I left him because I loved him
[October 28, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
I was married for over 20 years. X was physically abusive off and on the whole time. He could go years without a physical incident. But the threats, insults, beratings were more common. It wasn’t constant. And that was the confusing part. We might have had a couple of months of peace and laughter. And I would think that we were through it, that he had settled down, that I had found a way to please him, only to have something else send us back into the pit.
During the bad times I felt so doomed. The despair was overwhelming. I would lie in bed at night thinking of a how I could get out. Then I would feel condemnation for wanting to escape. I would pray. I would try to sleep. And I would think of a way out. I never could work it out in my head. It was like a chess match; if I do this, he’ll do that. Every scenario in my head ended with him punishing me in some way. And I wanted to punish him, not the other way around. I never could find a way to punish him.
But I kept praying and I kept listening to sermons. I love to listen to good sermons. At some point it occurred to me that I wasn’t loving X like I should; that I if I really loved him, I would want to see him free of his sin, not see him squirm for harming me. I saw him as trapped in sin and I saw that I had placated him in an effort to protect myself. I saw that I couldn’t keep doing that. And then and only then, did I receive the faith to leave. I knew I’d have to leave and it didn’t feel like I was lashing out at X or reacting to him. It was the only way I had left to stand between this man who I loved and the sin that consumed him. I never thought I’d have the courage to leave. I still don’t know that I did. I had the love that it took to leave.
I didn’t conjure it up. It was given to me. God showed me this path. The funny thing is that my plan didn’t change. All those nights that I was kept up with my “get him” plans that felt so wrong but when my heart was changed and I stepped out in faith and love, the plan played out the same. The help I sought was to try to reach him though, not harm him.
I realize this isn’t something every one can read. I know that. But if there’s someone out there who needs to hear this perspective, I am writing this for you. You can leave in love. You can leave knowing that you’re leaving the “punishment” up to God.
Was it easy? Not at all. And he doesn’t feel loved. He was / is angry. He did all the standard abuser stuff — the apologies, the flowers, the boundary breaking, the manipulation, the whole cycle started again. He chose his anger, his lust, his contempt for God, over me. Without him surrendering to Christ, there could be no other outcome. And I hurt. All over. For months. But God did not abandon me. I felt His encouragement at my lowest points. I got help to learn to think straight and to live without constant fear. One counselor told me that at some point I would see that I should be out of this relationship because it’s best for me. I am not there yet. My own well-being still isn’t a big enough motivator for me to do something so very difficult. I don’t say that to sound pious. My own well-being probably ought to be enough to get me out of danger and keep me out, but I’m not to that point in the process yet. And if you aren’t either, I’m writing this for you. You can love him enough to leave. You can fight for him while you are safely away from his abuse. You don’t need revenge. You don’t need to be angry when you go. You can go in love. And God won’t be disappointed in you one bit.
[October 28, 2022: Editors’ notes:
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- Posted in: Victims
- Tagged: awakening moments, Ellie, false guilt, getting free, hope, recovery, separation, survivors' stories
Wow, what a great perspective God has given you! Thank you for sharing. It strengthens my faith for my daughter to come to her senses and leave the abuser. I pray the Lord will give her the healthy love and courage to do the right thing.
For me it was the well-being of my kids that finally motivated me to say “no more.” I don’t know that I’d have been able to do it for myself, in the evangelical Christian culture that elevates marriage to an idol. And I don’t think I could’ve been convinced that I was doing it for his best, in the face of the hostility I would receive. But when it comes to my kids, I’m accustomed to swimming against the current with issues from practicing attachment parenting back in the days of “Babywise”, selective vaccination, homeschooling, nutrition, and more. It’s almost incredible to me what I can do, the fears I can face, the pain I can endure, on their behalf.
Good job, Marah! But even that perspective was twisted in my head. I would make lists of all the bad things that are more likely to befall children of divorce and I would become convinced that staying was best for my kids. For me, it was only when I saw placating him as harming him, that I gained the faith to go.
