted to be willing to suffer persecution as a result of our witnessing for the gospel if that is God’s providence in our lives, but we are not to think that our suffering is the analogous to Jesus’ suffering in every respect.

        2. Jesus is a model for us in more ways than just the fact that our suffering is sometimes partially analogous with His suffering. Jesus is our model in fleeing persecution: Matthew 2:13-14; 4:12; 10:23; 12:14-15; John 6:15; 8:59; 10:39. The apostles and disciples fled persecution numerous times too.

      • ceekayellemm

        I detest this sort of spiritually broken teaching… especially from the pulpit!

        JESUS is the world’s SAVIOR… we are not! Nor are we to lay claim to such a position by attempting to “save” our spouse from their own sin choices.

        The very word “relationship” has a distinct and meaningful definition. Husbands and wives in destructive marriages no longer have a relationship. They may have co-existence, but it is NOT one that is defined by “relating” to one another. It is defined by SIN, and ONLY Jesus, as Savior and Lord can redeem sin.

  9. D. Anne

    So very well said! I was in an abusive marriage and I can relate to all the reasons you cited. Thank you for a very well written article that sheds light on this topic.

    I have a book on Amazon, “Sexual Abuse in Marriage”, D. Anne Pierce, for any woman who may be dealing with that type of abuse. It explains what constitutes sexual abuse (even in a Christian marriage), how to deal with it and the steps to take to freedom. I just want to reach out to those who may still be in that type of marriage and are unsure if what they are dealing with is, in fact, abuse.

    Editor’s note: This book is on our Resource page under Recommended Books.

    • Thanks D. Anne. Your book [*Affiliate link] is helpful. I referred to it when writing my chapter for the book Intimate Partner Sexual Violence [Affiliate link]

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
  10. StrongerNow

    I have been blessed and encouraged by the work of Leslie Vernick concerning Destructive Relationships. http://www.leslievernick.com/

    What pastors miss in relation to abusive marriages is the fact that enforcing appropriate boundaries and speaking truth are loving ways to treat an abuser. Grace is wonderful and appropriate, but even with all of the grace that Christ demonstrated on our behalf, God Himself enforces appropriate boundaries and speaks truth to His children. We shortchange the Grace of God when we do less.

    • MeganC

      Yes! That is a great book. We fully support Leslie Vernick’s work here at ACFJ.

      • AJ

        She has a webinar coming up too!!!

  11. Renee

    When I now hear or read the “No divorce ever- even for abuse
    crowd”…I think of the Pharisees murderous intent against the women caught in adultery. Jesus would not let THEM cast a stone…He protected her from their evil abusive hearts.

    I am also thinking of a large A/G church near me that is a hotbed of abuse. They have been taken to court, lost the case, and I am several others victims who attend that church. (Unbeknownst to each other).

    it took me over seven years and eight plus separations to begin – to begin…to get free. I have a long way to go…triggers and all…but I am tasting freedom and it’s awesome!!

    Every time I left, I would feel enormous condemnation…but I was fleeing like Hagar and simply could not endure another minute. During those times- God would give me so much grace and comfort. Stranger would even reach out to me…and I know God was showing me how much He loved me. I heard him say in my spirit ” I have freed you from bondage.”

    I now am completely and totally done. He refused counseling, accountability and has the same attitudes in our communication. I begged him crying dozens of times, to “invest in the marriage…that he could change, I’d wait for him, I’d be patient….our marriage and family are worth it- aren’t they? If you love me, why won’t you do this?” Literally – begging him to get help, acknowledge the patterns, telling him I loved him over and over and gently encouraging him to accept gentle counseling interventions…by phone, by home study course, or at the local DV agency. NO to all.

    As Barbara writes “His CHOICE IS CLEAR. HE WANTS TO CONTINUE TO ABUSE YOU.”
    It is an utterly horrifying revelation. He WANTS to abuse me. He chooses to be like this. He would rather have no relationship than one that is respectful, loving and kind. He does not WANT a loving, kind relationship….

    And I no longer consent to be an abused wife!! I’m done- praise the Lord!