Oh believe me, I get that too. We had insisted over and over to our kids that we would never get divorced. No matter what. It was like a mantra. I grew up as a child of divorce, and had an extremely traumatic childhood. I never wanted to put my kids through that (although what I never really thought about was that my parents were abusive and neglectful, and I’m not, so my kids would not experience the kind of trauma I did). I felt so trapped, even if only subconsciously, that I regularly had nightmares:
In the dream, I’d meet “Mr. Right,” the person I was meant to be with. I’d feel ripped in two, knowing I couldn’t live without this guy, but also could never violate the “We will never get divorced” promise to the kids. These dreams wee unbearably vivid and intense, as I couldn’t live with myself whichever choice I made.
For years I’ve felt tremendously guilty about these dreams, especially since I did have a short affair at the very beginning of our marriage (long before kids). It wasn’t until the last few months that I realized that the dreams weren’t about adultery, they were about the intense pain of being trapped in an intolerable situation. Can’t live with, can’t break the promise to the kids. Since I figured that out, I haven’t had one of those dreams.
THANK YOU, Ellie….very well stated.
I’m refreshed to hear someone write about going as a choice of biblical love. I didn’t feel the revenge you described, but the last paragraph of the post resonates with my experiences. Although my h did very little of the flowers, only once. I never felt loved, just owned. I didn’t dream of getting away, I thought I was trying to obey Jesus by persevering in forgiveness and patience and long suffering.
Then I learned that Jesus loves me enough to not want me to live with unrepentant abuse and emotional adultery. That He loves me more than He wants me to be married to an abusive h. I feel love for him now like I feel for any person who is lost in his sin. I don’t know if Jesus will change him, but I can’t live with more abuse. Physical, emotional, financial, sexual, terrible spiritual abuse. I stayed many years believing it was better for the kids, but now I’ve realized it has been more detrimental for them to learn from him how to abuse me. That is a heavy consequence for my trying to be sacrificial for so long.
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Springofwater — ((hugs))
Your testimony sounds so much like mine.
I’m still here. I haven’t had a support system, ever, to leave. My children have learned how to abuse me. I still feel too emotionally and physically weak to make a move and yet I know that the Lord is watching.
Thank you for sharing your testimony.
My hat is off to you for being able to leave because you love him. That’s a wonderful perspective.
This is a very kind way of putting it. Just the perspective I needed to hear. Love is not always pleasant is it? Leslie Vernick and Dan Allendar speak of this aspect in their books.
Thank you for writing it from this perspective. Just what I needed to hear today.
Thank you for this. I totally relate. It’s so freeing to meet people who have lived through this situation and are coming through it.
Today I wrote a short blog [post] on a similar topic. It’s about the attractive “personalities” in him – from whom it is difficult to separate. I deeply miss “the man he could become” and “the Lover / Friend”. Sadly, it appears those personas may be false….it may be “the honeymoon period” or worse – a sociopathic mask. I’m now wondering if the man have loved for 18 years even exists.
Here’s my post: Which personality will it be today, Dear? [Internet Archive link]
As I have been coming to terms with reality and grieving the loss of a person who didn’t really exist, I have learned to think of the nice version of X as a TV character who I liked, like Chandler from “Friends”. Chandler was funny and made me laugh once a week. But he’s not a real person. He’s a character invented by a writer. He’s not real. I miss laughing at Chandler. I wonder how he and Monica and the twins are getting along…. They aren’t real. They were just characters played by actors. This helps me.
Marah – I absolutely agree with your comment that the Evangelical church has elevated marriage to an idol. AMEN to that! It reminds me of offering sacrifices to Moloch. Torment and destruction in individual lives follow in order to appease the idol.
They also need to lay off the single parenting bashing – grrrr.
Single parenthood is NOT the worse thing that can happen to a family. Staying in bondage to an abuser is.
Yep, they’d have us sacrifice our children to the marriage idol and let them be destroyed just as children were sacrificed to Moloch. Great catch.
I had an abortion when my relationship with my husband was very new. I eventually participated in a wonderful Bible study to heal from it, and even led groups myself for years afterwards.
I kept suggesting to my husband that he do one of the men’s groups, but he always said he didn’t feel he needed it. He did finally go through one of the groups, and I just knew he’d really get in touch with the pain he’d buried. Guess what? He continued to insist he just didn’t need it. It didn’t hit me until I read these comments, but he really did not experience loss over the abortion. Talk about Molech….