    I don’t want to sacrifice my God created worth, in order to have this toxic “love.” I don’t want him to be my “Delilah” anymore-..using me, seducing me, in order to destroy me!

    I have no longer have energy, desire or will to reconcile. I am completely done, and I have a peace (that passes my own understanding) about it.

    .

    • It is an utterly horrifying revelation. He WANTS to abuse me.

      Yes. It is a horrifying revelation. If only more bystanders, pastors, counselors and academics would get a grip on this truth. We victims do not come to this revelation easily. It is something so appalling, so painful to realise, that we try to avoid it for years. Anything, any truth but that one, seems easier to accept. That’s why we go for all those other ‘explanations’ and spend years trying to fix ourselves and make ourselves more **whatever**. The cold hard truth is so ghastly to see, know, and take on board. . . and then . . . act on.

      Renee, I am so glad you have peace now. Even if it’s peace in the midst of ongoing battle to get free and recover, it’s still peace.

      • joepote01

        Yes, the moment of realizing the intentionality of the abuse is truly horrifying! Yet it is an important truth that must be seen, accepted, and processed as part of being delivered from the cycle of abuse.

    • Valerie

      Renee,
      You said “It is an utterly horrifying revelation. He WANTS to abuse me. He chooses to be like this. He would rather have no relationship than one that is respectful, loving and kind. He does not WANT a loving, kind relationship…. ”

      I said nearly the exact words to a friend last night. I think that is the part that is breaking my heart right now. That he would CHOOSE to throw away a 20 year marriage rather than examine himself and get the help he needs to have a healthy, happy life. Sigh. But then he just says the exact same thing about me….I sure wish someone else would/could see what’s going on to see how easily he manipulates.

      • Brenda R

        Valerie, My former husband made the exact same choice. He needed no counseling, he’s got it all together, he can change all on his own. My answer to that is NO you can’t. You have proved that already, it only got worse. If I were to walk back in that door today, it would not take long at all to be right back where I was again. Taking his abuse. It does hurt to know that is what they want you for. Not to love, but to abuse. They are predators without the ability to really love. No contact and total separation from him was God’s gift to me and I thank Him for it each day. I look forward to what God has in store for me and I do not believe abuse will be part of it.

  12. A reader has written in by email, and mentioned that she could add one or two more items to the list of fears. The items are somewhat related to each other:
    What will the family court judge decide?
    Will my children stay with their dad (the abuser)?

    These questions/fears are indeed big ones for many victims. We do not have answers, only empathy for the problem. I hesitate to say much more as any suggestion could easily sound patronizing.

    • anonymous

      YES, this exactly. What if the ONLY thing keeping you here still is your children. Because they are pleading for you not to put them in a situation where they have visitation alone with their father. If only the courts would give a louder voice to the children, and what they want. And so for now-we wait, together.

      • YES, I forgot that this too kept me in bondage. Every time he threatened to take my children away from me – oh yes.
        This takes more courage than all the other reasons combined. To trust God that not only will he take care of us, but He will also protect the children. Abusers can and *do* often get their unsupervised visitation, and all we can do is stand by and pray for our kids while they sit in the lions’ den.
        It is agony. I tell myself on a regular basis that the kids will be grown very quickly – that this will not last forever. Amen.

      • MeganC

        Well . . . and for some, it might be a reason to stay. I have a friend who knows that, once she left, her very wealthy husband would take full advantage of the poor child protection laws in her state. She feels like she would be better off staying to protect her children rather than leave them in the abuser’s hands. She is convinced she would lose contact with them altogether. 😦 It is SO HARD, sometimes, to know what is best. 😦

      • Not Too Late

        Yes, I do have friends who are clear about domestic abuse, but are staying in their marriages for that very reason – kids having to visit their dad unsupervised. There are no hard and fast rules, and God will guide each individual. As Megan puts it so well in her article, we should just be clear about some of the bad reasons for staying.