Thank you, Ellie, for writing this! My abuser was a friend who could not accept my friendship and sincere love. It was probably too painful for her. I thought if I kept loving her with the love of Christ she would come to her senses somehow. But it wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse.
Praying whether to stay or go since I knew someone else abandoning her would inwardly be a deep blow, I knew God was telling me the most loving thing to do was to walk away in love. I did and I pray that God’s love will go to the deepest places of pain in her heart. Her abuse left me temporarily shattered but God is putting me back together!
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Hi, Jill, welcome to the blog, and thanks for commenting. 🙂
This WAS a tough read. My life mirrors this except for the physical abuse. The closest I have come to that was a chest bump, and twice he grabbed my fist and punched himself in the mouth. He is the most depressed, sad, morose man I have ever known. And yet he is saved? How can this be? We have been married 33 years with 8 children.
I have gone through my own cycles of despair and depression, trying everything over and over, being hopeful when things got “better” that we, too, were finally over the bad stuff. But the cycle continues. I comfort myself with the thought that at least it’s not constant. There were many years when he was just angry all the time. At me. Now it’s about once every 3 weeks or so, for about 3 days. I have literally tried everything, and is one of those things I do NOT share with anyone except my best friend, she knows about my life.
And how hard spiritually! Because if I was a “good” Christian I would handle everything differently. I would then respond to all his hatefulness with such “godliness and love”. And of course that would make all the difference, wouldn’t it? I felt like such a bad Christian that I eventually came to believe I wasn’t even born again. Finally got the courage up to go visit my pastor who helped so much. But my life still goes on the same.
And yet everyone else likes my husband, because he is so nice! He is quiet and calm and a rock. But to me? He has his “nice” moments with me. But on the whole he is unloving, never hugs or kisses, and I dread having sex and have to pray that God will make me willing.
I too dream of a way out. That he will die. That I will die. That we both will die. That he will just leave. That I will be able to leave. That when the kids finally leave the home (still have 5 here) I will be able to go. But such silly thoughts, I will never be free from him. If I left his anger would be even worse. Thankfully he doesn’t drink because he is a mean drunk.
So yes, this was a hard read. I feel such JEALOUSY towards those who are able to escape. I have always disliked intensely Sandy Patti because SHE GOT OUT and found a new love. It’s not fair! I know many women who left and their lives of course improved immensely and here I stayed.
I am so tired of wearing the mask.
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My heart went out to you, reading your comment. I fully understand how and why you are so tired of wearing the mask.
And I admire you for how honest you were in your comment. Your transparency about being jealous of other survivors who got out….that’s a feeling that I think will resonate with others. Bless you for having the courage to share! 🙂 🙂 🙂 And thanks for commenting on our blog. Every survivor’s voice helps someone else. ((Hugs))
Dear Anon, I changed your screen name to Anon in that comment to make it consistent with another comment you’ve submitted, and for your safety.
I want to hug you.
Reading here will help you learn to recognize abuse. This will guard your sanity. You will know that you aren’t the cause of it and you can’t work yourself into the ground to fix it. God will show you what to do.
Anon, I just want to hug you. I would like to say that responding to hatefulness with godliness and love would make all the difference, but in my experience it didn’t. With God’s help, I escaped. I prefer to say that I was rescued. It took 3 years of constant prayer and reading a lot of books. Thanks, Barb!! I had no one close who I could talk to and my pastor was no help. I prayed often that God would take me home so that X would have more time to turn his life over to Him. I wanted so much for things to turn around, I wanted to make the marriage last until death and things only got worse. I was dying inside.
I have been away from my abuser for a year and I am just beginning to realize who I am away from abuse. When I say I am away from abuse I mean I no longer live with him, he continues to try to get to me as often and however he can. I don’t have a new love, but my love for Jesus has grown.
I’m no expert, but I think it is almost impossible to not become depressed when living with someone who is often depressed. We often start to mirror our spouses, if we are not careful. I am praying that your mask will begin to come off and that you won’t protect your husband while being behind it. I pray that the real man will be seen by others. You are beautiful and God loves you. (((((HUGS)))))
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This has been my experience. My husband has always been so moody and is always complaining about someone or something and there’s an underlying tension you feel when you’re around him. He never seems satisfied with anything. Now I’ve never been one to be front and center, but I am warm and friendly. He had for many years sucked that right out of me. I got so down and was having panic attacks (never knew when he would explode with emotional, verbal, or physical abuse). The more down I got, the more up he got. Everyday he would ask how I was feeling and then one day I realized he was not asking because he genuinely cared; it was to keep me focused on how bad I felt. Then he would always say, “it’s going to be all right, life is beautiful!” My abuser became my rescuer! This is how I came to live traumatic bonding.
What Anonymous100 describes at 2:43 PM seems very close to this:
Abuse masquerading as love, sympathy, altruism, compassion, etc.?
Gary, that is a very interesting analogy. I hadn’t thought of it before. I’m a nurse, and encountered MSBP in a pediatric ward — the mother was the instigator, the child was the unwitting victim; the rest of the family were either too in the fog or too scared to nay-say the mother. Having never heard of MSBP before I did some research. Wow.
(Side note: We have a male survivor’s story on this site. His wife and all her siblings were victims of MSBP from her father. A male survivor’s story — by Friend in Need from Europe)
I agree, Gary, there is a something of a parallel. Certainly the intentionality of the abuser is similar. It’s wicked and evil.
One difference between the typical domestic abuser and a perp of MSBP is that MSBP is a diagnosable condition in the DSM, whereas domestic abuse is not classified in the DSM as such….I know the DSM has things like anti-social personality disorder, but that (correct me if I’m wrong) applies to people who show strong anti-social tendencies across the board, not to people who direct and target their anti-social behaviours only to their spouse (and kids, if they choose to put them in the firing line too).
Anonymous100 – this that you describe, sounds like the true form of a narcissistic abuser. He is using you to enhance his “image”. Perhaps he sees himself as your rescuer and the one you need to tell you that life is beautiful (with him of course) and you are okay. So, if you ever actually become okay all on your own, then you would not need his rescuing, and that would alter and diminish the “image” he is creating for himself. You are right, it is not about you; and this makes for the worst forms of traumatic bonding — the good guy, bad guy switching.
Anon, I feel for you. I’ve been married 34 years (with two grown children). I too have wished I could die, or he could die, or he would just go away and never come back. This man has done nothing but lie to me. He has never hit me, but being forced to do hard physical labor 365 days a year has taken its toll. Last year he tried to pull a fast one on me financially and I told him what I really think of him. He has behaved himself more since then, but I’m always waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me again. Now he acts like he’s the victim and I’m the bad guy. I’m sharing some with friends now about what’s really been going on since he seems to be “such a nice guy”. Hang in there. I underline Scripture about courage and rejecting fear which helps me. God is faithful even when we are faithless.
To Barbara, Jeff and all — thank you for this blog. I’ve been reading it since I found it last fall and am very encouraged. I have hope now that I can divorce if that’s the way things turn out.
Greetings, Anotheranon, and welcome to the blog!
So glad it has been an encouragement, and thank you for sharing.
Anotheranon. Hard physical labor? I’m not even sure what to say. I know how much work taking care of the kids and a home can be, but this sounds like so much more. My heart and prayers go out to you. I’m glad you are finding encouragement here. Just from what you said, I don’t believe you have been treated right. You were supposed to be a wife, not a beast of burden.
Anon, I can relate to you so much. I wish my husband would change. He too, is a ‘nice guy’. Everyone loves him. He is helpful, courteous, polite, thoughtful etc. but has a serious anger problem. He doesn’t hit me, he clinches fists, yells in my face, drives fast, slams on the brakes, punches walls and throw things. He is a Christian, which I seriously doubt.
My husband does hug, is affectionate and accuses me of being dead and a non-person, how can I respond to a man that is horrible with his tongue? That says he loves me but treats me the way he does. He too has cycles. I have been putting them in my diary….every 4 days at the moment.