  13. Shurl

    I’ve been divorced for 2.5 years. Began my climb out of the marriage 5 years ago. It’s been so difficult. I have a friend who is living in the same marriage I had. I left and got a divorce; she is still living in her marriage. Yesterday, she asked for any advice at all I could give her…I told her I had none, that I’m not sure after all this time that divorce is any better than the abuse because both are *so* difficult and suck the life out of me. My sweet, suffering friend said my answer scared her because her situation is so scary and difficult. And at the end of her note, she sent me a link to this site, this article.

    Life has indeed been difficult. Aside from this friend, and 2 cousins who are also prayer partners and best friends, I’ve been doing this walk alone, quietly, keeping to myself, trying to pretend things are going to be ok for my kids’ sake. All three of these women live in a different state. I have been doing this thing alone, by choice. I cannot tell you what a relief it was to read this article! And the one about calling myself a liar, knowing I must be a liar, even telling the whole truth, I am probably still a liar because I don’t know how much of a liar I am. And the articles on children and blaming mom for leaving. And the one about….

    Everyone here seems to have been married to my husband. Everyone here seems to be raising my kids with the problems resulting from abuse and divorce. Everyone here seems to be hurting with my guilt and fears and self-condemnation and loss of community. What a relief to know, really know, that I am not an anomaly, I am not unique…because that means that maybe…just maybe…I am not a liar, maybe I am not guilty of the things he tells me and the kids I am, maybe there is still life to be lived somewhere, and maybe the Father loves me as much as He ever did, even though I gave up and quit trying and left the marriage. Maybe I’m just a statistical result of sin, which is so much more comforting that being uniquely evil.

    Thank you for this place.

    • Brenda R

      Shurl,

      You are not alone, you have community here and there are so many more out there who haven’t found their way here yet. You may believe the lies you have told yourself, but you are not a liar. We often do seem to have been or are married to the same man. Their behaviors seem to be taken straight from a text book.

      I have been separated for 8 months and divorced for 3 months after 22 years of “marriage”. I use that term very loosely. I am fortunate not to have young children and my adult children are very supportive of my decision. X was not their biological father, however X was the only father my youngest remembers. It did take her a little while to adjust, but seeing how he has behaved since I left, she is completely supportive.

      God loves you, just as you are. You are his Beloved daughter. Turn it all over to Him. Trust that He is in control and is watching over you and your children. Praying for you. Brenda

    • joepote01

      No, you are not alone! Our Father loves you very much, and He will never abandon you…cling to Him and you will never be alone.

      You are uniquely designed and uniquely special, and your specific circumstances are unique to you. BUT your general experiences of abuse, of enduring the mind games, of questioning your own sanity, of finally realizing you’ve given all you had to give to that relationship…NO, that is not unique. It is, in fact, all too common.

      Praying for you…trusting God to reveal to you His deep love and faithfulness. He is our Great Redeemer and Deliverer!

      • Shurl

        Thank you all for your comfort and encouragement. But I’d like to know…*why* is this thing “all too common”? Is it our society or culture or time we live in? I have to wonder if this just isn’t the way most men are, and somehow we women aren’t able to live with it anymore? Have things always been this way between men and women? Given the Garden and the Cross, even with sin in this world, things should not be this bad, especially in the church. And it seems it’s the churched marriages that are suffering this thing the worst? Or is that a wrong assumption? Please don’t feel that you have to take the time to answer here. Directing me to an article that answers questions that must have already been asked is fine.

        Again, thank you for the warm words.

      • Shurl, I agree with Joe. Domestic abuse has been with us since the Fall. It has been largely ignored and swept under the carpet, but in the last few decades it has become more addressed and public policies and law enforcement responses have been developed in some countries. Much is still needing to be done, but the topic is at least not ‘out of bounds’ any more in public discussion. So if it seems like it is more prevalent these days than in the past, that is probably more related to how it has been brought out into the open for discussion, than an actual rise in the perpetration of domestic abuse. However, no-one knows that for sure, because no research was done in the past on the incidence and prevalence.

        When we, as individuals, come awake to the issue, it often seems like a whole new perception of the world is opening up. ‘Why did I not see this before?’ we think to ourselves (I know I did). It takes some recalibration to grasp what it all means. And when the people around us are mostly still in the fog/ in the dark / have their heads in the sand, we can feel like we have stepped off the edge of the flat earth and gone out into some space where no-one else understands us. That is why places like this blog are so helpful. We realise we are not alone. And we are not crazy.

      • joepote01

        Shurl – Good questions!

        The short (oversimplified) answer, I guess, is that this is the natural result of living in a fallen world. No, I don’t believe “most” men are abusers, nor is it exclusive to men; many women are abusers.

        It is certainly nothing new, and the Bible is full of stories of abuse (Cain, Joseph’s brothers, King Saul with David, Pharaoh with Israel, Israel with God, Jezabel with the prohpets,…). In this post Covenant Abuse I discuss some of the nature of abuse in relation to covenant vows. There are also many articles on this site discussing this topic, including the definition in the right-hand margin.

        I do suspect that our modern western church culture tends to be an environment ripe for abuse. I believe this is due largely to acceptance of what I have begun calling the unbiblical Divorce Mythology that is commonly believed in our church culture. Although the Divorce Mythology is a position not supported by scripture, it is widely accepted and is defended by scriptures plucked out of context and rigidly applied. I discuss the Divorce Mythology in this post Divorce Mythology [Internet Archive link]

        Acceptance of the divorce mythology and rigid application thereof tends, I think, to promote an environment in which abusers can easily hide and hold their victims captive by manipulation of strongly held religious beliefs.

        Although abuse will never be eradicated from this world until Christ’s return, I believe much can be done to combat it, now, by raising awareness and teaching what God’s word really says on the topics of marriage, divorce, remarriage, and abuse.

        Blessings to you!

      • That’s a good list of examples of abuse in the Bible, Joe. I would add Delilah with Samson; Amnon with his half-sister Tamar and the extended family all pushing it under the rug; Lamech being so puffed up and his implied threat towards his two wives (Genesis 4:23); the Levite and his Concubine (see my YouTube video). And then there’s 2 Tim. 3:1-5 which describes abusers perfectly and tells us to AVOID THEM.

    • Shurl (((((hugs))))) and welcome to the blog. Yes, your situation is just a statistical result of sin, which is so much more comforting that you being *uniquely evil*.

      Maxim for all you and all survivors of domestic abuse: It is not your fault; you were not to blame; you were grievously abused by your husband and that makes it his fault, his blame, his evil.

      I hope you keep coming here and sharing.

  14. Hurt parent

    I have someone in my family living in these lies. Her child is being abused as well. Is there a website comparable to this for abused children?

    • This is good site for teens. I don’t know a site aimed at primary age kids.
      What’s OK At Home [What’s OK At Home used to be called Bursting the Bubble. Editors.]