He finally admitted to me last night that he is angry and he says he does. It respond in anger, when he feels to, he says he keeps it inside. I told him that he doesn’t fool me, I can sense it and I can hear it in his voice, he seethes with anger. [We’ve not made any changes (to clarify) to this paragraph, as we didn’t want to inadvertently change what Loves6 was trying to say. Editors.]
I cannot believe just now that my life would be easier nor could I believe that anyone else could love me. I am numb, I am smashed to bits. I too have thoughts that I wish myself dead or him. That seems to be the only way out. I understand a lot of what you are feeling and going through. My situation is on crisis right now.
Leaving him because I love him has been coming to my mind all weekend. He blasted me yesterday in the car in front of our two littles. It was over something so trivial….he made a mountain out of a molehill. I am standing on the edge of the cliff contemplating when to jump.
Hugs to you and remember you’re not alone.
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Loves6, wow can I relate to you! I have been married for almost 20 years and we dated for 4 years. I came from a very bad childhood with neglect, abandonment, verbal, mental, and sexual abuse. I thought I was marrying a good guy, of course we were only 16 and 17….but hey, he didn’t drink, do drugs, he was homeschooled, came from a farming family who read the Bible! Boy, I jumped from one frying pan into another!! The fog is lifting and I am seeing that I am dealing with a very powerful evil man. We have 3 great kids ages 16, 13 and 10 who thankfully see their Dad for who he is. I am just glad they are not confused and hoodwinked by him.
Remember you are not alone and the Lord knows and He has a perfect plan. He takes the broken and makes something beautiful, He makes the impossible, possible. He gives hope to the hopeless. As hard as it is….we’ve gotta keep on keepin’ on!
Misunderstood….I do relate to you. I have a severe history of sexual abuse. I too got my now-husband at a similar age. I had a baby very young to him. I felt obligated to make this relationship work as he was and still obsessed with not being separated from me or his children.
I became a Christian, I then ended up in a church that was very strict and the wife was to submit to her husband. So I have allowed the abuse because I felt he was entitled to deal with me like he lorded over me. We don’t attend this church now. Since leaving this church I am starting to see.
As for the fog….I am starting to understand the fog. I have been reading Jeff’s book “A Cry For Justice” the last few days. He speaks of the abuser acting like a two year old…. What a relief to read this. Yes immaturity….a little child. I have seen him like a little boy but now I see he does throw tantrums like a child.
I went out with a friend for lunch. He asked me about it. I said there were businessmen there next to our table who kept getting up and down from their table all the time….he started this nervous laugh he does….I asked what he was laughing at….he said “you’re so sweet, you’re so cute”…. He was laughing because he was jealous….I had said nothing sweet nor cute. He was covering up the fact he couldn’t handle the fact that I looked beautiful and he knew that these men would have thought the same. SIGH, his ownership of me is so hard to deal with. It does not affect me that other men look at me as I have experienced this for my grown up life my…. It affects me that my husband is so dysfunctional and likes me being imprisoned in the four walls of our home and does not trust me.
I spoke to my friend about my situation today. She said “be patient for God to move in my husband’s life”….she also said to “not wallow in self-pity”. That I have to “watch my reaction as I’m not perfect”…. Seriously this was like she hit me with a baseball bat. She told me to “walk away and not get involved with his nastiness”…. I do have to work on this but when you get constant criticism, nit picking at all your faults it makes you weary. I’m exhausted. I just let her have her say BUT I knew better. Her husband is also abusive.
I also have had a phone call from my children’s school. They are concerned about my children. They have noticed one of my children is extremely sensitive….more than usual. The other [is] not quite their self.
So I am seeking God for strength and wisdom…. My faith [is] weak and I’m wavering but this morning I had a song come to me…. I sang it with all my heart…. A prayer that God would touch me. I need Him to direct me right now.
This post….”I left him because I loved him” makes perfect sense to me…. Each day it seems to be becoming clearer. I can feel myself changing….slowly but surely. I know there will come a day where I say “ENOUGH!!”
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Loves6, this is me just quietly affirming that you are indeed seeing more and more clearly. Bless you.
Loves6 and anyone else in abuse,
You can leave him because you love him. You can also leave him because you love your children. I begged my mother to leave my stepfather. She didn’t. I try not to blame her, but it’s hard. My stepfather continued to abuse us and I married the first boy who came along. He was a member of my church, but quickly became abusive. Determined to make the marriage work I endured his abuse and adultery for several years. It was when I saw he was mistreating our son that his bags were packed and set out to the curb. That was my first marriage. Number 2 was abusive to me and my kids. He died of cancer in his sin. He made it well-known that he had no use for God. Number 3 I gave up. I just decided that I was doomed to an abusive man being in control and could say or do anything he wanted. This cycle can spin out of control for children.
When God first spoke to me and said “you don’t have to live like this anymore” I would wake up every night with a song in my heart. I would sing that song over and over while reading Scripture. It was an amazing time of getting closer to God who gave me the strength and courage I was longing for. I then found Leslie Vernick’s books, then Barbara and Pastor Jeff’s. God was working on changing me. He changed me and I realized that X was all up to God. I did not need to be there to be his punching bag or his salvation. Really, he has done quite nicely from afar. It has slowed down, but I never realized the lengths he would / could go to reach me.
Other women who are in abusive situations often seem to want others to come along. I have met women who were beaten badly, but would tell another “it’s just the way he is and this is what you vowed to do”. I do not agree. If you and your children are not safe, leave. Pray for the means to go. Start that individual account and cut costs and save any way you can. Make an extra set of car keys and hide them along with a couple of changes of clothes. Be ready to leave at any moment. You don’t have to live this way. God does understand. It is up to your spouse to change. It is not your sin that is causing the marriage to deteriorate and you cannot repent for someone else’s.
Sorry for going on like that, but there is a time when enough is enough.
Anon, I don’t know if you are still on this blog, but I felt so many of the same things for YEARS!!! Your comments resonate with me so much.
After nearly three decades, I left 3 times, and it was still hard; I kept going back, trying to be the strong one, the more Christian one, until I finally realized it wasn’t “Christian” at all! There are consequences to our actions, to his, and also to ours. There will be pain in leaving, and difficulties ahead, so a victim has to weigh it out and determine when she can muster up the strength to live with those consequences. Our actions affect so many. Which is worse? The abuse, which we are used to and even sometimes comfortable with and even think we deserve sometimes, or having to be a single mother, go through the shame of divorce (yes, some will judge, but we have to remember God is our Judge), have the financial difficulties, hurting this man that yes, we do love and pity despite his shortcomings. Our virtual hope ties us down strongly. Our compassion and love hold us there.
I had to wait until my kids were grown, but I always thought once the stress of raising children was gone that he would change, so I held out hope, seeing the good in him, and that’s what kept me going. I finally realized it was a vicious cycle. God bless you as you sort this out, but know you are loved by God.
How I identify with the “nice guy” who will be kind to others, so concerned about others feelings, and yet bellow cruel, cutting, sarcastic comments at me and my children. I will never forgive myself for not being able to stop him being violent to them, he’s never hit me physically, but who needs a fist when cruel words will do?
Our sons are still at home, big, strong, gentle and well-able to keep [themselves? their father?] in under control with their fine manhood – a gift from God, they are not like him, and as we talk and share the ‘whys’ of his problems, I can see understanding growing, and they are learning about real emotions and reactions. We decided to be a united front, and he has changed for the better. Enough for me not to want to leave now, but work on being a whole me to my family.
I’m 5′ tall, he’s 6’2″, you can imagine the fear the first time I heard him repeat things I had heard from my father who was an abused child who became an abuser, but, by gum I’m strong, and I’ve never given up me. I’ll fight to the end because God gave me a very independent strong personality, never occurred to me for a minute that I can’t do anything! Little can make you big. The day I stopped looking to him for love, and gave myself lots, was the day things started to improve. God loves me, I love me, do let it be!
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Marilyn, dynamite comes in small packages. I am so glad that you didn’t give you up. I wish I could say the same. I don’t hear many say that they didn’t loose at least part of themselves.
What you describe here, Ellie, is exactly what causes traumatic bonding to form. It is very hard to get out of and even harder to break, once out of the abuse. The more severe the periods of abuse, whatever form they take, the worse the trauma that is caused to the victim. If not dealt with, it is these trauma bonds remaining in place, that usually lead us back into another abusive relationship. Good read. Thanks!