      • unnamed female

        I am currently living in a shelter and have been for close to 3 months now. I can sympathize with Beth.
        I have been married for 22 years. I come from a conservative Christian background. I have “only” been physically abused by him 4 times. The 4th attack happened about 2 weeks ago and landed him in jail. I think it was his girlfriend who bailed him out.
        He got out of jail and began an even worse smear campaign then he did when he kicked me out in November 2013.
        He sets his Facebook to the public setting so me or my family and friends will see it and get upset. On fb he says things that humiliate me and upset me. I finally had to block him. Since I’ve been gone he has called and went to visit numerous family and friends trying to prove to them how terrible I am and how good he is.
        He has suddenly become father of the year and has brainwashed the kids so much that they are now mentally sick as they act as his spies and soldiers against me. They are underage. The judge ruled that he has the kids for now since I’m homeless. Anyone I’ve stayed with gets harassed until they themselves fall into depression and despair.
        So I’m in a shelter.
        I can’t work due to being born with chronic pancreatitis which led to a nasty case of type 1 diabetes. I’m in and out of the hospital and ER often. The disability lawyer and I are fighting for disability but it takes time. So with no income in stuck living in shelters.
        My kids tell me that they like my husbands girlfriend better then me. They say I’m a big liar and hurting their dad. They say they hate me and wish I was dead.
        And then they beg daily in dozens of texts telling how I need to come home and how evil,sinful and ungodly I am for wanting a divorce. My husband has sent me 1000s of hurtful texts. I know have a protective order against him.
        I’m mad at God. But at the same time I see how He sends people to my rescue.
        My kids hate me. My husband does a good job of playing the abused mistreated husband role. He hacked into my emails and Facebook and sends out stuff claiming to be me. He also uses them to send out embarrassing stuff about me to my contacts. He changed the passwords making it to where I can’t get into them. When one of my friends or family does not agree with him he gets angry and smears their character as well.
        The confusing part is that despite the years of verbal emotional mental spiritual and money abuse we do have good memories and he can be a great guy.
        So I feel guilty for leaving him knowing I’m hurting the good side of him. But he refuses to admit to anything unless he needs to in order to look good to others. His followers praise him.
        The homelessness, moneyless situation and the manipulation and harassment from him and our kids is over whelming. It is spiritually oppressive. I often wish to die. I see no point in living if my kids hate me love my husbands girlfriend more.
        I often stay in bed. I don’t like the things I did before. I get up and out and put on a fake smile when needed, but otherwise I see no point in living. I only stay alive for my parents because it would kill them if I died. My husband called my dad at his nursing home and said I ran off with a child molester and died. My dad was a wreck until he talked to my mom and saw me.

      • Dear UF, I believe you. I am very very sorry that you are in this situation, so poor, so unfairly maligned, so under attack from your ex and the allies he has enlisted not least of whom are your kids. I want to say that I think you are amazing for remaining alive, for fighting not to give in to the desire to give up and leave this world.

        I believe you have made a very good choice to remain living in shelter(s) at this point in time. Praise God the shelter are allowing you a place to stay in (relative) safety. I encourage you to press on with getting the disability support; it sounds like you most truly deserve it. Wow, I’ve never heard of being born with chronic pancreatitis! That must have been so painful, and I can easily see how it would lead to diabetes. Gee whiz, just the fact that you have persevered and done your best for your kids and your own wellbeing (even while it has been constantly corroded by your abuser) is testimony to your strength and steadfastness in trying to fight evil and illness and uphold life and dignity and righteousness. You deserve a medal, in my opinon!

        Some things you might like to consider or check out:
        Our Resources list has pages for Safety Planning, Social Networking (with ideas for how DV victims can safely deal with FB).

        You said, “I feel guilty for leaving him knowing I’m hurting the good side of him.” When those feelings of guilt arise, I suggest you remind yourself that the so-called “good” side of him is worth zilch because it was just one of the ways he drew you into his web so he could obtain and maintain control over you and enjoy abusing you because he had that control. You might also want to check out our tag for posts on False Guilt.

        Blessings and hugs to you. So glad you have found our blog. We hope you keep coming back. 🙂

      • Also, UF, if you want us to send you my book and Jeff’s book for free, just email me or Jeff (see our addresses on the ABOUT tab) and let us know a safe address we can ship the books to. We raise a little money on this blog by being part of the Amazon Affiliate scheme, and we can use that money to give books to survivors who are in financial difficulties.

  15. Wilson Smith

    Does anybody know of good resources to talk with children about separation and divorce? I am going thru a separation that will probably lead to divorce. My 17 and 15 year old daughters understand a lot. But my 11 year old son will be blindsided by this. He is very tender towards The Lord. I am agonizing over talking to him. How much info should I give, etc. Thank you very much. I couldn’t figure out where to post this so I am sorry if this isn’t the correct place! Robbin

  16. Jul

    Can you explain the “snippets” of abuse comment in the post? Do you mean once in a blue moon behaviors that are then repented about?

  17. Dahlia

    Well said! I have been down that road and thought many of those thoughts…it was a long hard, unfamiliar road. I would have loved to read something like that back then. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi — and welcome to the blog! 🙂
      I changed your screen name to ‘Dahlia’ for safety’s sake, as it looked like you had given your real name.

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

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

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