Thank you, IamMyBeloved’s. It is a very confusing cycle and when you add the “how to be a Christian wife” books in there and you’re trying everything you can think of to stay in the peace and laughter part of the cycle, it becomes even more oppressive. When you think the advice is helping and you’re seeing good results and you think “Yes! I love this and I love him and I want to live with him forever!” it only makes the idea that you can control it, that the abuse is because of some failure of yours, that much more potent.
That’s why learning to see that he is trapped in sin, that he is deceived and his soul is in peril was a very important step for me. I was paralyzed until I was motivated to leave out of love for him.
I wish my heart felt as yours. I just want to get out and never see narc husband again. I want quietness in my mind and a happy heart. I want myself back, not him.
Anonymous100, all those things you want are valid and healthy desires to have, given what you have suffered from this man.
Thank you for this post. I have struggled to understand why I stayed so long and what finally caused me to leave. Although there was increasing physical abuse, and psychological / spiritual abuse justifying it as being what I deserved, I finally left in a period of calm.
For some reason, the fear and pain and my body falling apart and my mind disintegrating did not bring me to leave. It was too hard to leave, and I was way too confused about what was happening and if it was my fault or not. But suddenly God showed me that I was, as a Christian who wants to glorify God in the world all my life, giving the message to my abuser that what he was doing was ok. By staying I was living a lie about God’s justice and love. I couldn’t stand the thought of God’s name being profaned by my life like that! What he was doing was NOT ok, and I was being called to SHOW that. And suddenly, in this period of calm, I was given the gift of understanding this and the faith and courage to take action. So I left.
And thank God that He has ALSO continued the work that He began and has now showed me that my safety and well-being was also a good enough reason to leave, that I didn’t deserve what was happening and that God does not ask His beloved to be martyrs to evil people. Jesus already died on the cross for my abuser (should he repent) and it was enough in God’s eyes. So I don’t need to die for him too. But I can live my life in a way that says to others including my abuser that violence and hurting the helpless is NOT ok in God’s eyes.
[Note to readers from Eds: Here is another comment by Heather Black (Formerly H), on another thread, which is also really worth reading if you found this comment by Heather Black (Formerly H) helpful: How to Deal Properly With Abusers Posing as Christians].
Ellie, I love your heart. It sounds much like mine. I never wanted to change who I was in all of this. I am a kind soul. I am a nurse. I fix people. How could I abandon my own husband? How could I be mean to him? How could I seek revenge? That is of the Lord to seek vengeance, not me. Aren’t we supposed to be self-sacrificing as Christians? Virtual hope and forgiveness was what I lived on.
Then after almost three decades I had the courage to yet again talk to my pastor (sometimes we have to hear things over and over before we get it), and this time he said something that made a lot of sense to me. What is the godly thing to do? What does godliness mean? It is drawing people to the Lord. Is your presence in this marriage drawing your husband closer to the Lord? No, in reality, it was drawing him away. And I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, took a few months of separation to process everything, but I didn’t feel loved by God. I felt God cared more about the man, more about my husband and this paper document called a marriage license than He did about my state of being, my heart, my life. Silly, because of course I know better than that. I am a very active member of my church and even an author! I tell people all the time how much God loves them! But when I became honest with myself, I realized that was how I really felt.
I have started the divorce process, and have never felt more loved by God. I hold no bitterness or resentment or unforgiveness toward my husband. I have compassion for him, and have found a way to pray every day for the situation, and that has comforted me. My children have seen the love, and the good reasoning I have behind my decision. I cannot put myself under his leadership and authority again because the trust has been so breached…. Even if he has changed, I don’t want to give my heart to him again. I just cannot go there again. If I remarry, it will be to someone who hasn’t hurt me over and over and over again. I also feel like if I went back and he abused me again, would it be my own fault? Would my friends still be there YET AGAIN?
I have the wisdom now to be free. I have discretion, and I need to act on that in a loving way, not only to him so that he is not put in that situation again, but to me and my children and those who love me. He has come closer to the Lord through this. I struggled if that means I should go back, but I think that it means we were toxic together and praise the Lord, God got His child back. He can heal us both now, as we go our separate ways and find peace at last.
It’s not just an abuser who has bad habits, but us victims, too. I am easily manipulated by him, and cannot stand up to him easily. It’s my nature to be accommodating. I don’t want to change my servant heart. I love to pamper and serve, but not be stomped on and made to feel shame for every error of mine. I’m not perfect, and that’s OK. Who is? What kind of standard is that anyway? To err is human!
I want to comment on what you said here:
Your soon-to-be-ex-husband has NOT come closer to the Lord through this. He has just honed the skill of acting as if he has come closer to the Lord. He acts like that when he thinks it will twang your “pity string”.
You were not ‘toxic together’. That phrase implies that some of the fault was yours. Your husband is toxic. He would treat ANY woman this way. Abusers look for and target the women who they know they can easily entrap into a long-term intimate abusive relationship. They look for four characteristics in a woman. 1) Kindness — the willingness to put other people’s needs before her own (which many nurses have in abundance; I know, I was a nurse and I love helping people). 2) Loyalty. 3) Dedication. 4) Truthfulness.
None of those qualities you have are toxic. He manipulated your best qualities and used them against you, to prey upon you all those years. He would do exactly the same if he got another woman.
I will soon be publishing a post about Don Hennessy, an Irishman who has 25 years experience working in the domestic abuse field. He is superb in his wisdom on the issue. It is from him I learnt those four characteristics that abusers look for when selecting a target woman: kindness, loyalty, dedication and truthfulness. You can hear him talk about that in the third segment of this radio program:
The Ray D’Arcy Show: Domestic Abuse Special
Thank you for your reply. I would think those are qualities that any man would want in a wife. That is an interesting thought. I do have a question, though. Hurt people hurt people. Do you think some abusers abuse out of the hurt they have received in life, like in the case of a bully, rather than intentionally seeking people out to abuse? Sometimes people hurt the ones they love the most when hurt.
You are right about the fact that those four qualities are ones that decent (non-abusive) men look for in a wife too. But the reason, the motive, is different. The skilled abuser looks for those qualities because he knows he can exploit them. The decent man looks for them because he actually wants a respectful and mutually intimate long-term relationship.
If the skilled abuser is looking for a new target, he will test to see if the woman is not willing to put others’ needs before her own. If she shows an unwillingness to put other people’s needs first, he will quickly move on and look for a woman who is more kind.
We are not suggesting that women become unkind in order to deter abusers from targeting them. But it can be a good idea to very early on in the relationship say “No” to something / some things the abuser wants. Or say “No” to the needs of others, to show the abuser that you do not always meet the needs of others first — that you sometimes put your own needs first and when you do your boundaries are very firm. You could call this “testing the man by telling him “No””.
Giving a man the “No” test may reveal that the man is actually a selfish man. There are no guarantees of course, because all skilled abusers are respectful and compliant with the wishes of their target women sometimes…. They do this to suck the target women in or to re-groom her after they have offended her.
And as for the ‘hurt people hurt people’ saying. That is a dangerous saying, spread by people who are abusers or naive people who have believed the mistaken ideas of many psychologists and counselors.
I suggest you read this post which exposes why and how that saying is misinformed and dangerous: ‘Hurting People Hurt People’.
Abusers are very skilled at getting us to pity them and sympathize with them. They can depict themselves as wounded and hurting when they think it will seduce people into feeling sorry for them. This is just another tactic in their arsenal of manipulative tactics.
And even if an abuser has suffered some genuine mistreatment from others (not just a blow to his entitlement and pride) that is no excuse for how they abuse their targets!
Many of us have been hurt by other people but do not go on to become abusers ourselves. Abuse is ALWAYS a CHOICE made by the abuser. They pretend they don’t choose to behave that way, but all their abuse is very conscious and intentional.
Thanks so much for your insights, Barbara. I really like that “No” test idea. I’m so afraid of finding myself in another abusive relationship.
And that is true; we are hurt and not using that to excuse bad behavior on our part toward others who have nothing to do with our hurt. We’re not even trying to hurt those who directly hurt us! We make choices, each and every one of us, and should strive to edify and encourage one another, not tear them down with condescension.